THE STRUGGLE FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Rom. 1:16-17 ¶ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
I love to read about the awakening of the 18th century. One of the key players was John Wesley who inherited the lead role in the Methodist movement in Great Britain. Wesley had started the Holy Club while at Oxford in England. His brother Charles and George Whitefield were also members of this club. Each of these future world changers were struggling in their own righteousness until their lives were interrupted by the righteousness of God. For Wesley, it happened one night as he was attending a prayer meeting being conducted by the Moravians. That night of nights, the moderator of the group was reading from Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans. As Wesley heard the words of justification by grace through faith from the teachings of Luther, his “heart was strangely warmed”. That night Wesley finally got it, it wasn’t their own deeds or religious works that made a man righteous before God, it was the righteousness of God in Christ received by faith. That night Wesley was born again, he would never be the same. Here is some of what John Wesley said about the righteousness of God.
“The righteousness of God—This expression sometimes means God’s eternal, essential righteousness, which includes both justice and mercy, and is eminently shown in condemning sin, and yet justifying the sinner. Sometimes it means that righteousness by which a man, through the gift of God, is made and is righteous; and that, both by receiving Christ through faith, and by a conformity to the essential righteousness of God. St. Paul, when treating of justification, means hereby the righteousness of faith; therefore called the righteousness of God, because God found out and prepared, reveals and gives, approves and crowns it. In this verse the expression means, the whole benefit of God through Christ for the salvation of a sinner. Is revealed—Mention is made here, and ver. 18, of a twofold Revelation,—of wrath and of righteousness: the former, little known to nature, is revealed by the law; the latter, wholly unknown to nature, by the gospel. That goes before, and prepares the way; this follows. Each, the apostle says, is revealed at the present time, in opposition to the times of ignorance. From faith to faith—By a gradual series of still clearer and clearer promises.”
Hundreds of years have passed but our basic need and struggle is the same. In our hearts we know we are messed up, we are sinners hopelessly struggling to be justified. Our struggle ends when we come upon the only righteousness that can approach God. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ himself and it can only be received by faith.