''Winging It' with Stan Smith
Originally posted on 09/09/2020
Paul boldly said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Romans 1:16-17) We like that "I am not ashamed" thing. Bold. Brash. Good stuff. Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Well, because it's the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Good reason not to be ashamed. But how is it the power of God for salvation? Did we read that far? "In it the righteousness of God is revealed." So, Paul isn't ashamed of the gospel because it reveals God's righteousness which includes God's power to give salvation to those who believe. I think that gets the idea across.
Does it bother anyone, then, that Paul goes on to the next verse beginning with "for"? Does it disturb anyone that Paul's first sense in which the gospel reveals God's righteousness is explained in verse 18?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
"Okay, hang on a minute, Paul. You're saying that the righteousness of God is revealed, first, in the wrath of God?" Yes, that's what Paul is saying. In fact, from 1:18 through 3:20 he says that. Paul uses all that space talking about "the gospel" (the good news) in terms of the absolutely worst possible news. "There is none good; no, not one." (Romans 3:12) And "By works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight." (Romans 3:20) All are under sin. No one is even remotely good. There is no hope for us to fix it. There! God's righteousness is revealed! Yeah!
How? Well, in this first section of Romans Paul first reveals God's righteousness by contrasting it with our unrighteousness. "You think you're righteous (Romans 2:1)? You're not. Every one of us is completely unrighteous (Romans 3:10)." God is perfect (Romans 1:19-20) and we are ... not. Absolutely not. The gap between our "righteousness" and His is so big as to be immeasurable and, basically, outside our comprehension. (You know this is true by the way that so many try to rework Romans 3:10-18 so we don't look so bad.)
It doesn't end there (thankfully). Given this vast gap between our "righteousness" (read "none") and His (which, if you recall, is what the gospel reveals), Paul points to that gap and says, "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law ..." (Romans 3:21ff) Big. Really big. We are without any righteousness. (Romans 3:10-12) The law won't help us (Romans 3:20). "But." God's righteousness is revealed here in our justification by faith, "through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22) The righteousness of God is revealed "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:24-25) "It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:26)
The good news -- the gospel -- is good news because it reveals God's righteousness. God's righteousness is best revealed first in contrast to our unrighteousness and then in the work that He has done to bridge that gap, to be both just and justifier, to make righteous the unrighteous and to save the unsavable and to apply it to all who believe -- not just Jews -- "For there is no distinction." (Romans 3:22) The good news -- the gospel -- reveals a magnitude of righteousness from God that we couldn't even imagine on our own. That's why Paul was not ashamed of it. Nor should we.