This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1997 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the second.
In this series of "In His Presence" messages we are looking more closely at each of those terms - wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption - and discussing just how Jesus is made to be, or becomes those things for God's people according to God's eternal plan.
In the last session, we considered wisdom: the apostle writes that God chose the lowly, base things to confound the wisdom of the world. The all wise and knowing, holy God is angry at the idolatry of men, and laughs at the foolishness of men who would be wise in and of themselves. Therefore, He chose unlearned, sinful fisherman to proclaim to the world the account of the Man who lived a sinless life, was unjustly tried, sentenced, and executed in disgrace, then rose again from the dead, and thereby saved the world! Though unbelief mocks this message, it is the only real wisdom that exists.
The apostle's second term is RIGHTEOUSNESS. We've seen how the Bible's wisdom is wisdom that asks and answers the question: how can I be in a right relationship with God? We saw that it is only in Jesus Christ that this kind of wisdom is possible. In discussing righteousness, we build on that, and see what Christ does to make us able to stand before an all holy God.
What is righteousness? Righteousness is conformity to the Law of God, His moral standard for mankind. It is absolutely impossible for the requirements of righteousness to be ignored or set aside by God. The conformity to this exalted standard must include more than our outward acts, and must be utterly perfect. That is why Jesus asserted that to be unjustly angry with your brother brings guilt like that of physically murdering him, or that the one who has wrong desires inwardly has committed adultery already in his heart. God demands total conformity to His Law in the most trivial thought, the most passing motive or feeling, in every word of every sentence spoken, in the least significant action. Since all have sinned and come w-a-a-ay short of this, all are unrighteous, and a very fundamental problem exists for humanity.
To the person listening to my voice who recognizes these things, who realizes that he or she falls far, far short of God's standard, I imitate the words of the Lord Jesus, and say, "you are not far from the kingdom of God!"
Let's look at the prophecy of Jeremiah, where we find words about the coming of the Messiah. Jeremiah is speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah God in the flesh, in this passage: "In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safety: Now this is His name by which He will be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS", Jeremiah 23:6.
The prophet proclaims the same message as Paul, that the Lord IS our righteousness! Note carefully: Neither Jeremiah nor Paul say that the Lord will strengthen us to act, speak, and think righteously, though He surely does. They don't say that the Lord will instruct us in righteousness, though He surely does. They don't say that the Lord will show us a righteous life, though He surely did. They go far beyond all this and proclaim that the Lord IS our righteousness! How can this be?
We can't discuss righteousness in the Bible's sense of the term without discussing a word that every Christian should know, that is justification. To justify someone is to declare them to be righteous. This is what God does regarding all who are in Christ, He declares them righteous, though in themselves they are unrighteous. Yet He Himself is most righteous is doing this!
When Adam sinned, the whole human race sinned in Adam. That great mystery raises questions about which theologians have argued for centuries. For our purposes now, it would be well to humbly accept the testimony of God's word: "through one man sin entered the world", Romans 5:12. "By the transgression of the one the many died", verse 15. "Through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners", verse 19.
Because of the rebellion against God committed by Adam in the garden of Eden, each of his descendants, that is every human being who has ever lived, begins life charged with guilt. Moreover, we all inherit Adam's corrupted nature, the result of God's curse because of Adam's sin. In Psalm 51, king David writes, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Like David we all came into the world that way. Therefore, we commit sins and cannot do otherwise. All our attempts at righteousness appear as filthy rags to the God Who demands immaculately clean garments, Isaiah 64:6. So the sad case of every man, woman, boy and girl that has ever lived is that we are born sinners and therefore go on in sin as life goes on, being unable to do otherwise. The Bible describes the existence we have by nature as really sort of a living death: we are dead in trespasses and sins until Christ saves us.
What hope can there be for such people as us to be declared righteous? Even if it were possible to reform ourselves and never sin again, which it is not, how could our original sin and the actual sins we have commited from birth be paid for? We are in dire straits indeed. But there is HOPE!
What has been said about human beings being born guilty, corrupt, and dead in trespasses and sins holds true for every descendant of Adam except One: Jesus Christ the righteous. Although He is truly a Man, and physically descended from Adam, He also traces His ultimate lineage from heaven! He alone of all men is without sin. Listen to the words of His apostle:
"For He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him", 2 Cor. 5:21. I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:8,9.
Stupendous! Do you see what Paul is saying? God declares believers in Christ righteous by two acts of imputation. To impute is to reckon; God has done some reckoning in love whereby He can righteously declare sinners to be righteous! In the first place, He reckoned our sins to CHRIST's account. This is why Peter says of Christ that "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross". In the second place, God reckons Jesus' perfect righteousness to OUR account! Not only does God impute or reckon our sins to Christ, but He imputes or reckons Christ's perfect righteousness to us...that is, to us who are saved by putting our complete confidence in Christ.
O the majesty and glory, the wonder and joy! This is the theme of heaven's sweetest songs; the One Who has done this is the Object of the adoration of the saints for eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself has actually BECOME the beautiful righteousness of His people! When Jesus said that the heavenly Father would clothe His children more beautifully than the lilies of the field, He surely had in view not merely earthly garments, but His own perfect righteousness! O you who tremble before the law of a holy God, why try to launder and sew up those filthy rags of your own righteousness when you can be clothed with Jesus Himself!
When Jesus said to His disciples that "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven", He surely was not saying that we had to play their religious game better than they themselves did! Why trust deceptive schemes of self-justification and self-made religion when you can have the eternal, Almighty, all holy God Himself declare you perfectly righteous - Himself remaining perfectly righteous in doing so!
This is God's free gift...a GIFT RIGHTEOUSNESS! The verse we are studying in First Corinthians is from a context in which Paul is humbling the pride of man. Indeed, this way of righteousness is humbling, it undercuts all grounds of boasting in oneself. Jesus Himself said in John 6 that although the flesh profits nothing, His flesh and blood is true food and drink! That is, spiritually partaking of His sacrifice of Himself is the only way to forgiveness; the imputation of His righteousness comes only with being united to Him by faith. This wonderful gift righteousness must be received by faith. You must call upon the Lord. Call upon Him now, do not delay. He who comes to Me I will not cast out, said the Lord Jesus. WHOEVER calls upon the name of the Lord, says the Spirit of God in the Bible, WILL be saved!
Go to Session Three - Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31
Go to 2 Timothy 2:15 Dept.
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