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True Righteousness

By David A. DePra

Most Christian people understand that we are not saved by our own righteousness. We should likewise know that we cannot maintain our salvation, or God’s grace, by our own righteousness. But many of us think that what this means is that God will, "not allow," our righteousness. We think He, "will allow," only the righteousness of His Son by faith. This is wrong thinking and misses the Truth.

Righteousness is not a matter of what God will allow. It is not a matter of God’s accepting the righteousness of Christ, and not accepting our righteousness. No. This is a matter of the TRUTH. There is NO righteousness except that of Christ. Any righteousness that we think we have is a LIE.

So this isn’t about, "following God’s way of becoming righteous," as opposed to, "following another way." There IS NO other way. This is why Jesus said, "I AM the Way." Righteousness and life are found only in Christ. The rest is a lie.

Christ, Our Righteousness

John 1:1 reads, "In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." You will read in this verse no mention of man – Adam was not yet created. Thus, before man existed there was God – and therefore before the creation of man there was life, and there was righteousness – in God. This shows that all righteousness, yes, comes from God, but better said, all righteousness IS God’s.

This is why Jesus was able to say, "I AM………" He taught plenty, and God gives much. But in the end, all that God has for us is found – not merely FROM His Son – but IN HIS SON. The very PERSON of Jesus Christ contains all that pertains to life and godliness. I know that is abstract. But it is a fact. God is the only source of good.

This is why it is crucial for those who profess Christ to realize that Christianity is CHRIST IN US – and that it is only IN HIM, and not in us, that we come into the experience of all that is of God. HE is life, light, Truth – sure. He is God. We are complete, not merely because of Him, but we are complete IN HIM. (Col. 2:9-10)

This is certainly so with regards to righteousness. So ask: Does Christ make us righteous? No. Rather, Christ IS our righteousness.

But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption…as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (I Cor. 1:30)

Here we see what is the real Truth of justification by faith. Through faith, God does IMPUTE to us the righteousness of His Son. That is the legal aspect of the Truth. But it is based on something greater – God IMPARTS to us Christ Himself. THAT is why God can rightly declare us righteous. Christ is IN US – He is one with our spirit – and therefore He is our righteousness. So when God declares us righteous, He is simply telling the Truth about us because we are one with His Son.

The ramifications of this Truth are staggering. For if Christ is our righteousness, then nothing can subtract from Him, or can be added to Him. We are complete IN HIM. Only if works can destroy the righteous of Christ, can our works destroy His righteousness, or for that matter, add to His righteousness. No. The righteousness of Christ is eternal. It did not come about because of us, and it is not maintained because of us. We are complete IN HIM – by faith.

The most perfect works cannot produce true righteousness, because the most perfect works cannot produce Christ. Rather, we are one with Christ, and thus, righteous in Him – and then the works emerge.

So it is never a question as to whether our works, or anything about us, is righteous enough. Rather, it is a matter of TRUE righteousness. Righteousness through works is a lie. Jesus is the Truth. Christ is the only TRUE righteousness that exists.

God’s Design

Most people think that we need the grace of God only because of the sin of Adam. But this is because we tend to limit grace to merely the idea of forgiveness. Grace, however, is much more. The grace of God is really God’s giving of Himself to man. And it is an abiding relationship afterwards. Thus, it is a fact that mankind needed God’s grace not only AFTER the sin of Adam, but also BEFORE. Mankind needed the grace of God before the sin because mankind needed God Himself before the sin.

God originally designed man as a creature who would be ONE WITH GOD. God was to be the very LIFE of man. Thus, man is a creature who is to be a recipient of God Himself – as a free gift. Man’s very life was to be God’s gift.

As noted, we tend to think of grace as referring only to forgiveness. We think of grace as restorative – back to what was lost through sin. But even before Adam’s sin, all was of grace. God created man and made Himself one with man. This was grace. It was life. It was all free.

What this means is that God never created man with a life of his own – man did not have life within himself. Neither did God create man with a righteousness of his own. God’s original design of Adam did not include any capacity for man to be righteous in himself – Adam had NO life and NO righteousness in himself as the source. Rather, Adam was to be ONE WITH GOD in spirit, and as such, God Himself was to be Adam’s righteousness – indeed, God was to be the very life of Adam.

Notice what I am saying. God did NOT create Adam and implant into him a righteousness. He did not give Adam a life that functioned independent of God. No. Everything about Adam that was good was only there because God was in him. Adam was one with God in spirit, and because of that, Adam was righteous with God’s righteousness, and Adam was alive with God’s life.

We see this dramatically when Adam sinned. Adam’s sin was that he chose to live from himself, and in doing so, he walked away from God. Thus, God was no longer one with him. Thus, Adam lost all righteousness and he lost all life. In effect, Adam died. He died because he rejected the One in whom was all life – and when you are no longer one with LIFE HIMSELF you are dead.

This is clearly pictured in the description of Adam before his sin, and then after his sin. Before his sin, Adam was, "naked and unashamed." Nakedness shows that Adam had nothing in himself. He had no righteousness inherent in himself. He had no life that belonged to himself. No. He was naked of all of that. But Adam was actually blind to his own nakedness – i.e., unashamed – because he was COMPLETED as a being by God Himself. Thus, despite having NOTHING in himself, Adam had everything in God – righteousness, life, etc. -- by virtue of his oneness with God.

Adam was created and designed to be naked – but unashamed. That was God’s original thought for a human being. But when Adam sinned, it is said that he was then, "naked but ashamed." You will note that Adam was naked both before and after his sin. What changed was that God no longer completed him. Thus, after the sin he was still naked, only now fully ashamed and conscious of his emptiness.

The Truth here that we need to see is that the only source of righteousness that exists is God Himself. Sure, He is the only Source of life – and in life is all righteousness. Thus, it was never God’s intention that we have our own righteousness – indeed, there is NO righteousness other than that of God’s righteousness – any other righteousness is a LIE. This ought to make us see the folly of trying to make ourselves righteous through our own working. We cannot. The best we can do is create a righteousness that is a delusion and a lie.

The only righteousness that is TRUE is that of Jesus Christ. And we can be imparted and imputed with HIS righteousness only if we are baptized INTO CHRIST – that is, made ONE with Him in His Cross and resurrection. The righteousness of Jesus Christ isn’t simply the best option. It is the only true righteousness. God never made man to have his own righteousness. Thus, in Christ alone are we made t truly righteous before God – yet not with our own righteousness – but with HIS righteousness.

Joined to the Lord

I was listening to a Christian television program the other day. This program had a good message about the Cross. But then the person who was speaking made a statement that disappointed me. He said, "It is through the work of the Cross that God gives us all of His blessings." Now, that SOUNDS right. But it is not exactly right. Why? Because it describes God’s blessings as THINGS we receive if we put our faith in the Cross. This is not what happens. Rather, if we put our faith in Christ, what we get is CHRIST HMSELF. And IN HIM are all of the blessings of God.

I am not making a petty distinction. Christian people have to grasp the fact that God does not give THINGS apart from His Son, or even MERELY because we believe in His Son. No. God gives His Son! Period! But in His Son are all things that are of God. Therefore, the only way to receive the blessings of God is to receive the One in whom all the blessings reside, and then to see them unfolded as a by product of our relationship with HIM.

This is certainly the case with righteousness. If you and I come to the Cross of Jesus Christ, God doesn’t simply give us a thing or a classification called, "righteousness." No. God gives us Christ within – and HE is righteousness personified. In other words, we are planted or baptized into the death of Christ. But if we are planted into the death of Christ – and thus, made one with Him in His death – the Bible says that we are therefore one with Him in His resurrection. Add all of this up and what you have is Christianity: Christ is in you, the hope of glory. You are now one with Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. You are righteous IN HIM.

Now, can we see what this means? It means that God does not give us a dose of His righteousness. He does not merely classify us as righteous. Neither does He make us to possess a righteousness of our own that is inherent in ourselves. No. What it means is that we are now ONE with the SOURCE of all life, light, and righteousness. Thus, Jesus is our righteousness. He is the only righteousness we have, and the only righteousness there is. Jesus Christ in us, one with us in Spirit, is the source of all the blessings of God for us.

So when I come to the Cross, it is not a matter of God responding by giving me a bunch of THINGS or a bunch of blessings. No. Rather, I become one with Jesus Christ, who IS life, light, Truth, and righteousness. I receive the blessings of God because they are all IN HIM and He is IN ME. Sure. I am raised in Him. That is why I am blessed in Him.

But why is this important? It is important because Christian people need to see that they are the source of NOTHING and that Christ is the source of everything. I’m talking about a distinction between US and the Christ who dwells in us. Our faith is never to be in the earthen vessel. It is to be solely in the Treasure.

So we see that the original design and purpose that God had for man was NOT to create in the nature of man the capacity to be righteous without God or to live without God. No. If we try, we die. We become a lie. Rather, man was created to live IN GOD – to be one with Him. Man was to be a partaker of all that God is, including righteousness.

This is the Truth behind the gospel of grace. It is the message of Paul to the Galatians. He tells them that if you try to make yourselves righteous before God through works that any such righteousness is a LIE. The only righteousness that has ever been possible is that which is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. Become a new creation in Christ – become one with Christ – and you will be righteous with HIS righteousness.

Christ, Our Life

Colossians 3:4 says, "Christ, who IS our life." Note that this is much different than saying, "Christ, who gives us a thing called life." Likewise, Paul says in Galatians, "I am crucified WITH Christ." Paul knew Christ had been crucified FOR him. But that is not what he says here. Rather, Paul states a Truth that is only possible BECAUSE Christ was crucified FOR him. He says, "I am crucified WITH Christ." I could go on. Romans 6 states, "We are baptized INTO Christ." It goes on to say, "We are planted together into the likeness of His death." We also read in I Cor. 6:17 that, "he that is JOINED to the Lord is one spirit with Him." If you read all of these passages, and really grasp the Truth therein, what you conclude is that Christianity is not a religion. It is not merely a list of doctrines, or a bible-based belief system. Christianity is CHRIST IN US, and all that He means – and really, He means everything.

Read Colossians. There you will find the emphasis is upon the fact that ALL that God has for us is in Christ. Indeed, we are warned against seeking what we need – whether it be spiritually or materially – we are told to beware lest we seek what we need elsewhere. If we do, it isn’t a matter of God getting mad at us. Rather, if we seek what we need elsewhere we will be in darkness. Christ is our life. Christ is our righteousness. Try to obtain life or righteousness elsewhere, including from YOURSELF, and you are deceived. You are not walking in the Truth.

Read Galatians. The sin of the Galatians church was not that they had bought into false doctrine. They had. But that was just another symptom. Their sin was that they were looking to themselves as the source of their righteousness. They needed to read, "I am crucified with Christ." Or, to make application to this, "My own righteousness is crucified with Christ."

To try to find righteousness in myself – whether it be through my works, or anything else of myself -- is therefore a denial of the Cross. It is a denial of the Cross because the Cross is the death of myself – it is the death of myself as the source of anything. Through the Cross the lie of my own righteousness is crucified with Christ. The Cross forbids all that is natural and earthly. It forbids, if you will, the SELF. But again, it is not as if God is being picky and prefers or demands only the righteousness of His Son. No. The Cross exposes the LIE and shows the Truth. There is only one true righteousness: That of Christ. The rest is a lie.

The Galatians needed to realize that everything about themselves was crucified with Christ. But they also needed to realize that because of this, they could, with Paul, proclaim, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ…" Can we see that Paul is saying that Christ is HIS LIFE? Paul is ONE with Christ. Yet all that is of value is brought into this union by Christ. Sure. That is why Paul continues by saying, "And the life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." And just so we don’t miss it, he adds, "For if righteousness comes by the law, Christ died for nothing."

That is such a simple statement. But it is earthshaking. We are being told that righteousness cannot come by the law. In other words, absolutely NOTHING we do can contribute to TRUE righteousness. Nothing. But just as importantly, NOTHING we do can subtract from true righteousness. Why? Because Christ is our righteousness. There is no other. If Christ is our life then He is our righteousness – and His life is incorruptible, sealed with the eternal victory of His resurrection.

Jesus Christ didn’t die to merely give us a THING called LIFE. No. Jesus died to deliver us from our life. And if we receive Him, through His resurrection, He BECOMES OUR NEW LIFE. And if Christ IS our life, and Christ is in us, it ought to be clear as to where our faith needs to be.

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