The Berean Expositor
Volume 51 - Page 121 of 181
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In saying this he stresses his responsibility, for the knowledge of the truth always
brings such responsibility.  It is a perversion to regard grace as a release from all
obligation, giving a liberty which is nothing more than veiled licence. Later in the epistle
he reminds the Roman saints that they were debtors too (Rom. 15: 27). When we realize
what grace really means, we shall be glad of such responsibility, for it is a profound
privilege to seek to "work out" in practice what God has graciously "worked in" us. So
Paul goes on to say:
"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" (1: 16).
Here Paul uses a figure of speech which seems to lessen his real feelings towards the
gospel. Actually he means that he glories in it, because in the gospel the very power and
righteousness of God is revealed savingly to those who do not deserve it, that is, to
sinners, and he goes on to show later that there is not one person who does not come
under this heading (3: 9-18, 23).
If we are ever going to understand this great epistle in any measure, we must have the
conception of righteousness revealed in the O.T., for upon this the Apostle Paul, guided
by the Holy Spirit, bases his argument and links it with a verse from the prophet
Habakkuk (2: 4). This is the dominating theme of this letter, which is more or less an
exposition of the prophet's words.
"The ideas of right and wrong among the Hebrews are forensic ideas, that is, the
Hebrew always thinks of the right and the wrong as if they were to be settled before a
judge. Righteousness is to the Hebrew not so much a moral quality as a legal status. The
word `righteous' (saddiq) means simply `in the right', and the word `wicked' (rasha)
means `in the wrong'. `I have sinned this time' says Pharaoh, `Jehovah is in the right
(A.V. righteous), and I and my people are wrong (A.V. wicked, Exod. 9:27)'. Jehovah is
always in the right, for He is not only sovereign, but self-consistent. He is the fountain of
righteousness . . . . . the consistent will of Jehovah is the law of Israel" (W. R. Smith,
"The Prophets of Israel", p.71).
God is the personification of righteousness or rightness in thought, word and deed,
human beings can only be called righteous, when, in His sight, they can be accounted
absolutely and consistently right in these three respects. It should be obvious that no such
person exists with such a standard of conduct.
"The gospel tells us first how men and women, sinners as they are, can come to be `in
the right' with God; and second how God's personal righteousness is vindicated in the
very act of declaring sinful men and women `righteous' . . . . . the principle on which God
brings people into the right with Himself is the principle of faith, and for this statement
the O.T. authority is adduced in the words of Hab. 2:4 `the just shall live by his faith'."
(F. F. Bruce, Romans, p.78).
A word of equal importance to righteousness is the word "faith". This can mean in
English, faith, belief or trust in anything, but the faith of the Old and New Testaments is
something deeper than an intellectual nod. The Greek words pistis, faith, and pisteuo,
meaning, I believe, are profound words indicating more than just credence. In addition to
this, they mean personal commitment to the extent of handing over one's self to another