In Paul’s letters, especially his letter to the Roman church, he defines the following terms that is crucial to all Christians: righteousness, faith, redemption, and justification. These terms form the foundation for Paul’s theology, and they are often referenced in his Roman letter.
Initially, righteousness is a legal “contract” between man and God bonded by faith. Faith is the key element in maintaining a legal standing with God. Paul provides four tenets of righteousness in order to properly define it for Christians. First, righteousness is separate from the law. Attaining righteousness in the eyes of God requires more than simply following the law, which is a new stipulation under the new Covenant.
Second, faith is the foundation of righteousness. To be righteous, you must believe in Jesus Christ, and believe Him to be everything He claims to be. I believe that God designed some things a certain way in order for believers to rely solely on faith and, ultimately, on Him. Third, every person can achieve righteousness. Under the new Covenant, even Gentiles can reap the benefits of being in good legal standing with God. Fourth, Jesus’ death brought the concept of righteousness to fruition. With this tenet in mind, it is easy to see why faith is the basis of righteousness. It is not possible without first believing in Jesus Christ and everything he accomplished.
Paul also mentions redemption in his letter to the Roman church. In this context, it simply refers to the saving grace of God through his son, Jesus Christ. When a person is redeemed, or saved, he/she becomes righteous through justification. Justification occurs when God declares a person righteous upon putting their full trust in Jesus Christ. Prior to being redeemed by God’s grace, each person is plagued by sin from birth. Sin is an ugly creature that chokes the life from each person, and only a divine act of God can release its clutches. This is the hopeless predicament of every human being as a result of Adam’s disobedience towards God.
The only way out of this predicament and become totally free from sin and death is to undergo the process described by Paul. Through faith in Jesus Christ, each human being must be redeemed by God’s grace, be justified by God to be deemed righteous, and live a holy life in accordance with God’s standard. God provided a free ticket from doom and despair, paid for by the sacrifice of his only Son…all we have to do is believe, accept it, and board the train to a better destination in His kingdom.
1. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Clark, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 395.
2. Ibid., 396.
5. Ibid., 397.
7. D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 391.