The bad news: We owe a debt we could never pay on our own. The good news: Jesus’ righteousness paid our debt! In part 1 of our series on the book of Romans, we studied the Jewish people’s priority in understanding the gospel and God’s justice, and in part 2, we discovered how God provided a perfect blood sacrifice as a substitute to deliver us from our sins. This week, Chris searches through the apostle Paul’s epistle to explain how we can embrace God’s righteousness, which covers our sins and saves us from God’s judgment.
Understanding Paul’s Jewish background helps us better embrace the truths in Romans. Paul knew the Old Testament prophets foretold of God’s imminent judgment of sin. But Christ’s life, death, and resurrection “balanced the scales of righteousness,” providing a covering for our sin when we surrender our lives to Him. Carry this amazing truth with you each day as you remember Jesus’ life-giving sacrifice for you!
If you missed the previous parts to this series, you can catch up in our Archives.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. All month, we're asking you to consider how you might support the broadcast ministry of The Friends of Israel. If this program has been meaningful in your spiritual life and in your having a better understanding of God's Word and program for Israel, the church and the nations, we'd ask you to consider supporting the work. More on that later.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we're continuing our series in the letter to the Romans. The Apostle Paul, we've been looking at the fact that he said that the message of the gospel is to the Jew first and also to the Gentile or also to the Greek. And that concept means to the Jewish, especially of all the people, to understand the truth of what salvation is, the coming of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah. It should be the Jewish people. And so over the last few weeks we've been studying the book of Romans through that filter, through that grid, through that lens. And so that's why we're going to continue by looking at what it means to be righteous. The righteousness of God and how Christ was able to impart that righteousness to us because of what he did on the cross on our behalf.
Steve Conover: It's been such a meaningful study. But first in the news, the recent designation of the ruins of Jericho as a world heritage site in Palestine by the United Nations World Heritage Committee has frustrated Israel. The UNESCO vote which was held in Saudi Arabia, has been met with disapproval from Israel, particularly because they oversee the area and do not officially recognize a Palestinian state.
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take. Historically, Jericho is not a Muslim city. It's a biblical city with deep Jewish roots that well predates the Palestinian people. Speaking of history, UNESCO actually has a history of diminishing the Jewish connection to the Holy Land, which is the reason Israel quit UNESCO in 2019. What made Jericho a heritage site was not the Palestinians, it was the millennia of undeniable Jewish history that dates back to the moment Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land.
Chris Katulka: We're continuing our series on the book of Romans, one of Paul's most significant letters in the New Testament. And I've read this quote several times already over the past few weeks because I really believe what the famous Protestant reformer Martin Luther said is crucial to our reading of Romans. He says, “this letter to the Romans is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It's the purest gospel. It's well worth the Christians while not only to memorize it word for word, but also to occupy himself with it daily as though it were daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes."
And I hope that you feel that way as we've been going through the letter to the Romans. And the reason why is because Romans is actually theologically deep and meaningful. It gives definition to so many of the doctrines that we hold near and dear. Paul's going to give definition to sin and the need of a savior, salvation, the Christology, justification, sanctification, security, the place of Israel and God's plan both today and in the future. Now as we've been studying through Romans, we've been looking at it through a Jewish lens.
In the beginning of the series, we talked about the phrase that Paul uses “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” in light of the fact that God shows no partiality when it comes to sin and salvation. We discussed the fact that of all the people to understand the gospel though, the good news of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, it's the Jewish people, but of all the people to also understand God's judgment for not calling on His name as the prophets cried out in the Old Testament. Well again, especially the Jewish people. The message of sin and salvation, however, shows no partiality. It's also for the nations and the Gentiles as well. And last week we went to Romans 5:6-11 and dived into the idea of God providing a substitute in order to deliver us from our sins and how from a Jewish perspective, the idea of God providing a substitute is clearly seen in Genesis 22 with the binding of Isaac, which became a type of Christ's ultimate sacrifice, ultimate substitute for us.
Now, if you didn't get a chance to listen to last week's program or the one before that, I'd encourage you to go to foiradio.org and there you can listen and you can listen to our episodes that go back for more than nine years. This week we're going to return to Romans 5:6-11. So let me read this important passage from Romans again. "For while we were still helpless at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person, perhaps someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than because we now have been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His son. How much more since we have been reconciled will we be saved by His life? Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation."
I want to focus on verses 8-10 here where Paul says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than because we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath." Now I want to focus on this phrase "we have been declared righteous by His blood." Last week we talked about how Christ being the substitute paid for our sins and He gave himself for us that we might have eternal life when in reality our just payment is death since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
But what's amazing is that Jesus' death in our place transfers us to a position of righteousness if we place our faith in Him. Left to our own, we would be declared guilty. But in Christ and His finished work on the cross, we've been declared righteous, which not only puts us in a perpetual state of righteousness before God today, but Paul makes this statement prophetic actually. Remember we're looking at Romans through a Jewish lens and the prophets of the Old Testament pronounce judgment on the entire world. They saw God's wrath encompassing everything. Just listen to Zephaniah the prophet in chapter one. He says this in his prophecy, this is God speaking. "I will destroy everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord. I will destroy people and animals. I will destroy the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea. The idolatrous images of these creatures will be destroyed along with evil people."
That's Zephaniah. Listen, mankind's sin deserves God's wrath. That's what Paul's arguing. But notice what Jesus's sacrifice does for those who have placed their faith in Him. It declares us righteous before God so that we will be saved through Him from God's wrath. It's prophetic too. It's not just something that happens today when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus, it has a prophetic connotation as well, looking forward to the fact that we won't endure God's wrath because of what Christ has done for us. The salvation that Paul is talking about here is doubtless a prophetic salvation. Didn't you hear that future tense? "We will be saved." Those who have been declared righteous will be rescued from God's wrath on the day of judgment. Paul will bring that up again in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 when he writes how we wait for His son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath.
That's 1 Thessalonians 1:10. Look, I believe this is one of the primary reasons Paul writes the letter to the Romans. As a Jewish man himself, an expert in the law of God, a Hebrew of Hebrews, Paul knew what the prophet said about God's judgment. He knows wrath is coming. That's why Paul is heralding the salvation that can be found in Christ by becoming righteous through repentance and forgiveness. I've always seen the apostle Paul as an obedient Jonah. You know Jonah, the one swallowed by the large fish. Jonah was a prophet called by God to go to the Gentiles, specifically the Ninevites. The problem Jonah had with God's call was that he hated those Gentiles and God told Jonah to tell the Ninevites "judgment is coming, wrath is coming because of their wickedness." It had reached His attention as it says in Jonah 1. Their sin was bad enough that God was going to wipe Nineveh off the map.
So God told Jonah to pronounce the judgment that's coming, but Jonah fled in the opposite direction. He wanted those Ninevites to be judged by God and even more the reluctant prophet knew God would forgive those Gentiles if they repented and turned to him. He says that in the beginning of Jonah 4. Sure enough, when Jonah finally announces God's imminent judgment on Nineveh and Jonah 3, guess what happens from the king of Nineveh down to the common man? Everyone repented. And do you know what God did? In Jonah 3 It says this, "When God saw their actions that they turned from their evil way of living, God relented concerning the judgment He had threatened them with and did not destroy them." Look to me, the apostle Paul is just like Jonah. Remember the apostle Paul was an apostle to who? The Gentiles, but instead of running from God's calling, what did he do?
He fully embraced it. He was going to go into the Gentile world to announce God's coming wrath on earth. But God in His kindness provided a way so that your wickedness that deserves judgment can become God's righteousness, which would prevent you from experiencing God's wrath. And Paul's message remains as relevant today as it was when it was written around 57 AD. And that message is that we have now been declared righteous by His blood. We will be saved through Him from God's wrath. Now, when we return, we're going to unpack more of this concept of embracing God's righteousness so stick around.
Chris Katulka: Steve, for almost nine years, I've had the privilege of hosting The Friends of Israel Today radio program and serving alongside you.
Steve Conover: I know Chris, it's hard to believe it's been my joy to create these programs with you and our team and to be part of the radio ministry since 1995.
Chris Katulka: And this is why it's an honor for us to both ask you, our listeners today, to join in on the ground level to help broadcast biblical truth all around the globe. Whether The Friends of Israel Today is airing on a local radio station or through our online podcast, never before has it been so needed to have the truth of God's Word broadcasting on the airwaves.
Steve Conover: Romans 10:17 says "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Friends, we need your help to continue to produce and broadcast the good news of our Savior through the radio ministry.
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Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We are continuing our discussion on Romans chapter five, and we're looking at the Jewishness of the letter to the Romans. Remember Paul said several times in Romans to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In our previous segment, we've been studying Paul's Christology, his understanding of who Christ is. And in Romans 5 we see that Paul writes, "We have now been declared righteous by His blood and we will be saved through Him from God's wrath." Paul has developed already that everyone has sinned and the result of sin is death. But Christ died for us. He became our substitute while we were still sinners and through His blood we have been judiciously declared righteous in God's eyes and as a result, we will be saved from God's coming wrath. Amen. Righteousness though is such an interesting word to wrap our minds around when we study the Bible.
I want you to hear what Solomon says about righteousness in Proverbs 10:2. He says, "Treasures gained by wickedness, do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death." So there's a contrast between wicked and righteousness. And Solomon says, "Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit." And later in Proverbs, Solomon will say this. In Proverbs 11:1, he will say, "The Lord abhors dishonest scales, but inaccurate weight is His delight." Okay, I want to park here for a moment. The idea of righteousness. Actually the word for righteousness in Hebrew, is tzedek, meaning honesty, justice, justness, all of that before God. Both vertically the righteousness that you have toward God vertically, but also the righteousness, that honesty, that justice, that justness that you have with people that you encounter in your life horizontally. The text says that God abhors dishonest scales, which means if you're in business and you profit by cheating the system, God abhors that.
That's horizontal. It's the opposite of honesty. It's the opposite of justice and loyalty and justness. The unrighteousness of an individual who takes advantage of others by cheating them shows your unrighteousness, shows your wickedness before others and your unrighteousness before God. Now, accurate weights, it says, are His delight. I love this. In the Hebrew it says that the accurate weights are what is pleasing to God. If you're a shop owner and your weights are properly balanced, which means no one's being cheated, that means there's integrity. That means there's honesty and trust and this actually delivers from death. Solomon writes. I think Solomon is thinking both eternally and temporally here. Righteousness does grant us eternal life eternally, but being a righteous person, making sure your weights are balanced properly and you're treating people with honesty and justness, those acts will literally save your life from ruin. Solomon writes in Proverbs 16, "Honest scales and balances are from the Lord. All the weights in the bag are His handiwork."
Listen, the scales of righteousness are perfectly balanced by God with honesty and integrity because He is righteous and because of our sin we always come up lacking. Look in Romans, Paul is saying, "We are all unrighteous because all have sin, but in order to have eternal life, we must be righteous." But you know what there are? There are unbalanced scales. That is why Paul writes, "We have now been declared righteous by His blood. We will be saved through Him from God's wrath. The scales of righteousness were balanced because of the work Christ did on the cross. His shed blood," as Paul specifically said. Paul writes in Romans 5:19, “for just as through the disobedience of the one man, many were constituted sinners. So also through the obedience of one man, many will be constituted righteous.
Now, the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more. So that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It's not our own earned righteousness that balances the scales for God. No. Instead, the disobedience of Adam in the garden created a bunch of unrighteous people. We were all constituted sinners as Paul writes, but through the obedience of Christ, Paul says, many will be constituted righteous. And it's through His righteousness we will acquire eternal life through Jesus Christ. Just as Paul said, “this is grace multiplied all the more.”
Steve Conover: Thanks, Chris. I'm going to explore this a little bit. So I know we’re to live in holiness, but it's not us earning our righteousness, it's the obedience of Christ. So let's talk about that a little bit. How does that work?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I actually am thinking of Isaiah 61:10, which says, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall exalt in my God, for He has clothed me in the garments of salvation. He has covered me with the robe of righteousness." It's the picture of the fact that we can never earn our own righteousness before God. He's too holy, He's too righteous. And as Paul says in Romans 5, "We have been contaminated by Adam and since Adam and Eve, we’re all sinful, we're born sinful." And so for that reason, we can never earn God's righteousness. He needed to step in to fix the problem. He's both the just and the justifier. And for that reason, He clothes us with his righteousness in the work that Christ did on the cross. It's Christ's righteousness that covers us. And for that reason, when we stand before God, God doesn't see us, he sees Christ's righteousness in us. And so that changes the game. And I also am reminded of the fact that, again, the Jewishness of the letter to the Romans. It was Abraham in Genesis 15:6, who was doubting God, but then he believed in what God would do and God said, "It's because of your faith in believing what I would do, that I'm accrediting righteousness to you." So it's not even any works that Abraham did. It was simply the fact that he believed in what God would do and accomplishing and being faithful to his promises. So that is really the idea of God clothing us, robing us with his righteousness.
Steve Conover: Thank you, Chris. That's a great word.
Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Many times I go to the ultra Orthodox yeshivas and engage the people in long discussions trying to bring them back to the Bible. They in turn always show me the many books from their Halakha. Literature written by rabbis. They try to convince me that only through the Halakha can I be a good Jew. I always listen politely, but then I'd tell them that this is made up of fictitious stories. On a recent visit, an elderly man approached me and he shuddered "Zvi, do you not know me?" But I didn't recognize him. He said, "I know you very well. We spent a lot of time together, good times and hard times." I told him, "It's so obvious on the outside I have not changed much because you recognize me so quickly, but I have changed on the inside. I can see how you have changed on the outside with your clothing and long beard and side curls, but you still have the same heart of stone because you're here in this place."
Finally, he identified himself as a man with whom I'd served in the army in 1948. Now, here we were meeting again after 48 years. He says, "Zvi, I have heard about you a lot over the years, but I never believed what I heard. Now I know all those reports were true. How could you leave the faith of your fathers and preach something that is against our rabbis and traditions?" I said, "I do not wish to speak against anyone. Rather, I'm here to remind you to whom you belong. As it is written in Malachi 3:7 'From the days of your fathers, you have gone away from my ordinances. Return to me and I will return to you.' The Bible does not mention your rabbis. In it, you will read only what the Lord has done for us. I could not recognize you because you have changed your face and your style of dress, but you have not changed your heart. You still have a heart of stone. Though I have not changed my outward appearance, God has given me a heart of flesh. I have not changed his laws or commands as you have done."
My old friend then asked, "How can you say such things?" I replied, "God Himself has said it in the Bible. Here in your house of prayer, you have hundreds of books, but you do not have one Bible. I have come here to warn you about the false teachings you are following. I pray I'm not too late. This is my obligation before God and all people. Ezekiel 3:17 says, 'Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Therefore, hear a word from my mouth and give them warning from me.'" And by the end of our conversation, one said, "You are very interesting and we would welcome you back to speak with us again." I was grateful to the Lord for the good conclusion to our meeting. I pray God will water the seed zone and eventually grant the harvest of these souls to its eternal life.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us this week. We continue our series in the book of Romans in our next episode. Chris, what can we expect when we open the Word of God together?
Chris Katulka: I really think this section on Romans 5 helps to develop a lot of what Paul is teaching throughout the letter to the Romans. And so we're going to continue in this section in Romans 5, but we're going to be looking more at the reconciliation that we have with the Lord and the security that that produces.
Steve Conover: We hope you join us. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We're a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Friends of Israel Today radio program is supported by donors, listeners, and friends like you. We need your help to share biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, Jesus, to the world! With your financial gift, right now, you will be taking the gospel to the ends of the earth with trustworthy, uncompromising Bible teaching and timely interviews. We need your help to continue to produce and share the Good News of our Savior on the radio, podcasts, and our website. With your donation today, you will receive a free gift from us as a thank you for your support. Visit foi.org/radiogift or click the button below to show your support.
Apples of Gold: An Historic Meeting
Many times, Zvi would start discussions with people at the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and try to direct them toward the Bible. On one memorable occasion, he ran into an old friend from the army. His friend recognized Zvi, but Zvi could not recognize him because of the changes to his outward appearance. Though Zvi hadn’t changed on the outside, God had changed him on the inside, and he wanted this to be true for his old friend, too. Zvi took the chance to tell his friend and many other listeners about the way that Jesus can truly change a person’s heart.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.