reading the Bible December 4 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Romans 1, 2, 3, 4

Righteousness – How is it Achieved?

How do we attain righteousness with God? Do we achieve it by our religious devotion or our attendance to religious ceremonies and ordinances? Do we inherit righteousness because of our Christian, Jewish or other heritage? Are we considered righteous if we are good moral people? Do we achieve righteousness through philanthropic, humanitarian, charitable, or altruistic efforts? Or, is there some other way to achieve righteousness with God? In the days of the early church there was an on going controversy between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) on how to achieve righteousness with God. In this section of Romans the Apostle Paul logically lays out the case for salvation by faith alone.

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome. To these believers whom he had never met he wrote a letter telling them of his God-given mission: “Through him [Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith,” (Romans 1:5, NIV). Hearing of their good Christian testimony, he wanted to visit them. Until then, and perhaps because of the Jewish /Gentile controversy, he wanted to explain the gospel more clearly, “for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith,’” (Romans 1:17, NIV).

Why is righteousness by faith necessary? Paul points out there is a need for righteousness. Because all people do wrong things or fail to do right things, we are sinners by nature and by choice. We have spoiled the good and innocent nature of our original creation by our sins. We are all, therefore, under the wrath of the God, who is holy, pure and good. Even the heathen who have never heard about Jesus are under God’s wrath.

Since what may be known about God is plain to them [to all men and women] because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20, NIV).

Since no one is righteous in God’s sight, we need the grace of God to be saved from his wrath and be given true righteousness. We need righteousness given to us because we cannot attain it through our own efforts.

What about those who are good moral people - are they under God’s wrath, too? Yes. Morality is not enough. We often break our own moral standards or laws and are found to be sinners. We need a savior.

What about those who are religious? Surely, they are not under God’s wrath. There were Jews in Paul’s day and in thousands of generations before him who faithfully kept the Law of Moses and all the traditions and feast days; didn’t they have some favor with God? Other religious people today may ask the same question about their own practices. The answer is that religion can be deceptive in making people believe that if they are faithful in their religious practices they will be acceptable before God. The religious things people do, however, only have some eternal value when they are expressions of the faith which they possess. There is no substitution that can be made for genuine faith in God's Son for salvation. Paul was very inclusive when he wrote,

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…” But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:10, 21-24, NIV).

What about our heritage? Surely, that has some merit. Perhaps our parents were very religious. Perhaps we have other prestigious breeding. Wouldn’t God give us a pass? The Jews thought the same thing. Most clung to their Jewish heritage, their Law, their teachings, their traditions, and especially their relationship to their beloved patriarch, Abraham, as their right of passage into the kingdom of God. But Abraham was justified before God for his faith, not for keeping the Ten Commandments that were not even in existence. Paul says,

Therefore, the promise [of salvation] comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all [both Jewish and Non-Jewish people], (Romans 4:16, NIV).

Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification,” (Romans 4:25, NIV).

Salvation, then, is not attained by our morality, religion, or heritage. Indeed we are all sinners, and in God's eyes we are unholy and corrupt to say the least. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Christ, who gives us his righteousness so that we might be truly righteous in his sight. (more...)

*A more thorough introduction to Romans can be found in the more insights page.

Lessons to live by:

  • As Paul did, we should fulfill our mission to proclaim the gospel to a lost world so that they might have the knowledge of Christ and be saved.
  • Righteousness cannot be earned, inherited or obtained by a moral or religious life. Righteousness is given by the grace of God through faith in Christ. (more...)

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Romans 4:5 “…To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (NIV)

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