The Gospel Truth: God’s Righteousness Revealed and Imputed Through Faith in Jesus

I was reminded over the weekend of the theme verse of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, the theme that the apostle develops over the course of the letter, both theologically, soteriologically, and practically – “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.'” (Romans 1:16-17)

From this text, Luther would have Paradise opened to him, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone crystallized for the Church.

From this text, contemporary redwoods in the Church, like John Piper, would speak much upon the reality that only God can save sinners from God (His righteousness from His wrath – see v. 18).

It is this text, however, whose truth proposition of the sinners inherent unrighteousness only being remedied by the imputation of God’s own righteousness – the righteousness revealed in the Gospel – and that by faith and not by works, that stands in utter contradiction to the notion of the world – that all are generally good, that a spark of the Divine exists within the self, it just needs to be sought out and appropriated, or that by works one merits honor with the Divine Being, that salvation is an earned wage.

But God’s truth stands, that His wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (and we are all characterized in this way), and therefore, only His righteousness can deliver the unrighteous and ungodly. The imputation of an alien righteousness by faith alone in Christ alone is the greatest news in the universe, but the world considers it folly, unbelievable (which it is but for grace), and intolerable – it is counter-cultural.

Romans 1:16-17 makes these propositions: first, that we should not be ashamed to share the Gospel because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation without distinction invested by faith; secondly, the Gospel is the power of God for salvation without distinction invested by faith because in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith; thirdly, that what is meant by the second proposition is summed up in Paul’s quotation of Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by faith”; and lastly, that by the relationship between 1:16 and 1:17, and 1:17 to 1:18, it is understood that it is the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel that transcends shame in evangelism, and is the inherent power of God to sanctify believers, while also being the necessary revelation to be received by sinners through faith in Christ if anyone is to be saved from the wrath of God.

My intention here is not to write on all of these propositions of biblical truth, but rather to focus on the grace of the offering of God’s very own righteousness revealed in the Gospel to unrighteous sinners, and how this truth supremely exalts the value of God, while removing every boast from the lips of men who would infringe (by their own abilities) upon the inheritance that belongs to Christ alone, and to whom Christ gives it by gracious adoption and imputation.

The term “righteousness” is linked to the term “justification”, hence, the doctrine of “justification by faith”, or by faith God imputes His perfect righteousness to sinners completely bankrupt of any righteousness. Paul develops this idea throughout Romans, showing diligently that every single human being in the history of the universe, from beginning to end, are guilty of sin, falling short of God’s glory, and are separated from Him, in point of fact, dead and hostile against Him – “none is righteous, no, not one,” Romans 3:10, Psalm 14:1-3.

And, if the very righteousness of God is required in order to be delivered from God’s wrath, but no one is righteous in the way that God is righteous, what manner of problem is this but the greatest problem in the universe for every individual? But God freely offers the solution – in the Gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed through faith – faith in Jesus Christ. Paul writes it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake (God) made (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”

The wrath of God that we have earned as sinners Christ perfectly satisfied on the cross for all who would believe in Him for salvation, so that when we believe in Him, God gives to us the righteousness of Christ, the very righteousness of God. We are accounted righteous through faith in Jesus. Hereby, we are saved from God’s wrath. It is a substitutionary sacrifice that we speak of in the Gospel, through which the righteousness of God is revealed through faith in that sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ.

Biblical Christianity is the only religion that offers such a Way of salvation – which Way is exclusive! None of the sinners works, street smarts, deeds, merit, money, volunteer hours, or church visitations, etc. can save the sinner from God’s wrath – human works are frail and powerless at the accountability of God’s Law – no, God’s Law is good in that it points us to God’s Gospel, wherein it is the power of God to sanctify the believer and convert the sinner because within the Gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God – and it is the exclusive means of salvation from God’s wrath.

Christ is the Christian’s righteousness before God. It holds true, then, that “salvation belongs to the Lord” – God owns salvation, in its origin and application and end, etc. Let us be humbled by this – we cannot save ourselves; no man can savingly declare himself righteous before the Righteous God. Only God can declare a man righteous in a sufficient and saving way – and in Jesus Christ, God has made possible that very Divine declaration for dead sinners. This holds true for me, for you, for every human being. But the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel and revealed so it is understood that by faith in Christ, this perfect righteousness is imputed. Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes in Him (Romans 10:4).

It is not enough, however, to know the doctrine of justification by faith, but to truly put this doctrine of the Gospel into practice so that our words, thoughts, and actions are submerged in it. For when we, like a delivered sponge, soak in the overflow of the Gospel, we are humbled. Do we have anything to offer God? Anything that can save? Any self-claim to glory? No! – and we rejoice! – because God has opened our hearts to know this much, which is hidden from much of the world. We, like all men, are sinners, and were it not for Christ’s righteousness, we would not differ from the rest of a lost world in the slightest degree. God’s grace sets us apart, makes us distinctive from the world. Regeneration is of God’s grace, so too, repentance, faith, sanctification, etc., and also, the imputation of perfect righteousness. And, the sinner seated beside you yesterday, now, or tomorrow – they are right now what you were prior to the onset of effectual grace. Christ is the chasm between the two, me and you, you and him or her.

Does this not transcend any ashamedness for the sake of the Gospel? Is not this revealed righteousness of faith the power of God to save without distinction? God’s righteousness, God’s righteousness, God’s righteousness – it is revealed in the Gospel; it delivers from God’s wrath; it comes through faith in Jesus Christ; it constitutes the great divide; and it overflows into daily practical humility and evangelism and Christian growth.

Let us be rid of our wretched individualism, and hold fast to the Head, Who is Christ Jesus the Lord. May we ever teach and propagate the Gospel of God’s righteousness in Christ, offered and given to sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. It is more than a doctrine, it is the core of the Gospel, the ground upon which, Luther wrote, the Church will stand or fall – and it is the hope of the lost world and the joy of we who by it have been fitted to glorify and enjoy God forever. It is God’s righteousness – give Him the glory!

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