God’s Righteousness In The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

The passage we are going to look at for today’s blog is a watershed passage of Scripture.  It was these verses that haunted Martin Luther until he came to understand what they meant.  The result was not only his own salvation, but within a few years, the start of the Reformation.  Those who reject what these verses teach must also reject Biblical Christianity, for these verses stand directly against any form of salvation by works.  Those who accept what these verses teach must also then live according to God’s New Covenant of faith.

Romans 1:16-17 declare, “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. 17 For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”

No Shame.

Paul begins this passage stating that he was “not ashamed.”  Shame is the fear or painful feeling that is aroused when you, or someone, or something you identify with acts, thinks, or fails to act or think according with the standards you accept as good. Shame brings with it the desire to shrink back and hide because your weakness or failure has been exposed.  Shame is an emotion that entered the world with Adam’s sin in Genesis 3.  Perhaps you will recall that after Adam and Eve at of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Bible says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8).  They became painfully aware of their sin and desired to hide it from each other and from God when He came looking for them.  They did not want their sinfulness exposed to each other and especially not to God.

Let me make a couple of side comments here.  The reason that nakedness brings shame is not because there is something wrong with the human body. There is not.  God designed and created Adam and Eve and He pronounced them very good (Genesis 1:31), and that includes His placing them in the Garden of Eden naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).  Nakedness brings shame because sin corrupted man’s nature and the exposure of the body is a reminder of that sin.  A very young child can run around d naked without shame for two simple reasons.  The same reasons older people cannot.  First, they are unaware of their own sinfulness.  They have no perverted thoughts toward others and they have no awareness of anything perverted about their own bodies.  As they get older, that will change.  Second, the naked body of a toddler escaping from the changing table does not bring perverted thoughts into the minds of other people.  That will also change as they get older and their bodies mature.  God’s standards of modesty are for the benefit of both the individual and the rest of society. God does not want you exposing yourself to your own shame or for your exposure of yourself to cause perverted thoughts in others to their shame.

This is why we need to be careful to dress properly, modestly and discreetly (1 Timothy 2:9).  Dressing to entice is not an issue of fashion, but of morality.  If you are not a harlot, don’t dress as one.  Your bodies do not belong to you, but to your spouse or future spouse.  They are not for the viewing pleasure of perverse people.  Godly people do not want to be thought of in that way.

The opposite is also true.  Job made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze at the virgin (Job 31:1) because it would be to his own shame to view her exposure.  It is important that we be careful of what you look at.  You do not need to have perverse thoughts generated by what you see.  As you walk down a street you cannot keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.  You could also wear a hat and not be around where they congregate.

Pornography is out of the question for Christians.  That includes the forms that masquerade as entertainment in our society.  Would not brotherly love refrain from encouraging in anyway people exposing themselves in a manner that you would not approve of if it was your mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, or son?  Why then pay money to see such magazines or films, or support the products of those who exploit others in such a way?

Whether a person feels ashamed or not depends both on the action or thought, the accepted standards of society, and one’s own standard of what is good.  

Paul states that he is not ashamed of the gospel

Because he clearly understood both the truth

Of the gospel and God’s standard of right and wrong.  

Paul placed greater emphasis on what God thought of him

Than of what other people may have thought of him.  

For that reason, Paul was not ashamed to proclaim

The gospel of God or live by God’s standards.

But note that Paul states this from the negative instead of the positive.  He says he is “not ashamed of the gospel” instead of “I am proud of the gospel.”  While there could be several reasons for this, two are primary.

First, pride is not generally presented in Scripture as a positive virtue.  There are only a few references in which the term is even used in a positive manner (2 Chronicles 17:6; 1 Corinthians 1:12,14; 5:12; Philippians. 1:16).  For the most part pride is a negative – this is clearly brought out in Proverbs 11:1 “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom” and 1 Peter 5:5b, “. . . and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Second, the historical situation was one in which the world was against Christianity.  The gospel was and is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23).  The Jews could not understand how Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, could be the Messiah.  Jesus did not fit the prophecies of a conquering Messiah and He was not following the religious traditions they had developed over the centuries. The result was that the Jewish leaders were against Jesus and His followers. Recall will recall from the Gospel of John the reaction of the religious leaders.  In John 7:47-49, they had sent court officers to arrest Jesus.  Instead, the officers heard the comments of the people and then Jesus Himself and upon returning without him said, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks.”  The leaders responded, “You have not also been led astray, have you?  No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?  But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed.”  In John 9:34, in response to the testimony of the man born blind that Jesus must be from God since He had given him his sight, we are told the religious leaders, “… answered and said to him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’” And they put him out.”   The situation with the Jews did not change with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The followers of Jesus were treated with contempt, disdain, scorn and persecution.

“The Greeks” is a term referring to all non-Jews, considered the gospel to be “foolishness.”  A classic example of this was Paul’s encounter in Acts 17. Paul went up to the Areopagus, also known as “Mars’ Hill,” at the request of the Athenian philosophers who wanted to know about this “new teaching” he was proclaiming.  They had a great interest in telling and hearing something new (Acts 17:21).  They listened respectfully to what Paul said as he explained to them the “Unknown God” they had worshiped in ignorance.  Paul told them that this God had created them and their existence was dependent upon Him.  He also told them that this God had overlooked their ignorance previously, but was now calling on them to repent because He had fixed a day in which He would judge the world in righteousness through a Man He had appointed.  However, the reaction changed when Paul said that the proof of this was raising the Man from the dead.  Verse 32 says that “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’”  In other words, some immediately scorned at such an idea while others were more polite, but still put Paul off and heard no more.  Only a few joined with Paul to understand more of what he was talking about.

It is still the same way today.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God is still “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  And there are still not many “wise” or “noble” after the ways of the world that will believe.  The world still holds in contempt and treats with disdain those who follow Jesus Christ, and in many places in the world there is still physical persecution.

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, but this does not mean that he was not afraid.  He states himself that at times he was.  Paul wrote the Corinthians, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (2 Corinthians 2:4-5).  To be afraid of standing up to speak the truth to those you know may well reject your message and you, and possibly persecute you is not from shame, but simply fear of what consequences may come as a result of saying and living by what you believe.  It can also arise from the fear of somehow messing up God’s message and displeasing Him.   From the listing in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 of all the things Paul suffered in serving Christ, there were fearsome consequences to preaching the Gospel.  Yet, Paul faced and overcame those fears because he understood the purpose of his life and entrusted himself into God’s loving and gracious hand.  Paul was fearful at times, but he was never ashamed of the Gospel and so he would shrink back from declaring it to others.

That is the greatest personal challenge to us in this passage.  Are you like Paul or are you ashamed of the Gospel?  Do you value the opinions of other people more than God’s?  Are you embarrassed to let others know you are a follower of Jesus Christ? Yes, it is fearful to risk suffering persecution regardless of its severity.  Our natural inclination is avoiding pain if we can whether it is the pain of physical abuse or
the emotional pain of being rejected by others.  I don’t want to be hit or have my property damaged because they become angry when I point out to people they sinners in need of God’s forgiveness which is available through Jesus Christ.  I don’t like being verbally insulted either.  I am sure you don’t either.  But . . .

If we understand correctly exactly

What the Gospel of God is,

Then any suffering from

Persecution is well worth it.

I may be afraid, but the fear will not become shame which would cause me to shrink from declaring God’s truth regardless of personal consequences.

The Power of God for Salvation.

What is the gospel of God?  It is the power of God unto salvation to all who are believing without regard to who they are, what they have done, or what they are doing.  Paul correctly points out at the end of verse 16 that this salvation is to the Jew first for it was to and through the Jews that God revealed His plan of salvation.  Jesus pointed this out to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:22 telling her, “You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”  In Matthew 15:21-28 a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking Him to help her sick daughter.  Jesus told her that He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Her response was to bow down before Him and say, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responds, It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You and I might have left offended at that point, but her response was one of utter humility. “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Jesus responded to her great faith and healed her daughter. We gentiles may not like that, but we must recognize that it is God’s grace that saves us and not our heritage. That is true for Jewish people too.  John 1:12-13 points out that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name,  who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of all who are believing.

But . . .

Why does man need salvation?  

What does mankind need to be saved from?  

The answer is not “hell.”  

Hell is only a consequence.

It is not the problem.  

The problem is sin.

Most of you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and their disobedience to God’s command that plunged man into sin.  God had warned them that on the day they would eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die.  Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.  In that day, they did die spiritually as they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden and separated from the previous relationship that had with God.  This separation would become eternal in hell unless some means could be found to remedy sin.  Physical death also entered the world at that time as God killed an animal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3).  

The problem man faces is

His sin and its consequences

– Death and hell.  

Every person has inherited

Adam’s sin nature (Romans 5:12)

And then confirms that sinfulness

By their own disobedience of God’s commands.  

Man is therefore condemned by

Both his inherited sin nature

And his own personal failure

To keep God’s commands.

The salvation Paul speaks of here is deliverance, rescue, and preservation from sin and its consequences.  It is deliverance from the bondage of sin, rescue from sin’s consequences, and preservation from continuing in sin.  It takes the power of God to bring about this salvation.  Man cannot do this on his own, though he tries.  Some try to deal with sin philosophically by simply denying it or its consequences, but that is foolishness.  Denying either sin or hell is like trying to keep yourself from falling down by denying gravity exists.  Even if you could make it look good on paper, reality would still hurt when you hit the ground.

Man has also developed various religions and philosophies in an effort to improve his manner of life and somehow appease God.  But . . .

Man is simply not powerful enough

To change his character to

Meet God’s perfect standards.  

Without holiness, man will not see

The Lord (Hebrews 12:14), and Isaiah 64:6

Makes it clear that no one

Meets God’s standard of holiness.

The Bible says in Romans 3:10-12, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” and in Romans 3:10-12, , quoting from Psalm 14, God makes it clear that left on our own, no one is good or even seeks after Him, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”  Philosophy and religion fail because they are not powerful enough to either change man or satisfy the penalty of sin.

Consider if a man was finally able to change himself to the point that he no longer sinned.  What then?  He still has a problem because he is already guilty and condemned by the sins he has already committed.  A murderer is not set free simply because he no longer murders.  A thief must still make restitution even if he no longer steals.  A liar is still responsible for the damage his lies have caused others even if he only tells the truth from now on.  

The wages of sin is death

(Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23)

And the penalty must be paid.

Many religions instituted animal sacrifice as a means to pay this penalty.  This was in keeping with God’s instructions in the Law, but such sacrifices could never take away sin.  They had to be continually made because of man’s continuing sin, and an animal is not the equivalent of a man.  They were only a shadow of what had to come as Hebrews 10:1 states, verse 4 adding, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take a away sin.” (See also Psalm 50:8-12; 51:16ff; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 7:21ff; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6ff).

There were those men powerful enough to cause others to die in their place, but even that would not satisfy, for the death of the one murdered would only satisfy the penalty of his own sin and not that for anyone else.  

An equivalent sacrifice would have to be made,

But it would have to be sinless itself.  

Only the power of God could do this,

And

That is exactly what Jesus Christ did.

  • Jesus became a man so He would be an equivalent payment for other men.  
  • He was sinless, so His death could be a true substitution and not a payment for His own sin.  
  • He was also God, so His sacrifice would be of infinite worth so that it could be applied to all men.

He made one sacrifice for sins for all time (Hebrews 10:12).  But Jesus also broke the bondage of sin (Romans 6) and clothed those saved by Him with His own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This was absolutely necessary or man’s continuation in sin would condemn him.  

The promise was proven by the power

That enabled Him to conquer death

And rise up from the grave.  

Without the resurrection we

Would still be in our sins

(1 Corinthians 15:17).

Only the power of God could accomplish this. The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of all those who are believing.

The Qualification for Salvation.

The last part of verse 16 gives us the qualification of salvation, “for everyone who believes.”  It is not, as John 1:13 states, that we are saved by, “blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  People are not saved because of ethnic heritage, nor by that person’s own desire, or the desire of someone else.  Your parents cannot save you.  It comes only from God to those who are believing.

What does it mean to “believe?”  It is accepting and responding to the truth Jesus has revealed about Himself, God, and salvation.  What had Jesus said about himself?  We see that in the following passages:

John3:14-16, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

John5:24, “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

John 8:51, “Verily, verily, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  

John wrote his gospel account for this purpose in John 20:31, “but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  

What must be believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  He is God in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, died as the substitute for our sins, and then rose from the dead. Paul summarized this in Romans 10:9-10 stating, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

The requirement for salvation comes down to a matter of belief, but that belief is on-going.   The verb form for “believe” here is a present, active participle.  Salvation is for those who believe and continue to believe.  Jesus is not a Santa Claus story.  This is not a belief you hold one day and then disbelieve next.  The fickle belief of people like those described in John 8 does not bring salvation.  Jesus is real. 

Believing in Him involves more than

Just knowing some facts about Him. 

True belief in Him is agreeing

With and responding to Who Jesus is

And what He has done; and it is ongoing

Resulting in a change in your life,

And your eternal destiny.

The Righteousness of God Revealed.

As Paul states in verse 17, the Gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God and how He saves based on faith.  God could not just forgive sins without the penalty being paid, for then He would be unjust and a liar.  God is the one Who gave Adam and Eve both the rule, the penalty for violating the rule, and the for dealing with the violation.

God is the one that stated that the “soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4).  

If God did not require

That penalty to be paid,

Then He would not be true.  

God is consistent with Himself and

Keeps the laws He has made.  

He is just.  At the same time,

If God condemned all mankind

Without hope, He would be just, but

He would not be loving, merciful, or gracious.  

How then could God be both just and loving?

How could His righteousness be demonstrated?

By paying the penalty of sin Himself.

His justice is satisfied in the very act

Of love, mercy and grace

That pays the penalty.

His righteousness is then manifested

By granting salvation to

Those who are believing,

That is, trusting God according

To His character and promises.

The phrase “from faith to faith” is parallel to “everyone who is believing” in verse 16.  The same formula in an expanded form is used in Romans 3:22 explaining the manifestation of the righteousness of God – “even [the] righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”  The righteousness of God is manifested through faith in Jesus Christ and abides on all who believe.

The phrase is further explained in the quote from Habakkuk 2:4, “But the righteous man shall live by faith,” which also explains the nature of righteousness.  The nature of true righteousness is the same in both the Old Testament and the Gospel Paul was preaching.

The Nature of the Righteous.

Man commonly wants

To define righteousness

In terms of the rules he

Makes for himself and keeps.

That was the way in which the Pharisees had lived it in keeping with the rabbinical system that proceeded them.  It is still the way religious man defines righteousness in our own day.  Whether it occurs in an older system such as Roman Catholicism, or in a new system, such as has developed in the new cults, or in the legalism in many evangelical churches, it is all basically the same.  The religiously righteous man lives by his work in keeping his code of ethics.  All that varies is the particulars in the code of what you can and cannot do.  It is works based righteousness.

God defines righteousness

In terms of

The person’s faith in Him.

Faith is not an intellectual assent separated from life.  It is the belief that a person has that guides the daily actions of life based on the trust placed in the object of belief, in this case, God Himself.  It is not the action itself, but the basis for the action that makes the difference in the life of faith that is righteous.

Paul will explain this further in chapter 4 with the example of Abraham, but the point here is simply this.  

Man is not made righteous with God

Through his own goodness and works.

Man can only be made righteous with God

Through the Gospel message which calls on people

To an ongoing belief in Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God,

In trusting Him for the forgiveness of their sins

Based the sacrifice of Himself as the and His resurrection.

This continuing belief manifests itself in a righteous life of faith.  A life in which you step forward to do what God asks and live according to His standards despite any fear that might be there, regardless of the consequences of an unknown outcome, not because some effort to appease God or win His favor, but because you trust Him.  The righteous live by daily trust in God.

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because he lived by faith.  What about you?  If you are not one of the believing ones yet, I encourage your to write to me and I will be happy to talk with you further about it, or talk to a Bible-believing Christian about it.  You can join the family of God today by turning from your sins to Christ by faith.

If you have been ashamed of the Gospel in the past, God is willing to forgive, but it is time to move forward in trust and see Him do great things in your life.  You are not alone.  Part of the purpose of the church is believers helping one another walk in faith, and grow in faith, but that can only happen as you get involved with others and let them minister the Word of God to you even as you minister to them.  Take advantage of the various ministries and fellowship opportunities.

What would happen in our communities if each of us was like Paul?  Let us pray and live by faith to that end.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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