14/03/17‘In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear and from terror, for it shall not come near thee’ – Isaiah 54:14
Righteousness is a key factor in our relationship with God for it is in that we are established. It is what makes us stable and secure in our faith.
Righteousness is defined as right standing with God. It is the legal right to stand before God, to relate with Him and to be in God’s presence without the fear of being rejected, and without a sense of guilt, unworthiness or inferiority. Righteousness gives us boldness before God as well as the devil. When we are sure of our righteousness, we are fearless as we face the hordes of darkness.
Righteousness brings peace and rest in our hearts. Isaiah 32:17 declares, ‘And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever’. The call to salvation is a call to a life of rest (Mathew 11:28-30), security and peace but until we settle the question of our righteousness before God, these blessings never become realities in our lives.
The Gospel: a revelation of the righteousness of God
Since righteousness is so pivotal, it is imperative that we each get to know exactly how we get to stand right with God. And thank God, for our benefit, Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, dedicated quite a large portion of his writings to this subject. The book of Romans in particular is a masterpiece on righteousness. Even a brief study of Romans should conclusively settle the believer’s heart on this matter. Galatians too is good.
Right at the beginning of his exposition on righteousness in his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote,
'For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith’ – Romans 1:16-17
One translation renders verse 17 this way: ‘For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with himself: it is through faith from beginning to end’
Prior to the redemption wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s people sought righteousness by observing the Law of Moses. Unfortunately, no one was ever able to attain to it because the Law stipulated that for one to qualify to become righteous, they had to keep the Law 100%, all the time. But then Romans 8:3 teaches that no man ever kept the Law 100% because of the weakness of the flesh or the fallen human nature.
As a matter of fact, when God gave the Law to His people, the Israelites, He never intended for them to keep it to attain righteousness. Romans 3:19-20 shows the real reason the Law was given:
‘Now we know that what thingsoever the Law saith, it saith to them who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin’.
The Law was actually given to make people conscious of their sinful nature and to enable them realize that they were guilty before God, and therefore in need of a Savior. It wasn’t given so that by keeping it people would be saved or reconciled to God.
After the Law ran its course, the gospel was ushered in with the revelation of the only way that makes it possible for sinful humanity to be made righteous in God’s sight. That way is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:
‘But now (in these New Testament times) the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all that believe, for there is no difference, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; Being justified (made righteous) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ’ – Romans 3:21-24.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ unveils something wonderful about righteousness: that it is not attained by a person working for it, earning it, paying for it or deserving it, but that it comes by simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Righteousness is given freely to those who believe in Christ. Romans 5:17 says the righteousness that God accepts is a gift of grace, not a reward for our good behaviour.
We are made righteous by God, not through our efforts
2 Corinthians 5:17 states a beautiful truth about how God makes us right with Himself when we believe in Jesus:
‘For he (God) hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’
God knew from the beginning that no person could ever achieve a right standing with Him through their own goodness, performance or piety. This was because all people were sinners, and thus the best of their works were still sourced in a corrupt nature. Isaiah 64:6 says plainly that the best of man’s works of righteousness are like filthy rags in God’s sight.
So what Papa God did, in His love for mankind, was that He sent His righteous Son into the world, to pay the necessary price for man’s redemption. And that is what happened at the cross: God took our sins and the resulting unrighteousness and placed them on Christ, thus making Him sin on our behalf. He then subjected Christ to the full due penalty of our sins, so that in Christ our sins were fully and eternally punished. This made it legally possible for God to take the righteousness of Christ and give it to anyone who would believe that Christ died in their place. And so now when any person believes that Jesus died for them, God makes them righteous with His own righteousness. It is a legal transaction that can never be challenged in the courts of divine justice.
The same way that God made Christ sin without Him ever committing any sin and punished Him accordingly; He makes the believer righteous without the believer ever doing anything to merit righteousness, and blesses the believer with what the righteous deserves.
And the righteousness God gives the believer is His own righteousness, so that when the believer stands before God, they are as righteous as Christ Himself. It is, therefore, ignorance for a child of God to approach the Father and say, ‘I am not righteous because my works are not perfect, and I am not worthy to be in Your presence’. We do not stand before God in our own righteousness.
Righteousness is a nature, not good behaviour
Every human being comes into the world with a sinful nature. We are not sinners because of what we do but because we are born that way. The sinful acts people do are fruits of the sinful nature they are born with.
When we believe in Christ, we are made new creatures in Christ, and are born from above with a righteous nature. Ephesians 4:24 tells this truth: ‘And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness’
Righteousness is the nature of the new creation. It is not something we attain after we are saved and then work for it. The good things we do after receiving Christ are fruits of our righteousness, not the root of it.
Just like we are born into the world with a sinful nature, we are born again into the kingdom of God with a righteous nature. Righteousness is the opposite of the sin-nature. Every born again Christian is righteous with God’s own righteousness, and therefore, continuing to beg God or work for righteousness is a waste of time.
And here is some more good news: a believer in Christ never loses their righteousness. I like it the way Jesus is thorough in what He does! A sinner does not lose their sinful nature when they do some good works. The only way to stop being a sinner and become righteous in God’s sight is by putting faith in Christ. In the same way, a believer in Christ does not lose their righteousness because they do something wrong! Our righteousness does not fluctuate in quality or quantity based on our performance. It has zero to do with our works. It has everything to do with Christ, as 1 Corinthians 1:30 declares: ‘But of him (God) are ye in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption’.
Christ alone is our righteousness, praise God! Now, that should bring a lot of rest, quietness and peace in our hearts. I am so glad I am not my own righteousness. When I stand before God, I know that He sees and relates with me just like He does with Jesus because I have put on Christ’s own righteousness. In Christ, I am the righteousness of God.
Put off your own righteousness
Sadly, however, many born again believers, not being sufficiently educated in the Scriptures are still trying to work for and establish their own righteousness. They are zealously praying, fasting and trying to behave right; they endeavour to keep the 10 commandments and other commands in the Law of Moses, etc, to attain righteousness. Well, all that does is leave you tired, insecure and frustrated.
As long as you try to attain righteousness by your own effort, you in effect reject Christ’s sacrifice for you. Listen to what Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21: ‘I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain’. Christ died to make you righteous and if you are still working for your own righteousness, you are telling God that Jesus wasted His time dying. You are making it hard for God to relate with and bless you!
'By the Spirit of God, I beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain' (2 Corinthians 6:1). For ‘Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified (made righteous) by the Law, ye are fallen from grace’.Put off your own righteousness and put all your trust in the righteousness of God with which He has clothed you.
What Christ did to make you righteous was sufficient. You do not need to add to what He did. I pray that all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus will have the matter of our righteousness before God settled once and for all like Paul did, so we can be secure and firmly established regarding our standing before God:
‘But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ. And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God by faith …’ – Philippians 3:7-9
Grace, peace and blessings heaped on you all!