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A Big Mistake: Where is Righteousness?


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Restitution occurs when someone needs to make up for their mistake or crime. If I steal money from a friend and get caught, I can apologize and even be forgiven of the crime, but the person will still expect me to repay what I stole. Things won’t be right until I do pay them back, but what if they forgave me and didn’t make me pay them back- that would be grace!

When someone puts their faith in God and receives forgiveness there is still a problem- that problem is restitution. We need to pay for the sins we were forgiven from because God is a Holy God and His justice and righteousness cannot mix with someone who is tarnished by sin- even if they are forgiven sins. The problem is that we could never pay for our sins short of giving up our own life:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

Death that comes from the wrath of God (His justice) is the only way WE could pay but notice what the last part says… but the gift of God is eternal life… Jesus provided this gift of grace to us by dying for us. HE could only do that because He is Righteous:

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Rom 5:19

Jesus did two incredible things on the cross and we largely ignore one over the other. We all know forgiveness was given to us, but we neglect that we in turn were also made whole (restitution was provided on our behalf) by Jesus as He also gave us HIS Righteousness.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Rom 5:9

We needed to pay for our sin, but Jesus forgave us AND justified us (paid our restitution) so that we would not face wrath. Here is where neglecting this truth causes trouble- in believing our behavior impacts our standing with God. Our behavior is pitiful and could never give us standing before God- that was the whole problem Christ came to solve. Somehow, we think that because we are Saved that now our behavior can impress God. The truth is that my very best behavior, my best second of my life, I am still a wretched man (my own righteousness) before a Holy God. Behavior isn’t an issue though because our standing with God is based on HIS Righteousness:

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Rom 5:18-19

This is the whole point of Paul’s argument in Romans- to tell us that grace means our behavior is no longer an issue, our sins will never outweigh grace. Our standing is based on the grace that forgave us AND provided the Righteousness we needed to stand before our Holy God. How foolish is it to think that we now must behave good enough when we couldn’t do it before we were Saved. What we fail to see is that the cross was such a game changer that I can finally live freely under grace and that freedom leads me away from sin just as Paul tells us:

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Gal 5:16-26

Paul’s whole point is that now that we don’t have the pressure and obligation to provide our own restitution, we can enjoy our freedom and there is no better way to enjoy that freedom than to trust the Spirit who Saved us to begin with. Our behavior isn’t what impacts our standing with God, it is understanding that our standing comes from trusting Christ and His Righteousness and in turn we naturally seek to follow Him in that same trust. This is the life of faith Paul admonished us to have:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Gal 2:20-21

Get that last part- spoken to Believers, “if righteousness comes through the law {our behavior}, then Christ died in vain.” (brackets my words). The idea our behavior is where a Believers righteous standing comes from diminishes the work of Christ and elevates ourselves- pride! We must break from the prideful notion of our righteousness comes from self and keep our trust in Christ.

Don’t fall for the common mistake that we only needed forgiveness which can lead to several false doctrines (one such is that we can lose our Salvation) and remember we also needed His Righteousness and when you get that right you can toss aside EVERY false doctrine and stick to the only truth- the Gospel of Grace.

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