Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gospel & the Righteousness of God

What is the point of the Gospel? Likely answers to that question would be, “the point of the Gospel is to save us from our sin”, or “to bring us to God” or “to reveal to us the good news of salvation”. All these answers are very nice, comforting facts which are all true. But I would say that the main point of the Gospel is none of these. In fact it isn’t even a comfortable thing. When Paul begins his letter to the Romans which is primarily a discourse on soteriology, or the study of salvation, he begins this way:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to
salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Romans 1:16-17, NKJV

In verse 16 we have the reason Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel… “it is the power of God to salvation…”! But in the next verse we have the reason why it is power unto salvation-- the point of the Gospel-- it reveals the perfect righteousness of God. And in revealing God’s perfect righteousness it also reveals His perfect, holy, justice. In verse 16 and 17 the words “righteousness” and “just” are from the same root Greek word (dik - justice, punishment). Thus, the word righteousness and just/justice are interchangeable. And as Paul begins this discourse on salvation, he doesn’t begin with the love of God or even the grace of God; he begins with the righteous justice of God. Instead of discussing the righteousness of God in the Gospel, Paul turns to the law of God and how God’s justice/righteousness is displayed in and through it and contrasts it with man’s utter unrighteousness. For, in order to understand how the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God, we must first look at how it was revealed before the Gospel came.

  • The law of God reveals the righteousness of God in that it reveals who He is:

For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.   -- Lev 11:44 (NKJV)

Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today that it may go well with you…   -- Deut 4:39-40 (NKJV)

  • The law of God reveals the righteousness of God in that it reveals man’s sinfulness:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.   -- Romans 3:19-20 (NKJV)

However, the Jewish nation thought that they could achieve righteousness through the law:

Then [the law] will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.'
-- Deut 6:25 (NKJV)

But it is not possible to keep the law… its purpose was not to make us righteous, but rather to: 1) reveal God’s righteousness (so man would see His unrighteousness), and 2) to point us to what will make us righteous (that is, Christ).

But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."
          -- Gal 3:11 (NKJV)

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator…. For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe… Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
-- Gal 3:19, 21-22, 24 (NKJV)

And thus the righteousness of God has been revealed apart from the law:

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
-- Romans 3:21-26 (NKJV)

Man’s response: We must submit to the righteousness of God as revealed in the Gospel, that is, to Christ:

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
-- Romans 10:3-4 (NKJV)

… for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.   -- Gal 2:21

The reason Christ came and died was to reveal the righteousness of God through the Gospel – that yes, there is judgment for sin, but He (Christ) took that punishment! This is grace! This is hope! This is the only way to be justified in the sight of God and we are called to submit to it by repenting of our sin and putting our trust in Christ who “loved us and gave Himself for us” (Eph. 5:2). How great is His love! Look to the Lord and be saved…. For with Him is abundant redemption!

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might
become the righteousness of God in Him.
-- 2 Cor 5:21 (NKJV)

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