The Righteousness of God Revealed, Part 2.

Knowing intellectual data about Jesus is not enough to save a person. Nicodemus was a learned Jewish teacher, but he still did not possess saving faith until he knew what it meant to be born again (John 3:1-21). The longest 18 inches is the distance from the head to the heart, from knowing about Jesus to placing our full faith in and submitting to Christ.

The Righteousness of God Described

The righteousness of God comes "through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22). Mere belief in God is insufficient. This must come first (Hebrews 11:6), but faith in Jesus Christ is required for salvation.

F.F. Bruce quotes ancient Roman poet Horace giving this advice to writers of drama: "Never bring a god on stage unless a problem requires a god to solve it." Human sin is a problem so big that only the true God could solve it. Sinners need the power of God to miraculously change us.

Faith and repentance often appear together in the New Testament. When one term appears alone, it always implies the other, because both are required for true conversion. Jesus interrupts the course of a life and changes its direction. Salvation is the spiritual transformation of one's way of living, not primarily ensuring life after death.

The next phrase of verse 22 outlines the scope of God's righteousness in Christ: it is "for all those who believe." God's offer is just as effective today as when it was first offered. Christ's death was sufficient to save all sinners, and it is efficient for all who believe. Like God's wrath, His atonement was not selective.

The Righteousness of God Required

God's glory is the sum of all His attributes. No human can hope to approach His perfection. We must have Christ's righteousness in order to have a right standing with God. He makes no distinction based on national or spiritual heritage (Romans 10:12) because "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). The middle voice used in the Greek of this phrase indicates willfulness. Of our own volition, we transgressed God's character. No one has an excuse; no one will be able to claim they are victims before God's judgment throne.

The Righteousness of God Presented

Many areas of life have multiple requirements we must meet in order to gain approval – school, work, even children doing chores to earn privileges at home. We can be tempted to believe the same is true in our spiritual life. Paul outlined his vigorous religious life in Philippians 3:4-6. But all such striving to earn God's approval through good works is worthless (Philippians 3:7).

"The difference between man's pursuit of God and God's pursuit of man is that when someone is born again, God pronounces believers righteous at the beginning of their course and not at the end."

The good news is that you can be made perfect in God's eyes today! When a person is born again, God looks at him or her and sees the righteous perfection of Jesus. God placed our sin on Christ and paid the full penalty of wrath for us. We can know for sure that we are right with God, not be left guessing and hoping that our religious effort is enough to meet His approval. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are justified and redeemed; God's wrath is appeased; and God's character is vindicated.

Application Points

  • Do you believe in God? Do you know a lot about Jesus? Has this belief traveled the 18 inches from your head to your heart? Are you trusting Him alone and not religious works to save your soul? Have you surrendered your will to Christ and made him Lord of your life? Find out more about how to do so here.
  • Only God can solve the collective problem of human sin. Our good works can never achieve the perfect holiness that God requires.
  • You can choose how long God's wrath is revealed in your life. Look to Jesus for salvation, and you will not endure God's wrath for eternity.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Acts 20:18-21, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – Faith and repentance are both required for salvation.
  • John 3:16, Romans 8:1, 1 John 2:1-3 – Christ's death was sufficient to save all sinners, and it is efficient for all who believe.
  • Matthew 5:48, Galatians 2:20 – We can be made perfect through Christ.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Arise, My Soul, Arise"

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

I now am reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.