“Wrestling With Romans”
God’s Way of Righteousness (Chapter 1 Verses 8-17)
The fruit Paul has been speaking of (v13), comes from faith (v17), as a result of being right with God. Why he is not ashamed of the gospel is because it has this supreme ability to bring this rightness with God to humankind. It is an interesting question, what do you think about the gospel? Do you glory in it, brag, boast about it, are you on the attack or the defensive? Paul’s estimation of it is worth noting (v16). It is powerful, because it is God’s gospel (v1), it reveals God’s righteousness (v17), and his wrath too (v18). The power is without doubt the irresistible power of God’s love and grace towards sinful men, undeserved by them, but displayed in the presentation of this salvation through Jesus Christ, God’s Son (John 3.16; Romans 6.23). The gospel is the greatest drawing power in the world, and it is this powerful attribute of God’s love which melts and draws needy sinners. It is this which brings them to washing, purifying and making them whole. It gives life and purpose to men such as they never dreamed possible. That power flows from God to humankind through his saving word, the gospel, bringing salvation. The gospel is the one thing an impotent world needs, power for its powerlessness. That is why we need to be eager, keen, passionate, like Paul to preach it (v15). Go and do it, take every opportunity given to you.
It only makes believers righteous (v17). Our own righteousness is no good (Isaiah 64.6; Romans 10.3; Philippians 3.9). So how do you access God’s power? By faith (v16), how do you tap into God’s righteousness, same way, by faith (v17). That is how a person becomes righteous in God’s sight, Paul tells us, through faith in Jesus (Romans 3.26), no other way (John 14.6), and that is how they stay righteous all the way through, they live by faith (v17). The faith, life and righteousness all come from God, and all three come simultaneously and instantaneously. No one is righteous until they have faith, nor spiritually alive until they have faith. They do not have faith till God gifts it to them (Ephesians 2.5f). Faith itself is the life. The life of faith is an exclusive, wholehearted trust, an entire confidence in God’s mercy revealed in this gospel. It issues from self-despair, and comes to an abandonment of one’s own religious activity and morality to commend oneself to God through a heart trust in Christ (Romans 4.5). Jesus Christ will either be a whole Saviour or none at all. This faith comes to God empty-handed, throwing self on the loving mercy of Jesus Christ, and it is such faith alone that saves (vv16-17).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)