2. God's Righteousness

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith…
—Romans 1:17

Because we have no righteousness of our own that is acceptable to God, He has provided for us through the Gospel a righteousness that will make us fit for His own presence. I’d like to have a little Bible reading with you about that.

Beginning in Romans, the first chapter, at verse sixteen, we read: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one 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.”

Now we often think of the love of God being revealed in the Gospel, and certainly it was and is. But here He tells us that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel. That is, by means of the Gospel—the story of the death, burial and resurrection of our Saviour—God is able to show us how He can be just, and the Justifier of them that believe in Jesus, as we learn in the third chapter of Romans.

The words “just,” “justify,” “righteous,” “righteousness,”—all of these words are related words, and they have to do with the holiness of God and God’s desire to bring us into a right standing—a right position with Himself.

In the tenth chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul writes about the Jewish people (his own people): “I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

You see, the Jewish people were intent upon establishing their own righteousness. All of us have a certain amount of this self-righteousness about us, and we feel there surely must be something we can do to make ourselves acceptable with God, but in Isaiah 64:6 He tells us, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” in His sight. You and I have nothing to offer God. I don’t know if you are prepared to accept that or not, but I’d like you to study it a bit and think about it. Read the Scriptures carefully and thoughtfully and see if you can’t come to a right understanding of this matter. We just read here, in the tenth of Romans, that God has not called on us to do some great exploit. We don’t even need to bring Christ down from above, or bring Him up again from the dead. All this has been done. Now He says, with the, heart man believeth unto righteousness. Let’s see if we can understand this.

First of all, I’d like to distinguish between self-righteousness and God’s righteousness. The Scriptures we’ve read make that distinction. Then I’d like also to distinguish between Christ’s personal righteousness and the righteousness of God that we’re talking about. In other words, the Lord Jesus, personally, was righteous. His righteous life does not make you acceptable to God. His righteous life proved Him to be the Son of God, proved Him to be the worthy sacrifice, but that is His own intrinsic righteousness. Now what we’re talking about is a righteousness which God can account to you. In other words, God can give you credit for a righteousness which you do not have, not by just saying so, but by actually imputing it to you.

We have a wonderful illustration of that in the prodigal son. You remember when he came back to the father, he was clothed with filthy rags, and when he came to the father confessing his guilt the father said to the servants, “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him.” What was this “best robe”? Well, it was something which the father had in his house, which would make this unworthy, filthy wretch of a son worthy to come in among the others.

Clothing in the Bible is often used as a type of righteousness. You remember, back in the Garden of Eden, when man sinned, his first thought was to clothe himself. And he didn’t do a very good job of it. None of us has done a very good job of it since! His fig leaf apron didn’t even satisfy himself, because as soon as God appeared he hid behind a tree. But God has a “best robe” for us—the best robe of heaven, the righteousness of God. God is able to give us a right standing before Himself. Now how does all this happen?

First of all, we learn in the first chapter of Ephesians, verse four, that this was part of God’s eternal purpose. God planned all this. We didn’t think it out. We’re told in Colossians 3:12 that we’re called to this. God has elected us to this. And we have seen in Romans ten that it is obtained by faith. It comes to us through the Gospel. The good news is that, though we have sinned, God’s Son came, died in our place, righteously put away all sin so that God is now able to give us a right standing through Christ. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. Our sins have been forgiven because of Him. Our evil nature has been hidden through Him. He is our righteousness.

Let’s get away from the idea of religion now. Do not think about a system of doing on our own, let’s think of a Person. We’re told in First Corinthians 1:30 that Christ Jesus of God “is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” In fact, one of the Names of God in the Old Testament (Jer. 23:6) is Jehovah-Tsidkenu. That Hebrew word means, “The Lord our Righteousness.”

When you think about meeting God, do you immediately think about something you’ve done? Some accomplishment or some worthiness of your own? Some earnest sincerity of your own? Or do you think about Christ?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:11) that they had been pretty bad. He mentioned some of the things which people do, and he said, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified [i. e., given a right standing] in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” This is our new standing.

Paul refers to this in the third chapter of Philippians by writing that his desire is to “be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that… righteousness which is of God by faith.” Now, if such a great one as the Apostle Paul was satisfied to be nothing more than what God had made him, to want no righteousness of his own, but to stand in the righteousness of God, how glad you and I ought to be!

Now, of course, our state is to be brought up to our standing. He tells us in First Corinthians 5 that this is what we are; now, He says, this is what I’d like you to be. In other words, since God has made us righteousness we should act righteously. We should “put on the new man,” Ephesians 4 states. We should put on the right actions of a Christian. We should “follow after righteousness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

All of this is said to be the “fruit” of righteousness. In fact, even the chastening of the people by God in Hebrews 12 is given that we might be partakers of His holiness, that we might be a little bit more like Him.

If you’d like a nice Bible reading about this, in addition to what we’ve had together, read the third chapter of Zechariah. There you will find Joshua, even though he was a High Priest, was clothed in filthy garments. His own self-righteousness was not good enough for the presence of God, and so God clothed him with a change of raiment. Have you been clothed? And if you aren’t clothed, are you satisfied with that raiment? He wants us to appreciate and enjoy the fact we have been given a right standing with God. Let’s thank Him.

Our Father, we do thank Thee for the Lord Jesus. We thank Thee for giving us a right standing. We thank Thee that He died and rose again that we might be brought into Thy family, that we might be counted right with Thee. Help us to appreciate this. Help us to enjoy the liberty we have. In Jesus’ Name. Amen .