God’s justice in the Gospel

Recently our staff has been studying together through Romans and it has been a an awesome exercise for all of us. As I’ve been going through it, I have consciously tried to not bring anything of my own to the text, but to let the text really speak for itself. Let me take a minute to let you know exactly what I mean by that. A danger that I often find myself in as far as studying Scripture is that I will try and filter everything I read through my own established understanding of theology. For the most part this is fine, but the danger comes in when we read too much into the text. If we are to study Scripture properly we have to let the Scripture speak for itself.

The text that I want to look at specifically right now is Romans 1:16,17. This is an often quoted text and it reads:

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 to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Now as I started studying this, I asked myself (and the apostle Paul), “How is the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel?” This is a tough question because I don’t just want to give my own opinion. I want the apostle to answer it. He’s the one that is telling me this, so I need to study to figure out exactly what he’s saying. So I started looking.

First, I found out that the word “righteousness” is the same word that is translated as “justice”. So there has to be somewhere where Paul talks about how God is “just” in the gospel. But this is where my first hang-up was because in reality, I don’t really see the gospel as God’s justice. You know what I mean? I mean, practically I see the gospel more along the lines of God being merciful. After all, in the gospel, God doesn’t exercise his justice against me. I am a sinner and the gospel fogives my sin and moves it “as far as the east is from the west”. That doesn’t seem just, but gracious. So where then is the justice revealed?

As you read the first couple chapters of Romans you can follow Paul’s train of thought. In the first chapter he talks about the gospel and how everything revolves around it. Then right after he talks about its power, he talks about it’s need. The need for the gospel is the sinfulness of man. This is such a huge deal that he spends all of chapter 2 and the better part of chapter 3 talking about it. It’s not till 3:21 that he actually explains how God’s righteousness is actually made known. He repeats the phrase “the righteousness of God has been manifested” and then answers the question that was raised in 1:17 by saying that the redemption for our sin was paid for when God offered up Jesus as the payment (3:21-26).

How awesome is this? What Paul is telling us is that God is completely just and righteous in forgiving our sins because Jesus paid for all our sins by His blood on the cross. In this way, now God is just and the One who justifies. What an amazing thing. We should always stand in awe of this God and not let a day go by that we do not exhaust ourselves in living for Him, in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Zach Mabry