Righteousness is required if one is ever to see God and is ever to enter into heaven. Righteousness is required if there is ever to be peace between you and God. The Lord demands that those who dwell with Him possess an inviolate righteousness. Saul the Pharisee firmly believed this to be the case. As he climbed his way up the ladder of religious success, Saul the Pharisee knew that a holy God required that those who would approach His throne must be righteous. For this reason, Saul strove with his entire strength and energy to obey every jot and tittle of the Law of the Jews. Saul was determined to earn his place in God’s kingdom. He was determined to earn his righteousness. Didn’t the Law promise that those who worked the hardest would earn God’s favor? Thus, Saul the zealous Pharisee would obtain his righteousness before the Holy One by his works of the Law. He would be acceptable to God through earned, man-made righteousness.
Then one day Saul met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). There was blinding, blazing glory all around him that roared, “RIGHTEOUSNESS!” The glory and holiness and overwhelming presence of the righteousness of the risen Jesus Christ drove Saul face down into the dirt. Now here was a righteousness that was worthy of the name. There was nothing artificial or man-made or earthly about this. Saul, soon to be Paul, felt the palpable presence of divine, inviolate, inherent, glorious, limitless righteousness, and the cheap man-made counterfeit that he had so vigorously pursued was consumed in an instant. Now Paul understood this powerful gospel truth: There are two kinds of righteousness.
“. . . I count all things 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” – Paul in Philippians 3:8-9
Of all people, Paul may have been able to build the most convincing case for meriting his own righteousness. He had all the credentials and he had done all the works. He was as zealous for the Law as a man could be. According to the Jewish religion, he had, indeed, earned his righteousness. So, Paul did have a righteousness, but it was a righteousness of his own derived from the Law. It was awarded by men to men on the basis of man’s scale of righteousness. While this might impress some people and gain the admiration of some, this righteousness had no value in heaven; had no power to deal with sin; could not change a person’s heart and could not deliver the “blameless one” from the full and terrifying fury of the holy wrath of the Lord God Almighty. This kind of righteousness is “rubbish / dung” in the sight of the living God (consider Isaiah 64:6).
Is this the righteousness that you possess? Knowing that the Lord requires righteousness from those who would approach His throne, have you tried to earn your way to righteousness? Are you trusting that your church attendance or your baptism or your giving or your mission work or your witnessing or your Bible reading or your token attempts to “be good” will earn you God’s favor and will satisfy His holy demands? Consider carefully if yours is a works righteousness. Do you rely on this kind of righteousness? Do you put confidence in the flesh and what the flesh has been able to achieve? You need to know that this kind of righteousness is a stench in the Lord’s nostrils and appears to Him as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). You are in serious trouble if this is your kind of righteousness.
The righteousness that we require is one that will meet the holy demands of the Holy One, a righteousness that fulfills the requirements of the Law and merits the approval and the acceptance of the Lord. This kind of righteousness is available from only one source: it must be received by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness of God since it comes from God. It is imputed, not earned, when anyone places their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.
So, let me ask you again: Which kind of righteousness do you possess?
SDG rmb 11/15/2018