reading the Bible December 4 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Romans 1, 2, 3, 4

Righteousness—How is it Achieved?

Do we want to be right with God so we can go to heaven someday? How can we achieve it? Should we regularly attend church? Are we careful to observe religious ceremonies and ordinances? Is it possible to inherit a right standing with God because of our Christian, Jewish or other heritage? Are we considered godly if we are good moral people? Can we achieve righteousness because we donate to charitable organizations? Or, is there some other way to achieve favor with God? In the days of the early church there was an on going controversy between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) on how to achieve righteousness with God. In this section of Romans, the Apostle Paul logically lays out the case for salvation and answers these questions on how to achieve righteousness.

On his third missionary journey Paul writes to the believers in Rome. To these believers, whom he has never met,* he writes a letter telling them of his God-given mission:

Through him [Christ] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5, NIV).

Hearing of their good Christian testimony, he wants to visit them. Until then, and perhaps because of the Jewish-Gentile controversy, he wants to explain the gospel more clearly, “for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17, NIV).

Why is righteousness by faith necessary?

We are sinners by nature and by choice—all people do wrong things or fail to do right things,. We have spoiled the good and innocent nature of our original creation by our sins. We are all, therefore, under the wrath of the God, who is set apart from us in perfect purity and goodness.

What about those who have never heard?

All people, even the heathen who have never heard about Jesus are under God’s wrath. Why?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness [emphasis mine], since what may be known about God is plain to them [to all men and women] because God has made it plain to them.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20, NIV).

Since no one is righteous before God, only God's grace can save us from his wrath and give us true righteousness. We cannot achieve it through our own efforts.

What about good moral people—are they under God’s wrath, too?

Yes, the Apostle Paul teaches us that morality is not enough. We often break our own moral standards or laws and are found to be sinners. We need a savior to deliver us from our sins, for they condemn us.

What about the religious?

There were Jews in Paul’s day and in thousands of generations before him who faithfully kept the Law of Moses and all the traditions and feast days; did they not have some favor with God? Today, other religious people may ask the same question about their own practices.

The answer is that religion can be deceptive in making people believe that if they are faithful in their religious practices they will be acceptable before God. The religious things people do, however, only have some eternal value when they are expressions of the faith which they possess. There is no substitution which can be made for genuine faith in God's Son for salvation. Paul is very inclusive when he writes,

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…”

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:10, 21-24, NIV).

What about our heritage?

Perhaps our parents were very religious, or we have other prestigious breeding. Would not God give us a pass? The Jews thought the same thing. Most clung to their Jewish heritage, their Law, their teachings, their traditions, and especially their relationship to their beloved patriarch, Abraham, as their right of passage into the kingdom of God. But Abraham was justified before God for his faith, not for keeping the laws of Moses, which were not even in existence.

What is the answer—how can we be right with God?

Paul says,

Therefore, the promise [of salvation] comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law [Jewish] but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all [both Jewish and non-Jewish people] (Romans 4:16, NIV).

[Jesus] “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25, NIV).

Salvation, then, is not achieved by our morality, religion, or heritage. We are all sinners, and in God's eyes we are unholy and corrupt, to say the least.

Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He came down from the very presence of God to this earth to rescue us from spiritual death and to give us his righteousness. He was perfect but bore our sins (past, present and future) as he suffered death by crucifixion. He died in our place for our sins to give us his righteousness, so we might be truly righteous in God's sight. This is what he offers us if we believe (more...).

*A more thorough introduction to Romans can be found in the more insights page.

Lessons to Live By

  • As Paul did, we should fulfill our mission to proclaim the gospel to a lost world so they might have the knowledge of Christ and be saved.
  • Righteousness cannot be earned, inherited or obtained by a moral or religious life. Righteousness is given by the grace of God through faith in Christ. In Christ, God offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).

Focus Verse

Romans 4:5 “…To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (NIV)

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to

A Look Ahead: If by faith in Jesus Christ we become righteous and obtain Spiritual Freedom From Bondage. Is it okay to live anyway we want? Find out in our Next Lesson.

Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson

Back to top of page
Return to Chronological Bible Studies main page
Go to Scriptures main page
Go to Topics main page
Go to Home page

Contact Us