Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. These are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
We have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions and is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, wrathful and loving. The Bible also says that God is just and righteous. How then can fallen and condemned sinners (Romans 3:9-20) stand accepted before the just and righteous God of heaven and earth?
The answer can be found in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The Apostle Paul stated that he was not ashamed of the gospel. To be ashamed (ἐπαισχύνομαι; epaischynomai) means to personally and presently feel embarrassment or disgrace because of something. It may also mean awkwardness, humiliation and discomfort. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel (εὐαγγέλιον; euangelion) or the good news of salvation through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Why was this the case?
Paul understood that the gospel, and the gospel alone, was the power of God for salvation. The word power (δύναμις; dynamis), from which we derive our English word dynamite, means supernatural ability. This ability contained in the gospel belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not a manmade power or strength.
This power from God alone contained in the gospel results in salvation. The gospel is the good news that (1) God exists; (2) sin exists; (3) One Savior exists: Jesus Christ; and (4) salvation or deliverance exists from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence. God’s justice and righteousness is satisfied by the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is good news.
This good news is for everyone who believes, or comes to God by faith. Believing (πιστεύω; pisteuo) is the God-given ability to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This salvation is available for both the Jew and the Gentile. But this salvation is only available by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Why is the good news, or the gospel, of Jesus Christ the only way a sinner can be reconciled to the just and righteous God? The answer is given in Romans 1:17.
The phrase “for in it” refers us back to the subject at hand: the gospel. The Apostle Paul says that it is in the gospel alone that the righteousness of God is revealed. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosyne) means to put right with, to cause to be in a right relationship and to be declared righteous. This righteousness belongs to and originates from God alone. It is not earned by man, but graciously given by God through God-given faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Peter 1:1-2). By this imputed, or credited, righteousness God can and does declare the condemned sinner just or justified.
As one pastor explains, “God is inherently righteous (Deut. 32:4; Psalm 11:7; 116:5; John 17:25; I John 2:1; Revelation 16:5) and man falls woefully short of the divine standard of moral perfection (Romans 3:10-20; Job 9:2; Matthew 5:48). But the gospel reveals that through the instrument of faith – and faith alone – God will impute or credit His righteousness to ungodly sinners (Romans 3:21-24; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:8-9).”
When the Apostle Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 that the just, or those God declares righteous, will live by faith he intends to prove that justification by faith alone has always been God’s way of saving sinners. Abraham is a pattern of justification by faith alone (Romans 4:22-25; Galatians 3:1-7). Additionally, true saving faith will be demonstrated by the believer’s actions (Philippians 2:12-13; James 2:14-26). This good news is always through faith and faith alone.
The righteousness Paul speaks is not the inherent righteousness God’s possesses, even though the Bible teaches that God is just and righteous. Rather, the righteousness of God, spoken of in Romans 1:17, is the imputed righteousness God credits to the condemned sinner by faith in Jesus Christ.
Why Christ? Because Jesus received upon the cross the just and righteous wrath as our substitute. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Pastor John Piper writes, “Historically, Protestants have believed that the Bible teaches that our salvation depends on what Christ has accomplished for our pardon and our perfection. We accept by faith his substitution for us in two senses: in his final suffering and death, he was condemned and cursed so that we may be pardoned (Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:1-3) and in his whole life of righteousness culminating in his death, he learned obedience so that we may be saved (Hebrews 5:1-9). His death crowns his atoning sufferings that propitiate God’s wrath against us (Romans 3:24=25; 5:1-9), but it also crowns his life of perfect righteousness—God’s righteousness —that is then imputed to us who believe (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-22; 4:1-11; 5:18-19). God provided in Christ what God demanded from us in the law. ”
Hymn writer Edward Mote wrote these wonderful words. The hymn is entitled The Solid Rock.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
May you rest today that the just and righteous God of heaven and earth has declared you justified and righteous by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone.
Soli deo Gloria!