As unrighteous sinners who have fallen from God, mankind’s real need is for the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. But what makes this gospel potent enough to reach even us? Romans 1:16-17 says, “The gospel…is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes…For the righteousness of God is revealed in it out of faith to faith, as it is written, ‘But the righteous shall have life and live by faith’”. According to these verses, the power of the gospel is the righteousness of God Himself. In His death, Christ has satisfied all the requirements of God’s righteousness, and God has accepted His payment on our behalf. Since we have believed into Christ and are thus identified with Him, it would be unrighteous of God to require anything further in order for us to be justified (3:21-25; 4:22-25). The righteousness that formerly kept us away from God’s presence is now our powerful standing in salvation (Gen. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; 1 John 1:9).
In John 3:16 we see that God’s love is the source and motive of His salvation. In Ephesians 2:5 and 8 we see that grace is the means of His salvation. And in Romans 1 see that righteousness is the power of His salvation. Because of the righteousness revealed in it, the gospel is the power of God to save us. God remains just if He shifts His favor, grace, or love according to His sovereignty (Rom. 9:13-15), but He can never waver in His righteousness. Righteousness is the foundation of His throne and the base of His kingdom (Psa. 89:14a; Rom. 14:17).
God’s righteousness has an absolute demand with many requirements, which fallen man cannot fulfill. But we have a Savior, “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1), who offered Himself obediently to God as the “righteous act” to bring justification to all men (Rom. 5:18-19). God even sealed His approval of the price that Christ paid by raising Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand (Rom. 4:24-25; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 7:16-17, 22). Now, having accepted Christ’s payment for the redemption of all who believe into Christ, it would be unrighteous for God to demand again some payment for our justification. For the sake of His righteousness, He must receive each of us not only at our initial salvation but also every time we draw near to Him. Therefore, John declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, italics added). What a powerful gospel we enjoy because of the righteousness of God!
Witness Lee, Crystallization-Study of the Epistle to the Romans, Message 5 (Print).
Watchman Nee, Christ our Righteousness (Print).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)