c) The Righteousness of God is Established and Realized in us Through Constant Faith (Romans 1:16-17)
17 For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.”
There is a great dilemma in theology, which is the righteousness of God. If our religion were superficial, such a dilemma would not have appeared. However, when we learn that the holiness of God requires that every sinner should be killed, and that there is no one righteous before God, we become sad, because all humanity deserves death immediately. Yet God is not only a holy and a just Judge, in himself, but is a merciful Father, filled with love, goodness, and longsuffering. He would not destroy the sinner, but would rather save him.
Because of his holiness, God could not forgive whomever and whenever he pleased, though he seeks to forgive everyone freely, for the majesty of God defines his being.
As a solution to this problem, he brought about the right of substitution in the sacrifice, which dies as a substitute for the sinner. Since there was no animal or human sacrifice to meet the requirements of God’s holiness, he chose to have his Son before all ages, that he might become incarnate in the fullness of time, to die in our place, atone for our sins, and justify us. Yet, the subject of the Epistle to the Romans is not our own justification, but the righteousness of God himself: How does the Holy One continue to be righteous, in spite of justifying us who are sinful? Christ is the only answer to this question.
The people of the Law blasphemed against the cross, saying: “If every man could be justified by faith in Christ, then let us sin more, as long as the grace of the Crucified justifies us automatically.” Paul condemned them, and testified to them that the Christian faith is not mere belief, but it is living together with Christ, where his power works in our weakness, and he creates his fruits in us. Following Jesus resembles a chain whose connecting links are measures of faith filled with thanks and love to Christ who justifies, sanctifies, and perfects us. We are not saviors of ourselves, but we open our hearts to God’s grace. Those who are justified live from faith alone. They come from faith to faith, and do not consider themselves righteous in themselves. Christ has justified them, and he keeps and sanctifies them day by day, through the workings of his Spirit. As such, God continues to be righteous, because he forgives us everyday, and sanctifies us every minute. We are his own, and are holy to him.
Another question was raised about the people of the old covenant, which put God’s righteousness under a question mark. It is the Jews’ rejection of grace. The Jews crucified the Son of God, and have therefore missed the history of their salvation. Moreover, they have always opposed the voice of the Holy Spirit who sought to bring them into repentance and faith. In view of this indisputable truth, Paul and the other apostles wondered: “How could God continue to be righteous, if he had chosen the family of Abraham, and bound himself with them in an eternal covenant? Yet, we see in our days that God hardens them and rejects them, because they were not open to his Holy Spirit. Did God fail then?” “No,” answers Paul in his epistle, where he clarifies the answer of the revelation (in Romans 9 to 11), not to justify the Jews, but only to emphasize the righteousness of God, for the Apostle of the Nations was zealous for the divinity, holiness, and righteousness of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Whoever obtains true faith, and surrenders to the direction of the Holy Spirit, becomes renewed in his mind, and able to live in holiness with all the justified in the New Testament. Christian Ethics do not stop at the education of man, or human powers, but extend to the obedience of drawing from the love of God, and the power of his salvation, which bears all those who believe in the Son. The behavior of Christians sanctifies the name of the Father. The demonstration of his righteousness is the subject of the Epistle to the Romans.
PRAYER: O God, Holy Trinity, we worship you because you admitted us to the true faith, and justified us freely, and you sanctify us every day and guide us. You are the Righteous One, and you continue to be righteous, though we do not understand many movements of peoples in the history of the world. Sanctify us completely, and take away the remaining sin from our characters that we may become a praise, and a sweet smell among all people.
- How is the righteousness of God related to our faith?