God’s Righteousness Displayed

God’s Righteousness Displayed

Forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I played college baseball. Yeah.

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Yeah. I played second base on the account of my weak arm, and I only started because the real second baseman thought he was too good to show up for practices, and he was quite a bit better than I was. I did, however, lead the team in one category, getting hit in the face by the ball. So much for my baseball career.

But I wanted to start this sermon where I hope to end it. The elimination of absurd boasting this is where the Jews in Paul’s day were trying to stand proud in their history as Jews, and this is where many of us stand today, proud in our show of righteousness. And Paul has been building an argument. Or as Pastor Lloyd rightly put it, Paul was in tear down mode. We are all equally guilty.

Verse 20 sums it up for by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the but now, which with this text begins, demands our attention, but now signals a change. There is a temporal aspect in this shift, moving from what once was to what now is. There is also in this but now an intensifying, a focusing, but now communicates that all that Paul has been talking about is now being brought together, and in this reveal what John Murray calls a pivotal contrast, what Douglas Moo refers to as a decisive shift, what others call a hinge sentence. Paul spotlights the righteousness of God, and he’ll show how the coming of Jesus changes salvation history.

The righteousness of God is the central theme of our passage. It’s mentioned as a phrase in verse 21, verse 22, verse 25, and 26, and Paul uses it here to communicate several ideas. The righteousness of God speaks one of our being in a right standing with God. It’s a legal term, but he’s also Paul’s, using this phrase in a deeper sense to speak to the moral quality and nature of God himself. God, holy, just, and right.

In our text, these ideas are brought together as Paul shows how a just God can maintain justice as he declares us vile sinners as just. The glory of God’s righteousness is on full display here this morning, and I hope that in our short time with this text, you’ll see that God’s righteousness does at least three things. It demands our punishment. It magnifies God’s gracious salvation, and therefore it also eliminates our boasting Paul begins by helping us see that God’s righteousness has been manifested or revealed or shown, and this revelation has occurred apart from the law. We’ll see in verse 22 that this righteousness of God is revealed in Christ Jesus.

To quote moo, he says, paul beautifully captures in just a few words both the continuity and the discontinuity of God’s plan of salvation, end quote. He mentions that the discontinuity is that God’s righteousness is shown in Christ apart from the mosaic law. And he also shows that the continuity is that we realize that the entire Old Testament, the law and the prophets of verse 21 have borne witness to this new work of God in Christ Jesus. This is why Cranfield notes that quote, the Old Testament, if it is to be rightly understood, must be understood to be witness to this righteousness. In other words, to the gospel of Jesus Christ, end quote.

This phrase, that God’s righteousness has been made manifest. It recalls romans 117, where we read that righteousness is being revealed from faith to faith. In our text, Paul uses the perfect tense to communicate that what has been made manifest or revealed has ever since remained revealed. This righteousness, this right standing with a just God. Verse 22 shows us is through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

It’s good news, and it’s presented as a glorious reality. Paul shows that it’s available to all, to the Jews and to the Gentiles. After all, there is no distinction being declared right with God in a perfect and glorious relationship with God is then shown. And then Paul in verse 23 immediately places that picture out of reach of all of us. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We were so close for a moment. And now Paul, in one simple verse, summarizes all of what has come before. In chapter one, verses 18 to chapter three, verse 20, we are all of us sinners, and as sinners we fall short of the glory of God. And so therefore, God’s righteousness demands our punishment. The all that is a joy in verse 22, the all who believe now rings this note of despair.

All have sinned. I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous sermon, but Charles Dickens starts his great work, the Christmas carol, off in a particular way. Marley was dead. He mentions that if you don’t understand that nothing wonderful can come of the story he’s ready to tell. Likewise, if you do not believe that you are included in the for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, then nothing glorious can come of the gospel, which Paul writes of, and I hope to tell this morning, all have sinned.

Paul’s been making this point all along. Verse, chapter one, verse 18. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Am I in that group, you may ask? Perhaps the listing in chapter one, verses 29, and following will help.

They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Ouch. And Paul keeps up the pressure. Chapter two, verse one. Therefore you have no excuse, o man, every one of you who judges.

For in passing judgment you condemn yourself. If you can still breathe, if you think you can still escape those descriptions, Paul slams the door in chapter three, verses ten, and following none is righteous. No, not one. No one understands, no one seeks for God. And so he concludes in verse 19, chapter three.

Therefore, every mouth must be stopped and the whole world be accountable to God.

But when you admit that God’s righteousness demands our punishment, then we may also see that God’s righteousness magnifies his glorious salvation. Thanks be to God that verse 23 is followed by verse 24. For now we learn that the all of 22 and 23, all of us sinners who believe we are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Now I’ve got to stop here for a minute. Although the sentence continues on to affirm Douglas Moo when he notes, rarely does the Bible bring together in so few verses, so many important theological ideas.

He will list them the righteousness of God, justification, the shift in salvation history, faith, sin, redemption, grace, propitiation, forgiveness, and the justice of God. It’s a wonderful, concise presentation of the rich theology of the Gospel. Let’s unpack just a few of these ideas this morning. In verse 24 we read that we are all justified. It may be worth noting that the same greek work, word root, rather, that’s used translated as just or justify.

It’s the same greek root that is also translated as righteous or righteousness. Those words are lexically linked in the Hebrew and the Greek both. A justification is most simply defined as being declared, in a legal sense, as righteous. You can say it negatively, there are no charges against you, or you can say it positively. You are in a right standing with God.

We further read that this declaration of his grace is a gift. It’s not anything that you’ve earned. It’s not anything that you’ve deserved. It’s rather something that was presented to you simply because the giver wanted you to have it. Furthermore, it’s a gift of grace.

The idea of grace always carries an idea of undeserved, which reinforces the notion that our being declared righteous is this undeserved gift. Verse 24 begins to, or continues rather to beautifully show us that this gift is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The theological idea of redemption is one that carries two pictures. One is the ransom picture, the paying of a price. The other is the emancipation picture, a freedom from bondage.

Appreciate John Murray’s reminder that, quote, redemption has not only been wrought by Christ, but in the Redeemer. This redemption resides in its unabbreviated virtue and efficacy. His point here is that as Christ redeems us, he also unites us to himself. We are placed in Christ, and therefore Christ’s redemption is always present and effective in us. Theologians debate on which usage Paul is highlighting is he showing the ransom picture?

Is he showing the emancipation picture? I see no reason, looking at the context here, not to think that Paul was blending both of these pictures. God ransomed us by paying the price for our freedom such that we are freed from the bondage and the penalty of sin. This redemption, both the price and the freedom, are in Christ Jesus. Indeed, it appears to me at least, that verse 25 is making that very point.

As Paul moves from redemption in Jesus to explaining that God put forward Jesus as the propitiation by his blood, so we see that the story, the good news, the gospel, gets even better. God’s righteousness is upheld in our salvation. Paul makes this point both in verses 25 and 26 by explaining that God put Jesus forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. Propitiation. What a great term.

It occurs 27 times in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, and in at least 21 of those it’s obviously referring to the mercy seat or the covering of the ark of the covenant. It was there that the sacrificial blood was sprinkled during the day of atonement to picture that the wrath of God was satisfied, at least for that year. This is where Moo notes, this is where God took care of his people’s sin problem. Leviticus 1711 speaks to this the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls. For it is the blood that makes atonement by ransom of the life.

It is the blood that makes atonement. We know that Jesus willingly offered himself. Ephesians five two makes that point. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. Hebrews 727 also shows us there and elsewhere that Jesus, as the high priest once for all, offered himself.

But here Paul shows us that it was the father’s initiative to present his son, whom God put forward as a propitiation, as a covering. And we further read that God’s righteousness demands this of him, the Father, holy and just, who had in his divine forbearance passed over former sins, meaning he didn’t deal with them as severely as he could have. Now in the present time, verse 26, he’s put forth his own son, who then, through his blood offered on the cross, became for us the covering. The picture is extraordinary. When God would look at his law, you remember it’s held in the ark of the covenant, the law which would rightly judge us all to be lawbreakers.

Now, instead, he sees his son Jesus as our covering. The propitiation, the mercy seat, and his blood is an ample payment for our sins, and his righteousness is also ours and what is free to us. The gift of God’s grace, redemption, and righteousness is so costly to the Father, and yet he has paid our debt in full. And this is why Jesus, or rather why God, is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. This is extraordinary.

Cranfield notes, quote forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accounted accountable creatures. His costly forgiveness is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature, man, by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself, bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously and lovingly. This is why God’s righteousness also eliminates our boasting. Paul immediately makes this point in verse 27. What then becomes of our boasting?

It is excluded. In an ironic twist, you may find it amusing that when I was typing this sermon, every time I typed the word boasting, auto spell changed it to posting. What then becomes of our postings? It is excluded indeed. The majority of postings are thinly veiled boastings.

And before God all such boasting is excluded. Paul asks again, is it excluded by works of law? No, but by the law of faith. And here he affirms the point that he has made in verse 20 and elsewhere no one is justified by the law. John Murray, on this point, notes this quote the absolution or the absoluteness rather of his negation must not be toned down.

He Paul means that with this without any reservation or equivocation. And then he goes on to say, no contribution, preparatory, accessory, or subsidiary that is given by the works of the law. In other words, there is no thing, there is nothing that we have done to contribute to our salvation. We bring zero merit, no points either before, during, or after God’s saving work in our life, that can be attributed to us. Susan, in her own study of Romans and preparation for Sundays, is reading through Boyce’s works, and she pointed out this great quote from him.

Boyce notes, if salvation is by the gift of God, apart from human doing, then human boasting is excluded, and all the glory in salvation goes to God. And then she noted that Boyce then playfully, he writes this I doubt any of us would want to be in a heaven populated by persons who got there even in part by their own efforts. The boastings of human beings is bad enough in this world where all they have to boast about is their good looks, for which they are not responsible, or their money, their friends, or whatever. Who would want to be in a place like that? And so now all such boasting is excluded.

It is God who justifies, and he will justify both the jew and the Gentile. Verses 29 and 30 make this point, a point which Paul has been laboring to make. Yes, God is the God of Gentiles. Also, Cranfield notes, no jew in Paul’s day would ever have thought of questioning that God is God of all men, in the sense of being their creator and ruler and judge. But Paul takes it for granted that God is not the God of any man without also being his gracious and merciful and just God.

Paul closes out this section by asking what would likely have been on the mind of his audience. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means. On the contrary, we uphold the law. Scholars have noted various ways in which Paul’s preaching, even here, just in Romans, will uphold the law, including here’s just a couple showing that the mosaic law is a testimony to the gospel.

He’s going to do that in chapter four, showing that the mosaic law brings conviction of sin. He’s already done that in chapter three, verses 19 and 20 and elsewhere. He also will show in Romans that it’s a source of guidance for christian life. He’ll do that very pointedly in chapter 13, verses eight to ten. And he’ll also show that the mosaic law is a standard of God’s holiness now fulfilled in Christ.

He’ll do that in chapter eight, verse four and elsewhere. What Paul has shown us here is that Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf. Christopher Ash notes, quote, we who are therefore accounted as having fulfilled the law and been sent free from its penalties for disobedience. It is, paradoxically, this very freedom from the law’s condemnation that puts us into a relationship in which true obedience, motivated and directed by the spirit, can come about. So even our obedience, even in our obedience, rather, we have nothing to boast about, save Christ our Lord.

I will not boast in anything, no gifts, no power, no wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ his death and resurrection. Why should I gain from his reward? I cannot give an answer, but this I know with all my heart. His wounds have paid my ransom.

Oh, how deep the Father’s love. Let’s pray.

Father, your righteousness, it magnifies our need to be punished. Lord, the bad news gets really bad. But as it does, the good news rightly receives its glorious magnification, for you alone can save and, Father, you have done it all.

Lord, we have a tendency to boast. We have a tendency to want to work. We have a difficult time receiving gifts. But you have done it all. Lord, I pray that you would continually highlight the beauty of the gospel, your work in truly forgiving us all that we have done in the past.

You have paid for it through and by the blood of your son, Jesus Christ.

And Father, we now wear his righteousness as a robe. Father, I pray that as we see you more and more truly and clearly, you would fill our lives with a gratitude that would delight in obeying you. For in it we recognize how truly good you are and how truly right for our lives. Your law is but Father, that we would only and ever trust in you. Lord, we pray all this in Jesus name and for his sake.


Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.