The Conundrum of Righteousness
Ps Tarry Mortlock
Righteousness. As followers of Christ we are called to be righteous. By living lives of righteousness we shine a bright light in an ever-darkening world. So righteousness is the goal and yet the Bible is clear that “No one is righteous, not even one. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” This seems quite the conundrum! How can we ever attain righteousness, when our human condition, our inherent unrighteousness, makes it impossible for us to do so? And thus so many fall away disillusioned with a God who would seem to ask the impossible from us. But God is so good, He has made what seems impossible more possible than we can imagine!
In Romans we read that the father of faith Abraham, believed and God counted him as righteous…
“Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Romans 4.1-3
So Abraham discovered that he was made righteous not by doing right, but by believing right. But what was it that Abraham believed? Was it that he simply believed in the existence God? Or was there something more?
“Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Romans 4.20-21
The righteousness credited to Abraham was because he believed that God would do the impossible, that God would make him the father of many nations, despite his human condition – his old age and the inability to reproduce. By His grace God would take Abraham and Sarah’s greatest weakness and then use it to fulfil His promise, making the impossible possible. Thus giving God the glory.
So how does that apply to us?
“And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” – Romans 4.22 – 24
In the same way God made the impossible possible for Abraham, he does also for us. God promises us justification through Jesus Christ despite our human condition – our inherent unrighteousness and the inability to produce righteousness. And by His Grace He takes the very thing that disqualifies us from the fulfilment of this promise and uses it to make the impossible possible. By simply believing that God has justified us through Christ, despite our human condition, we are made righteous. And God gets the glory.
Paul goes on to point out that Abraham was made righteous, before the fulfillment of the law. It was Abraham’s belief that God could do what He said He could do that made Abraham righteous, not his ability to fulfill the law. He adds that Abraham’s fulfillment of the law (circumcision) came after he was made righteous and was in fact the seal of his righteousness. Paul is labouring the point, it was not what Abraham did that made him righteous, it was what he believed and then his righteous acts followed. Paul says that we likewise are no longer slaves to the law (doing right), but we are made righteous in Christ because of our belief in Him, not because of the things we do or don’t do.
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. Romans 4.16
I say all that to say this, righteousness is not what you work towards, it is where you live from! The moment you received Christ as your saviour, the moment you made Him Lord of your life, you received His righteousness. And when God looks at you, that is what He sees – righteousness! So forget your past, your failings and your self-doubt. You have been made righteous, live from that righteousness.
– Ps Tarry Mortlock, City Impact Church TV Producer and Film Director