From our pulpits we use the word "Gospel" often. We declare with passion that we must be faithful in preaching the Gospel of Christ, and so we should. The Gospel has been understood as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. But what does the Gospel reveal? Furthermore, as we communicate the glorious Gospel message, what is it that we must declare? We find the answer in Romans 1:16-17,
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed..."
The word "therein" refers back to "the gospel of Christ." It is in the Gospel of Christ that the righteousness of God is revealed. What is the Gospel about? It is about the righteousness of God. This truth is absolutely fundamental to our understanding of salvation. How can a man be right with God? How can a man become righteous?
Here are the fundamentals of the Gospel message as we see it in Paul's Epistle to the believers at Rome. This is the plain declaration of the righteousness of God.
(1) God's Wrath Is Revealed Against All Unrighteousness.
Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness..."
In the opening three chapters of Romans we learn that God's wrath is upon both Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles did not have the written law of God. They knew the judgment of God by the law written in their conscience, yet they continued in sin and took pleasure therein (Romans 1:32). The law of God was committed to the Jews (Romans 3:2) who thought they would escape the judgment of God though committed the same sins as the Gentiles (Romans 2:1-3). God, the righteous judge, judges according to truth both those who openly commit sin as well as those who do the same secretly (Romans 2:16). God's wrath is upon all unrighteousness whether a man is a reprobate or cloaked in religion. If someone does not believe himself to be under God's wrath, he cannot be saved.
Romans 6:23 declares that "the wages of sin is death." Death must be understood as more than just physical death where the soul is separated from the body. It is an everlasting, conscious separation of one’s body, soul, and spirit in the Lake of Fire from the presence of God. Revelation 21:8 explains it this way, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire which burneth with brimstone: which is the second death." God's Word tells us that "all liars" will have their part in the lake of fire. It is affirmed that God's wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness. In our natural state we cannot be right with God; we are under His wrath.
(2) There Is None Righteous, Not One.
Romans 3:10, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:"
The conclusion is made in Romans 3:9 that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. Verse 10 plainly declares that there is none righteous. Not one person is righteous before a holy God. Verse 23 asserts that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." A man is a fool who thinks he can earn eternal life by being righteous. Let these two words ring clearly and loudly in our minds, "NONE RIGHTEOUS." Every man is born in sin (Romans 5:12) and continues in willful rebellion against God throughout his life. As such, every man is under the wrath of Almighty God. This message seems to be one of utter hopeless-ness. And therein lies the importance of Jesus Christ.
As much as we may try to perform righteous acts, they cannot erase our innumerable and vile sins. Good deeds are powerless to make a man righteous. The works of the law will not justify a man in the sight of God. Consider Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law of God identifies the sins in our lives, convicting us.
(3) Righteousness Is by Christ.
Romans 3:21-22, "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophet; Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ..."
Remember that the Gospel is about the righteousness of God. This message of righteousness is "without (apart from) the law." God is emphatic that no flesh can be justified in His sight by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20). What has Christ done for man? Romans 3:24 explains that Christ is the redeemer of man. Christ is the propitiation (satisfaction, atonement) for the sins of man, and in Christ is the remission of sins (Romans 3:25). Through Christ man is justified before God (Romans 3:26). Therefore, all boasting is excluded (Romans 3:27). No man can boast that he has earned or deserved eternal life. Eternal life is only found in the person of Jesus Christ; it is obtained by faith in His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:27-28).
How then can a man be justified if not by works? Romans 3:23 declares, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." A man is justified by God's grace through the redemption secured by Christ Jesus.
But how does God's righteousness become ours? How can we attain this righteousness?
(4) Righteousness Is Imputed by Faith.
Romans 4:6, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
Romans 4 declares that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. The word "imputed" is used in Romans 4:6, "...God imputeth righteousness without works." The Word of God clearly states righteousness is imputed by faith. If you receive a check for $2,000 and deposit it into your bank account, $2,000 is accounted or imputed to your balance. In like manner righteousness must be imputed to our account. Because without Christ, only sin and unrighteousness are in my account and yours. God alone is intrinsically righteous. Jesus Christ, the perfect and sinless Son of God, imputes His righteousness to my account when I turn to God and believe the Gospel. The Gospel must be understood as a message of how an unrighteous man can be made righteous.
We know through Scripture and by experience that there is none righteous. Furthermore, God’s Word teaches us that righteousness cannot be earned; rather, it must be imputed. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." A man is saved by the grace of God through faith. Grace is God giving man His righteousness through Christ. Faith is man accepting or receiving the righteousness God provides in Christ.
(5) With the Heart Man Believes unto Righteousness.
Romans 10:10, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
There must be a personal response to the Gospel message. No one is born a believer in Christ. There must be a moment in time when my heart believes unto righteousness. This is the moment when I recognize that I am unrighteous and under the wrath of God. Sin condemns me and brings eternal death. Paul testified in Philippians 3:9, "And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." I cannot come to God with my own righteousness. The righteousness of God is received through faith in Christ.
When Jesus preached, He said, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15) Paul testified both to the Jews and Greeks "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21) If you have never done so, I urge you to repent of your unrighteousness and self-righteousnes and place your faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
(6) The Ignorance of God's Righteousness.
Romans 10:3, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
What is the great trouble in our world today? It is simply that men are ignorant of God's righteousness. Many in the world go about to establish their own righteousness or standard of conduct. The result is devastating. A man will remain unrighteous as long as he does not submit to the righteousness of God.
The Gospel message is not about the righteousness of man; rather, it is all about the righteousness of God. Stop depending upon your own self-declared righteousness and submit yourself to God's righteousness provided in the Person of Christ. By faith you and I can stand before God as righteous only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
Jesus said, "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) If you call on His name He will save you! Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
If you are not a born-again believer, I encourage you repent before God, and place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are a born-again believer, I encourage you to rejoice in God's righteousness. Rejoice that God's righteousness has been imputed to your account through Jesus Christ.
When witnessing to the lost, we must keep the righteousness of God at the forefront because Scripture declares in Romans 1:17, "...therein (in the Gospel) is the righteousness of God revealed."
Pastor Sam has been serving the Lord in full time ministry since 2011. He has been the pastor of First State Baptist Church since its start in April of 2017. He is blessed with a wife and six children.