In his epistle to the Romans, Paul lays stress on the “righteousness of God” revealed in the gospel preached by him – It is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” And the same message is now being proclaimed throughout the earth to “Jew and Greek” alike. By “righteousness of God” Paul refers to HIS “righteousness,” demonstrated daily in His faithful provision of salvation for His wayward creatures.
The genitive construction of the “righteousness of God” must be given its full weight. Like the “goodness of God” and the “mercy of God,” the term refers to that which belongs to Him, to something that defines who and what God is. And His “righteousness” is found in His concrete acts in the present age on behalf of His children.
The second and third chapters of Romans present the gospel as the Great Leveler – Both Jews and Gentiles have fallen short of the righteousness of God, therefore, both stand under His “just sentence.” Consequently, short of divine intervention, Jews and Gentiles alike are destined for “wrath.”
All men and women are “without excuse” because all have sinned, thus, no one is in a proper state to judge others. Regardless of race, whether “within the law” or “apart from the law,” all men and women are doomed to experience His “wrath”:
(Romans 2:5-11) – “After your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, everlasting life; but to them that are factious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that works evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God.”
“God will render to each one according to his works.” Here, the future aspect of His “wrath” is emphasized. It will be unleashed on “the day on which God judges the secrets of men…through Christ Jesus.” Elsewhere, Paul links this “day of wrath” to the day on which Jesus arrives from heaven, the “Day of the Lord” – (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Next, using a series of scriptural proof-texts, Paul demonstrates that “both Jews and Greeks are under sin” – “All have sinned and lack the glory of God” – Therefore, men and women are NOT set right with God “from the works of the Law.” Instead, the Law “exposes sin” – (Romans 3:9-18, 3:23).
But mercifully, at present, the “righteousness of God” is being revealed through the proclamation of the gospel – “Through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe.” In Jesus, God declares all who believe “righteous by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and apart from the works required by the Torah – (Romans 3:22-24).
This has been done “with a view to a showing forth of His righteousness in the present season.” The stress now falls on the present reality of the “righteousness of God,” which is demonstrated in the proclamation of the gospel to all nations, clear evidence of His faithfulness to redeem and set all men right who respond in faith to the message – (Romans 3:19-30).
Thus, the faithfulness of God is unveiled in the here-and-now whenever He declares men and women to be in right-standing before Him through the “faith of Jesus Christ,” and their faithful response to it. The provision of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus demonstrates the righteousness of God.
Paul speaks of His “righteousness” from an Old Testament perspective, “righteousness” as the faithfulness of God to His promises. In view is not some impersonal force or abstract moral standard that governs the universe. By providing the means of escape from “wrath” in the death of His Son, God has demonstrated His “righteousness” for all the world to behold, and in a most personal way.