Jews and Greeks alike are all under the power of
sin. This has scriptural warrant: "There is no just man, not
one." For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death (Rom. 3:9, 10;
WE FIND from Scripture that manís alienation from God
is marked by two fatal consequences: He is wholly without righteousness,
and he is under sentence of death. Therefore, for man to be saved, God
must do two things: He must remove the death sentence, and He must provide
a perfect righteousness and the divine power that brings men into a right
relationship with Himself. The first God does by the death of Christ; the
second by Christís righteous life on earth. This is the gospel,
"the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16).
The Gospel is Godís Gospel; God is the planner of
this Gospel. God is the initiator of this Gospel. Indeed everything
about the Gospel should always be in terms of God primarily, for this
reason, that sin after all is rebellion against God. Sin is not just
something that means that you and I have failed, and have let down
ourselves and our standard; sin is not just something that makes us
miserable and unhappy. The essence of sin is rebellion against God
leading to estrangement from God; and if we do not conceive of sin
always in reference to God and our relationship to Him, we have an
inadequate conception of sin.... This is the starting point of the
Gospel. . . . And our central need, therefore, is to be reconciled to
God. . . . As our sin is separation from Him, salvation is
reconciliation to Him.ó MARTYN LL0YD-JONES, Romans (Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 33. Used by
The Sinnerís Need of Righteousness
Men seem almost indifferent to the desperate peril
created by sin. All too often men are utterly unaware of the power of sin
in their own lives and the record of sin that stands against them in the
courts of heaven for which they must answer in the judgment. Sin is an
unlimited evil. Once it is committed, it cannot be undone.
Yet the Bible is full of expressions of Godís love
for sinners. It is God who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him
up for us all" (Rom. 8:32). It is God who "so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should
not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It is God, our
heavenly Father, who will never dishonor His character of righteousness
and truth by offering to save man in his sins and let sin continue to
reign. The everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ meets the needs of sinful
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for
it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to
the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness
of God revealed from faith to) faith: as it is written, The just shall
live by faith (Rom 1:16, 17).
In this text Paul affirms that the gospel saves sinners
because in it is revealed the "righteousness of God," which is
now made available for unrighteous men. Godís answer to the sin problem
is tied to the word "righteousness," the one thing that man does
The frequency with which the word "righteousness
is used in the Bible when speaking of Godís plan to redeem man stands in
contrast to the human race where none is righteous. How can man get right
with God? How can man be reconciled to God? How can man be restored to the
image of God and to His likeness?
In the very same verses where Paul speaks of the
revelation of Godís saving righteousness he also speaks of the
revelation of Godís wrath.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth
in unrighteousness (verse 1 8).
We make no plea for a God who must execute justice and
demand payment, but for the need of a loving God who must reveal mercy and
righteousness if the sinner is to be redeemed. What a universal need for
saving righteousness exists in the world, the need for man to be restored
to God and to his original state from whence he is fallen! At the same
time God makes no compromise with sin.
Of course we do not mean by "the wrath of
God" capriciousness or some uncontrolled emotion, or arbitrary
anger, and loss of self-control. What it means is Godís utter
detestation of sin and evil. This is something that is revealed
everywhere in Scripture. What is the meaning of the Ten Commandments
if it is not this? They are a revelation of the holy character of God.
God says to His people, "Be ye holy; for I am holy ... God cannot
but hate sin. God would not be God if He did not hate sin God is light
and in him is no darkness at all."óIbid., pp. 8,
Godís answer to the sin problem is the revelation of
His righteousness. What is this "righteousness of God" that
The Biblical Meaning of Righteousness
The Bible uses the word righteousness in several
First, righteousness is spoken of as an attribute of
God, a specific quality of Godís own character. God is righteousness in
the same sense that He is truth, light, love. Perfect righteousness
belongs to God as an intrinsic part of His own being. Speaking of God,
Isaiah says: "And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and
faithfulness the girdle of his reins" (Isa. 11:5).
But righteousness as a divine attribute does not save
men. On the contrary, were God to manifest Himself openly to sinners in
His untrammeled righteousness and perfection, this would result in manís
destruction. No sinner could endure it for a moment.
Second, the word "righteousness" is also used
to describe the uprightness of men, the morality of those who seek to live
righteously in this present world. Daniel, when addressing King
Nebuchadnezzar as he faced the judgment of God, urged upon him: "0
King, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins
by righteousness" (Dan. 4:27).
The word "righteousness" is here conceived in
terms of right-doing. It can refer to moral men either Christian or
non-Christian, describing a way of life in obedience to moral principles
and personal integrity. A certain moral righteousness does belong to man
insofar as he obeys the law of God and the moral laws underlying society.
This relative righteousness is of great importance in terms of manís
responsibility to his fellow men. This human uprightness and morality does
play a significant part in maintaining the social and civil order of the
But again, this does not save man, since man cannot
obey the law of God perfectly in himself. The righteousness that saves men
is not attainable by human effort whatsoever. Man is not saved by works of
righteousness, although righteous living will follow as a consequence of a
right relationship with God. God is not saying that the morality of
law-abiding citizens is not a good thing for the present world order. It
certainly is desirable. But it does not save a man.
Third, the righteousness that saves is the
"righteousness of God" revealed to man through Jesus Christ
But now the righteousness of God without the law is
manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the
righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and
upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have
sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by
his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom.
The beginning of manís return to God converges in the
life and death of the Son of God. He is the "Lamb of God which taketh
away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and, "when we were
enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,
being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). Alone,
God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself (see 2 Cor. 5:19). He
requires no help from man in this supreme revelation of saving
Thus saving righteousness is not an attribute of God or
an ethical requirement and demand by God. It is a divine act that reveals
in historical events Godís plan and power to save man. It is an
objective act that changes the hopeless situation of mankind whether men
believe and accept salvation or not.
Salvation by the righteousness of Christ means that man
acknowledges and believes that God has revealed and effected in Christ
alone a righteousness that is eternally all-sufficient for all men. This
perfect righteousness consists of Christís fulfillment of Godís
commandments and obedience to the will of God that was maintained even
unto the death on the cross. It is a righteousness that satisfies all the
requirements of divine justice, revealed in the sphere of human sin and
death. This makes the gospel the power of God unto salvation.
The Christian faith is not a philosophy, it is not
merely a teaching. It is based on a series of historical events. The
teaching derives from and is grounded in the historical events. That
can never be too much emphasized, because this is the point at which
our faith differs from every so-called religion. All religions are
teachings; this (the Christian faith) is event and historical
happening before it is teaching; it is an announcement of events, of
actions and of facts. . . . God has revealed this, and He has done so
in the historical events connected with the life and work and
ministry, the death and resurrection and ascension of the Son of God,
and with the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.óIbid.,
pp. 40, 41.
It is important to understand Paulís statements on
this great truth. First, he emphasizes the fact that the righteousness
that saves is "the righteousness of God," in order to
distinguish it from the righteousness of men. It is the righteousness of
God revealed and not the righteousness of man achieved (but it is
the righteousness of Christ achieved in man). The saving initiative is Godís.
To be saved man needs a revelation from God, not a new set of
The particular form that the revelation of saving
righteousness takes is determined by God alone. It does not come through
the involved and complicated arguments of the worldís great men. No
amount of mental activity by man can produce it. Saving righteousness is
due entirely to divine action. God alone, in a unique act of redemption,
has brought to bear upon manís lost condition a revelation of His saving
power and righteousness.
Now the revelation of God in nature has no solution to
the sin problem. Nature speaks to manís need of God, but brings no
satisfaction. The argument for the existence of God from nature has
meaning only for the man who already has a Christian orientation and
experience. To claim to believe in God because one can see design in
nature and an orderly universe does not make a person a Christian. Simply
to theorize about the design and purpose of God in creation can only
distract from the first business of life, to "seek first the kingdom
of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). Without the divine
intervention of God in Christ, the shadows of sin and death that have
fallen upon all men can issue only in the continual descent of the race
into eternal darkness from which there is no escape.
Neither is salvation to be conceived as a solution to
the social problems of the race effected by the wisdom of man. The
"righteousness of God" is not a soothing of oneís guilt or
cheering one up in the hours of discouragement. Man is never saved by his
own moral development. No righteousness exists among men that is
acceptable to God. Only the righteousness of God is the power unto
salvation, because only God can provide and bestow it. Without it man must
remain in slavery to sin and under the sentence of death.
Salvation does not merely consist in our receiving
forgiveness of sins. The thing that Apostle [Paul] stresses is that we
are given a positive righteousness. "But now" he says,
"the righteousness of God." What man had been trying to
produce, and especially the Jews, was a righteousness that would
satisfy God. The Jews thought they were doing it through the Law;
others thought they were doing it with their morality and their
philosophy. Paul has proved that it was all vain. "But now,"
he says, there is an entirely new positionóa righteousness from God
is available. This is the big thing in salvation; . . . Before we can
be admitted to heaven we must be clothed with righteousness. . . . A
righteousness of God, or from God, is now available because of what
Christ did when He came into the world and what He has completed by
going back again to the Father.óIbid., pp. 42, 43.
The divine source of saving righteousness is Jesus
Christ, His person and His work on earth. Here alone God has revealed the
righteousness that man needs.
You are in Christ Jesus by Godís act, for God has
made him our wisdom; he is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30, N.E.B.).
I count everything sheer loss, because all is far
outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake
I did in fact lose everything. I count it so much garbage, for the
sake of gaining Christ and finding myself incorporate in him, with no
righteousness of my own . . . but the righteousness which comes from
faith in Christ, given by God in response to faith (Phil. 3:8, 9,
Saving righteousness is called the righteousness of
Christ because it belongs to Him alone, it comes from Him and not from the
law. The prophet speaks of "The Lord our righteousness" (Jer.
33:16). Paul describes it as the "righteousness of one" man;
"obedience of one" man; "the gift of righteousness . . . by
one, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5: 17-19). In stating it this way, Paul
proclaims His to be the one righteous life, the one life on earth
perfectly obedient to the law of God, lived under human conditions, a life
lived entirely by faith in His Father, dependent upon God alone.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by
the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me (John
Jesus Christ on earth lived righteousness by faith. As
a man He lived as all men ought to live, a life of complete trust and
dependence upon His Father. This perfect righteousness had never occurred
until Christ came to earth. Jesus Christ is the only reason for
Christianity and the Christian church. Christ did descend from heaven into
this world. He did live a perfect life on earth. He was crucified and died
for the sins of all men. He was raised from the dead according to the
Scriptures. Today He is the living Christ. He alone is our righteousness.
These facts stand forever and cannot be dethroned any
more than the stars in their courses. Christ is the turning point of manís
sinful history. In Christ and through Christ new life from above begins.
Christ thrust into the sinful stream of humanity a current of
righteousness so powerful as to turn the face of men back toward the
living God. There can never be another Christ who is both Saviour and
Lord. The believer must look to Him and depend on Him who continually
communicates His righteousness to those who live by Him.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us
eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath
life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:11,
This is the good news for sinners: Godís redemptive
action in His Son, originated and planned by God as expressions of His
everlasting love and power. This action of God saves men. This power gives
man that which he could never provide for himself: salvation, redemption,
transformation, and reconciliation with God.
Furthermore, this divine gift of righteousness is
complete in Christ. When Christ was about to leave His disciples, He
promised to send them the Holy Spirit, who would "convince the world
of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment." Convincing of
righteousness, He said: "Because I go to the Father and you will see
me no more" (John 16:8-11, R.S.V.). Christ meant that the gift of
righteousness is now complete in Him. It is a perfect righteousness,
objective in Christ alone, offered to man as a gift.
Paul never wearies in making Christ and His
righteousness the pivot in manís redemption. In Romans, chapter 5, he
further emphasizes this by comparing the first Adam with Christ, the
second Adam. The way to salvation was closed by the first Adam and
reopened by Jesus. The first man was the first sinner. Thus death began
and has continued ever since to reign in the world. Paul does not say that
all men are punished because Adam sinned or that God regarded Adamís
descendants as guilty by virtue of Adamís guilt, but that all men are
involved in the sin and death that began with Adam.
The sin of Adam inflicted universal injury on the human
race, not by implicating all men in the sin Adam committed, but by
involving them in its consequences. This is the reality to which men must
accommodate their thinking and living. Paul saw in this the glorious
opportunity for God to manifest His grace and mercy and to provide a
divine righteousness, the power of God for salvation. As sin and death
came to all men through Adamís sin, so life and righteousness are
available to all men through Jesus Christ. "As in Adam all die, even
so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).
The only cure lies in another Manís righteousness. To
experience that righteousness man must be united with Christ by faith.
This righteousness that belongs to Christ is reckoned to the believer who
trusts wholly to Christís help.
The relation of the subjective attitude to the
objective act of redemption needs special explanation. . . The
historical manifestation of pardoning righteousness is the very power
of God, who rules over all, and it is manís business to submit to
it.... This means being directly challenged and arrested by God,
brought under his authority, made partaker at once in the mighty act
of salvation through faith, and set within the sphere of Godís
righteousness. All who believe share in that righteousness. The demand
for faith always accompanies the most objective utterances concerning
the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17; 3:22-28; 4:5, 1). The achievement
and proclamation of salvation are never separated from the
appropriation of it. (GOTTFRIED QUELL AND G0TTLOB SCHRENK, Righteousness
(London: Adam and Charles Black, 1951), pp. 47, 48.
Righteousness and Law *
[*The use of the term law in this book should be
identified with the moral law of the Ten Commandments. This specific
aspect of law is distinct from the generic use of the Hebrew word torah.
In contrast with the Decalogue, there is much flexibility in the use
of the term torah either with reference with the first five books
of Moses (the Pentateuch) or the general reference to Old Testament
teachings and instructions from God. In this book "law" is
concerned primarily with Paulís use of it, particularly as found in the
Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians. When Paul says "by the law
is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 1:20); ĎĎI had not known sin but
by the lawíí (chap. 7:7) "love is the fulfilling of the law"
(chap. 13:10); he is speaking of the moral law of the Decalogue.]
Paul is careful to point out the relationship of Christís
righteousness to the law of God.
But now the righteousness of God without the law
[that is, independently of law] is manifested (Rom. 3:2 1).
Paul emphasizes the fact that saving righteousness is
altogether different from any righteousness attempted by manís efforts
to keep the law. Salvation does not come by right doing; otherwise it
would be salvation by law.
Christ also is silent about any righteousness
acceptable to God that can be attained by human effort. In the Sermon on
the Mount, Christ said:
Except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).
Christ is saying that the righteousness He brings and
offers exceeds the righteousness of the Jewish leaders. When pointing out
the failure of the Jews to attain salvation, Paul put it this way:
For they being ignorant of Godís righteousness,
and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not
submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3).
These scriptures affirm that saving righteousness is
beyond the reach of the most meticulous observance of the law. While
saving righteousness involves the fulfillment of the law, it is not
achieved or produced by law. In Godís plan of redemption through Christís
righteousness, there is no place for the Christian saving a little corner
for righteousness by works in order to safeguard the law and defend it.
Saving righteousness comes by a right relationship to Christ; and not out
of a manís relation to the law. The second relationship comes as a
result of the first. This was where the Jews failed.
Whatever your interpretation of "without
law" means you must never say that the Law has disappeared,
vanished, or been cast away for ever out of Godís sight. That is not
the case. It does not mean that. What then does it mean? It means that
our attempting to keep the Law perfectly ourselves as the means of
salvation has been entirely set aside, not because the Law no longer
applies, but because Another has rendered this perfect obedience to
the Law on our behalf. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ saves us by keeping
and honouring the Law for us. The Law has not been removed; God has
not done away with the Law. The Lord Jesus Christ has satisfied it and
kept it, and we are given the fruit and the result of what He has
The Law of God is still there, and it is still the
means of judgment; and there is no conceivable standing in the
presence of God without a righteousness which answers the demands of
the Law and satisfies it, and conforms to it. Our view of salvation
must never be one that dismisses the Law; it must be one which
establishes" the law.óLLOYD-JONE5, op. cit., pp.
The gracious gospel of righteousness by faith which
brings salvation is not offered to men on lowered conditions of obedience.
The righteousness that Christ lived in His entire life on earth met the
requirements of the law of God and is a fulfillment of it. Had Christ
disobeyed the law in the slightest degree, there would not be a divine
righteousness to reckon to manís account. In light of Christís perfect
obedience to the law, it can be seen that there can be no lessening of the
moral obligation to keep the law of God. Christ does not offer men a
perfect righteousness in order that man no longer need obey Godís
commandments or live righteousness, but to provide man with the power to
The fact that God in Christ made an atonement for sin
in order to reconcile men to Himself does not give to any man the right to
go on sinning and breaking the law of God. In the very nature of the case,
it is salvation from, not in, sin.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God
forbid: yea, we establish the law (chap. 3:31).
Ellen G. White makes the point thus:
Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law
demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is
incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to
righteousness is through faith. By faith be can bring to God the
merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the
sinnerís account. Christís righteousness is accepted in place of
manís failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant,
believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him
as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted for righteousness.óSelected
Messages, Book 1, p. 167.
Every soul may say: By His perfect obedience He has
satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking
to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for
me. . . . He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the
demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting
righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which
no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the
glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which
taketh away the sins of the world,.óIbid., p 196.
It is never to be forgotten by saint or sinner that
"the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good"
(chap. 7:12), that Godís holy law must ever speak and ever remind us how
sacredly Christ regards it and kept it. He who partakes of the
righteousness of Christ will likewise regard and honor the law.
"Do not suppose that I have come to abolish
the Law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete.
I tell you this: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not
a stroke, will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has
happened. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Lawís
demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have the lowest
place in the kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the Law, and
teaches others so, will stand high in the kingdom of Heaven"
(Matt. 5:17-19, N.E.B.).
While Scripture, particularly the New Testament, exalts
the law of God as the standard of righteousness, at the same time it
opposes man's using the law as a method to gain merit and a standing with
God. Righteousness by faith is diametrically opposed to righteousness by
By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be
justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom.
But we know that no man is ever justified by doing
what the law demands, but only through faith in Christ Jesus; so we
too have put our faith in Jesus Christ, in order that we might be
justified through this faith, and not through deeds dictated by law;
for by such deeds, Scripture says, no mortal man shall be justified
(Gal. 2:16, N.E.B.).
Because all men break the law of God in one way or
another, the law convicts all of sin. The law judges and estimates the
works of men according to the objective facts in a manís life. Hence any
appeal to works done in an effort to keep the law can only point out manís
inadequacy to obey it.
Salvation by faith means trust and commitment not to
oneself, but to Jesus Christ. The more a man is convicted of his
sinfulness and shown his need of a perfect righteousness, the more he is
convinced that anything in the way of personal merit or perfect obedience
can never be rendered without Christ. Unless God provides a perfect
righteousness for him, he can never be saved at all.
Thus the saving righteousness of Christ stands in clear
contrast to the claimed self-righteousness of man. Self-righteousness does
not remake man. It does not create in man a new nature. Man is never born
again under his own auspices to keep the law. Usually, its effect is to
make man more self-satisfied, more complacent, less conscious of the need
for the gift of Christís righteousness. It is not in manís right or
reason to choose his own conditions. Repent, believe, and obey are
involved and are part of manís response to God. These are manís
responsible acts and attitudes to the gospel.
The Christian life is not self-improvement. It is not
trying to perfect oneís own natural life. It begins with the
appropriation by faith of the righteousness of Christ. This brings man
into oneness with God and gives man victory over sin, not by sheer will
power but by the presence of Christ in the life. The Christian now seeks
to live righteously and keep Godís commandments, not by laborious self
effort but by coming more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Christian obedience does not come by outward conformity to the law of God,
but by the reality of the Holy Spiritís presence.
By faith in Christ the Holy Spirit is given His
rightful place. He is the controlling power, enlightening the mind in the
knowledge of Christ, renewing the will and the heart, empowering the life
to be fully in harmony with God.
It is with deep concern that we learn of those who
believe that people can be saved by some other method than through Jesus
Christ, who are willing to stand at Godís tribunal in their own
righteousness. The lie of Satan, "ye shall be as gods," pervades
the hearts and minds of men and women.
When Christ came to earth to bear the sins of men and
provide in Himself the gift of righteousness that is the power of God unto
salvation, He knew that one sin, discerned and judged in Godís presence,
was more than any soul could bear alone. That sin, unpardoned and
unforgiven, must forever sink man into the depths of despair and eternal
When Christ came to the earth He beheld on every side
the transgressions of men against God. He knew that man without a Saviour
must receive the sentence of eternal death. Christ came to bear the sins
of men and remove the death penalty. There was no concealment of the worldís
sin from Christ. All the forces of evil conspired to destroy His work and
His person. Principalities in high places united to make a life of
righteousness impossible. This was the crisis of the worldís destiny.
All the lines of human history meet at the cross.
Christ alone has ransomed men. God has only one voice from heaven. Christ,
the perfect Man, covers the believer with the robe of His righteousness.
There is no Bible truth so rooted in the heart of God and in our world as
that saving righteousness comes through Christ alone. The Christian must
ever depend upon the righteousness of one Man, where mercy and truth meet
together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other in Godís supreme
act of redemption.