To say that God is righteous is not too offensive to the unbelieving world; that is, it’s not offensive until the gospel, proclaimed from the Scriptures, expresses exactly what God means when He declares Himself to be righteous. The righteousness of God is the justice-ness of God. “Righteousness” is translated from a Greek root which means “just,” the very same word in found in the second part of the verse, “The just shall live by faith.” In Hebrew, Righteousness and Justice are often used interchangeably from the same word.
God is just, and must, therefore, condemn sin, iniquity, wickedness, injustice, transgression &etc. It’s interesting to consider that sinful man would never stand for another human being that is unjust, one who never renders or demands justice for wrongs; yet, this disregard for justice that he finds so loathsome in man, he desires in God. Sinful man desires God to overlook sin without justice. Why? It is because sinful man is so utterly corrupt that he his spiritually blind to the meaning of true justice. Remember: the doctrine of total depravity does not say that man is as bad as he can be; it teaches that, since the fall, every area of a man’s life has been touched by sin so that no man is pure, which is the minimum requirement for seeing God (Matthew 5:8).
To keep it simple, one way to look at the revelation of God’s righteousness and His justice is to see God’s righteousness as His moral behavior in consistently reflecting His goodness found in His law; and God’s justice may be seen as His ethical behavior in consistently reflecting His condemnation of, and penalty upon, everything that opposes the goodness of His law. Both God’s justice and His righteousness are revealed in the Person and work, the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told in Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Except for a minor variation in spelling for syntax, “righteousness” is basically the same Greek word as used in Romans 1:17. But what does Paul mean when he says that Christ is the “end” of the law? The Greek word translated “end” means “result” or “goal” or “that which was aimed at.” It was also used as a word to denote the paying of custom, tribute, or a toll. In other words, Jesus Christ was the ultimate result of what the law testified to, testified of, and testified about.
Jesus Christ actively fulfilled every aspect of the law through His sinless, upright and godly life. Jesus passively fulfilled every aspect of the Law through His obedient submission to every penalty written in the law against sin (though being without sin Himself) and receiving the full penalty of God’s holy justice. Therefore, the Righteousness and Justice of God is revealed in Jesus Christ because the Righteousness and Justice of God is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This is known as Christ’s “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” among Bible scholars and theologians. It should be known among every Christian, as it is written, “to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16); that is, to all who embody saving faith that comes from God, imparted as a gracious gift by God, and a fruit of the work of God’s Spirit, according to the power of the gospel that reveals God’s righteousness and justice in Christ Jesus.
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