Here in Part 2 we will continue our detailed discussion of Romans 1:16, 17. We are in the middle of looking at some of the many passages in the Old Testament where God prophesied that He would pour forth His righteousness in the new covenant and MAKE HIS PEOPLE (BELIEVERS) RIGHTEOUS WITH HIS IMPUTED AND IMPARTED RIGHTEOUSNESS.
ISAIAH 56:1. "Thus says the LORD [Yahweh], 'Preserve justice and DO RIGHTEOUSNESS [my emphasis], For My salvation is about to come And MY RIGHTEOUSNESS [my emphasis] to be revealed [or, MANIFESTED].' " Under the old covenant God's people were required to "do righteousness," but the sin problem had not been solved yet through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the life-giving, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that comes to believers through Christ's death. The most "righteous" believers from Old Testament days will all confess that they needed to be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ. The most righteous sons of Israel submitted to the ministry of John the Baptist and then to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ when they called for repentance.
ISAIAH 60:21. "Then ALL YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE RIGHTEOUS [my emphasis]; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, THE WORK OF MY HANDS, THAT I MAY BE GLORIFIED [my emphasis]." We are saved and made righteous by the work of God's hands, and He must receive all the glory. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). But the Bible also makes it clear that we must repent and submit to God and His plan of salvation by faith, and we must walk by His Spirit by faith on a continuous basis, or we will not manifest (or, fully manifest) His righteousness. We must work out our salvation day by day by faith (Phil. 2:12) by grace (Phil. 2:13). The fact that we must appropriate God's righteousness by faith does not detract from the fact that His righteousness comes 100 percent by His grace. In Romans 4:16, for example, the apostle Paul said, "For this reason, it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace." Faith appropriates what God makes available by grace. We don't earn/merit these things by faith.
"THEN ALL YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE RIGHTEOUS; They will possess the land forever, The branch of My planting, THE WORK OF MY HANDS, THAT I MAY BE GLORIFIED" (Isaiah 60:21). To the extent we do not appropriate and walk in God's righteousness and every other aspect of our salvation, we rob Him of glory.
ISAIAH 61:1-3. It is significant that Jesus quoted part of the words of Isaiah 61:1, 2 in Luke 4:18, 19 and said that this scripture was fulfilled in Him. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me [Me], Because the LORD [Yahweh] has anointed me [[Me. The word "Messiah" from the Hebrew means "Anointed One," and the word "Christ" from the Greek means "Anointed One." He, the God-man, was anointed by the Spirit of God like no ordinary man could be (see John 3:34, for example).]] To bring good news to the afflicted [The Lord Jesus Christ brought the good news of new-covenant salvation.] He has sent me [Me] to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty [or, to proclaim release] to captives And freedom to prisoners [All of us were captive to spiritual death and in bondage to sin, but He came to proclaim release to the captives.]; (2) To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD [Yahweh] and the day of vengeance of our God [[Jesus' words in Luke 4:18, 19 stopped with the words "To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD." Most of the manifestation of the wrath of God is reserved for the end of this age.]]; To comfort all who mourn [[Mourning over things like the sinful state of God's people and the fact that His name is being blasphemed is a good thing. For one thing, people who are mourning over such things will be ready to submit to the Savior when He comes.]], (3) To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [my emphasis], The planting of the LORD [Yahweh] that He may be glorified." Those who submit to the Lord Jesus Christ become strong trees that are characterized by the righteousness of God. His righteousness is imparted to them through His saving work in Christ, and He is glorified. As I have mentioned, God gets 100 percent of the glory for our righteousness. Of course we can be righteous! This is the work of God! He makes us righteous through the atoning death of His Son and by His outpoured Spirit who comes to dwell within us, but we must appropriate and cooperate with God's saving grace by faith. The world, the flesh (the old man that wants to continue to sin), and the devil and his hosts are against us, so the victory over sin certainly isn't automatic, or always easy, but God's grace is sufficient.
ISAIAH 61:10, 11. "I will rejoice greatly in the LORD [Yahweh], My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, HE HAS WRAPPED ME WITH A ROBE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [my emphasis], As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels [God imputes and imparts His righteousness to us through new-covenant salvation.]. (11) For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the LORD GOD WILL CAUSE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PRAISE TO SPRING UP BEFORE ALL THE NATIONS [my emphasis]." God's righteousness is manifested before the nations in the hearts and lives of those who submit to His new-covenant plan of salvation. They can see the "robe of righteousness" that God gives to those who submit to Him with repentance and faith. God will manifest His righteousness before all the nations in a fuller sense at the end of this age.
I won't read any more prophecies that speak of God's manifesting His righteousness in the hearts and lives of those who partake of new-covenant salvation, but I'll briefly comment on two other very important such prophecies that we have discussed already (in the e-book, but not in this introduction to the e-book) and then briefly discuss Isaiah 53:11. In JEREMIAH 31:31-34, which is a prophecy dealing with new-covenant salvation (verse 32 even mentions the "new covenant"), God said that He was going to put His law within His people and write it on their hearts. In other words, He was going to transform their hearts and impart His righteousness to them. The prophecy also mentioned forgiving their sins and remembering them no more. Forgiveness is a very important part of new-covenant salvation, but I believe we should put about 90 percent of the emphasis on our actually becoming and being righteous with the righteousness of God.
We also discussed EZEKIEL 36:25-27. There God prophesied, for one thing, that He would put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes and that we would walk in His ordinances.
Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the most important passages in the Bible dealing with the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious salvation that results from that Sacrifice. ISAIAH 53:11 is a key verse in that chapter. It speaks of the RIGHTEOUS ONE (the Lord Jesus Christ) MAKING US RIGHTEOUS through His atoning death. Isaiah 53:11 is discussed in some detail on pages 26-28 of my paperback book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is also discussed in this e-book (see the Contents).
Now that we have considered quite a few passages in the Old Testament that prophesy of God's manifesting His righteousness in the hearts and lives of His people (believers), LET'S TURN BACK TO THE FIRST WORDS OF ROMANS 1:17. As I mentioned, I would translate the first part of the verse, "For by it [by the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed [is manifested]...." The primary thing that the apostle meant was that God manifests His righteousness in the hearts and lives of Christians. He has dethroned spiritual death and sin and manifested His righteousness through new-covenant salvation. The apostle Paul elaborates on that all-important theme throughout much of the rest of the book of Romans, but Romans chapters 5-8 are of key importance. We have discussed, or will discuss, most of the verses of Romans chapters 5-8 in these articles (in the e-book).
ROMANS 3:21, 22 are an important cross-reference that speaks of God's righteousness being manifested in the lives of Christians. We'll study those verses later, but for now I'll quote the first part of ROMANS 3:21, "But now apart from the Law [the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant], THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD HAS BEEN MANIFESTED [my emphasis]...." Also note Romans 1:18; it speaks of THE WRATH OF GOD BEING MANIFESTED from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. That's why all people need to be saved from bondage to sin and made righteous through the Lord Jesus Christ. The only way to avoid the wrath of God that is manifested now to some extent against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, and will be manifested in full measure at the end of this age, is to be transformed and become righteous through salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. The wrath of God is manifested now (see Romans 1:18-32), even as the righteousness of God is manifested now. The righteousness of God is actually manifested in the hearts and lives of those who submit to God's new-covenant plan of salvation with repentance and faith. We don't just read about God's righteousness being revealed; it is actually manifested in the hearts and lives of Christians.
BACK TO ROMANS 1:17, "For in it [by it; by the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed [manifested] from faith...." I would translated "by faith." Normally the two Greek words used here (the Greek preposition "ek" and the noun for faith) are translated "by faith." I could give many examples, but I'll just give three. At the end of verse 17, the NASB translates these same two Greek words "by faith," and so do the NIV, KJV and the NKJV. Romans 5:1 is another example, and so is Rom. 9:30. I'll read Romans 9:30, "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, ATTAINED RIGHTEOUSNESS, EVEN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS BY FAITH [my emphasis]." The only way we can receive God's imputed and imparted righteousness is "by faith" (or, we could say "through faith," or the equivalent). We appropriate and walk in God's saving grace by faith. The NIV, KJV, and the NKJV also translate "by faith" at Rom. 5:1, and the NIV also translates "by faith" at Rom. 9:30.
BACK TO ROMANS 1:17, "For in it [by it; by the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed [is manifested] by faith to faith...." The Greek preposition translated "to" is "eis." The translation "to faith" is quite acceptable here, but we could also translate "unto faith." The righteousness of God comes "by faith" and it comes "to faith" or "unto faith." That is, it comes "to" or "unto those who have faith," faith in God and His Son and His gospel. The apostle emphasized the word FAITH here by using it twice. He strongly emphasized faith in his proclamation of the gospel (he received his gospel from the Lord Jesus Christ). He taught that we are saved by faith (a faith that appropriates God's grace); we are not saved by works. If we could earn salvation by our works, we wouldn't be saved by grace, and we could boast in ourselves, instead of giving all the glory to God.
I'll quote part of ROMANS 3:22 here because it is has so much in common with 1:17, "even THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST FOR [TO, UNTO] ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE [my emphasis]...." Paul emphasized faith/believing here in 3:22 by using the words "faith" and "those who believe"; he used the word faith twice in Rom. 1:17. The Greek preposition that is translated "for" here is "eis." This is the same preposition that was used with the word faith in Rom. 1:17, where it was translated "to faith." And as I mentioned, it could also have been translated "unto faith." Here in Rom. 3:22 I would translate "to all those who believe" or "unto all those who believe," instead of "for all those who believe."
In ROMANS 1:17 THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD comes BY FAITH, and it comes TO or UNTO the one who has FAITH. In ROMANS 3:22 THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD comes THROUGH FAITH (using a different Greek preposition), and it comes TO or UNTO ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE. There is no substantial difference between the righteousness of God coming "by faith" or coming "through faith." And there is no substantial difference between the righteousness of God coming "to" or "unto those who have faith" and its coming "to" or "unto those who believe." Having faith in God and His Son and His gospel is the same thing as believing in God and His Son and His gospel.
NOW BACK TO ROMANS 1:17, "For in it [by it; by the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed [is manifested] by faith to faith [or, unto faith]; as it is written, 'But the righteous man shall live by faith.' " The apostle quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 to back up what he has been saying in verse 17. However, I believe the alternative translation that the NASB gives in the margin is the correct translation, the one intended by Paul and the One who sent Him. I'll give that translation, "as it is written, 'But HE WHO IS RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH [my emphasis] shall live.' "
In the first part of Rom. 1:17 Paul says that the righteousness of God is manifested by faith. Here at the end of the verse he quotes from Habakkuk 2:4, which says essentially the same thing with different words. It speaks of the one "who is righteous by faith." This quotation confirms that the way we become righteous with the very righteousness of God is BY FAITH. He imputes and imparts His righteousness to those who submit to the gospel by faith, and His righteousness is manifested in our hearts and lives. We cannot become righteous with the righteousness of God by trying harder to keep the Law, or any other way. The only way we can become righteous is by faith in God and His Son and His gospel (or we could say by believing in God and His Son and His gospel).
"He who is righteous by faith SHALL LIVE." We LIVE in the sense that we are enabled to partake of the life of God now as born again Christians, and we will inherit the fullness of eternal life at the end of this age.
I'll read 1 JOHN 3:7. This verse strongly confirms that our being made righteous by faith includes a lot more than our being forgiven and declared righteous. Many Christians have a hard time seeing beyond forgiveness and a declaration of righteousness in verses like Rom. 1:17. Our being made righteous very much includes our living in the righteousness of God by His grace. In other words, God actually imparts His righteousness to us, and we walk in His righteousness. "Little children, make sure no one deceives you [There were deceivers in John's day, and we have many deceivers in our day.]; the one who practices righteousness [or, THE ONE WHO IS DOING RIGHTEOUSNESS] is RIGHTEOUS, JUST AS HE [GOD THE SON] IS RIGHTEOUS [my emphasis]." If we are righteous as the Lord Jesus Christ is righteous, we will certainly be living with the victory over all sin, won't we? This is good news! What God calls us to do, He enables us to do. Verses like this were written to transform us, not to condemn us. We are able to be righteous as God is righteous because He imparts His righteousness to us, as He often prophesied He would do in the Old Testament. The First Epistle of John also makes it clear that Christians who have sinned can be restored through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death when they repent. But it is totally unacceptable for Christians to just go ahead and sin with the understanding that they can be forgiven. That viewpoint seriously abuses God's grace.
I trust you can see the extreme importance of Rom. 1:16, 17! I'm going to read part of what I said in my paperback book ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin") under these verses. The gospel has the power to save everyone who believes. It has the power through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection, and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, to dethrone sin, Satan, and spiritual death, and to make believers righteous. Having been saved from sin, believers will be saved from the wrath of God that will come against those living in sin (see, for example, Rom. 1:18-3:20; 5:9, 10; Eph. 2:3; 5:5-7; 1 Thess. 1:10).
... When the gospel is received in faith, the righteousness of God is manifested in the sense that believers are transformed by the saving power of God (see Rom. 1:16) and made righteous. The righteousness of God is dynamic; it overpowers sin and makes believers righteous. God puts His righteous, Holy Spirit within believers. ...
The righteousness of God can come to a person only one way - by faith (faith in God the Father; faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; faith in the gospel). It does not come by works of the Law, but by faith (see, for example, Rom. 3:20; 4:2; 9:32; 10:5; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5; Phil. 3:9). By faith, Yes! By works of the Law, No! Righteousness must come from God. It cannot come from man in the flesh (man in spiritual death, man in bondage to sin). Man in the flesh cannot fully keep God's Law, so man in the flesh cannot be saved by the Law.
In my paperback book I quoted part of what J. A. Zeisler said under Rom. 1:16, 17 in his commentary on Romans titled, "Paul's Letter to the Romans" (published by Trinity Press Int'l in 1989). I'll include two brief excerpts here. "It is crucial that [the power of God] should be mentioned in the transitional summary [referring to Rom. 1:16, 17], for a major part of the human problem, as Paul sees it, is that men and women are not free. It is not just that they need forgiveness, though they do, but even more that they are under alien power, especially that of sin. ... To release them, they need a superior power, and a large part of the argument will be that they can be transferred from the power-sphere of sin and death to that of the divine Spirit, which brings true life as the people of God. See Rom. 1:18-3:9; 6:1-23; 8:1-11."
"Some have thought that God's righteousness becomes ours in the sense that a right standing/status is freely granted by God. No doubt this is so, but it is not just that. God's righteousness is how he acts, and when human beings are drawn into its power, they begin to act as they should, as his covenant people."
This e-book is listed in the E-Book Store on this site and is available at amazon.com.
May the will of God be fully accomplished through this two-part article and through my e-book! In Jesus' name!