HOW IMPORTANT IS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17 NRSV)
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans has been called majestic, a masterpiece, and Paul’s Magnum Opus. One person even went so far as to say that it just may be the most influential letter in human history. Not bad for a two-thousand-year-old letter.
The church at Rome (a collection of tiny house churches) was not founded by Paul or visited by him. He hopes to come to the church and make it a base camp for a future mission to Spain. He sends Phoebe (16:1) to Rome with the letter to share his understanding of the gospel to people he has mostly never met. He also seems concerned about growing tensions between Gentile and Jewish Christians in Rome.
At the outset, Paul gives the theme of the letter in two tweet-sized portions (1:16-17). However, it will take Paul sixteen chapters to unpack this. At the heart of Paul’s confession is the “righteousness of God.”
When we hear the word “righteousness” our minds may jump to thoughts of self-righteousness or holier-than-thou attitudes or an unattainable perfection. None of this is related to what Paul means by “The righteousness of God.” Michael Gorman, in the CEB Study Bible, says righteousness is, “God’s most basic character quality. This includes God’s holiness, faithfulness (especially covenant with Israel), integrity, deliverance, saving activity, and life-giving power…God’s restoration of people and all creation to peace and wholeness. God’s righteousness in action sets things right.”
When have you especially noticed God’s righteousness in Scripture. It makes I think of God’s steadfast love with Israel as pictured in Hosea 11:1-4:
When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the further they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and they burned incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up in my arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with bands of human kindness,
with cords of love.
I treated them like those who lift infants to their cheeks;
I bent down to them and fed them.
When have you experienced the righteousness of God? During a chronic illness? Following the failure of a relationship? In the waters of baptism? In overcoming sin?
How important is the righteousness of God? This same righteousness is in the gospel—and it changes everything. So, this week keep your eyes out for the righteousness of God. Try to have new eyes for what God is doing in your life, your church, your neighborhood.
Lord God, thank you for your righteousness that we see in Scripture, our lives, the world, and especially in the gospel. Give us fresh eyes to see you at work.
Mark Manassee is Senior Minister of Culver Palms Church of Christ, a vibrant mosaic of people representing the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles. “Our experiences are varied,” says the church, “but we are united in and by the love of Christ.”