top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Bill Peters

Romans Week 4 - Righteousness

Here are the notes for this teaching:





These studies were organized and presented to Bible study groups in the churches where the author has been privileged to serve as pastor. They were first issued in this form when being given to the congregation of Christian Centre, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada in 1970-72.

Review on what we’re talking about:


We come now to the first main section of the epistle in which Paul ESTABLISHES the fact of the universality of man's sin and unrighteousness. "There is NONE RIGHTEOUS,

NO NOT ONE!" (3:10). Without exception ALL MEN are WRONG and can only be made RIGHT by receiving and obeying the gospel. We shall consider man's need of righteousness under the following headings:

Plowing Forward:

b. "The Power of God Unto Salvation"

The Bible makes reference to many kinds of power in the universe. There is the power of nations (Esther 1:3); the sword (Job 5:20); speech (Prov. 18:21); animals (Dan. 6:27); angels (Rom. 8:38); civil government (Tit. 3:1); Satan and his hosts (Luke 10: 19; Acts 26:18; Eph. 2:2; 6:12;

Col. 2:15), and other powers. Over all however, is the power of the one true God!

The power of God is seen in creation ( Rom. 1:20); the maintenance

of creation (Heh. 1:3); the supervision of society (Rom. 13:1 ); and the control and disposition of Satan and his followers. In the gospel we see the power of God active to effect salvation to "every one that believeth". "The gospel is the omnipotence of God operative unto salvation."

There is no problem in believing what can be done in salvation when one remembers it is done by THE POWER OF GOD!" ''SALVATION IS OF THE LORD!"

"Salvation" is a comprehensive word which involves all that God does in bringing believing sinners from where they are in their lostness to ultimate perfection in God. We are "saved" (1 Cor. 1: 18); we are "being saved" (Phil. 2:12, 13); and are "yet to be saved" (Rom. 13:11). This wonderful and total salvation is the gospel message which Paul ex pounds in this epistle. He shows how we are saved in justification, being saved in sanctification, and yet to be saved in glorification.

C. "To Every One That Believeth"

"Faith" is one of the great words in Romans. The "power of God unto salvation" is effective only in those who "believe". As we shall learn later, there is a power of God unto "wrath" inflicted on those who do not believe. It is important therefore, to understand what is meant by "believing" since this is the means whereby the sinner releases God's saving power into his life.

Not only is "faith" the alone basis of salvation, it is also universally applicable. There is not one means of salvation for the Jew and another for the Gentile. All men are equally shut up to "faith". There are no "national priorities". Thus, instead of God's ancient people who were recruited by birth and Abrahamic descent, Paul sees a new people arising, formed of all the individuals who perform the personal act of faith, whatever the nation to which they belong.

d. "For Therein Is The Righteousness Of God Revealed"

The gospel is the good news about God's saving grace offered to undeserving sinners. A II men are sinners, therefore, all men are unrighteous. "Righteousness" always means "conformity to right". No man has attained, or can attain to such conformity. But in the Gospel is revealed the way whereby unrighteous men can receive the "gift of righteousness" and be declared righteous before a righteous God. This is indeed "GOOD NEWS".

"Faith" is the principle through which righteousness is received and experienced. It is "from faith to faith". It is a crisis and a process. The Roman epistle shows how righteousness is received by faith in justification and experienced by faith in sanctification. "It is received by faith; it continually depends upon faith; it produces faith and it ends with faith." By faith we give ourselves completely to the "power of God unto salvation" which is able to do the saving. Salvation is of the

Lord from beginning to end.

Indeed, "the just shall live by faith". This great principle was established by the prophet Habakkuk, in the gospel God declares men righteous through faith in Christ, makes them righteous through the power of the indwelling Spirit and all of this is available to faith.


The four "tors" in verses 16 to 18 should be noted as they show the development of Paul's argument. "I am coming to powerful Rome without any apologies for my message, 'FOR I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: ..E.QB._it is THE POWER of God (in the midst of the moral powerlessness of man) unto salvation

. . . FOR therein is the righteousness of God revealed', and that is good news indeed 'FOR the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men'."

The only way to escape "the wrath of God" is to receive "the righteousness of God". The "righteousness of God is revealed" in the gospel, while "the wrath

of God" is revealed in history. And it is "revealed from heaven". The retribution and judgment that falls upon impenitent sir.ners is initiated from "heaven", the residence of God and the headquarters of moral government. Nor is it just the operation of certain impersonal laws, but rather the "holy revulsion of God's

being against that which is the contradiction of his holine ss" . "In God, who is the living God, wrath appears as the holy disapprobation of evil, and the firm resolve to destroy it."

"The wrath of God" is a present fact. It is operative now in the divine-human relationship. In fact this is what Paul is about to show in the verses that follow. God has visited ungodly and unrighteous men with his "wrath" all through history. The only escape from wrath is through the gift of faith-righteousness which is received through obeying the gospel.

John 3:36 - "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but THE WRATH OF GOD ABIDETH ON HIM."


While the wrath of God is being visited upon ungodly men in time, the scriptures refer to "the day of wrath" which is future and will occur at the end of the age when God finalizes His accounts with men (Rom. 2:5). At that time there

will be a "revelation of the righteous judgment of God". God's wrath and judgment will be seen to be in perfect complicity with righteousness.


"Ungodliness" and "unrighteousness" describe the characteristics of those who are "under the anger of God". "Ungodiiness" is sin against God and is manifest in the many forms of idolatry to which Paul shortly refers. "Un righteousness" is sin against man resulting in immorality, by which we mean every relationship between human beings which is opposed to what is right. Paul catalogues the list of such improprieties. It is interesting that as man turned from God to idolatry, he also turned from righteousness to every form of wrong. The prodigal son referred to these two characteristics of lostness when he said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven (ungodliness), and before thee (unrighteousness)."

4. REASONS FOR WRATH (1:19.20)

The "ungodly" and "unrighteous" are said to "hold the truth in unrighteous ness". The margin translates the word "hold" as "hold down". Truth about God is knowable, but ungodly and unrighteous men "prevent it from diffusing itself in the understanding as a light, and in the conduct as a holy authority and just rule." They do this "in unrighteousness" reminding us of our Lord's words when he said that "men loved darkness rather than light, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL" (John 3:19).

Paul then proceeds in verses 19 and 20 to explain what he meant when he spoke of men "holding down" or "hindering the truth". He shows that God is:

  1. Knowable i,1 rational consciousness, and

  2. Knowable in creation.

JBP - "It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the

world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity,

have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and

which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without

a rag of excuse."

Unrighteousness is not the product of ignorance, but the rejection of truth manifest and knowable. Animals SEE the creation of God, but man not only SEES but HAS THE CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A GREAT MORAL INTELLIGENCE INVOLVED IN THE MASTERPIECE OF

CREATION. Man is divinely equipped to have an inner knowledge of God based on the things that he sees in the created universe. God's revelation of Himself is not confined to creation, but at this point Paul is pointing out that men cannot plead ignorance for "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world ARE CLEARLY SEEN". God has also revealed himself in his voice through the prophets and in His ultimate revelation in His Son Jesus Christ, But for now, Paul is dealing with the clear manifestation of God's Being in the created universe. This is no new argument, as it appears in the Old Testament.

Psa. 19:1-4- "The heavens DECLARE the glory of God; and the firm ament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day UTTERETH SPEECH, and night unto night SHEWETH KNOWLEDGE. There is no speech nor language where THEIR VOICE IS NOT HEARD. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and THEIR WORDS TO THE END OF THE WORLD."

Moffatt (vs. 4) - "Their message spreads the wide world over, their meaning carries to earth's end ."

Psa. 94:9 - "He that PLANTED THE EAR, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?"

Psa. 143:5 - "I remember the days of old; I MEDITATE ON ALL THY WORKS; I muse on THE WORK OF THY HANDS."

Isa. 42:5 - "Thus saith God the Lord, he that CREATED THE HEAVENS, and stretched them out; he that SPREAD FORTH THE EARTH, and

that which cometh out of it; he that GIVETH BREATH UNTO THE PEOPLE UPON IT, and spirit to them that walk therein."

Isa. 45:18 - "For thus saith the Lord THAT CREATED THE HEAVENS; God himself THAT FORMED THE EARTH AND MADE IT; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited."

Job 12:7-9 - "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee; or speak to the earth, AND IT SHALL TEACH THEE: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that THE HAND OF THE LORD HATH WROUGHT THIS?"

Job 36:24- "Remember that thou magnify HIS WORK, WHICH MEN BEHOLD."

Now let us summarize what Paul has said here:

  1. God can be known - "That which may be known of God" (vs. 19)

2. Man has the capacity to know - "Is manifest in them" (vs. 19)

"Being understood" (vs. 20)

3. God has specifically revealed Himself in creation -

"God hath showed it (that which may be known of God) unto them"(vs. 19). "The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly

seen" (vs. 20).

4. That which may be known is described -

Moff. - "For ever since the world was created, his invisible nature, his everlasting power and divine being, have been quite perceptible in what he has made."

5.Unrighteous men are inexcusable - "So that they are without excuse" (vs. 20).

Man's problem is not mental but moral. The revelation of God in creation and conscience shows what God is like and what man should be like in relation to Him. Men suppress these obvious truths "in unrighteousness", choosing rather to "go their own way". The course follow is described for us in the verses to be dealt with next. If men are without excuse for their unrighteous conduct in the face of God's revelation in creation and conscience, how much greater

is their guilt when they pursue unrighteousness in the larger light of the revelation of Scripture and the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

In considering this section we have been reminded of Addison's poem which appeared in our public school reader years ago:

The spacious firmament on high, With all the blue ethereal sky,

And spangled heavens, a shining frame, Their great Original proclaim.

The unwearied sun, from day to day, Doth his Creator's power display, And publishes to every land,

The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail, The moon takes up the wondrous tale, And nightly to the listening earth Repeats the story of her birth;

Whilst all the stars that round her burn, And all the planets in their turn, Confirm the tidings as they roll,

And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all Move round this dark terrestrial ball? What though no real voice nor sound Amidst their radiant orbs be found? In reason's ear they all rejoice,

And utter forth a glorious voice: Forever singing as they shine,


Today’s date : 8/9. .....

Next week


Paul has showed thus far that men become righteous through the gospel. The alter

native to "the gift of righteousness" (5: 17) is "the wrath of God" which is "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness". Nor do men have any excuse for their un

righteousness, but are guilty of deliberately turning from light and choosing

darkness. •

At this point we are shown the process of degeneration in unrighteous men. He will conclude this section by telling us that "all have sinned" and that "there is none righteous, no,not one". The Gentiles have sinned against the revelation of creation, and the Jews have sinned against the light of revelation.

As we view the inspired description of the degeneration of men up to, and in cluding Paul's day, we are considering a process that is true at all times in all men who choose unrighteousness instead of "the truth". Sin is basically man "turn

ing to his own way" (Isa. 53:6). When man chooses his own course of conduct as opposed to what God wills for him, that is sin! That choice of conduct may mani fest itself in different ways, but it doesn't alter the fact that it is sin. So, in this section Paul refers to three kinds of sinners. Remember, all of these are "going their own way" even though manifesting their independence differently. The three kinds are:

1. The gross sinner (1 :21-32) - the pagan gentile world.

2. The moralist sinner (2:1-16) - moralizing hypocritical philosophers.

3. The religious sinner (2: 17-29) - Jewish and all other religious hypocrites.

1. THE GROSS SINNER (1:21-32)

In these verses Paul describes the bulk of the Gentile world, showing the process of degeneration and the resultant conduct. What is true of entire civilizations and world communities is also true of the individuals who make up such cate gories. Therefore, the process that works in society is the product of individual degeneration. There is much instruction here to help us understand the day in which we live. Let us consider these verses under two headings.

  1. The process of degeneration (21-23)

  2. The product of degeneration (24-32)

45 views0 comments


bottom of page