Paul had desired to travel to Rome and teach these believers face-to-face for a long time, but had been unable to do so. Therefore, he wrote to them in order to clarify the doctrine of justification by faith. He asked and answered the question as to the source of justification – the deeds of the Law or the work of God?
Furthermore, Paul wanted to explain the reason for the unbelief of Israel in the past dispensation and show them how God can turn a cursing into a blessing for the individual Jew.
Paul also took the opportunity to explain the Christian way of life, which he explained was on the basis of a new law – the Law of Christ and not on the Mosaic Law. The new law was a system of grace, not law-keeping.
In explaining the Christian life, Paul wanted to help the Roman believers understand how a Christian can have victory over the sin nature. Some in Rome thought that the sin nature was eradicated at salvation. Others thought that not only could the sin nature not be eradicated, but that a believer could not gain victory over it. Therefore, this group said that you might as well go ahead and sin all you want until you die.
Paul was also concerned about the amount of legalism that had already infiltrated the local churches, which included the churches in Rome. Therefore, he wrote to them to explain the doctrine of grace.
Finally, Paul wrote to the church at Rome in order to recommend to them Phoebe, a deaconess at the church of Cenchreae, as a trustworthy fellow-believer and businesswoman. It was Phoebe who carried the letter to the churches in Rome.
Paul began his letter to the Romans with the standard salutation of the day. First, Paul identified himself as the author of this letter. Second, Paul identified the recipient of his letter. Third, Paul gave them a word of greeting. (Romans 1:1-7)
Paul then proceeded to establish rapport with his listeners remembering that he had not as yet taught them face-to-face. (Romans 1:8-15)
Paul then revealed the theme of his letter to the believers in Rome, which was “a righteousness from God by faith in Jesus Christ.” This was in comparison to man’s relative righteousness, which falls well short of the righteousness of God. (Romans 1:16-17)
Paul then demonstrated how God’s righteousness is revealed in condemnation. First, God’s condemnation is towards heathen humanity. We see the reasons for this condemnation and the results of this condemnation. (Romans 1:18-32)
God’s condemnation of sinful humanity is based on divine standards. The first standard is truthfulness, the second is impartiality and the third is Jesus Christ Himself. (Romans 2:1-16)
God’s condemnation against unfaithful Jews is found in Romans 2:17- 3:8. The reasons for this condemnation are given: 1) because of hypocrisy 2) because of dependence on rituals and rites 3) because of their lack of belief.
We then see God’s condemnation against all human beings. We see that everyone is under the condemnation of sin and everyone is conscious of sin. (Romans 3:9-20)
Paul then began a discourse on how God’s righteousness is revealed in justification. He explained how righteousness is provided, how it is illustrated, how it is enjoyed and how it is contrasted. (Romans 3:21- 5:21)
Following this, Paul showed how God’s righteousness is revealed in sanctification. In order to demonstrate this doctrine, Paul gave the grounds for sanctification and the attitudes for sanctification using words such as “reckon,” “yield,” and “serve.” According to Paul, there are conflicts in sanctification involving the believer and the Law, the Law and sin, and the believer and sin. He also taught that there is a power for sanctification, there is a goal of sanctification and there is certainty of sanctification. (Romans 6, 7, 8)
In Romans 9-11, God’s righteousness is revealed in sovereign choice. God’s sovereign choice is stated in Romans 9:1-29, which included Israel’s privileges, Israel’s choice illustrated and the choice explained.
In Romans 9:30-10:21, God’s sovereign choice is applied. The first application is Israel’s stumbling, second is God’s gracious offer and third is Israel’s rejection.
In Romans 11, God’s sovereign choice is fulfilled in the election of grace, with regard to the Gentiles, in Israel’s salvation and to God’s glory and praise.
Paul then taught how God’s righteousness is revealed in the execution of the Christian Way of Life. First we see basic dedication of the believer to God as a “living sacrifice.” Second, God reveals His righteousness in the fulfillment of Christian ministry by the believer. God’s righteousness is revealed through impersonal love. God’s righteousness is revealed in the keeping of divine establishment principles, specifically with regard to authority orientation. God’s righteousness is revealed in a believer’s relationship to other believers with regard to judging other believers, hindering other believers and setting an example for other believers. (Romans 12:1- 15:13)
Paul concluded his letter by revealing his personal plans, by giving personal greetings and by giving a few final words of encouragement. (Romans 15:14-16:27)
When a person believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, God the Holy Spirit imputes (credits) God’s own righteousness to that person. The Greek word for impute is “logizomai” and it means to reckon or to take into account. Credit to one’s account is another good rendering of the word from the Greek. God’s righteousness is never achieved as a result of human effort and is completely undeserved. God does not credit His righteousness to the believer because he has earned it or because he deserves it. Like eternal life, God’s righteousness is a gift.
It was the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ that completely satisfied the righteousness of God by means of His substitutionary spiritual death on the Cross. In His humanity, under the control of the Holy Spirit, He was able not to sin and He fulfilled the righteous standard of the Mosaic Law.
Christ, a sinless person, willingly became sin for us, taking our place, being judged in our stead. He is now sitting in the place of honor at the right hand of the Father, which signifies that God is satisfied with Christ’s death on our behalf.
Man’s righteous works fall well short of God’s righteousness. Man’s concept of righteousness is relative. For example, one person may think that his sin is not as bad as the next person’s sin. Therefore, he is more righteous (in his opinion). Normally this thinking falls into one of the two trends of the sin nature: self-righteousness (moral) or lasciviousness (immoral). Both, of course, are wrong. Mankind is minus the righteousness necessary to enter Heaven and no amount of human effort can produce this righteousness.
God’s view of man’s righteousness is that he is minus absolute righteousness. God’s view of man’s viewpoint of his own righteousness is that it does not measure up to the absolute righteousness of God. The Bible declares that “there is none righteous” and that “man’s righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”Because of the lack of absolute righteousness, mankind cannot enter Heaven (a holy place) based on his own righteousness. God cannot have fellowship with that which is sinful or falls short of His righteous character. Mankind, therefore, needs God’s righteousness in order to have a relationship with Him and to live forever in the holy place that we know as Heaven.
Practical or imparted righteousness refers to Experiential Sanctification. At salvation, we are declared righteous and we possess God’s righteousness (Positional Sanctification). However, we still possess a sin nature (until we die or the Rapture occurs) and it must be dealt with on a daily basis.
Practical or imparted righteousness for the believer is aligning your daily living (the Christian Way of Life) with your position in Christ. It is not becoming sinless, though we should begin to sin less as a result of our spiritual growth. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a list of characteristics that can be produced in the life of the believer who is filled with God the Holy Spirit. This list is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control, and these are the very characteristics of Christ. You can see that the fruits of the Spirit are all mental attitudes. Therefore, the Christian Way of Life is a life of thinking. It is not merely thinking “just any” thoughts, but thinking Divine Viewpoint, which is the “mind of Christ” (accurate Bible doctrine). Practical righteousness is the believer exhibiting to the world the righteousness of God under the power and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.