Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that the fracas over the righteousness of God could not be separated from another favorite perennial NT question: the meaning of pistis, and the pistis Christou debate in particular.
Romans 1:17 reads: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed by faith unto faith as it is written, ‘But the one who is righteous by faith will live.”
The ideas are brought together again at the end of Romans 3:
But now, without law, the righteousness of God has been made manifest (being witnessed by the law and the prophets), the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ (or, through faith in Jesus Christ) unto all who exercise faith. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being righteoused freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement through faith, by his blood, in order to show forth his righteousness, because in his forbearance he passed over the previously committed sins, to show forth his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus.
That is one mean sentence! Notice again that the way in which God’s righteous is made known is through faith: either the faith of Jesus in going to the cross or our faith in Jesus (3:22), depending on how you interpret the Greek, it is made manifest through faith and goes out unto the faith of all who believe. The pattern from Romans 1:17 is repeated: from faith unto faith.
But whose faith is it? Christ’s faith in going to death on the cross or our faith in Christ?
Later in the paragraph we’re told: it’s God’s putting forward of Jesus as a sacrifice in his blood that is the act of faith by which God’s righteousness is made known. So when we’re told that the righteousness of God is witnessed to by the law and prophets, it seems that the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus is the event which they foreshadow.
Thus, when we read in the very first scripture citation in the book of Romans, “the righteous one ‘by faith’ will live”, we do well to read this as a reference to the faithful Christ who was raised because of his fidelity.
This then brings us back to the question of what, exactly, this faithful death of Jesus has to do with the righteousness of God. How does the death of Jesus reveal the righteousness of God?
The passage in Romans 3 tells us that this death of Jesus reveals God’s righteousness because it enables him to justly justify his people.
Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you.