SYNOPSIS – The “righteousness of God” refers to the faithfulness of God to His promises that is demonstrated in the salvation provided in Jesus.
The second and third chapters of the book of the Romans present the gospel as the Great Leveler – Both Jews and Gentiles have fallen short of the righteousness of God and, therefore, both stand under His “just sentence.” Consequently, Jews and Gentiles alike are destined for “wrath.”
All men and women are “without excuse” because all have sinned, thus, no one is in a proper state to judge others. Without Divine intervention, regardless of race, whether “within the law” or “apart from the law,” all men and women are doomed to experience His “wrath”:
(Romans 2:5-11) – “After your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but to them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation. tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that works evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God.”
“God will render to each one according to his works.” The future aspect of His “wrath” is emphasized in this section – It will be unleashed on “the day on which God judges the secrets of men…through Christ Jesus.” Elsewhere, Paul links this “day of wrath” to the day on which Jesus arrives from heaven, the “Day of the Lord” – (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
On that day, God will “reveal His righteous judgment.” Paul uses this same Greek word for “revelation” or apokalypsis elsewhere for the “revelation of Jesus from heaven,” which occurs at the end of the age – (Romans 2:5, 3:6, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:7).
Next, with a series of scriptural proof-texts, Paul demonstrates that “both Jews and Greeks are under sin” – “All have sinned and lack the glory of God” – Therefore, men and women are NOT set right with God “from the works of the Law.” Instead, the Law “exposes sin” – (Romans 3:9-18, 3:23).
The “righteousness of God” is being revealed at present though the proclamation of the gospel – “Through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe.” God declares those who believe in Jesus to be “righteous by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and all this apart from the works required by the Torah – (Romans 3:22-24).
This has been done “with a view to a showing forth of His righteousness in the present season.” The stress now falls on the present righteousness of God – It is demonstrated in the proclamation of the gospel to all nations, clear evidence of His faithfulness to redeem and set right all men who respond in faith – (Romans 3:19-30).
The faithfulness of God is unveiled in the here-and-now whenever He declares men and women to be in right-standing before Him because of the “faith of Jesus Christ” and their response to it in faith. The provision of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus demonstrates the righteousness of God.
Paul speaks of His “righteousness” from an Old Testament perspective – “Righteousness” refers to the faithfulness of God to His promises, not to an abstract concept of an absolute moral standard required by Him or one inherent in His nature. By providing the means of escape from His future “wrath,” God is more than faithful to His promises.
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