Central Truth: We can approach God with full assurance because we have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
This lesson brings us up to Step 6 in our study of the highest faith. In it we want to help You gain new insight into the meaning of the words “righteous” and “righteousness” as shown in the scriptures.
Step 6 – The Reality of Our Righteousness in Christ
II Corinthians 6:14-16
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Reading the above scripture, many people see in it only teaching of separation from the world. And they immediately practice segregation, thinking it is separation. They feel that they cannot have anything to do with the world or anyone in the world. They even segregate themselves from other Christians, if they don’t completely agree with them. However, Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth … Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). And in order to be the “salt” in the world, in order to be the “light” in the world, we must remain in the world, doing our job for the Lord.
A man once said to me, “I am the only Christian where I work. Pray that God will move me out.”
“Oh, no,” I told him, “the place would really be corrupt without your influence. You stay right there. You’re the salt of the earth; you stay right there and salt it.” We are in the world, but not of the world. I want you to notice something else in this scripture, something equally important. Notice that believers are called believers and unbelievers are call unbelievers. Then it says, “For what fellowship bath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion bath light with darkness?” Notice that the believer is called “righteousness” and the unbeliever is referred to as “unrighteousness.” The scripture also refers to the believer as “light” and the unbeliever as “darkness.”
Have you ever thought of yourself as “righteousness”? To many, the idea of calling oneself “righteousness” sounds egotistical. Yet these same persons do not object to calling themselves “believers” or “light.” This scripture uses all three terms to refer to believers.
Continuing with verse 15 we read, “And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” In this verse we see the church, or believers, referred to as Christ, for He is the Head and we are the Body. And of course, our head doesn’t go by one name and our body another. The church is Christ, and we are the body of Christ. Holding these thoughts in mind, let us took at some more scriptures in the Book of Romans.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
In this passage of scripture the Greek word that is translated “righteousness” or “righteous” is translated “just” and “justifier” here. In other words, verse 26 could just as easily read, “that he might be righteous, and the righteousness of him which believeth in Jesus.” The words used here for “righteous” and “just” are interchangeable.
What does all this mean? What is God teaching us through this scripture? That God through Jesus declared His righteousness. That God Himself is righteous, and that God is my righteousness. He is the “righteousness of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Romans 5:17 says, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” Most people have thought that righteousness is something that one attains by right living. Righteousness does mean rightness or right standing. But this scripture says that it is a gift – not something which we can earn by good deeds and clean living. A gift is something which we receive instantly; a stage of spiritual development is fruit. If righteousness were fruit, the scripture would read, “and the fruit of righteousness.” However, it says, “the gift of righteousness.”
Every one of God’s dear children has the same righteousness and the same standing with God. He doesn’t love one more than another. He won’t listen to one’s prayers more than to another’s. When this truth fully sinks in, your praying will work. Your prayers will get answers.
So many people struggle along in the realm of self-condemnation, letting the enemy rob them of the inheritance that is theirs in Christ Jesus. They think that their prayers won’t work and that God won’t hear them. They think that if they could just find a righteous man to pray for them, his prayers would work. They have read James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” but they feel they have not attained the place of spiritual growth to qualify as “righteous” and therefore look for someone else’s prayers to reach heaven for them.
How sad that they have not seen the truth in the scriptures we have just read in Romans 3:23-26 that God is our righteousness. He became our righteousness when He imparted to us His nature, eternal life, and when we were born again in the new creation. He became our righteousness the moment we accepted Jesus as our Saviour and confessed Him as our Lord.
I first discovered the truths of these scriptures as a young Christian when for months I lay bedfast. I did not understand them as thoroughly then as I do now, for at first they were as a small gleam of light in a dark corner. I was having the same struggles as many of you to overcome some problem in your life or achieve health. I teach on these things that others may grasp them as I did and be complete overcomers.
Reading my Bible I came across the scripture in James 5:14, 15, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed any sins, they shall be forgiven him.” But as I read, any faith which momentarily flickered was quickly extinguished by the thought that I knew my church didn’t believe in healing or in anointing with oil. I did not have anyone to call on for prayer, as this scripture said.
Then the Lord spoke to me and said, “It is the prayer of faith that heals the sick. You can pray that prayer yourself as well as anybody can.”
I was just a babe in Christ. I was just sixteen years old and had been saved only a few months, yet the Lord said that I could pray that prayer. Immediately my wrong thinking defeated me. I thought, “Yes, I could – if I were righteous.” I was acquainted with all of my shortcomings and I knew that I wasn’t righteous, at least according to my understanding of the meaning of the word.
Reading further in the Book of James, I read where James gave Elias, or Elijah, as an example of a righteous man praying. Then he said, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:17).
As I studied about Elijah, I thought that he surely was not my idea of a righteous man. I knew he had his high moments, as most of us do; but he had his low moments too. When the hand of the Lord was upon him, he could outrun the king’s chariot. But when he learned that Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him, he ran and hid under a juniper tree and begged the Lord to let him die. Of course, he didn’t really want to die. If he did, Jezebel would have taken care of that for him. Then he whined to the Lord, “Everybody has backslidden but me. I’m the only one who is serving you, Lord.” Such inconsistency was hardly the mark of a righteous man, I thought. How could James have given him as an example of a righteous man praying? He was no more righteous than I!
Then I remembered that James said Elijah was a “man subject to like passions as we are.” And not only was he subject to these passions, but he also gave in to them. He allowed discouragement to dominate his actions. Yet he was called a righteous man.
A Better Covenant
Psalm 32:1, 2
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Under the old covenant, the blood of innocent animals covered sin. God did not impute iniquity to them even though they had done wrong. He covered it and forgave it and He imputed righteousness unto them. In His sight they were righteous. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you …” (Exodus 12:13).
If God did this for His children under the Law, how much more will He do for us, for under grace we have a better covenant, established upon better promises. The blood of Jesus Christ not only covers our sins, it cleanses us “from all unrighteousness.” “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). As I read this scripture, I saw that when I was born again all of my sins were remitted and my past life stopped being. I saw that I had become a new creature in Christ, and I knew that He didn’t make any unrighteous new creatures.
Immediately the devil was right there saying, “That may be true, but what about since then? It hasn’t been very long ago that you lost your temper. That’s certainly no way for a righteous person to act.” He got me looking at the natural again instead of at God’s Word.
Then I read I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (This scripture wasn’t written to sinners but to believers.) This meant that I had become the righteousness of God in Christ when I was born again. If I had sinned since that time, and I had, I just confessed my sins and He forgave me and cleansed me from my unrighteousness. If I’m cleansed from unrighteousness, then I am righteous again.
Before when I had read James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” I had thought that if I could ever become righteous, then I would have a really tremendous prayer life and see outstanding answers to prayer. Now I saw that my prayers would work, for God would hear me as quickly as He will hear anyone else. In my Bible beside this scripture in James 5:16 I wrote the words, “I am that Righteous Man.”
This is not bragging on anything I have done; it is bragging on what I am in Christ. It is bragging or praising God for what He has wrought for us in Him.
This means that we can stand in God’s presence without any sense of guilt, condemnation, or inferiority. This means the prayer problem is settled. We no longer need to go into His presence tongue-tied because of condemnation or filled with fear because of ignorance. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). We can enter His presence in full assurance, because we have been made righteous through the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Memory Text: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Faith in Action: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only ….” (James 1:22).
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