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The Righteousness of God
By David A. DePra
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested, being
witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God
which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe:
“righteousness,” is a state of BEING right or just.
Note that: Righteousness
means to BE – not just to DO. In
the context of Christianity, of course, “righteousness,” means to be right or
just before God. Indeed, we might
even say that, “righteousness,” is a state of RIGHT-NESS before God, because of
Closely related to the term, “righteous,” or, “righteousness,” is the
term, “justify, justified, or justification.”
These terms mean, “the act of declaring as righteous; to have been
declared righteous.” Of course,
once again we need the Christian context:
To be justified means, “to be declared righteous; to be declared right or
just by God.”
So to be RIGHTEOUS means that I am RIGHT before God – according to God’s
standards and definition. To be
justified means that God declares me as RIGHT before Him.
Note that when we say a person is RIGHT before God we are really saying
that they are RIGHT FOR GOD. God is
able to approve, accept, and then make Himself ONE with a person who is RIGHT
before Him in Christ.
The Righteousness of God
It is important to understand RIGHTEOUSNESS – not so much in terms of
DOING – but rather, in terms of who or what I AM.
“Righteousness,” means I am a RIGHT creature, as opposed to a WRONG
creature. It means I am TRUE unto
God, rather than FALSE unto Him. It
means that I fit God’s design, rather than violate it.
I am what God desires a human being to be – I am a right expression of
God’s mind. Of course, God
declares me righteous ONLY because of Jesus Christ.
The incredible Truth about righteousness before God is that it is NOT
based upon who I am to Him. Rather,
it is based upon who Christ is to ME. And
yet most of us have that totally upside down.
We continue to think that our relationship with God is based on US.
It is not. It is based on
faith in Jesus Christ.
declaration of the believer as righteous is not possible except Christ be in us.
But notice what this does NOT mean:
It does not mean, as so many of us continue to believe, that God declares
us righteous, or makes us, righteous – as persons separate from Christ – as if
God gives us our own righteousness because of what Jesus has done – sort of as
if God gives us a little portion of righteousness, as opposed to the big portion
of Jesus. No.
We are righteous only if we are IN CHRIST – or to put in another way –
the righteousness of the believer is Christ Himself; Christ in us.
He is made to be unto us RIGHTEOUSNESS.
(see I Cor. 1:30)
Jesus Christ IS the righteousness of God.
He is the ONLY righteousness of God.
And if Christ is in us, then He is our ONLY righteousness.
We have none of our own.
This one Truth, if we would truly grasp it, would change everything about our
relationship with God.
Essential of Righteousness
Certainly one of the main themes of the apostle Paul is that of
RIGHTEOUSNESS. Paul goes to great
lengths to not only show the essential of being righteous before God, but He
walks through the means by which a person is justified – declared righteous –
through faith in Christ. Thus,
righteousness is fundamental to being in Jesus Christ.
But why must a person BE righteous before God?
Because God is righteous and holy, and we are to spend eternity living
with God. The need to be righteous
is not merely so that we can escape, “the wrath of God.”
No. The need to be righteous
is so that we can live with God forever.
If you read the
epistles of Paul, you will find that Paul speaks of righteousness and salvation
as if they are the same thing. That
is because they essentially ARE the same thing.
Eternal life IS a righteous life – it is that by nature.
Why? Because Christ IS our
life, and Christ IS our righteousness.
In other words, we are not merely talking about doctrines.
We are talking about a Living Person.
Many of Paul’s epistles, most notably Romans, walks us through the moral
and legal Truth of how God is able to take a lost sinner and declare him
righteous through Jesus Christ. But
in the end, everything resolves to the reality of Jesus Christ in us.
We know that
righteousness is normal for God.
That is an understatement. But
likewise, it was always God’s normal for man. God
originally created a RIGHT man – a man that was right according to the mind of
But note the characteristics of this man, Adam, who was created RIGHT by
the Lord: Adam was naked and unashamed.
God MADE him that way – this was God’s normal and right human being.
In short, Adam was naked of his own righteousness and yet unashamed – he
was unashamed because God was His righteousness.
To God, and before the sin, to Adam, this was RIGHT and NORMAL.
Adam was made to abide in God, or to put it another way, Adam was to
fully depend upon God for everything by faith.
God was, in effect, the very life source for Adam.
And again – this was NORMAL.
It was the purpose for which Adam was made, and the only way in which he could
function and live in God’s purpose.
Now this is what we need to see:
Because man was created with NOTHING in himself – naked of all – and just
as importantly -- because man was created TO abide in God for all --
righteousness was always bound up with abiding in God by faith.
To refuse to abide in God was SIN – and
death. To voluntarily abide in God was
faith, and opened the door to being a vessel through which the righteousness of
God could be manifested.
The sin of Adam was that he chose to find in himself what only could be
found in God – life -- included in which was the possibility of righteousness.
When Adam ate of the forbidden tree he
was, as it says in Genesis 3, choosing to, “be as god, deciding for himself what
good and evil would be.” This is
the correct Hebrew. Adam chose
HIMSELF as the source of life and of all – including righteousness.
The result was that he got exactly what he chose – his naked self -- in
which there was NO life and NO righteousness.
In other words, Adam died.
Thus, God had
created a NORMAL man and that normal man, because he departed from God, became
ABNORMAL. God was no longer the
source of his life and his righteousness.
This meant he had none of either, and no possibility of obtaining them.
What Adam did after the sin made things worse.
Instead of standing before God and confessing his sin, he tried to fix
it. He made himself fig leaves.
Here was what was now an abnormal human being tried to make himself look
normal without faith in God. Here
was a man who was trying to do for himself, and BE for himself, what only God
could be. Thus, on top of Adam’s
original sin, he now sinned by trying to fix sin.
Even Christians continue to do the same.
Have we realized that self-righteousness – the covering of our true self
with fig leaves – is sin? To try to
maintain myself as righteousness – and it does not matter whether I think I’m
successful or not – the attempt itself is SIN.
It is unbelief. It is a
denial of the Truth. It is
deception. I am trying to do for
myself what Christ has already done.
The Adam race is dead. There
is nothing in the Adam race that is of God.
The solution is not religion.
It is not a repair job. You
cannot prop up the Adam race. The
only solution is the very death God said would be the wages of sin – BUT –
through Jesus Christ, a resurrection as a NEW RACE.
Through Jesus Christ, God made a way for the Adam race to DIE and be
RAISED as a new humanity. On the
Cross, Jesus bore, yes, sin, but he bore US.
Jesus Christ is like Noah’s ark – and we are like the 8 occupants.
He passes through death, and is raised – but so do we – howbeit only IN
HIM. When Jesus died on the Cross,
He carried in His body the entire Adam race.
When He died, the Adam race died – although the essence of our being is
preserved in Him like in the ark.
When we are raised, all that is of the old man is Adam is left in death – just
as that old world was left in death – and we are raised new creations IN HIM.
The essential to see is that we are crucified WITH CHRIST – buried with
Him by baptism into HIS death – planted into His death.
But if that is the case, then for those who come to Him, we are raised IN
HIM to newness of life. There is
NOTHING that happens except it be IN CHRIST – because we are joined to the Lord.
This has been greatly understood.
Most of us have limited our redemption to what Jesus did FOR US, and to
things Jesus gives TO US. But the
Truth is, we are redeemed because of Christ IN US.
In short, God doesn’t merely give us things because of Christ.
God gives us Christ Himself.
Paul understood as well as anyone that Jesus Christ was crucified FOR
him. But Paul also understood what
this made possible: That he could
be crucified WITH CHRIST. “I am
crucified with Christ.” Paul knew
that only if we come to Christ and take our place in His death that we are
crucified WITH Christ – and that only then could the old man actually come under
death and we be set free from the sin that is rooted in that old man.
Thus, Christ did die for the Adam race as our substitute.
But it was all unto the possibility that we could die WITH HIM and be set
free from the Adam race.
Paul also understood that Jesus Christ was raised for us.
But he knew that we are raised IN HIM.
Note that we are raised, not merely because of something Christ did – and
then handed to us. No.
We are raised IN HIM.
Can we see that Jesus did all of this FOR US – but so that we could
experience them IN HIM?
Christianity is CHRIST IN US – not merely – stuff Christ did for us.
Now, all of this brings us back to this matter of righteousness.
God does not merely declare us righteous because of Christ.
No. He gives us Christ, who
is our righteousness. Neither does
God give us a righteousness because of Christ that we now have in ourselves.
No. Again, He gives us
Christ, who is our righteousness.
Jesus Christ is the ONLY righteousness that exists.
Thus, if Christ is in us, we are the righteousness of God IN HIM.
The Christian doctrine of, “justification by faith,” states that if we
put our faith in Jesus Christ that God will impute our sin to Him, and will
impute to us His righteousness.
This is a great explanation of how God is able to LEGALLY and MORALLY justify
the sinner because of Jesus Christ.
But it does not go far enough – it does not go as far as Paul the apostle takes
it. Is our righteousness only a
LEGAL one? Are we merely saved
LEGALLY? Or are we saved because
Christ is in us?
Certainly, if we believe, God does IMPUTE to us the righteousness of
Jesus Christ. But more importantly,
if we believe, God IMPARTS to us Jesus Christ Himself.
Indeed, it is because God has imparted to us Christ – that Christ is in
us -- that God is able to declare us righteous and be telling the Truth:
Christ is our righteousness, and thus, we are the righteousness of God IN
Jesus Christ is in us if we are born from above.
And Christ in us is not only our life, but He is also our righteousness.
Indeed, the believer has NO OTHER righteousness.
As stated before, we are not given a righteousness of our own.
No. We remain as naked as
Adam. But when we abide in Christ,
He is our righteousness – this is not only legally imputed, but spiritually
What helps here is to see the separation between soul and spirit.
When we are saved, we are joined to the Lord and become one spirit with
Him. (I Cor. 6:17)
Our human spirit is united with Christ who dwells in us by the Spirit of
God. This spiritual or resurrection
union is the new man IN Christ Jesus. All
that is of Jesus Christ is contained within this union.
But all that is outside of that union remains of the natural man.
This Truth is so utterly important to grasp – it clears up so much as to
what the Bible is talking about and about how we function in Christ.
The point here is that it is Christ who brings, and carries, the
righteousness of God – the Christ with Whom we are one in Spirit.
There is NO righteousness outside of our union with Christ – that is – no
righteousness in our natural man.
And there never will be. God does
not make our natural man righteous, nor does He ever declare it so.
Rather, God declares us righteous because we are united in Spirit with
Jesus Christ, who is made to be the righteousness of God in us.
of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as
it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.
(I Cor. 1:30-31)
Passages like this one from I Cor. 1 state outright that Jesus Christ is
our righteousness. But it would
seem that most of us pass these verses over and never quite grasp the meaning.
We are being told that all the glory for what the believer has become
belongs to Jesus Christ – Christ in us IS our wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification, and redemption. HE
IS. Contrast that over and against
what most of us have thought: That
BECAUSE of what Jesus did, God makes US righteous, etc.
This error leads
to much trouble. If you think that
God has made YOU righteous then you are going to have to face the fact that you
don’t seem to be righteous at all.
What are you going to do with that?
Some get under condemnation. Others
get under whatever law they think will make them righteous like they should be.
Even others despair and doubt their Christianity.
But such trouble goes back to a wrong premise:
We have not seen the separation of soul from spirit.
We have not seen the distinction between Christ in us and our union with
Him – the distinction between that and our natural man.
So we read Bible verses that are talking about the new creation in Christ
and look for evidence of them being fulfilled in our natural man.
We will never find it.
Our natural man is supposed to come under Jesus as Lord – to come under
the government of our union with Christ.
But what this means is that the natural man is merely the place of
EFFECT, but not the SOURCE. Christ in us
is our righteousness and the effect of this will be seen in natural man.
But our natural man is not the source.
Christ is the source of all.
Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and the only righteousness we will
ever have. But this means our
righteousness in Christ is eternal, unchangeable, and not dependent upon our
works. We are righteous in Christ
because of HIMSELF – and in Him it is finished.
What this means is that when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and are
born from above, we are made one with Righteousness Himself.
He is the source. There will
be many effects IN US. But all the
glory goes to Him. God is able to
then tell the Truth: Declare us
righteous, and impute to us a legal righteousness – because Christ Himself is in
us, and we are one with Him.
Faith is not just a matter of believing I am righteous because of Christ
– that certainly is an essential – but there is more.
Faith is also a matter of depending upon Christ AS my righteousness – to
be my righteousness continually – I depend upon Christ as my very life.
Of course, this
matters when we sin – when we sin we must keep our faith in Christ as our living
righteousness. Indeed, if Christ is
our righteousness then there is no possibility that our sin can undo or defeat
that fact. His redemption work is
finished. We cannot, and need not,
finish it. Neither can we add to
it, or subtract from it through sin.
This is why Romans 8:1 is able to say, “There is now NO condemnation for
those in Christ Jesus.” By faith we
maintain our position in Christ and rely upon Him to be all that we cannot be.
Even when we sin, He is our righteousness.
Now, don’t misunderstand.
When I say, “By faith we maintain our position in Christ,” I am not suggesting
that anything we do can change that position.
That position of victory is forever in place.
But WE can change. It is by
faith that we stand in that position.
The Bible may assure us that there is no condemnation, but if we choose
not to believe it, we are not in the position of victory – we are in unbelief.
Thus, nothing can change the position of victory in Christ – He is our
righteousness. But WE can change
from faith to unbelief.
Note also that Christ is our righteousness, yes, when we sin, but also
when we OBEY God. If I think that
my good works obtain for me a righteousness, than I am just as much in unbelief
as when I think my bad works lose Christ as my righteousness.
Both errors are a righteousness based on works, rather than Christ as my
righteousness through faith.
I am only justified before God because of Jesus Christ.
There is absolutely nothing that I contribute to justification.
I am simply told I must believe and stand by faith in this great reality
So much confusion, and so many problems, in the Christian life are
cleared up once we grasp the Truth of Jesus Christ IN US.
We are joined to the Lord and are made one spirit with Him.
(I Cor. 6:17) Once we
realize this Truth, we will then be able to more fully grasp the fact that Jesus
Christ in us IS the righteousness of God, and all of those other realities the
Bible mentions. And we will
likewise see that even when we sin, or fall into unbelief, Jesus Christ is the
same IN US today, yesterday, and forever.
We can do nothing to change Christ.
We can simply believe and abide in Him.
It is finished. He is the
righteousness of God in the believer.
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