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But there is another expression in the text which stands at the beginning of this tract: "For therein [in the gospel] is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." This expression has been the subject of much learned discussion by theologians, and very few of them are agreed as to its meaning. The fact that learned men are disagreed in regard to it, need not frighten us from it with the thought that it cannot be understood, for we read that things hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto babes. If we are but simple enough to accept the obvious Scripture meaning, as explained by the Scriptures, we need not be in darkness.
One of the greatest causes of the failure of many people to understand the book of Romans, and indeed, any other portion of Scripture, is a failure to hold to first principles and Bible definitions. Men attempt to define some terms according to their theological training, and find it hard work to make them fit. Then if they at one time accept the Bible definition of the term, they do not adhere to it, but give it some other meaning the next time they meet with it.
This can lead to nothing else but confusion.
The cause of the difficulty in understanding this text is a failure to cling to the Bible definition of the term, "the righteousness of God." We have already seen that it is an expression indicating God's character, and that His character is set forth in the ten commandments. They sum up the whole duty of man, which is to be like God. Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14; James 2:8, 12. The law, having been transgressed, cannot, as a matter of course, be perfectly represented in any person's life, so the gospel was devised that man might in Christ find the perfect righteousness of the law. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, because it makes manifest the righteousness of God. Not only is the law—the righteousness of God—preached, and its majesty upheld, by the gospel, but by the gospel the fruits of righteousness are made to appear in the life of the believer.
Some would make "righteousness of God" in this text synonymous with "justification." That is all right, if they do not limit the application of the text to the moment of justification from past transgression. It is the application of the law in Christ to the life of the transgressor that justifies him. Through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, God by His grace counts the past life of the sinner who believes as though it had been in every respect in accord with His law. Romans 3:25. This is justification. It is the revelation, or manifestation, through the gospel, of the righteousness of God. Romans 3:21, 22. But the text says that this is "revealed from faith to faith;" and this can mean nothing else but a progressive work of righteousness. The verse teaches that the righteousness of God is revealed from one degree of faith to a higher degree of faith, and consequently that righteousness must ever be on the increase. This is shown by the quotation which the apostle makes to prove his statement. It must be that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, he argues, because it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
From the book: “Living by Faith” The Bible Student’s Library, no. 75, Dec. 1, 1890, By E. J. Waggoner, Chapter: LIVING BY FAITH, in the chapter: “From Faith to Faith”, p. 10-11.
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