It’s Not Our Righteousness But Christ’s

I came across John Piper’s summary of the first five chapters of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome – and found it to be excellent and worth passing on…

There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). All are guilty before God because of union with Adam in his first sin (5:12-14). And we all become our “own little Adams” when our depravity meets the Law of God and overflows in specific acts of transgression (5:16, 20). Therefore, there is no getting right with God – no justification – on the basis of deeds done by us in righteousness (3:20). Instead there is one and only one hope for sinners: a second Adam, Jesus Christ, has come into the world and provided both blood (5:9) and righteousness (5:18). Blood to cover all our sins, and righteousness so that our account is not empty but filled with perfect obedience – the obedience of Jesus (5:19). Therefore, it is by faith and by faith alone that we receive this grace of justification (3:28; 5:17) and obtain eternal life – the hope of glory.

What are some strategic implications?

  • Our right (or legal) standing with God is based on who God is and what he has done, not on who we are or what we have done – or, not done.
  • God credits to us his own righteousness in Christ through our faith in his righteousness.
  • For hundreds of years theologians have used the phrase “imputed righteousness.” This simply means that God imputes, or attributes, or deposits his righteousness to your account through faith because of Jesus Christ’s obedience.
  • This is a HUGE concept – to see that what we have access to is Christ’s righteousness. It doesn’t get better when our faith is strong. It doesn’t get worse when our faith is weak. It is perfect, because he is perfect.
  • Our faith is not our righteousness. Our faith unites us to Christ so that God’s righteousness in Christ is credited to us.

For Martin Luther and John Bunyan the discovery of the imputed righteousness of Christ was the greatest life-changing experience they ever had. Luther said it was like entering a paradise of peace with God. For Bunyan it was the end of years of spiritual torture and uncertainty.

What Luther and Bunyan discovered was the Gospel message in its entirety. They discovered that the good news was, not only the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross as payment for their sins (which is certainly great news), but they also discovered that Christ’s perfect life of responsive obedience to his Father was imputed to their account.

One final thought…the word “gospel” simply means “good news” and this concept, or doctrine, of imputed righteousness is a key ingredient (see Rom 1:16-17).

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