The law reveals sin to us, but the Gospel reveals God’s saving righteousness.  This is the great theme which Paul touched upon very briefly in 1:17, but then took a lengthy detour to show just why we need such a righteousness; because all men, Jew as well as Gentile, are guilty before God, and have no means of saving themselves by their own strength.  We have no righteousness which we can present before God and say, “Here it is, I deserve to be accepted and given a title to life because of this record.”  And yet, we may stand in God’s presence with a righteousness that He will accept.  Yet, it is not a righteousness based upon our own obedience or works of merit, but a righteousness completely separate from all of our obedience to any principle of God’s law.  This is quite the remarkable statement when we consider that God’s law is the most perfect system for directing human behavior ever given, because it came from the God of righteousness Himself.  But when God saves a sinner, He does not do it because of obedience rendered by the individual to that perfect law.  Rather, He gives them a righteousness not of their own making, in which they may be clothed to appear before Him with acceptance.

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This righteousness, Paul says, was witnessed by the law and the prophets.  Here by “law and prophets” I think he means the entire Old Testament record, which laid out the Gospel message in types, shadows, ceremonies, and prophecies.  It would be far beyond the scope of my present task to enumerate all the various ways in which the Old Testament witnessed to the Gospel of salvation through the blood and righteousness of Christ which Paul is expounding here.  To name but a few instances, we find the first hints of a righteousness not our own in the third chapter of Genesis, after Adam and Eve had sinned.  God then slew an animal, removed the fig leaf coverings the guilty couple had made for themselves, and clothed them with coats of His own making.  This types out the insufficiency of our own efforts to clothe ourselves with righteousness before God, but that we must have a garment designed, made, and placed upon us by Him.

Abraham was a recipient of imputed righteousness, we find in Genesis 15:6.  Paul will make much of this in the next chapter, so I need not linger on it here.  The many sacrifices of the law showed forth salvation through the offering of a guiltless victim on behalf of the sinner.  The idea of being clothed with a righteousness not our own is found in several places, probably in the writings of Isaiah more than any other.  “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength,” the evangelical prophet wrote in one place, and the 54th chapter closes with God declaring, “Their righteousness if of Me.”  In the 61st chapter the prophet speaks of the church being clothed with garments of righteousness.  Jeremiah spoke of a Branch coming from David, Who would be called “the Lord our righteousness,” and some chapters later declared that the church would be known by that name, indicating to my mind the inseparable union of the believer with Christ.  Soon we shall discover that the 32nd Psalm gave hints of this glorious Gospel.  The 90th Psalm also spoke of the beauty of the Lord our God being upon His people.  These are but a sampling of passages in which the Gospel of free grace through the merit of Christ alone is spoken of in the law and the prophets.  Paul was very concerned that we understand this was no philosophy of a deluded mind, but the same glorious message of grace held forth in types, shadows, and prophecies by the holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

 

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