[forthright] Romans 1:17 -- The Righteousness of God / Losing Something and Gaining More

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 06:58:04 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

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Romans 1:17 -- The Righteousness of God
 by Barry Newton

Prior to Martin Luther, general consensus agreed Paul was
claiming in Romans 1:17 that the gospel reveals how God 
is righteous "from faith to faith." Luther, however, 
confessed he "hated ... active righteousness according to 
which God is righteous and punishes sinners."/1 In 
struggling with this text he perceived Paul's assertion to 
be that the gospel reveals God imparts righteousness to 
people through faith. While it may be that both are true, 
which message did Paul intend?

An appreciation for ancient literary structures casts an 
objective light on the apostle's intentions. Perceiving 
Romans 1:16-17 and Romans 3:22-26 as forming an inclusio, 
like the two ends of an Oreo cookie, informs us what Paul 
meant to communicate.

First, the sandwiched middle message should function to 
develop a major theme of the two ends thus illuminating 
what Paul meant by "righteousness of God." Second, when 
Paul restates Romans 1:16-17 in Romans 3:22-25, this 
could provide further illumination.

To summarize the middle portion of the Oreo, we first 
encounter a discussion of God's judgment. God is defended 
for pouring out his wrath on godliness and wickedness 
because men are without excuse since God has made himself 

Furthermore, the principles by which God judges people are 
righteous. God will be consistent thus avoiding favoritism. 
Also, judgment is based upon what you have chosen to do. 
Finally, God will judge everyone based upon their 
understanding of truth. What could be more fair than this?

Romans 2:17 refocuses our attention upon this gospel with 
its message of God's judgment, a message we have learned he 
proudly proclaims. Through a question, Romans 3:5 proceeds 
to advance his development of the righteous character of God.

After reinforcing that the Jews can not circumvent God’s 
principles of judgment and therefore they stand condemned 
along with the rest of the world, Paul finally restates 
Romans 1:16-17 to provide us with the end of the inclusio. 
It is not just though the Law and the prophets, but the 
gospel reveals the righteousness of God from the faith of 
Jesus to all who believe. By making salvation available to 
all through faith in Jesus’ blood, God demonstrated his 
righteousness./2 “He did it to demonstrate his 
righteousness at the present time, so as to be righteous 
and the one who makes righteous those of the faith of 

When considered contextually, can there be any serious 
doubt what Paul meant by "righteousness of God?"

1\ D. Martin Luthers Werke, Tischreden54, 183.
2\ Romans 3:24-25
3\ Romans 3:26

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Losing Something and Gaining More
 by Stan Mitchell

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ 
not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for 
him" (Philippians 1:29).

He stood outside the door of my house, a gangly, 
slender kid of seventeen. The major man in his life, 
the man he had looked up to, who had taught him to 
work hard, and be honest - his own father - had 
disowned him. I had baptized Antonio the night 
before. It was an easy decision on my part, but I 
now realized that it was a decision that had cost 
him dearly. My father was proud of me when I made 
the same decision, years before.

"No son of mine joins a church," the older man had 
shouted, "I know those Christians. They’re all 

It is a common jibe, of course, rather like saying 
"I know Americans, and some of them are criminals!" 
Well, of course some of them are. There are 
criminals in every society, and hypocrites in every 

But I had never suffered for my Christianity, not 
really. And in the first days of his walk with God, 
Antonio was suffering deeply. He was hurt. Who 
wouldn’t be? And a little stunned, too. I stammered 
something to him, and was surprised at his reply:

"Don’t worry, Uncle Stan" [all young people in 
Zimbabwe call close adult friends either "uncle" 
or "auntie"], "you didn't promise me a rose garden, 
you promised me that Jesus would forgive me."

Of course as everybody knows, a rose has thorns, 
and the Christian life has its setbacks and 
disappointments. Antonio had just learned this 
truth early.

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