The Gospel – The Righteousness Of God Revealed

A study of ROMANS 1:16-17

This sermon is a Bible study taken from the Reign of Grace ROMANS COMMENTARY.

Here, the Apostle Paul states THE THEME OF ROMANS. Having concluded his opening address, he now begins to explain the particulars of the GROUND OF SALVATION that include justification, reconciliation and adoption. He starts by stating, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel.”

Why would anyone be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ?

Who would attack anyone who preached free grace to guilty sinners?

The Apostle Paul knew from personal experience that true Christians would bear the reproach of Christ from the world. He knew that they would be attacked and ridiculed in every way possible because the Gospel of Christ addresses all by nature to be guilty, condemned, idolaters, spiritually kin to Satan, and enemies of the only true and living God.

The Gospel removes the cloak of self-righteous religionists and exposes all efforts at worship and morality before justifying faith as fruit unto death. It is this light which men by nature hate as it exposes their deeds, all efforts and morality aimed at the ground of salvation, as evil (John 3:19; 7:7; 15:18-22). Read I John 3:13. This hatred is aimed at true Christians when they tell lost religionists that their deeds are evil. Withhold this specific truth, and the world will not hate you in this sense. The world loves its own (John 15:19). A justified sinner’s faith in Christ condemns their self-righteousness and exposes their false hope. Men are ashamed of the Gospel when they claim to believe it but speak peace to sinners apart from the only ground of peace and refuse to stand with Christ and His people in declaring that the world’s deeds are evil.

 

I. THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION (1:16)

{16} For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

A. This does not mean power as an attribute of God. God is omnipotent, but the Gospel is not an attribute of God. The Gospel does reveal how every attribute of God is honored in the salvation of sinners by Christ. The Gospel of Christ is GOOD NEWS. It is God’s absolute and unconditional promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone. This “power of God” refers to the Gospel as an INSTRUMENT that God has ordained and uses to accomplish His goal of saving His elect. When the apostle writes that the Gospel is God’s power unto salvation, he excludes every other instrument as a means of salvation. “He that believeth the Gospel SHALL BE SAVED, and he that believeth not the Gospel SHALL BE DAMNED.”

God’s Gospel is the power of God unto salvation only as God the Holy Spirit applies it to the hearts (minds, affections and wills) of sinners in the new birth that includes regeneration and conversion. This is when a sinner, by the Spirit of God, under the true Gospel preached, heard and understood, comes to saving faith in Christ and repentance from dead works and former idolatry. God the Holy Spirit is the only Agent, and the Gospel preached is the only instrument. Apart from the Gospel preached, there is no salvation (Romans 10:13-17).

Sinners are not saved by voices, visions, and mysticism. THE GOSPEL IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION. Therefore, any notion that salvation has come, or can come, without the Gospel, or before the Gospel of salvation conditioned on Christ alone was preached, heard, and understood, is a denial of the Gospel. It notion that salvation has come, or can come, under a false gospel, is a denial of THE Gospel to be the power of God unto salvation.

B. Verse 17 shows us specifically why the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” It is because in the Gospel the “RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD” is revealed, and THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE ONLY GROUND OF SALVATION. We cannot know the only true God SAVINGLY, nor the Lord Jesus Christ, apart from this righteousness revealed. It is only as we see God the Father sending His Son, as the Mediator and Surety of guilty, defiled sinners, to establish this righteousness that we can see every perfection of God’s REDEMPTIVE character actively engaged and honored in our salvation. It is in this RIGHTEOUSNESS ESTABLISHED BY CHRIST’S OBEDIENCE UNTO DEATH that we see Christ’s mediatorial glory. It is this righteousness established by a Divine Surety, WITHOUT THE AID OF ANY SINNER, that all occasions for boasting in the sinner are excluded.

II. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL (1:17)

{17} For therein is the righteousness God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

A. The “righteousness of God” revealed in the Gospel is the very HEART OF THE GOSPEL. Wherever the best of sinners are either ignorant of or have not submitted to this righteousness as the only ground of salvation, they do not believe God’s Gospel, and they are yet under the wrath of God and alienated from God (10:1-3). This righteousness ALONE removes God’s wrath, gains and secures His favor, and entitles sinners to justification and eternal life. Consider these questions:

1. Why is it called “the righteousness of God”?

(a) To distinguish it from the righteousness of men and totally exclude man’s righteousness from the ground of salvation.

(b) Because God purposed it, promised it and provided it by the obedience and death of Christ, His beloved Son.

(c) Because this righteousness is everlasting, unchangeable and of infinite value, having been wrought out and established by that PERSON, Jesus Christ, Jehovah Tsidkenu, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 23:6).

2. What exactly is this righteousness?

IT IS THE ENTIRE MERIT (virtue and worth) OF CHRIST’S WHOLE WORK OF SATISFACTION TO GOD’S LAW AND JUSTICE BY HIS OBEDIENCE UNTO DEATH FOR GOD’S ELECT, GIVEN TO HIM BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.

3. Why is this righteousness revealed?

It is revealed in order that God be glorified as both just and justifier in the salvation of sinners.

B. All religions ultimately must be reduced to the GROUND or basis upon which men hope to avoid Hell and gain Heaven. The “righteousness of God” revealed in the Gospel, imputed to sinners and received by God-given faith, is everywhere in Scripture opposed to all other grounds, established by whatever means, under all persuasions and by whatever supposed agency. This one simple truth, which has such staggering implications, has never entered the minds of natural men and women. The minds of unsaved men and women are blinded by the “god of this world” who knows well that he can keep sinners in his family and under his power as long as they are trying to establish a righteousness of their own (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). It is the privilege and responsibility of God’s people to proclaim without compromise this great and simple truth to guilty, Hell-bound sinners. It is our desire and prayer that God the Holy Spirit will use this truth to save sinners, to make it effectual to their hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). In light of this, it is impossible to put too much emphasis on this truth of which the majority of professing religionists are ignorant.

How can we over-emphasize the one difference between eternal blessedness and eternal misery?

This righteousness is the very heart and life of the Gospel, “the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Remove this righteousness, and we have no Gospel.

III. RIGHTEOUSNESS RECEIVED BY FAITH (1:17b)

A. “To everyone that believeth”–No one is excluded from salvation except those who exclude themselves by unbelief. God will save no sinner apart from faith. Saved sinners are justified by faith. They live by faith, stand by faith, walk by faith and die in the faith. Faith itself is not the source, cause, or ground of salvation. IT IS GOD’S APPOINTED MEANS OF SALVATION. It is the foundation grace and the mother of all other graces. As stated before:

(1) FAITH BELIEVES GOD’S PROMISE OF SALVATION CONDITIONED ON CHRIST ALONE, BECAUSE FAITH KNOWS THE GOD WHO MADE THE PROMISE, and

(2) FAITH RECEIVES AND RESTS UPON THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST AS THE ONLY GROUND OF SALVATION, BECAUSE IT KNOWS AND LOVES THE CHRIST WHO ESTABLISHED THIS GROUND.

Faith, then, is no part of that righteousness that is the only ground of salvation. Here, we see righteousness (the ground of salvation) and faith (the means of salvation) distinguished. The very moment faith believes the promise and receives Christ’s righteousness, God’s wrath is removed and the believing sinner is adopted into God’s family and actually entitled to the full inheritance of grace. Before, and until we actually possess justifying faith, we are guilty, defiled sinners, under the wrath of God (John 3:36; Romans 6:17, 18; 1 John 5:12).

B. Receiving this righteousness by faith always produces Godly repentance, repentance unto life, i.e., repentance that evidences spiritual and eternal life. Before justifying faith, all repentance is legal, natural conscience sorrow, called the sorrow of the world that works death (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly repentance includes sorrow over things that natural conscience knows to be sin, but it goes much further than natural conscience can go. Godly repentance, which flows from justifying faith, is a RADICAL CHANGE OF MIND AND HEARTFELT SORROW CONCERNING FORMER IDOLATRY AND DEAD WORKS. A justified sinner is ashamed that all his former thoughts concerning salvation dishonored every attribute of God’s redemptive character, cast shame and reproach upon the true Christ and His whole work of redemption, and actually opposed God’s promise. He knows NOW that formerly there was no fear of God before his eyes and that he worshipped a god who could not save. He knows NOW that he supported a counterfeit gospel and that, while he was in that state, all his efforts at religion and morality were no more than self-righteous attempts to deny God’s grace. It was all dead works and fruit unto death.

C. Again, faith is the only means of salvation, because faith alone can attain God’s goal. God has purposed to glorify Himself in our hearts. He has determined that all His elect will rejoice in the perfections of His redemptive character actively engaged and revealed in salvation. This cannot be accomplished apart from our minds being illuminated by His testimony.

The “righteousness of God” is REVEALED. God alone reveals things that we cannot know by natural conscience nor by nature and human reasoning. God has revealed His righteousness, not to be rejected, but to be freely received. It is revealed “from faith to faith,” i.e., it is revealed to faith in order to be believed. The very righteousness of God is revealed from objective faith, which is the Gospel, to subjective faith, which is the operation of the Spirit of God in the sinner. Before there can be any subjective faith, there must first be objective faith (Romans 10:17).

“As it is written”–This teaches us that faith rests on the testimony of Scripture, God’s revealed word. God-given faith has respect only unto God’s revealed testimony. Faith is God’s testimony heard, understood, received and relied upon in opposition to all outward and inward circumstances, feelings and obstacles. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND HOW GOD IS GLORIFIED IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS CONDITIONED ON CHRIST ALONE. BY FAITH WE UNDERSTAND HOW GOD CAN BE JUST TO JUSTIFY SINNERS BASED UPON THE BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE.

“The just shall live by faith”– Those who actually possess the righteousness of Christ by imputation, thus, received by faith, are in an unchangeable state of justification before God. They live now and shall reign with Christ forever in Heaven.

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