Boasting in Christ: Christ is Our Righteousness

boast-in-the-lordIt wouldn’t take you long to learn that I am not perfect. Spent any amount of time with me and I am bound to say something insensitive, be dismissive, act selfishly, or just simply be a jerk. My wife could probably validate those claims, I spend a lot of time with her and she’s seen me at my worst. Most of us know we are not perfect, we even admit it. “Nobody’s perfect,” we say. When it comes to our relationship with God, however, we might be inclined to think that we can be “good enough” to earn favor with God. The Bible tells us, however, that we must be righteous before God and since none of us is righteous ourselves we need help. So, the Bible tells us that Christ is righteousness for us. We desperately need the righteousness of Christ.

As we continue looking at Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:30 we see this very idea communicated. Paul states that Christ is our “righteousness.” We move from epistemology to ethics, then. It is not simply that we come to God via the “wisdom” of Christ, we also come to God via the perfect life of Christ. The Bible outlines for us the desperate need we have for an alien righteousness and the gospel truth that Christ gives us his righteousness. Most famously perhaps, Paul speaks of the great transference: my sin to Christ, and his righteousness to me. He writes to the Corinthians in his second letter saying:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

Christ became sin for us, and through Him we become righteous. Paul writes to the Philippians too explaining that the believer does not have a righteousness of law-keeping, but rather has a righteousness that “comes through faith in Christ” (Phil. 3:9). More helpfully, perhaps, he explains to the Romans that the righteous requirements of the law had to be met, but that Christ met them on our behalf. He writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

The righteous requirements of the law are “fulfilled in us” how? By the sending of the Son in the “likeness of sinful flesh and for sin” in order to “condemn sin in the flesh” the requirements are fulfilled for us. How does Jesus condemn sin in the flesh? He accomplishes it by being perfectly obedient to the law and dying for sin. Both the passive and active work of Christ are important for our salvation. I need both my sin paid for and Christ’s righteousness accredited to my account. Apart from his obedience I am still not reconciled to God. My sin has been taken away at the cross, but if I don’t also have obedience to the law I will not see God (Heb. 12:14; Matt. 5:20; Matt. 5:8). Christ is my righteousness because I have none of my own (Rom. 3:10, 23; Isaiah 64:6).

The longer we live the more evident this reality becomes. Faithful Christians growing in their walk with the Lord will increasingly sense the disparity between themselves and a holy God. They will burden of our sin becomes more serious to us, more frustrating. When we are new believers, young in the faith and young in knowledge, we do not sense as clearly all the sinfulness that clings to our bodies and hearts. The longer we spend time with the Lord, however, the more clear those realities become to us. We are not righteous, and so we rejoice even more fully in the righteousness of Christ. I know this to be true in my own life. The longer I live the reality of my own immorality and wickedness is evident to me. I see so much more clearly now than before that my heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9).  There are days where the honest cry of my heart is not that of Paul’s, “Why do I do the very thing I hate.” There are days where the truth is I do not hate my sin, but rather love it. My heart is wicked and I have no righteousness of my own to contribute to my salvation. I am desperate for Jesus both for my past justification and my continued sanctification. I need the righteousness of Christ.

Christ is our righteousness. No matter how much we accomplish, how well we love, live, serve, and obey, we will never be perfect. We need Christ and His righteousness to make us holy. Praise God today, that though you and I are failures we have a savior who is ready to make us righteous through His own life. Rejoice in the righteousness of Christ. Boast in the Lord.

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