When you hear the word “righteousness” what comes to mind? The Biblical definition of righteousness is “right-standing with God”. However for many people, the idea of attaining this right-standing righteousness conjures up ideas of piousness and a need to work to earn righteousness before approaching God.
You may be a person well established in the Gospel of Grace, but you might be surprised how this mentality of trying to earn righteousness filters into our lives, even on a subconscious level. There are many people in churches today, serving not out of an abundance of God’s divine love and provision for them, but because they feel as though if they were not to, they would somehow lose spiritual points with God and fall out of favor with Him. But this idea exposes a lack of understanding regarding the righteousness of God, and so this what we will be studying today.
Our first scripture text today is going to be 2nd Corinthians 5:20-21:
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
We see from verse 20 that God Himself is beseeching us, drawing us near, inviting us; and the invitation is this: that in Christ’s stead, we are reconciled to God. The phrase “in Christ’s stead” means to be in His place, in His position. That is the wonderfully reality of everyone who is trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation… you and I – as believer’s are in the place and position of Christ, which is perfect right-standing with God for all eternity, never to be repealed or stolen away. It is on this foundation of the surety of where we stand in Christ that we can be reconciled to God. That word “reconciled” is a very rich word, meaning to restore, to reconsecrate and to be in harmony with. This is what God wants for every single person, and it is only possible when we see the truth of what Jesus has done for us. If we are living under the impression that we must work for or earn our righteousness, then we will never measure up because no one can earn righteousness through their works. In-fact, instead of reconciling us to God, a performance mentality will actually drive us farther from Him, since we will never have “done enough” in order to be accepted. This truth was made quite clear to me one day years ago after I had just received the left-foot of fellowship from a local church, and was experiencing a very dry time in the Word – I just wasn’t getting much out of the Bible and God seemed very distant. And I caught myself thinking this thought: “What do I need to do to get close to God again?”
When I actually noticed this thought going through my head, I began to realize how in error it was. First of all, nothing you or I could ever do has the power to move us closer to God than what Jesus has already done on the cross at Calvary some 2,000 years ago. Secondly, just because God seems far away at times does not mean that He is. My wrong belief back then was that instead of reading the Bible with God and actually enjoying the experience, I was instead reading the Bible as a chore to try and gain kudos with God so that I could feel closer to Him again. Do you see the difference there? The truth is that God is always with us, and today in Christ we always are in right-standing with Him – without needing to fulfill a checklist to earn or keep it. The foundation for this is in the next verse of our text.
Verse 21 tells us that God the Father has made Christ to be sin for us. This is something being done for us by God via Jesus. Jesus, the One who knew no sin, took all of your sins and mine, and bore the totality of the holy judgment of God upon Himself in our place with the end result being as is spelled-out in the verse: that we would be made the righteousness of God in Him.
My friends, when we truly begin to realize this truth, we will begin to truly receive the peace of God into our lives – because it comes from no other foundation than this… that today you and I have complete and total peace with God, not because we have earned it in any way, but because Jesus Christ has paid-in-full all of our sin debt. God has never gone soft on sin, nor did our sins escaped unpunished. But a Holy and Righteous God, rather than judge and condemn us all to Hell, has instead chosen to offer a substitute in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus, that all of our sins are laid upon Him and punished in His own body. He has bled for you, so that you would never have to bleed. He has broken His body for you, that yours never need be broken. He has taken each and every curse upon Himself, that you could be free from every curse, and blessings can flow freely into your life. Is this the God you know? Is this the Jesus you have received? There are many people today who are preaching another Jesus, a distant Jesus who is more guesswork and uncertain hopes rather than a Solid Rock upon which to stand, but I encourage you today to become acquainted with the Jesus of the Bible. The One who can truly save souls and set captives free. Turn with me now to Galatians 3:13-14:
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Notice right at the start of verse 13, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. This is past-tense, done and completed. We are not waiting to be redeemed some time later up in Heaven, but it is a completed act today. How did He do it? By being made a curse in our place. This is when He took all of our sins and bore all of our judgment, as He hung on that cross. Jesus spoke of this event in John 12:32, and most people think that this verse says that as Christ is lifted up from the earth, He will draw all men to Himself. However, contrary to popular belief, the word “men” does not appear in the original text (in the King James Version Bible, the word “men” is in italics, signifying its absence from the original Greek text). A careful study of the context of the surrounding verses, shows that it is speaking of the judgment of God – when Christ was lifted up on that cross, He indeed drew all judgment to Himself, and you and I were spared.
Verse 14 goes on to say that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. Notice that it says “blessing” (singular) and not “blessings” (plural), this is not a mistake or oversight, but it shows that in God’s view, it is all one lump sum of blessing given to us through Jesus, because He is more than worth it! With Him we are also freely given all things (Romans 8:32). Now there are more than 40 blessings given to Abraham by God, far too many to adequately study in our time today, but as a wonderfully enlightening study, I would recommend reading the first seven blessings of Abraham listed in Genesis 12. As you study those blessings, personalize them, apply them to your own life and make them yours – after all, they are yours in Christ Jesus today.
In closing tonight, none of this would mean anything, if the main point was missed. You can not rest in the righteousness of Christ if you still have lingering doubts about needing to earn it, maintain it, or strive for it. To think such things is to negate the finished work of Christ for you.
Peter said that Jesus committed no sin (1st Peter 2:22). Paul said that Jesus knew no sin (2nd Corinthians 5:21). John said there was no sin in Him (1st John 3:5). A threefold witness and testimony of the complete sinlessness of Jesus the Christ. And yet, we also read in our first scripture tonight that He was made sin in our place for us. This happened through imputation. Which is defined as “attribution of one person’s righteousness or guilt to another.” In the Old Testament, when someone committed a sin, they would bring a sacrificial animal to the temple and the priest would officiate the ceremony as the sin’s of the person were imputed to the animal, and the righteousness of the animal would likewise be imputed to the man (Leviticus 1:4).
Why is this important to know? Because I want you to really meditate on this truth: We have read it tonight, that Jesus was absolutely sinless. He knew no sin, He did no sin, and in Him was no sin. Our sins were imputed to Him, He did nothing to earn or deserve the judgment He received as us. Likewise, His righteousness, has been imputed to us. We have done nothing to earn or deserve the righteousness of God in Christ upon us today.
So then, the reason that you can rest in the righteousness of Christ today, free from fear and worry is because you know that you did nothing to earn it, and you can do nothing to lose it. It is yours because Jesus paid for it and has freely given it to you. So take a deep breath, relax, and rest in the righteousness of Christ for you.