Excerpt from ‘NT Expository Notes: Romans’ chapter 1 verse 17
Throughout the world, many different religions and philosophies of men held sway. However, not one of these religions or philosophies could make a man right with God, or impart to him the forgiveness of sins and peace with God. Every one of them lacked the power to change a person’s inward life, and create him spiritually anew. Not so, however, with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the only message that could indeed make a person right with God, and could impart to him forgiveness of sins and peace with God. The gospel could indeed change a person’s inward life and create him spiritually anew—for the gospel was the power of God. It was the power of God, working through his Holy Spirit, to bring about the complete salvation of everyone who believed the gospel message. (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:4-5)
Since it was entirely the work of God, it could not fail to prove effective in the lives of all those who trusted in the Lord and who committed themselves wholeheartedly to God’s one and only Son. Through him—and as a gift of God’s free and sovereign grace—everyone who believed received the forgiveness of all sins, and a place among all those whom God’s Spirit is sanctifying. No one was excluded. The gospel of eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ was—and is—to the Jew in the first instance, and then to the Gentile. Everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ—whether Jew or Gentile—receives from God full salvation and eternal life.
Paul wishes to say much more about this glorious gospel, and about the righteousness proclaimed by it, and he will do so later in this letter.
The religions of the world do not speak of a righteousness that comes from God. Rather, if they speak of righteousness at all, they speak of a ‘righteousness’ that man can earn or merit by doing good works or by obeying the law. This is the kind of righteousness that God declares to be no better than filthy rags. (Isa. 64:6)
The kind of righteousness of which Paul speaks, however, is not in any way related to man’s earned or inherent righteousness (so-called). Rather, the righteousness of which the apostle speaks—and which the gospel proclaims—is that perfect righteousness that comes from God above (Rom. 3:21-22; Phil. 3:9). This is not man’s righteousness, but God’s gift of righteousness to man. God imputes (or reckons) this righteousness to every truly repentant and believing sinner when he calls upon the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy and forgiveness, and seeks justification through faith in Christ.
This is the only kind of righteousness by which a person can be justified in the sight of God. Only those who possess this righteousness as a gift of God’s grace, have the right to approach God or to call him their Father in heaven. This is the righteousness that God makes known in the gospel. It is made known when Christ is preached as crucified, buried, risen and coming again. It is made known when Christ’s atoning and substitutionary sacrifice for sinners at Calvary is clearly proclaimed. A person receives this righteousness by his faith in that message: i.e., by faith in the person and work of Christ on his behalf, and by his wholehearted trust in Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord.
From beginning to end, then, justification is by faith—by faith alone—and this by the grace of God alone. Works or good deeds do not in any way contribute toward, or help maintain, a person’s justification or state of righteousness with God. Rather, works or good deeds are the necessary fruit and evidence of a truly regenerated and sanctified life. When performed consistently from a regenerated heart and life, they prove that a person has been justified by God—once-for-all.
(Read or download the full version of these Notes on Romans from the Expository Notes section of this website.)