Righteousness Revealed Part 2

What did Jesus tells us about righteousness and salvation?

20  For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (NKJV)

Given that we can’t get in to heaven without a great deal of righteousness how do we acquire it? Where do we go to receive it? The obvious answer if we have been a believer for any length of time is that we get it from Jesus. I once said in a message, “Only one person is going to heaven.” That got people’s attention, to which I added, “Jesus, and those who are in Him.” Why is that? Jesus is the only one who met His Father’s standard of righteousness. We learn from 2 Corinthians 5:21 how this standard is met.

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

As a result of Jesus death and resurrection all those who repent and receive His free gift of salvation experience this divine exchange that Paul described – He gets our sin, we receive His righteousness. Now righteousness has two forms – imputed and imparted. Imputed righteousness is Jesus deeds being credited to our account. Many years ago my wife and I received our statement from the bank and it wasn’t good. When I went in to the branch to sort things out I discovered what had happened. Two branches had merged and a couple at the other branch had the same account number as us. In the merger they gave the other couple our funds and we acquired their debts. Thankfully they quickly reversed things once they discovered what they had done. This is what Jesus did. He received our debts and we had His funds (righteousness from His righteous acts) credited to our account. This is the ‘imputed’ part.

What is the benefit of imputed righteousness? The best summary is in Hebrews.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

We can come boldly to the throne of grace because Jesus righteousness, that which far exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, is ours as a believer. This is our access pass. So make use of it, come boldly and often and before this throne present not only requests, pursue intimacy with the Father, Son and Spirit.

14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)

Next post I will begin explicating how imputed and imparted righteousness relate and what it means for our walk with and identity in Jesus.

Righteousness Revealed Part 1

Paul was the preeminent theologian in the New Testament. A man driven even harder by passion for Jesus than his opposition to Jesus when he was Saul of Tarsus the zealously religious Pharisee. He knew the heights and depths of Jesus amazing love. Does that mean he always lived on the mountaintop? No, read his letters, he clearly did not. Yet he had these experiences and prayed that we would as well (see Col. 1:9-11, Phil. 1:9-11 and Eph. 1:17-21, 3:14-21). The prime drive for Paul was his awareness of the heart of the gospel.

16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)

There is a little phrase in these two verses we would do well to understand and embrace, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Most of us likely understand the scriptural truth that salvation is by faith through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet how does salvation by faith through grace reveal the righteousness of God? Righteousness is a word connected to covenantal commitment.

“The concept of righteousness in the Old Testament is wholly a religiously determined idea. It does not express any abstract ethical norm or concept. Neither is it any ideal moral system or set of universal laws. Righteousness describes the relationship which Israel had with Yahweh. Essential for the basis of righteousness is the covenant relationship. This alliance presupposes a mutual righteousness between the two parties which is expressed most fully in faithfulness to the covenant relationship. The righteous or just one fulfills to the other party the obligations that are dictated by the covenant.

This is not to say that the covenantal parties of the Old Testament were equal; on the contrary, God was the Master, and Israel was the servant. The covenant relationship was created in the first place because of God’s merciful initiative to choose a sinful people.”

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

In the OT the ‘righteous or just one’ was Yahweh. Fulfilling the covenant depended on His fulfilling His commitment. While this is framed as a legal transaction we see the true outworking of covenant when we read Psalm 23. Here David describes the outworking of this covenant in terms of friendship and intimacy. No legal language here!

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake. 4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)

When you read and meditate on this Psalm recognize that this is the covenant of righteousness that Paul experienced after conversion. He knew covenant as a Pharisee, he lived covenant as a believer. Let us go and do likewise.

More to come…

He Died for You Part 4

In the previous three posts I sought to include examples and illustrations of why Jesus wants to draw close to us as a friend and looked at how His love moved Him to die on our behalf, in spite of us being His enemies at the time. My point is that the opportunity for intimacy with Jesus isn’t dependent on our skills or abilities in any area. It only depends on our desire and willingness to draw near (see Jas. 4:8 below). Jesus loved and wanted to draw near to us in spite of where we were prior to our conversion. How much more does He want to draw close once we have been born again?

8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (NKJV)

3  The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)

Have you wondered about how to draw close to someone living inside your skin? Sound strange? Viewed from the outside our faith can seem a little odd – we have someone intimately part of us who wants to get to know us! Not only does the Living One live within us, He wants us to draw close to the Father’s throne to experience intimacy. One way the scriptures describe Jesus sacrificial death is in Hebrews.

1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Jesus saw joy on the other side of the cross. The joy of being reunited with his Father certainly, but His primary purpose for taking on flesh was to redeem and restore all who would come to Him. His future joy lay in His nature being birthed in all who received Him.   

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

We have a new nature and are clothed in His righteousness. If we recognize that the throne of judgment is also the throne of grace we will respond by coming boldly into His presence and drawing near to His heart. After all, the invitation and door are both always open.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)