Thoughts on my righteousness before and after Christ

OVERVIEW. These thoughts on my righteousness, both absolute and practical, were captured from writing on December 29, 2022. Several terms will be discussed including “wholly unrighteous,” “absolutely righteous,” “practical righteousness,” and, in a subsequent post, “relative righteousness.”

WHOLLY UNRIGHTEOUS BEFORE CHRIST

Before salvation, that is, before a person’s initial saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all people are wholly unrighteous. The Bible makes clear that “unrighteous” is the state of all unbelievers without exception. All are born absolutely unrighteous and, in that state, they remain unless they are rescued from that domain of darkness by Christ (Col. 1:13). There is no righteousness in them. All their righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Any efforts at works-righteousness despise the offering of Christ on the cross as the only atonement for sin (Acts 4:12; Eph. 1:7; Mark 10:45), because they substitute man’s sinful efforts for Christ’s perfect sacrifice. The Bible declares that, before my justification, there was no righteousness in me at all. I was a child of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3) and was subject to His full condemnation.

ABSOLUTELY RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH IN CHRIST

But at the moment of my salvation, I was justified. That is, I was declared righteous by the Holy One of Israel because of my faith in Jesus and immediately there was imputed to my account the full righteousness of Christ. In a moment, I moved from wholly unrighteous to fully righteous (John 5:24; Acts 13:48; 16:31). At salvation, I was wrapped in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10; confirm 2 Cor. 5:21)) and, from then on, I am viewed by God to possess (by the Lord’s imputation and declaration) the full righteousness of the Lord Jesus Himself. As a disciple of the Lord Jesus, I have received an absolute righteousness and I will be fully righteous for all of eternity.

PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS

This biblical doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to all who believe in Jesus can, however, cause some confusion, especially among those who have recently come to Christ. The confusion can take one of two forms. The new believer can think, “Well, since by faith the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me, I do not need to be overly concerned about my ongoing sin.” This is a grievous error, because it suggests that the Lord does not make holy those He saves. (See also Matthew 5:6 and Romans 6:1-2; etc.) The other end of the spectrum is the idea that, “Since by faith the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me, I should quickly cease from all sinning.” This latter error reveals a misunderstanding about the process of sanctification and about the disciple’s necessary growth in practical righteousness.

The Bible teaches that there are two types of righteousness that come to the person who trusts Christ as their Lord and Savior. We have already addressed the absolute righteousness of Christ that is imputed to every believer at the moment of salvation. This event is called justification when God declares the sinner righteous. But justification necessarily ushers in the process of sanctification, which is the lifelong journey in which the disciple of Jesus grows in practical righteousness. In the process of sanctification, through the use of the means of grace and by “working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), the disciple of Jesus strives to close the gap between Christ’s perfect righteousness, which has been imputed to their account at salvation, and the disciple’s current experience of practical righteousness in their life. Slowly, steadily, “little by little” (Ex. 23:29-30; Deut. 7:22) God the Holy Spirit works together with the disciple as the disciple’s hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied (Matt. 5:6). As practical righteousness grows, the disciple becomes more evidently conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29) and brings forth more of the fruit of righteousness (Luke 3:8).

There is another term that I want to consider in this subject of righteousness, and it is the term “relative righteousness.” In his salvation, the believer has received the absolute righteousness of Christ and has embarked on the path of growing practical righteousness. What, then, is this “relative righteousness” of which we speak? Tune in next time!

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 1/4/2023                     #607

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 1) – The believer’s new identity

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people. This post is about the disciple’s new identity.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

Our study text above begins by Peter telling us about our new identity, and the apostle gives us four characteristics that are now true of us that were not true of us before. But the presence of a new identity requires the existence of an old identity. And this is the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that “the old man” can and must die and “the new man” must rise to take his place. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to convert a human soul, to “rescue us from the domain of darkness and transfer us into the kingdom of Christ” (Col. 1:13). Only by bowing the knee to Jesus and trusting Him alone for my salvation can I receive my new identity.

But before we explore the four characteristics of our new identity in Christ, we need to look at the old identity we had without Christ.

THE OLD IDENTITY OF “SINNER”

Formerly, unrepentant sin was the dominant and defining characteristic of our life. It may seem strange for me to say that, because, for the sinner, sin is just not that big a deal, and for someone to say that “sin is the defining characteristic of your life” seems like hyperbole. But keep in mind that we are now seeing the issue of our sin from God’s point of view. From God’s point of view, unrepentant sin defines a person’s life. From God’s point of view, unrepentant sin results in condemnation and judgment. So, sin is big deal to God. Having unrepentant, unforgiven sin gives us the identity of “sinner.”

So, formerly, with our old identity as “sinner,” our sin established a separation between us and God, the Holy One (Isaiah 59:2). On our part, we sinned with delight and we sinned without remorse (Romans 1:28-32; 6:20-21; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Peter 4:3; etc.). We sinned without regard to consequences and without regard to “the wrath of God revealed from heaven against our ungodliness and our unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). Regardless of the degree of our sin, whether small or great, we were defiant rebels who willfully remained ignorant of our sin. We were happily oblivious to the fact that we were “storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).

Then came the day when those who were happy in their sin heard the gospel. An ambassador for Christ proclaimed to them that God is holy and that they were sinners and that God’s wrath abided on them (John 3:36) because of their sin. But Christ, the Son of God, had exchanged heaven’s glory for the agony of the cross so that anyone who believes in Him would not perish, but would have eternal life (John 3:16). They had believed that message and embraced that Christ and had passed from death to life (John 5:24).

THE DISCIPLE OF CHRIST IS “SINNER” NO LONGER

Recall that, before we had repented and trusted in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we had our old identity of “sinner.” But now in Christ, believers are sinners no longer. This is the amazing reality of our new life in Christ. While it is true that we continue to sin, we are no longer “sinners.” Even though we will not be free from all sin until we die, when we finally shed the flesh that indwells this mortal body, our old identity as “sinner” is no more. God now relates to us as saints who are wrapped in Christ’s robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). Our sins, which were as scarlet and which were on proud display for all to see, have been made whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18).

The Bible does not refer to believers as sinners because heaven no longer sees our sins. All our sins – past, present, and future – have been nailed to Christ’s cross (Col. 2:14) and are, therefore, no longer a barrier between the believer and the living God. All the believer’s sins, whether flagrant or mild, whether intentional or unintentional, whether acknowledged or unknown, are as far from the believer as east is from west (Psalm 103:12). Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the Lord has cast all my sins behind His back (Isaiah 38:17), yes, He has cast all my sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Those whom the Lord has declared as righteous can no longer be “sinners.”

NEW IDENTITY

So, if we are no longer sinners and our old identity has been buried with Christ, who are we now? Who have we become? That will be the subject of the next post on 1 Peter 2:9 as we look at the four characteristics of the disciples of Jesus.

SDG                 rmb                 4/27/2022                   #522