Impasse and Rescue

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul argues from predicament to solution. The Gospel he proclaims is the “power of God for salvation.” Due to sin, two forces are at work in the world – Righteousness and Wrath. In his Son, God has provided salvation, a way of escape from the impossible situation in which all men find themselves, and one that is available to all men on the same basis - “from the faith of Jesus Christ.” And this “Good News” was promised beforehand in the Hebrew scriptures.

This Gospel concerns the Son of God “who came to be of the seed of David according to the flesh, was marked off as the Son of God by power, according to a Spirit of Holiness, by means of a resurrection out from among the dead” - (Romans 1:2-4).

Lantern in dark - Photo by Zachariah Smith on Unsplash
[Photo by Zachariah Smith on Unsplash]

Through Jesus, Paul “
received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all the nations.” And the resurrection of God’s Son is irrefutable proof that he is the Messiah, and of the validity of the message preached by Paul.


In the present age, two forces are being revealed – Righteousness and Wrath. Every person will experience one or the other, depending on his or her response to the Gospel, the “power of God for salvation:

  • (Romans 1:16-19) – “For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, both to Jew first, and to Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is being revealed from faith for faith; even as it is written: But the righteous man from faith will live. For there is being revealed the wrath of God from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who in unrighteousness possess the truth.

This “Righteousness” is being revealed from faith for faith. In the passage, the Greek verb apokaluptetai is translated as “being revealed,” and it is in the present tense, signifying an ongoing process of unveiling.

Whenever the Gospel is declared the “Righteousness of God” is revealed. And this “righteousness” is unveiled “from faith for faith.” That is, faith is both the source and the proper response to His “Righteousness.”

At this point, it is not clear precisely what or who is intended by the clause “from faith.” Who or what does Paul mean by the “Righteous One,” singular, who lives from faith?

In the passage, it is the “Righteousness of God” that is under discussion, NOT the righteous deeds, nature, or status of individual men and women. And this “Righteousness” is manifested in His covenant faithfulness when He provides salvation for His wayward creatures.

At the same time, “Wrath” also is “being revealed”; only, against all “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” Thus, two ongoing processes occur whenever the Gospel is proclaimed, both to Jews and Gentiles alike.

The “Wrath from heaven upon ungodliness” is the negative counterpart to the revelation of righteousness. Anyone who embraces the Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, is empowered to receive salvation, but “wrath” is revealed against all who refuse it, whether Jew or Gentile.

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul links the “Wrath” to the final judgment, but here, he describes its present aspect. The very sins practiced by and delighted in by those who reject the Gospel prove that they are under “wrath” - (Romans 1:22-25).

God delivered rebellious humanity to the very sins for which it lusts, even though sinners “acknowledge the righteous sentence of God, that they who practice such things are worthy of death.” Humanity wallows in idolatrous sins because of the “Wrath of God,” sins that demonstrate humanity is under His “Wrath.” This is the predicament of all men, including Jews and Greeks.


Sin is the Great Leveler. Both the Jew and the Gentile fall short and miss the mark. Therefore, both stand under the just judicial “sentence of God.” Everyone is “without excuse” because of sin. Jews and Gentiles stand or fall before God on the same basis.

Without Divine intervention, and regardless of race, everyone stands condemned, whether “within the law” or “apart from the law.” Without exception, every man and woman will experience condemnation on the coming “Day of Wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” And this must be so, for “there is no respect of persons with God.” His righteousness demands equal treatment for all before the law.

On that day, God “will render to each one according to his works.” Here, Paul stresses the future aspect of the “Wrath.” Elsewhere, he links the “Day of Wrath” to the day when Jesus arrives “from heaven” - (Romans 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Using several proof texts, he demonstrates that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Everyone is in the same sorry state. Since all have “sinned and lack the glory of God,” men are not set right before God “from the works of the Law.” Instead, the Law “exposes sin” for what it really is, the “trespass” of God’s righteous commandments, whether violated “within” or “apart from the law.”

However, in the Gospel proclaimed by Paul, “Righteousness” is available “through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe.” In other words, “from the faith” of Jesus, and “for the faith” of those men and women who respond in faith. He is the “Righteous One who lives from faith.”

In this way, God declares all who believe “righteous by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and this is apart “from the works of the law” - (Romans 1:16, Romans 3:9-24).

The term rendered “faith” or pistis can signify “faith” or “faithfulness.” The latter is the intended sense when Paul speaks of the “faith of Jesus.” And most likely, the phrase is shorthand for his faithful obedience unto death which provided the means for placing men in right standing before God - (Galatians 2:15-21, Philippians 2:6-11).


Next, Paul introduces Abraham as the great exemplar of faith. God declared him “right” and reckoned his faith as “righteousness” while he was uncircumcised, and thus apart from the “works of the Law.” Therefore, he became the father of all those who are “from faith,” circumcised or not.

The true “children of Abraham” are men and women who have the “faith of Jesus.” Neither circumcision nor ethnicity has any bearing on inclusion in the covenant. Abraham was justified prior to his circumcision, although that rite is a fundamental requirement of the Torah. Therefore, right standing before God cannot be dependent on the “works from the law.”

Whatever the intended purpose of the Law, it was not given to justify individuals before God. Perfectly keeping the law is not a solution to the problem even if doing so was possible. Instead, circumcision was “a sign” of the covenant:

  • The seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while yet uncircumcised…Abraham is the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of the faith while he was yet uncircumcised.” Therefore, “not through the law is the promise to Abraham or to his seed, for him to be heir of the world, but through a righteousness from faith.”

References to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities, things not yet received. For the “children of Abraham,” both believing Jews and Gentiles, the promised inheritance is the entire “world” or kosmos, not just the tiny territory of Canaan. Here, Paul universalizes the original but limited “land promise.” It now encompasses the entire Cosmos.

The promise is to Abraham and to “his seed,” which includes all those who walk in the same faith. The promised inheritance is through faith, and the “promise is firm for all the seed.”

Because he believed the One “who causes the dead to live,” God appointed Abraham the “father of many nations.” Paul applies this to Abraham’s belief that God would grant him “seed” from the “dead” womb of Sarah.

This links the inheritance to the future bodily resurrection. The record of Abraham’s justification was not “written for his sake alone,” but “for our sakes also to whom it is to be reckoned, even to them that believe upon Him who raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead, who was delivered up on account of our offenses, and was raised on account of the declaring us righteous.”


Since believers have been “declared righteous through his blood,” they also “will be saved through him from the Wrath.” Although already they have been “set right,” just like the “inheritance” of Abraham, “salvation” is actualized and consummated in the future.

  • If we have been “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” how much more “will we be saved by his life.” For though “through one man,” Adam, “sin entered the world and through sin deathhow much more they who the superabundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness do receive will reign through the one man, Jesus Christ” {Note the future tense}. “Just as through one fault the sentence was to all men for condemnation, so also through one recovery of righteousness the decree of grace is for all men for righteous acquittal for life…and through the obedience of the one,” - {through the obedience of Jesus!} – the many will be constituted righteous.” Just as “sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness for everlasting life through Jesus Christ.”

Death for all men is the universal consequence of sin. This is the common and desperate condition of every man. For all who believe the Gospel, condemnation is in the past, and right standing before God is a present reality. However, final salvation will be received when God raises His children from the dead.

For those who are in Jesus, “there is now no condemnation” since the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set them free from the law of sin and of death.” What the Law of Moses could not do because of human frailty and bondage to sin:

  • God by sending his own Son…condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk according to spirit and not according to the flesh.”

The flesh “prefers death, but the Spirit prefers life and peace.” The carnal man produced by the sin of Adam is “hostile towards God, for it cannot submit to the Law…and they who have their being in flesh cannot please God.”

The discussion of “flesh” and “spirit” is Paul’s way of contrasting the old Adamic life under sin to the new life provided by Jesus. He is not contrasting physical and nonphysical “realms,” but to different modes of living. It is the indwelling of the Spirit that enables the believer to walk righteously and identifies him or her as an heir of the promise.

Though our present bodies remain “dead by reason of sin,” if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, “He that raised from among the dead Christ Jesus will make alive even our death-doomed bodies through his indwelling Spirit.”


Paul next focuses on the future bodily resurrection. Final salvation will be realized at the time of the resurrection, the redemption of our bodies is foundational to our salvation - (Romans 8:1-23, 1 Corinthians 15:12-28).

The Spirit of God “bears witness together with our spirit that we are children of God.” We are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

But to be co-heirs with him necessitates suffering in this life, so that “they may also be glorified.” Believers must bear in mind that the sufferings of “this present season cannot be compared with the glory about to be revealed.”

Because of sin, the creation was subjected “to vanity.” It is sighing and travailing-in-birth-throes until the present hour, “ardently awaiting the revelation of the sons of God,” – the resurrection when the “creation itself will be freed from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God” - (Romans 8:20-25).

The gift of the Spirit is the “first fruit,” the sign and guarantee of the future “adoption, the redemption of our body.” Thus, new creation and bodily resurrection are two sides of the same salvation coin.

In the first half of the epistle, the focus is on the salvation of believers provided by God, and the corresponding condemnation of unbelievers – Righteousness and Wrath. “Salvation” has present and future aspects, justification now and resurrection later.

Unbelievers demonstrate the “righteous sentence” of God as they continue and even revel in sin. Death awaits all men because of Adam’s sin, but the impenitent also will undergo the “Wrath of God,” Jewish and Gentile sinners alike.

Finally, by the implication of the Apostle’s argument, both “salvation” and “wrath” will occur at the end of the age when God raises the dead and liberates the creation itself from bondage to decay and death.



Salvation for the Nations

His Name is Jesus