Righteousness that counts

As Paul began writing to the believers in Corinth, he could not address (them) as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). They had become so distracted from the truths of Christ that they failed to recognise the sinful passions which had dominated them. Had they kept their thoughts and affections anchored in Christ as portrayed in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, sin would never have overthrown them. Because of him (God), you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Salvation accomplished all the spiritual necessities that we could not provide for ourselves. God, not us, activated in Christ the four essentials required to be acceptable to Him. Wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, all of which we could not produce. And even if we could, we would present them to God, claiming to be worthy of His acceptance.

Recognising our complete inability or desire to atone for our sin, the Lord exercised His sovereign will to accomplish that which we could not (Eph 1:5-10). He did this by appointing His Son, the spotless Lamb of God (1Pe 1:19; Rev 5:12), who personified all that we are not, or ever could be. Operating as God’s appointed High Priest (Heb 5:5), Jesus became our substitute wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. So perfect is He in this ministry on the sinner’s behalf, that it is impossible for the repentant believer to add to, to enhance, or to extend any of these four, even to the slightest degree. Christ is so sufficient in these four, that our Heavenly Father is fully satisfied with Him, and with us simply trusting in Christ’s sufficiency.

Even if we were to dedicate our life-long efforts in trying to obey God’s law, we would fail. As for our efforts, whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10). It is foolish to think that we can supplement Christ’s righteousness by attempting to satisfy even one component of God’s law, because we fail in so many other areas. But, praise God, Christ fulfilled every element of God’s law on our behalf, satisfying Yahweh’s holy demands fully.

This explains why Paul says in Romans 3:10-12, none is righteous, no, not one… no one does good, not even one. The moment mankind thinks they have attained even the slightest degree of righteousness through obeying even one tiny part of God’s law, we typically hold it up to God and say, “now I have earned or contributed to your grace.” To which God responds, by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight… (Romans 3:20).

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law… the righteousness of God (is) through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe only in Christ’s substitutional righteousness (Romans 3:21-22). Christians boast in Jesus Christ’s righteousness at the expense of self. Even a superficial understanding of how Christ’s righteousness has been credited to a believing sinner is humbling and exhilarating at the same time, as Christ is exalted within the redeemed heart.

May we examine our hearts to check there is no sense of deserving merit because of our adherence to rules and regulations. May we only boast in Christ’s accomplishment, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

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