Week 30: Righteousness



20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Romans 3:20-26

Often when we hear the word righteous or righteousness I think we immediately begin thinking about right activity. We think of righteousness in regards to perfect behavior. In the book of Romans, the word righteousness isn’t about right behavior, but right standing.

Here’s the definition: Righteousness is the quality of being in right standing or found without sin before God.

Now you may ask, how can we have a right standing before a perfect God when we are not right in our activity? Well, verse 22 tells us that it is provided through faith in Jesus Christ. Theologians use the term, imputed righteousness. That by putting our faith in Christ a transfer happens. He takes on our sin at the cross and His perfect life is credited to us.

In last week’s illustration of the phrase “missed the mark” we said that if perfection was the standard for moving forward in an archery tournament and you missed the mark in your first try then you couldn’t move forward.

To continue the analogy, imagine that Jesus was also in the archery tournament with you. And He goes three for three, perfect bullseyes in the first round. However, instead of moving on to round two He comes to you and He makes an offer. That He offers to trade scorecards with you. That He will take your imperfect score and you can have His perfect score. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it this way…

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 

This is righteousness imputed not imparted. Imparted means that if you do your part then God grants righteousness. Imputed means that it is credited to us by faith. What this means for you and I day to day is that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, when God the Father looks at us He sees the righteousness of His son.

That’s right, if we have put our faith in Christ then God sees us just as He sees His son, perfect. There are two incredible pictures of the imputed righteousness of Christ in the New Testament that may help us understand a little more.

One is in the story of “The Prodigal Son” that we’ve previously looked at. Remember when the younger son comes home and the father comes running to him from a long way off. One of the first things that the father does for his son is call for the best robe.  That would have been the father’s robe. That robe would have been spotless or perfect.

And maybe you remember that the younger son was coming from the pig farm and would have been covered in filth. And the father covers his son with his own spotless, perfect robe so that what is seen is not the son’s filth, but the father’s clean robe. This is imputed righteousness.

Another picture, that we’ve also studied is found in Ephesians 6. Paul says to put on the full armor of God. And one of the key pieces of armor that he instructs us to put on is the breast plate of righteousness. Have you ever seen a roman breastplate? It’s always a sculpted torso with perfect pecs and abs.

So, if you are wearing that breastplate, what is seen is the armor and NOT, at least in my case, the less than ideal figure that it would cover. This is a picture of Christ’s righteous life covering over anyone, that by faith trusts in Him. I think it would be nearly impossible to deepen your relationship with God if all you thought He saw in you were your sins. 

It would be hard to run to a heavenly Father that was constantly seeing only our failures. Well, I have good news. Because of the imputed righteousness of Christ in our lives, God sees perfection when He sees His children.

Therefore, may we dive deeper and deeper into our relationship with Him because through Christ we have a right standing before Him.