Righteousness? By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone

Even if a Christian never does another good deed in life, he or she is never unrighteous in God’s sight….Pretty radical statement yeah? Soak it in; if you never did another good thing, once you are declared righteous by God, He doesn’t renege on that declaration. Intrigued? Read on….

 

One of the biggest lies of the devil is that Christian righteousness is attained (earned) rather than obtained (received). That we have to work to ‘qualify’; that our good deeds impress God and increase our value in His eyes. That if we do good deeds, obey all the commandments and are good citizens, we win God‘s approval.

 

The bible reveals different, it teaches us that all our very best intentions and deeds are at best filthy rags compared to God’s righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). His standards are so much higher than anything we could attain (Isaiah 55:9). Discouraging huh? Wait for the good part…

 

The bible describes the righteousness of God as beginning and ending with faith and acquired through faith for all who believe in Jesus (Romans 1:17, Romans 3:22). In Galatians 2, Paul corrects the notion that we are made right with God by anything we do. His argument culminates in verse 21 where he asserts that if righteousness God could come by anything we do then Christ died unnecessarily. Imagine that, he says that to claim righteousness as earned by works is to defeat the very purpose of God’s grace and Christ’s death.

 

 

This part of the argument is probably familiar to you if you are a Christian. Back to my introductory ‘punchline’, the more astounding part is that the bible also assures that once you become a Christian, even if you never do another good deed in your life, you never lose God’s approval, you are never declared unrighteous by God. I can hear the defences rising but gimme a minute to make my case.

 
For starters, God assures us that his gifts and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29); He never takes back what he gives us. Secondly, since we do not become righteous on the basis of our works, but receive it as a gift based on Jesus’ death and resurrection, how can we then think our actions affect it?. Paul attacks the notion ferociously in Galatians 3:3, and describes as foolish the tendency to begin in faith and seek to continue by works.

 

My point is not that we need not be good, upstanding citizens, the bible tells us we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  We are instructed to live such good lives that people, particularly unbelievers see our good deeds and glorify God (1 Peter 2:12) so our works do count as a testimony and a witness.

 

What the bible emphasises however is that works are secondary and simply a response to God’s righteousness which He bequeathed to us. According to Romans 4:4, the worker’s wages are his due and not a gift, but since this is a gift, the extent of our participation is to simply receive it. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that without our involvement, and prior to our existence, God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin, for our sake, so that through Him, we would become the righteousness of God.

 
I hope this excites you as much as it does me. I pray that the Holy Spirit illumines your mind to this truth. What this releases us from is the tendency to either condemnation or self righteousness. Condemnation, when we do not do what we should and self congratulation when we do good works, as though we did it in our strength. It has been most freeing to realise that my works don’t commend or make me acceptable or unacceptable to God (1 Corinthians 8:8- this refers to eating but the same inference can be drawn).

 

As Pastor Tullian* says, God’s free unconditional grace irritates us because it takes the focus off us and our hard work, and puts it on Jesus and His generosity. It is so extremely liberating to know that God approves of me because and only because of the work of Jesus, irrespective and independent of anything I ever did, do or would do. Once I have made Jesus my Lord and Saviour, God sees me as absolutely righteous, as righteous as Jesus, as righteous as God, WOW!!! Talk about looking through rose coloured lenses, these are more like diamond encrusted lenses.

 
As liberating as this is, the beauty and counter-intuitiveness of grace is that, a true understanding of God’s gift doesn’t make you want to take advantage of and abuse it but to rejoice in and respond to it in reckless abandon (Romans 6). Like Jesus says, he who is forgiven much ends up loving much (Luke 7:47).  Knowing we are righteous before God, no matter what is not an invitation to sin;  what it does is reassure us that rather than lower his standards because we could never measure up , he empowers us by His Spirit to desire and to work what pleases him (Philippians 2:13). Knowing that God approves of me irrespective of my works, makes me want to just reciprocate His love that I am so unworthy of and respond in obedience to His oh so gracious gift.

 
I hope this brings some clarity and hope to you. If you consider yourself a moralistic and good person in and by yourself, I hope you realise that God is not impressed by anything we do, and accept His gift of righteousness. If on the other hand, you have done abominable or bad things, know that all you need to receive this gift is to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf. He promises that even where your sins are figuratively blood-red, your slate will be wiped so clean, that By Jesus’ atoning work, God makes you snow-white.( Isaiah 1:18).

 

Shalom fam 🙂

 

*One of the most doctrinally sound and revolutionary blogs (in my opinion), is Pastor Tullian’s, you can read that on http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/ .

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