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Bible verses about Righteousness of Christ
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 5:20

Where did the Pharisees' righteousness come from? It came from keeping Halakha, the Jewish oral law. Our righteousness, however, has to be a combination of that which is imputed - the righteousness of Jesus Christ - as well as that which is maintained by us through keeping the law of God after conversion. Jesus says that from God's law nothing would pass.

In terms of a principle, which subsequently landed them in such trouble, the Jews acted upon an uninspired interpretation or extension of the principle of holiness or sanctification. There is no doubt that they were a sanctified people. The Bible makes that clear:

For you are a holy people unto the LORD your God [Holy means "sanctified" or "set apart"]. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself above all people that are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you nor choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all people. (Deuteronomy 7:6-7)

The Pharisees extrapolated on this principle and in their zeal got themselves into trouble. Their basic fault was in considering themselves to be superior to others. Yet, God's Word plainly shows that there is only one law for both the Israelite and for the stranger (Exodus 12:49). All are judged against the same standard, by the same law. All are judged against the righteousness of God. Thus, we can understand that, in one sense, there is only one class of people on earth - sinners in need of deliverance from bondage to Satan and to sin.

I Corinthians 1:26-30 is the New Testament equivalent of what God says in Deuteronomy 7. In the church there is just one class of people - rescued sinners who are justified and are by grace through faith under the blood of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Matthew 5:38-42

All of these examples deal with the attitude of one's heart in exhibiting patience and love, and Jesus' intent in them is to raise us above the righteousness of the Pharisees to the higher righteousness of God's calling.

In Jesus, we have the ultimate example in responding correctly, when He said, while hanging on the stake, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Not long thereafter, Stephen, when faced with death at the hands of a mob of hateful Jews, rather than responding with epithets or seeking revenge, beseeched, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). Both had a generous spirit and a true love for their fellow man.

Matthew 5:41 speaks of being pressed into service to do a task for another. It might be good to remember that each of us has been pressed into the service of Almighty God and asked to go the extra mile. For most of us, our calling was unlooked for and perhaps even came at an inopportune time in our lives. Yet, a Higher Authority has put us into service to do a work. Have we taken on our burden and cheerfully gone an extra mile for God?

And beyond God Himself, in our marriages, in raising our children, in dealing with each other, and in interacting with those outside our fellowship, we should be doing all we can to go that extra mile. By doing so, we reflect the higher standards of God's law, the standard of truly loving God and each other. This attitude will take us far beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Go the Extra Mile


 

Matthew 6:33

Here the term righteousness has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:6). It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Luke 5:36-39

The parable is a series of contrasts between new and old. It contains new and old clothing, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine. Christ's being taken away makes the “newness” possible, and once that “newness” is available, it is wholly incompatible with the old.

Jesus begins with an example of old and new garments: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.” In Scripture, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, garments or clothing are common symbols of righteousness. After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover themselves with something they made with their own hands (Genesis 3:7). Instead, God gave them tunics made of skin (verse 21), requiring the life of an animal, representing the Lamb of God giving His life to cover sin.

Matthew 22:1-13 contains the Parable of the Wedding Garment, whose lesson is that inappropriate clothing will keep a person out of a wedding feast. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” The Pharisees had a righteousness, but Jesus asserts that our righteousness must exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20), meaning that we need to have His righteousness imputed to us, which becomes our new covering, our new garment. As we become one with Him and submit to taking on His image, we have a righteousness that does not come from our works but from God's work in us.

Thus, we have a contrast between man's righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. But, just as it makes no sense to tear off a piece from a new garment to patch an old one, so is it also a futile exercise to try to keep our own righteousness intact and use a little bit of Christ's righteousness to cover a flaw here and there. The two coverings are incompatible—we have to choose one or the other.

The conclusion is that, if a new garment is available, we would be foolish to use it to mend an old, defective one. Because Jesus was taken away, His righteousness is available to us, so we need to discard any thought that our own is suitable. Instead, we must put on His righteousness and be conformed to it so that it fits and covers us appropriately. Clearly, works are involved and required on our part, but without the covering and involvement of Christ, those works would continue to be as filthy rags.

To understand the new and the old, it is important to realize that the “old” could have many applications. It is not just the Old Covenant. In fact, the Pharisees in Jesus' audience did not actually represent the Old Covenant. The system of beliefs and practices that developed into Judaism is not the same thing as the Old Covenant. Certainly, Judaism makes use of the writings of Moses and the prophets, but it also leans heavily on the traditions of Jewish scholars and is infused with Greek philosophy.

The Pharisees, then, were not actually living by the Old Covenant! God intended that covenant to prepare His people for the coming of the Messiah. Everything in the holiness code, the sacrifices, and so forth was intended to point to Christ. Since the Pharisees could not recognize the Object of the Covenant, what they were practicing was not what the pre-incarnate Christ delivered to Moses. They had gotten far off course.

Therefore, the “old” elements in this parable could be any system of belief aside from what became available through Christ.

David C. Grabbe
Clothing, Wineskins, and Wine


 

Acts 3:16

Paul says that Christ dwelled in Him through the Holy Spirit. This indwelling of God's Spirit enables us to be faithful. Christ's faithful mind is imparted to us and becomes part of our mind. If we provided the faith to obey God, it would be self-righteous. Our righteousness must come through the faith of Jesus Christ.

Martin G. Collins
Faithfulness


 

Romans 3:20-31

We are justified through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is the payment for our sins, thus freeing us from sin's penalty, and at the same time, God accounts—or imputes—Christ's righteousness to us. The righteousness that enabled Him to be the perfect sacrifice is accounted as if it is ours! This then makes it possible for us to have access into the presence of the holy God.

But this does not do away with law. It establishes it! It places the law in its rightful position in our understanding of what God is working out in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Romans 3:21-22

Here Paul explains that God has provided a means whereby we may receive forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in His sight. It is separate and distinct from obedience to the law. This forgiveness comes by having faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:21-26

God can forbear with us because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for all of us. If we repent and ask God forgiveness, then Christ's blood covers all of our sins. Justice has been done. The sin has been paid for by the blood of Christ. God can thus forbear with us and allow us to "get away" with our sins for a while, because if we repent, then Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins, and justice is done. A person died for those sins—our Creator, Jesus Christ.

But if we do not repent, what happens? We die, and the penalty is paid. So this is a kind of legal maneuver by God. His forbearance is allowed under His legal system because Jesus Christ's blood pays the penalty for our sins. He can be merciful and lenient for a while, and whether we repent, or whether we do not repent, justice is ultimately served because a death occurs—either Jesus' or ours. This is the legal basis for why He can be forbearing. He has already taken care of it, one way or the other.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Romans 7:13-25

Do we not believe that Paul was a sincere and dedicated example of a fully committed Christian? Yet, his testimony confirms that we have to face and accept the humbling fact that sin, as long as we are in the flesh, forever stains our character. We will never be rid of it until our change in the resurrection. Can we accept the fact that no amount of personal exertion to purge ourselves of sin will be completely effective? Paul did, and it led him to be thoroughly humbled and thankfully aware of God's mercy.

However, it did not cause him to disregard whether he sinned. Paul resolved not to sin because he loved Christ for what He had already done and continued to do every day. As a former Pharisee, he understood that super-righteousness (Ecclesiastes 7:16) on his part would never work.

In I Corinthians 15:8-10, he makes a telling statement about how he judged his past before his conversion:

Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Paul had a firm understanding that super-righteousness could not replace what Christ had already mercifully done in his behalf, and nothing he did could ever replace it. He used this as an example, as a prod to himself, so he would never forget exactly where he stood in terms of being gifted by God's grace. It took a perfect Sacrifice to pay for his past sins and also those he continued to commit as a Christian! Despite sin still being a part of him, he says, “I am what I am by means of God's grace.” He valued what was done on his behalf so deeply that he never let his appreciation lag.

He adds in Romans 4:4-8

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.

Do we truly understand that we cannot add to the quality of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lived without sinning His entire life? When His pure righteousness is accounted to us, we stand before God blameless because of His sinlessness. Even our righteousness done through our obedience following baptism and receipt of God's Holy Spirit lacks the purity of Christ's righteousness imparted and accounted to us, because our righteousness is still tainted by sin that remains within us.

I Corinthians 1:26-31 contains a truth of supreme importance to us: God called the weak and base of the world, and no flesh will ever glory in His presence. This is why our integrity must be guarded by humility because our obedience—given because of God's mercy and which He graciously accepts—is still flawed.

None of this removes our responsibilities regarding our continuing sanctification; it does not do away with our accountability to obey God's law and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We do not stop learning, obeying more perfectly, and maturing within the relationship that we now have with the Father and Son. Nevertheless, we cannot add to the righteousness of Christ. It is futile even to think such a thing—and that is why it is dangerous.

Upon receiving God's Spirit, attitude is of major importance. Conversion is a matter of a changed heart combined with more perfect knowledge of His truth. It is a matter of knowing, believing, living in, and accepting our place within the relationship. It is a matter of submitting with all our heart to the Father's placement of us within the body. A person with wisdom will know he must not go beyond what the relationship will permit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eleven): Paradox, Continued


 

Romans 8:29

The purpose for our admittance into God's presence is that "we be conformed to the image of His Son." When first justified by Christ's blood and admitted into God's presence, we stand before Him, but we are not yet in His Son's image. At this point, the work has only begun; Christ's righteousness is only legally imputed to us. That righteousness is indeed real, but it is not yet inscribed or engraved into our character to become part of our very being. We stand free, clear, and accepted, but we do not have the same nature, mind, or character as the Son.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

1 Corinthians 1:19-21

God has purposely chosen this means to put proud and stiff-necked man totally in debt to Him for the most important achievement in all of life. Men have accomplished much and will continue to do many great things. However, verses 19-21 expose why the wise of this world will not submit to God. The reason becomes clear in the phrase, "the foolishness of preaching" (verse 21, King James Version [KJV]). This translation is somewhat misleading in the King James; it should read "the foolishness of the message preached," as in the New King James Version (NKJV). Paul is not saying that the wise of this world reject the act of preaching but that they consider the content of the message preached to be foolish. In other words, the wise will not believe the gospel, most specifically that God in the flesh has died for the sins of the world.

It cannot be overestimated how important humility expressed by faith before God is to the overall spiritual purpose of God for each individual! Each person must know as fully as possible that Christ died for him, that his own works do not provide forgiveness, and that he has not created himself in Christ Jesus. Nobody evolves into a godly person on the strength of his own will. It is God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13). No new creation creates itself. So, by and large, God calls the undignified, base, weak, and foolish of this world, people whom the unbelieving wise consider to be insignificant and of no account. He does this so that no human will glory in His presence. On this, a German commentator, Johann Albrecht Bengel, clarifies, "We have permission to glory, not before God, but in God."

The term "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) indicates that we are in an intimate relationship with Him. Paul then details—through the terms "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption"—that God, using our believing, humble, submissive cooperation, will be responsible for all things accomplished in and through us. Some modern commentators believe that, because "wise" and "wisdom" appear so many times earlier in this chapter, the terms "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption" should be in parentheses because Paul intends them to define what he means by true wisdom in this context.

God, then, is pleased to save those who believe and to do a mighty work in them. This set Abel apart from, as far as we know, every other person living on earth at that time. What he did by faith pictures what everyone who receives salvation must also do to begin his walk toward the Kingdom of God. Everyone must be called of God; believe enough of His Word to know that he is a sinner who needs the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; repent, that is, undergo a change of mind toward God; and be justified, made legally righteous by having Jesus Christ's righteousness imputed to him. This enables a relationship with God to begin, and sanctification unto glorification can proceed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Galatians 3:28

For those who have been called by God and have properly responded, social distinctions - whether national/racial, conditional/financial, or gender - recede, even disappear. The unifying element is the righteousness of Christ, which the Christian puts on and begins to emulate. Romans 10:12 points out that after justification, we have the same Lord and Master, and He is rich in His gifts (grace, mercy, talents, blessings, etc.) to all.

A unity comes with God's calling and justification. We are united in our need for a Savior. We are united in our acceptance of His blood for the remission of our sins. We are united through common experience: We all recognize that the only reason we have physical or spiritual life is because of God's grace and mercy. We are united in our receipt of God's gifts, when all we have earned is death.

When we recognize that the playing field has been completely leveled, and that we all had/have a debt impossible to pay, there is no room for boasting. There are different roles and responsibilities, because God gives His gifts as He sees fit and some people receive more talents than others. But no Christian is inherently better than another.

See also Romans 10:12; I Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11.

David C. Grabbe


 

1 John 4:17

The phrase, "As He is so are we in this world," merits a second look. Ephesians 1:3 provides a similar illustration, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ." Both statements say that Christ stands in place of us, another astounding aspect of God's grace. This is especially astonishing in that, if we consider ourselves soberly, we see weak, sinful human beings who have experienced many failures. By contrast, Christ was perfect in every aspect of life.

God is realistic in His perception of us. He does not fantasize when observing Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones, deluding Himself into thinking that He is looking at Christ. No, He literally sees Mr. Smith or Mr. Jones, but the converted are only accepted before Him because of Jesus Christ, because they bear His righteousness and because He lives in them. No man is accepted before Him on the basis of his own works of righteousness. Paul writes of the righteousness that enables us to be accepted before God in Philippians 3:8-9:

But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

Paul comments on this righteousness again in Romans 3:21-22: "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe." This faith is imputed, accounted to us because of our faith in Jesus Christ when we possess no righteousness to gain us entrance or acceptance before God.

We can thus enter God's throne room and talk to Him because of Jesus Christ, and He accepts us before Him as if we were Jesus. If we extend this principle out into other aspects of Christian life, we can see that we always have the life and sacrifice of Christ preceding us as we walk the path to the Kingdom of God. This is why we can be bold: God accepts us on the basis of Christ's life and sacrifice.

We are all very concerned about sin. The concern to avoid it is good, but to be in great anxiety over it is not good. Some would be astonished to learn that God is less concerned about individual sins than He is about the overall trajectory of our lives. Showing consistent growth has a higher priority with Him than any individual sin committed out of weakness.

Galatians 5:6 says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Consistent growth will be shown in the lives of those who live by love motivated by faith. The unstated but nonetheless overriding purpose of the offerings of Leviticus is to teach us the qualities needed to love God and fellow man. It is total devotion and sacrifice in keeping the commandments of God.

We cannot do this unless the closeness of our identification and union with Christ is a day-to-day reality and thoroughly understood by us. Our union with Him is incredibly close, as God perceives it. If anything can give us confidence in living life before God and the world, it ought to be our ability to perceive how we stand before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

 




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