Since the fall of man in the garden with the first sin, God has longed for a personal relationship with everyone. Since this time man has drifted away from God. God has punished people and even whole countries because of the separation caused by sin. He destroyed Sodom because there were no righteous men. He destroyed the earth with a flood due to the massive sinful nature of mankind. God wants to offer eternal salvation. He does not desire to see anyone perish. There is only one way to receive this eternal salvation. It is by faith alone that we receive righteousness from God and are saved from eternal condemnation.


Righteousness is the beginning of the process so we must exam what it is and how it has developed over time. There are many ways that we can look at the word. The noun means to be righteous. The adjective is righteous. The verb means many things such as: “to be in the right…to put in the right, to vindicate, to acquit, to decide in ones favor.”[1] This righteousness comes from a judge. A judge deems the person righteous and gives them freedom that falls within his powers. The judge must be righteous himself to be able to pass this justice on to others.[2]

The second part of the justice that is given out deals with punishment. During the Middle Ages the view of righteousness of God was that God would judge and punish the guilty and reward the righteous.[3] This is how a judge is seen. Judges are someone that is expected to punish the guilty while giving out a fair sentence that fits the crime. It is only fair for someone to receive a punishment that fits the crime. Judges are also expected to exonerate those that are not guilty. God, being the ultimate judge, should be viewed slightly different. The righteousness of God should not be viewed as the punishment of the guilty and rewarding of those who are not. It should be viewed as God offering salvation, based on faith, to those that have sinned. So this righteousness is seen in the fact that God offers justice to anyone. There are no social barriers, as He is impartial in offering this form of righteousness.[4]

Righteousness of God in Old Testament

The Old Testament gives us many examples of righteous acts. In Exodus, Pharaoh admits that he has sinned and that God is righteous.[5] Moses had been sent by God to free His people. Moses tried to deal with Pharaoh in a democratic way. He pleaded with Pharaoh, but Pharaoh would not release the people. God brought many plagues against Pharaoh, his people, and the land they lived on. God was punishing the guilty, but He was also doing something more important. With each plague that was brought down there was hope of salvation if Pharaoh would only let the people go and trust in the Lord.

Pharaoh told Moses that they were to stay no longer. The hail and rain was ruining the crops and Pharaoh knew this was from the Lord. Moses told him that when he leaves the city the hail would stop. As Moses left the rain stopped. Pharaoh felt that he was no longer in danger and decided not to let the Israelites go. He was being offered grace but chose not to take it. He felt his way was better. Pharaoh did not have faith, and this led to the death of the first born sons in Egypt. Pharaoh finally let God’s people go but it was too late.

The fifth chapter of the book of Isaiah explains what happens when a judge himself becomes corrupt. The judges who accept bribes from those who are wrong and let them go will be punished themselves.[6] By rewarding the people who are doing wrong and punishing the innocent the judge is taking away righteousness from them. The judges are compared to vines that God had hoped would produce fruit. Once the root becomes rotten it dries up and withers away.[7] Good plants are not going to produce bad fruits; likewise, bad plants are never going to produce good fruit. Once it goes bad it will die off. This destruction is initiated by the righteous ruler. The punishment will be swift and harsh until the people repent and they will be saved. Sodom could have been saved if there had been ten citizens that were righteous.[8]

Righteousness of God in New Testament

Paul also warns of destruction for those who are ungodly or unrighteous.[9] Chapter one of Romans explains basic obligations that humans have when it comes to living correctly and that God will rightly condemn those who do not live up to these standards.[10] These expectations of behaving righteously and the unrighteous being punished are seen throughout Paul’s letters.

In chapter two Paul states that all, meaning Jew and non-Jew, will be granted eternal life if they do what is good.[11] The things that are good are the things that have been outlined in chapter one. Some of the things that are considered good are: worship God, give honor and thanks to Him, and do not give into sexual sin. Then in verse twelve the Jewish law is introduced. One who does as the law says will be deemed righteous. Those who do not will be punished.

It is not good enough to just live by the law. No man can live up to these laws perfectly. One must have faith and faith is how we get righteousness from the law. The Jews continued their path of righteousness instead of following the path of faith.[12] The problem is that they will not receive their righteousness until they realize that it comes through faith and not by works.[13] The Jews did not obtain the righteousness because the law goes against God, but because they could not fulfill it. A few verses before this we can see that Gentiles are receiving the blessing of salvation. They gained this relationship even though they were not pursuing it. Paul says that this occurred because of faith.[14]


            According to Paul Enns the kind of faith that you must have is one that is “confiding trust…into Christ.”[15] It is not enough just to have heard the gospel and said yes I believe. One must truly trust God. The person has to walk away from their old lives and become a new person in God. The person must trust that God knows best for their lives.


            What the Jews were not realizing is that justification and salvation occurs through and by faith. Justification occurs in a single event once the person is acquitted by the righteous Judge. This can only occur through the faith in the work of Christ.[16] There is nothing that a human can do that can contribute to justification. Each person will be judged on judgment day but the believer has nothing to worry about. The believer’s shortcomings have been paid for through the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.[17] The unbeliever will have to worry about this day sitting in front of the Judge.

Saving Faith

            Saving faith involves three different things: knowledge, conviction, and trust. [18] One cannot be saved without first having knowledge of Jesus Christ and the fact the he died on the cross for the sins of mankind. The person must also have faith that Jesus was God. Man must admit that he is in sin, Jesus died, and rose again as scripture says. The person must also be convicted internally of their sins. This knowledge and conviction must lead to trust in God. One must take action and put their faith in God alone. Faith is a response to God.

Unity of Faith

            There are many reasons why Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. One of the reasons was that he wanted the Roman Christians to form a united church. The church was split into two groups of Christians. There were the weak Christians which were the Jewish Christians and then there were the strong Christians who were the Gentile Christians.[19] He wanted the united church so that they would come together as one and glorify God.[20]

There were some issues occurring between the two groups that were keeping the two separated. Prior to 49 A.D. Jewish pilgrims were returning from Jerusalem as Christians. Christians were marrying Roman masters. In 49 A.D. there was a great deal of turmoil over a slave and the emperor expelled the Jews from Rome. This expired in 54 A.D. with the death of the emperor.[21] Prior to the Jews returning to Rome the area had become mainly Gentile Christians. The Gentiles did not want to be mistaken for Jews because they had become barbarians.[22] This led to anti-Semitism.

Paul wanted to create this unity because the covenant that was given by God to His people was extended to all who believe. God will justify the circumcised and uncircumcised by faith. [23] It was not just a certain group of people that could receive God’s blessing of salvation. It was for anyone who had faith.


            Righteousness and faith lead to eternal salvation. This means that God provides security for the believer and that the believer will spend eternity in paradise. This does not mean that the believer will never sin or backslide. It means that there is a place in Heaven.[24]

Salvation is actually compared to being adopted. The word for adoption traces back to the Greek word of huiothesia and means placed as a son.[25] In the Roman custom when you were adopted the son gained all the rights that a natural born son had. During this ceremony four things occurred. The adopted person was no longer a member of the old family. He became an heir to his new father’s estate. God prepares a place for us in Heaven once we are adopted into the Kingdom. The old life is wiped away. Jesus paid the price on the cross and everyone’s debt has been forgiven. Also in the eyes of the law the adopted person is literally the child of the new father.

 Spiritual Deliverance

            Paul refers to three distinct tenses of spiritual deliverance: past, present, and future.[26] Salvation offers deliverance from the past penalties of sin. It also helps the believer overcome the sin that is in their life presently. It also helps the believer with future deliverance of sin in their lives.


            There are some that believe that all people will be saved even though the Bible is clear that only the believer will receive Salvation. There are three possible ways to look at universalism: no one is saved, some are saved, and all are saved.[27] The first option is not a viable option. A Universalist does not believe this nor is it biblical. There are many arguments that the Universalist has that lead towards everyone being saved. They believe that God could not condemn people to eternal life in Hell. Nels Ferré states that “either God could not or would not save all. If He could not He is not sovereign; then not all things are possible with God. If he would not, again the New Testament is wrong, for it openly claims that He would have all to be saved.” [28] This argument can be turned around on Mr. Ferré. If God cannot send anyone to eternal punishment then He is not sovereign.

Another argument is that Hell is only a temporary place. People will spend time being punished for their sins. This is a cleansing process and they will be made new. Jesus will then encounter them and His response will now be a positive reaction.[29] This argument basically states that no matter what you do or believe you will eventually receive salvation after a period of time of punishment. The Bible is clear that the righteous will receive eternal salvation and the unbelievers will be sent to Hell for eternity.[30] There is no mention of it being temporary in fact is says forever.

Universalism condemns the preaching of Christ and His followers as ignorant or immoral.[31] If universalism is true and Christ did not know that it was, that would make Him ignorant and would void out all the things that He said. Nothing that he had said could be taken as the truth. If universalism is true and Jesus knew it then His preaching was a bluff just trying to get people to follow Him. God knows everything.[32] Jesus is God so He must know everything. If universalism was real He would have known. He would not preach using fear tactics, because mankind has been given free will when it comes to choosing salvation.

Everyone that Believes is Saved

            The Bible is clear that universalism is not correct and there is only one way to Heaven. During his letter to the Romans Paul states that salvation is offered to all that believe.[33] There are no exceptions to this. It clearly states all that believe. One must respond in faith to receive this offer that has already been paid for. Responding in faith is the only way that mankind can gain this right relationship with God.


            Mankind has to be deemed righteous to receive the free gift of salvation. This righteousness can only be granted by a righteous judge. This is received by faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who believe will be given this eternal life. Not everyone will be saved.


Bartsch, Hans Werner. “Concept of Faith in Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” Biblical Research 13, (January 1, 1968): 41-53. Accessed October 31, 2013.


Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008.


Greene, Oliver. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Greenville, SC: 1969.


Henry, Matthew. The New Matthew Henry Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.


Johnson, S Lewis. “Gospel that Paul Preached.” Bibliotheca Sacra 128, no. 512 (October 1, 1971): 327-340. Accessed October 31, 2013.


Lindsell, Harold. “Universalism Today.” Bibliotheca Sacra 122, no. 485 (January 1, 1965): 31-40. Accessed October 31, 2013. edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000702743&site=ehost-live&scope=site.


Ortlund, Dane. “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 323-339. Accessed October 31, 2013. edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.


Packer, James I. “The Way of Salvation. Part III, The Problems of Universalism.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1, 1973): 3-11. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.


Ropes, James Hardy. “Righteousness” and “The Righteousness of God” in the Old Testament and in St. Paul.” Journal of Biblical Literature 22, no. 2 (January 1, 1903): 211-227. Accessed October 31, 2013. pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=10&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40 sessionmgr198&hid=125.


Schreiner, Thomas R. “Israel’s Failure to Attain Righteousness in Romans 9:30-10:3.” Trinity Journal 12, no. 2 (September 1, 1991): 209-220. Accessed October 31, 2013. http://web.


Thielman, Frank. “God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17: An Ancient Perspective on a Significant Phrase.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54, no. 1 (March 1, 2011): 35-48. Accessed October 31, 2013.


Westerholm, Stephen. “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans.” Interpretation 58, no. 3 (July 1, 2004): 253-264. Accessed October 31, 2013.

[1]               James Hardy Ropes, “Righteousness” and “The Righteousness of God” in the Old Testament and in St. Paul,” Journal of Biblical Literature 22, no. 2 (January 1, 1903): 214, accessed October 31, 2013,

[2]               Ibid., 216.

[3]               Frank Thielman, “God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17: An Ancient Perspective on a Significant Phrase,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54, no. 1 (March 1, 2011): 36-37, accessed October 31, 2013, =12&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[4]               Thielman, God’s Righteousness as God’s Fairness in Romans 1:17, 40.

[5]               Exodus 9:27, NASB.

[6]               Isaiah 5:23-25.

[7]               Matthew Henry, The New Matthew Henry Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 966.

[8]               Genesis 18:23-32.

[9]               Romans 1:18.

[10]             Stephen Westerholm, “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans,” Interpretation 58, no. 3 (July 1, 2004): 257, accessed October 31, 2013, pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee 075f7%40 sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[11]             Ibid., 257.

[12]             Westerholm, “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans,” 260.

[13]             Romans 9:31-32.

[14]             Thomas R. Schreiner, “Israel’s Failure to Attain Righteousness in Romans 9:30-10:3,” Trinity Journal 12, no. 2 (September 1, 1991): 211, accessed October 31, 2013, pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=11&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[15]             Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008) 343.

[16]             Dane Ortlund, “Justified by Faith, Judged According to Works: Another Look at a Pauline Paradox,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 336, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web. edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=7dbc4df8-6311-4e1a-9e24-51cb8ee075f7%40sessionmgr198&hid=125.

[17]             Ortlund, “Justified by Faith,” 337.

[18]             Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 343-344.

[19]             Hans Werner Bartsch, “Concept of Faith in Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” Biblical Research 13, (January 1, 1968): 43, accessed October 31, 2013, ?direct= true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000709568&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[20]             Romans 15:6.

[21]             Bartsch, “The Concept of Faith,” 45.

[22]             Romans 1:14.

[23]             Romans 3:29-30.

[24]             Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 352.

[25]             Ibid., 340-341.

[26]             S Lewis Johnson, “Gospel that Paul Preached,” Bibliotheca Sacra 128, no. 512 (October 1, 1971): 331, accessed October 31, 2013,

[27]             Harold Lindsell, “Universalism Today,” Bibliotheca Sacra 122, no. 485 (January 1, 1965): 81, accessed October 31, 2013, edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN =ATLA0000702743&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[28]             Lindsell, “Universalism Today,” 32.

[29]             James I Packer, “The Way of Salvation. Part III, The Problems of Universalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1, 1973): 7, accessed October 31, 2013, http://web.

[30]             Matthew 25:46.

[31]             Packer, “The Way of Salvation,” 10.

[32]             Psalm 147:5

[33]             Romans 1:16

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