by Dempsey Collins

What is the righteousness of God in Romans 1:17?

Righteousness is from Greek Dikaiosunḕ.

“It corresponds to the Hebrew tsedeq meaning rightness” (Zon., p. 723)

Right, Just, Justified, Righteous, Righteousness (same root word)

Right, Just, Righteous (Diakaiosis)

“A person who is what he ought to be; free of guilt, justified.”

Justify, Justification (Dikaios)

The act of pronouncing someone right; an acquittal; declaring free of guilt.

Righteousness (Diakaiosunḕ)

The condition or state of being justified; one who is righteous.

The Bible speaks of righteousness as something bestowed on man by God or from God as a gift.  In other words, a person is declared righteous by God through faith in Jesus. This is the sense in which righteousness is used in Romans 1:17 and through most of the letter.  Although we are sinners condemned to death, through faith in the blood of Jesus, God declares us acquitted of all sin, not guilty, justified, righteous through the merit of Jesus’ expiatory sacrifice.  This blessed condition of righteousness is a gift from God and is revealed by Him in the gospel.

Proof of righteousness used in this sense is fourfold:

  1. In Romans 1:17 Paul declares “the righteousness of God” to be “revealed in the gospel”.  But the personal righteousness of God is revealed throughout Scripture from beginning to end.  It does not begin to be revealed in the gospel.

  2. The expression “from faith unto faith” reveals the way in which this righteousness is received.  This righteousness is given as a result of faith in the redemptive work of Jesus. I am declared righteous by God on the ground of Christ’s work, not my own.  Dana and Mantey’s Greek grammar render the verse “by means of faith” (D. & M., page 103). Thayer renders verse 17 “springing from faith (and availing) to (arouse) faith (in those who as yet have it not)” (Thayer, page 513).

  3. Paul’s argument summary in 5:1, 2.  “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”  In these verses Paul restates in amplified form the theme of Romans 1:16, 17.  Chapter 5 is the climax of Paul’s treatise on justification through faith, and he begins his summary by restating his theme.

Righteousness through faith is the heart of Paul’s argument in 3:19-4:2519 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even therighteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;


“The state acceptable to God which becomes the sinner’s possession through that faith…offered him in the expiatory death of Jesus Christ” (Thayer, page 149).

“The righteousness bestowed by God…This righteousness obligates the redeemed one to serve it faithfully (Rom.6:13, 16, 18ff) and assures him that he will have life (Rom. 8:10) (Arndt & Gingrich on Rom. 1:17, page 196).

“For the most part Paul uses this Greek term of that gracious gift of God to men whereby all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are brought into right relationship with God…The man who trusts in Christ becomes the righteousness of God in Him (II Cor. 5:21), i.e., becomes in Christ all that God requires of man to be, all that he could never be in himself” (Vine, page 298).

In Conclusion:

This is the message of Romans and the message of the gospel.  We are saved by faith, i.e., declared righteous, justified, acquitted of sin by God - not by works of law but by faith in Jesus’ completed work of redemption.

Matthew Poppa