The Righteousness of God
We were born with a spiritual birth defect, and this defect must be corrected before we can enjoy fellowship with God. The problem (birth defect) is our sin nature, which produces our sinful actions. We inherit our sin nature from our parents, who inherited it from their parents, and so on. We all descended from a common ancestor who passed along his sinful nature through reproduction by placing all humanity in our common predicament of sin with all its horrible consequences. And unless and until we correct our sin nature, we cannot reach the standard of perfection required by God.
We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we’re sinners. If we could erase our past track record of sin and avoid any future sinful acts, we would still be sinners by
nature. And it’s our sinful nature that bars us from heaven. So if you’re trying to get to Heaven without changing your spiritual nature…well, you can’t there from here. So because we couldn’t solve this problem in our own strength, God made a way available to us.
Romans 3:21-26 **
God’s Righteousness Through Faith
21 But now God’s righteousness apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely (it is a gift) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
These verses begin Paul’s summary of the solution to our sin. The summary runs from verses 21 to 26 and is one sentence in the Greek language. This is Paul’s unfolding of the plan of God to bring men and women into heaven despite our sin nature. God’s plan has seven parts, which we will examine one at a time. All together, God’s plan addresses all the problems Paul has raised in his earlier chapters of Romans cornering the sin nature of mankind. God’s solution does away with condemnation and in the process He overcomes the spiritual barrier created by our fallen nature. Remember, scripture declares that every human being is born spiritually blinded. Henceforth, our sinful spiritual nature blinds us to spiritual truth and prevents us from truly seeking for God. But God’s solution solves all these problems.
Simply put, our problem isn’t what we do; our problem is who we are. Who we are spiritually drives what we do, and therefore we can’t solve our problem merely by changing what we do. We need a new spiritual nature, not a new list of works. We need to find a way to change who we are, spiritually speaking. We need a nature that is as good as God’s nature, for that’s the standard for heaven. Once we obtain the spiritual nature of God, we can expect that our behaviors will change as well. Which moves us to the next part of the solution: the Righteousness of God manifested. Since we cannot help ourselves, we have no choice but to look to the mercy of God. And God grants us mercy by assigning us His righteousness in place of our unrighteousness. We trade in our old nature for the perfect nature of God Himself. This solution makes perfect sense given what we’ve learned earlier about our sinful nature. It won’t be enough for us to simply try harder to do better. So, we must discard the source of our bad behaviors. We must become perfect by nature, which then will lead to better behaviors and the only nature that is perfect belongs to God Himself. Furthermore, Paul says the righteousness of God is manifested to us. The Greek word for manifested could be translated “is now
Paul is clarifying that God’s solution is something brought to us; it’s not something we discover on our own. This makes perfect sense, since we know our sinful spiritual nature is a barrier. It blinds us to spiritual truth and leads us away from seeking God. So how else could we ever hope to find a solution to our problem unless God Himself should reveal it to us. And Paul adds that the revelation of God’s righteousness began long ago in the word of God.
The Law and the Prophets foretold of God’s plan to give sinful mankind His righteousness. The Law refers to all that Moses wrote. And the Prophets refer to the prophetic works of scripture. Collectively, Paul’s referring to the entire Hebrew Bible. The Old Testament bears witness to God’s plan to bring us His righteousness through a great Good Cop, Bad Cop routine. Both show us the impossibility of reaching the standard of heaven on our own. The law shows the impossibility of God’s standard, while the prophets reminded God’s people how far away they were from that standard. Secondly, the Law and the prophets taught that the Lord would make a way for His people to receive His righteousness. For example, in the Law we read the story of Abraham being declared righteous because of his faith. Or of Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain where he tells his son this:
7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
These moments suggest God’s plan to bring us His righteousness by His own means.
Later in the prophets, God says He will bring us a new righteous spirit.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 A New Covenant
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
So Paul’s explanation for how we find heaven isn’t new or surprising, at least not to anyone who has read their Bible. Some Christians mistakenly assume that God offered men and women of times past one solution for heaven in the Old Covenant. But now He offers us a different solution in the New Covenant in Jesus. But Paul says the solution has always been the same. We need God’s righteousness, and this is what the Old
Testament taught too. Paul explores the significance of this fact in chapter 4 of Romans, which will be included in upcoming posts as we learn about the righteousness of God in the Book of Romans, so right now we will wait until then to look deeper into that (Chapter 4) significance.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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