Righteousness of God: Punishment or Pardon?

Righteousness of God: Punishment or Pardon? by Pastor, JD Greear for Summit Life

The concept of God’s righteousness scares us because it feels like a standard we’ll be judged by or one that causes us to feel excluded or condemned. But when we come to see that it is a righteousness God gives by faith, everything changes. It’s what theologians call the Great Exchange.

In the backstage area where I spend some time before services each weekend, I have a few things hanging on the wall: pictures of cities where we have planted churches, a photograph of me baptizing my daughter, a gigantic picture of Charles Spurgeon with one of my favorite quotes of his, and an actual signed picture of Nicolas Cage from a scene in The Rock. (It randomly arrived in our office one day. Some have questioned its legitimacy. I choose to believe.)

The last and most treasured item in this room, though, is a famous quote by Martin Luther, describing his struggle to understand the phrase “righteousness of God” in the book of Romans. See if you relate to this:

“I hated that word ‘righteousness of God,’ which I had been taught to understand is the righteousness with which God punishes the unrighteous sinner ….

 

Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that verse, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul [meant by this.]

 

At last, by the mercy of God … I began to understand that the righteousness of God is righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith. Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

Many of us feel like Luther. The concept of God’s righteousness scares us because it feels like a standard we’ll be judged by or one that causes us to feel excluded or condemned.

But when we come to see that it is a righteousness God gives by faith, everything changes. It’s what theologians call the Great Exchange.

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