THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.


We have been commanded to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The righteousness of God is what He is in Character. The righteousness of God includes all of His commandments and goes even beyond these. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Righteousness of God and the Covenant of God with people.


THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33óNIV)

We have been commanded to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The righteousness of God is what He is in Character. The righteousness of God includes all of His commandments and goes even beyond these. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Righteousness of God and the Covenant of God with people.

We are to make seeking Godís righteousness the first priority of our life.

But this is a difficult thought, at least for me, to get hold of. What does it mean to seek Godís righteousness?

I believe the conclusion in todayís Christian thinking is that we should not try to work up some righteous behavior of our own but should trust that God counts us righteous by the fact that we have believed in Christ, or are identified with Christ. God is righteous. Christ is righteous. We are unrighteous in behavior but God deems us righteous because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

We could derive the same assurance from the following passages:

In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: "The LORD Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:6óNIV)

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: "The LORD Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 33:16óNIV)

It is absolutely true that when we are a true disciple of the Lord Jesus our name is "The Lord our righteousness."

While it is understandable from having such a name that we might conclude God has attributed righteousness to us because of our association with the righteous Christ, this conclusion leaves three huge questions unanswered:

First, if the Christian salvation consists primarily of Christís righteousness attributed to us, why does the Apostle Paul state if we believers continue in unrighteous conduct we will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Second, since we know the new Jerusalem will not consist of believers who are unrighteous in behavior, how, when, and where do we make the transition from unrighteous behavior to righteous, holy behavior?

Third, if our salvation consists primarily of Christís righteousness attributed to us, why does the Lord tell us that in the end of the age His angels will remove from His Kingdom all behavior that offends God?

I have never heard these three questions answered from clear passages of Scripture kept in context. Have you?

My opinion at this point is that gaining Godís righteousness is by no means limited to having the righteousness of Christ attributed to us. I donít think this is what the expression means, except in a limited, initial sense. I do not believe being saved by grace means God refers to the members of His Kingdom as righteous even though they are continuing in the filthy conduct of the sinful nature.

When I first became a Christian I was presented with two verses. I was informed that these contained the basic idea of salvation.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithóand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godó Not by works, so no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9óNIV)

But my instructors did not add the next verse, Ephesians 2:10. Ephesians 2:8,9 apart from the next verse leaves an entirely incorrect view of the Christian salvation.

The next verse:

For we are Godís workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10óNIV)

The above verse can lead us to a biblical understanding of how we actually possess Godís righteousness, how it is that we can be called "The Lord our righteousness."

First of all, we are Godís workmanship. We have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works. We have not been created to go to Heaven to lay on a couch in our mansion. We have been created to do good works.

We have been created to do good works. I am repeating this idea because it is almost never mentioned in Christian circles.

Where do these good works come from? They come from God in Christ. God is dwelling in Christ who is dwelling in us. Their righteousness becomes our righteousness when we have been crucified and they are living in us. We have been predestined to be in the moral image of Jesus Christ, our older Brother. As He is, so are we in this world. We are to reveal His Life in us. This is salvation and the new covenant.

But then a mysterious thought is added: "which God prepared in advance for us to do."

We have been created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. What do you think this means?

Jesus advised us to let our light shine that people might see our good works and because of them glorify God.

What good works? The Lord Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil.

In other words, we who claim to be part of Jesus Christ ought always to behave ourselves as He behaves Himself.

Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (I John 2:6óNIV)

Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (I John 3:3óNIV)

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (I John 3:7óNIV)

We can behave ourselves as Jesus behaves Himself only as we are dead to our sinful nature and it is Christ who is living His Life in us. Isnít this true?

We understand, therefore, that seeking Godís Kingdom and His righteousness is not primarily a matter of having God attribute right standing to us because of our belief in Jesus Christ but of revealing in ourselves Godís righteous Character and His Kingdom.

There is an awesome gulf between these two concepts. If we hold only to the idea of Christís righteousness being attributed to us, and continue in our ungodly behavior, then there is no Kingdom of God, no doing of Godís will in the earth. It is this misunderstanding that has created the poor testimony of the churches during past years.

When a new moral creation has not been brought forth it is because we have not been abiding in Christ. Rather we have been trusting in a legalistic kind of grace, a perversion of the true Divine grace. In fact, we have changed Divine grace into a license for immorality, as Jude states.

But let us return to this enigmatic statement: "We have been created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do."

The purpose for our being created is that we might do good works.

The good works are those that Jesus always does, that is, behavior that proceeds from the iron righteousness and fiery holiness of God Himself. In addition to iron righteousness and fiery holiness we must add stern obedience to the Father.

The fruit of iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father is morally upright, compassionate behavior coming from those who are walking humbly with God.

We have been created that we might walk uprightly, show mercy to people, and listen constantly for the will of our Father in Heaven.

So far so good. I do not think any Christian would find fault with the above statements.

But one puzzling aspect remains: "which God prepared in advance for us to do."

To answer this question we will have to return to the creation of the universe, and even before then.

Before God created the firmament of heaven (the sky and outer space) God and Christ were living in the spirit realm surrounded by a vast number of angelic beings. It is my viewpoint that none of these angelic beings possessed a conscience or was capable of moral judgment, as God and people are.

I do not think God at that time had ever defined righteousness as specific behaviors. I think righteousness existed but it was not codified. Righteousness at that time was that which God always is.

When it came into Satanís mind to disobey God there arose automatically a need for judgment. Judgment must proceed in terms of "you may do this but you may not do that." It seems to me you cannot make a moral judgment unless there exists a clear standard, a distinction between right and wrong. I do not believe the angels had any concept of "you may do this but not that," they merely existed in the bliss of Godís Presence.

In fact, it is my point of view that the Ten Commandments actually are a judgment against Satan and his angels, and that they understand this. They now are learning what righteousness is, a concept not known to them before the Law was given to Moses.

I believe God created man to demonstrate righteous behavior in the sight of the angels. I think man was created to be Godís judges and rulers, with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Judge and Ruler.

On this basis God brought into existence the new race of humans, who have a conscience and who are capable of moral judgment. Through them what is good and what is evil can be revealed to the inhabitants of the heavens as well as the peoples of the earth.

We were created to be living epistles that all of Godís creatures might learn the difference between good and evil.

For we are Godís workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10óNIV)

God chose you and me, each Christian, to perform certain good works. Obviously we do not all do the same good works, but we press forward toward our individual mark. We are saved by grace through faith. This salvation is Godís gift to us. We did not earn it by keeping the Law of Moses or any other code of religious or moral behavior.

Godís purpose in saving us is that the angels and the inhabitants of the earth might see and understand the difference between good and evil.

In the middle of the Garden of Eden God placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is my opinion that both of these trees reflect the Character of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The sign of spiritual maturity is that we can discern between good and evil and are willing and able to choose the good and reject the evil. But we cannot attain such maturity except as the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself is the eternal law of God made flesh, is formed in us.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14óNIV)

The mistake Adam and Eve made was to partake of the knowledge of good and evil before they partook of the tree of life. They were slain by the eternal moral law of God before they had a chance to partake of the Life of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul stated that the same was true of him before He received Christ. The Law of Moses killed him.

For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. (Romans 7:11óNIV)

God gave His elect the Law of Moses in order to control sin before the Seed of Abraham, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared on the earth.

Then through the Lord Jesus, and through the Lord Jesus through the Apostles, Godís holy commandments were issued. The New Testament contains numerous commandments that we must observe if we are to enter eternal life. God also gave us the blood of the Lord Jesus so we can enter the Most Holy Place in Heaven and receive strength to help us overcome worldliness, the lusts of our flesh, and self-will.

All of these commandments are steps back to the original righteousness, the righteousness the angels experienced before the creation of the world, and yet did not comprehend. This is the righteousness which is God HimselfóHis moral Character.

The end of the new covenant is that Godís moral Character might be written in our mind and heart. Then we are in fact the righteousness of God, for it is Christ in us who is living. Our inward nature has been transformed, by the Holy Spirit, into the image of the Glory of the Lord. Then the Father and the Son make Their eternal home in our transformed inward nature. Now we indeed are the righteousness of Godónot an attributed righteousness, a legally assigned righteousness, but an actual righteousness of personality.

I do not think any Christian would disagree with me that we have been called to show forth the righteous Character of Jesus Christ in our life. The problem in todayís thinking pertains to how we are to arrive at the place where Godís righteousness is revealed in us.

If I am correct, the assumption is made, in Christian thinking, that somehow in the future God is going to remove our sinful nature and replace it with His own righteous Nature. In the meantime we are "saved by grace," meaning Godís righteousness is attributed to us because we believe in Christ; and while we ought to behave righteously, our salvation is not critically harmed if we do not.

This is horrific error! The result is, other religions and governments of the world despise Christian America as "the great Satan." Why is this? It is because of the way we behave.

We do not understand the new covenant. We have made the grace of God a license for immoral behavior.

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4óNIV)

How does one change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ? By doing as we do today. When we are warned about fornication, pornography, profanity, the love of money, gossip, hatred, jealousy, strife, and the other works of the flesh, we say, "But I am saved by grace, not by works of righteousness I have done," quoting a Bible statement out of context. Thus we turn the grace of God into a license for immorality. Also, we deny the claims of Jesus Christ. We are willing to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, but not as our personal Lord who has the absolute right to tell us what we can and cannot do.

Previously we mentioned three questions that must be answered from the Scripture if we are going to maintain that to have Godís righteousness means only that we have believed in Jesus Christ and God therefore attributes righteousness to us.

The three questions are as follows:

First, if the Christian salvation consists primarily of Christís righteousness attributed to us, why does the Apostle Paul state if we believers continue in unrighteous conduct we will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

I have never heard a minister of the Gospel address this issue clearly and scripturally. It always seems to be avoided.

It is my opinion that teachers of the Gospel should not maintain that to have Godís righteousness it is necessary only to believe in Christ; that godly conduct is not an integral part of our salvation. If this is the case, how do we account for Paulís statement, "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God"? I donít think we should persist in our point of view until this inconsistency is answered clearly from passages from the New Testament kept in context.

Second, since we know the new Jerusalem will not consist of believers who are unrighteous in behavior, how, when, and where do we make the transition from unrighteous behavior to righteous, holy behavior?

There is no clear statement in the New Testament, kept in context, that informs us that when we die we will suddenly be made righteous, or that when the Lord Jesus appears we will suddenly be made righteous. The parables of the foolish virgins and the man who buried his talent show us plainly that when the Lord appears He will treat us on the basis of how faithfully we have served Him.

The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:46óNIV)

The above verse obviously is referring to the Lordís servants. How can we maintain that Christ will make us righteous when He appears, when the Word informs us that He will punish the sinful believers when He comes?

If we explain away Luke 12:46 by maintaining that such verses do not apply to Christians, then how can we insist that the Lordís explanation in the third chapter of the Book of John about the necessity for being born again applies to Christians? How can we pick and choose what words of Christ we will accept and what we will reject? Are we not interpreting the Word of God in a private manner, according to our own notions?

Third, if our salvation consists primarily of Christís righteousness attributed to us, and righteous behavior no longer is necessary, why does the Lord tell us that at the end of the age His angels will remove from His Kingdom all behavior that offends God?

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (Matthew 13:41óNIV)

Are we Christians not part of the Kingdom of God that will experience this purifying?

If actual righteousness on our part is not necessary, why would God remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil?

I think it is obvious we have misunderstood the concept of our having Godís righteousness. It is not true that His righteousness is merely assigned to us, except in an initial, temporary sense. It is, rather, that His righteous Character enters our personality and changes it until we reveal in ourselves the good works that God always performs. It is His righteousness in us, portrayed in our conduct, that is the goal of the new covenant. Our sinful nature is destroyed and its place is taken by the righteous Character of God Himself.

Now, how do we go about having our sinful nature destroyed and its place taken over by the righteousness of God in Christ?

We have to do what Christ and His Apostles commanded. First of all, we have to count that we have been crucified with Christ and now are to live by His life. Our born-again inward nature already has been raised in Christ to the right hand of God.

We mustówe absolutely mustódeny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We must do this each day. Each day we must look to Jesus for His will for the day. We must turn aside from our love of the world, the lusts of our flesh, and especially our self-will. We must deny our self! Until we deny our self-will we cannot possibly enter the Kingdom of God. All the Christian religious activity in the world will never, never, never compensate for our unwillingness to surrender our will to Jesus Christ.

The great fork in the road that faces the Christian believer today is whether or not he is willing to forsake his own religious ambitions and strivings and bring all of his gifts of Jesus that Jesus may use them as He will. We hear of many exciting programs that will save all the people in the world, but we do not hear very often of someone who is dropping his own notions of "doing great things for God" in favor of turning to Jesus to find out what He desires.

If we would become the righteousness of God we must pray every day until we know we are in tune with the Lord Jesus. We must meditate in the Scriptures every day. We must, if possible, gather regularly with fervent believers, placing ourselves under the oversight of the godly elders of the assembly.

We must give of our means, serve, and seek the ministries and gifts of the Spirit that we may help build each member of the assembly to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ.

We absolutely must offer our body a living sacrifice to God, being transformed by the renewing of our mind. Only through this means can we discover the will of God for ourselves.

We absolutely must walk before the Lord in the open confession of our sins. When the Holy Spirit points out something in our personality that is not according to the moral image of Christ, we must quickly, fervently, with all the strength we can muster denounce and renounce such behavior. Then we must draw near to God and in the future resist the devil when he tempts us along this line.

As we read the Bible consistently and prayerfully, being ready to do what God points out to us, the Lord will show us what must be done that day to change us into the Glory of the Lord. If we are faithful and obedient we shall be changed into the image of the Glory of the Lord.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lordís glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18óNIV)

Being a saint is a full-time calling. We have to make our walk with the Lord the chief occupation of each day, even when our secular employment is very demanding. The Spirit of God will show us how to do this.

The average American Christian is not close to being the righteousness of God. He has been taught that he is "saved by grace" and any moment he is going to be raptured into Paradise so he can lay around in his mansion and do nothing except talk to his friends and rest.

He is deceived. The truth is, unless he turns and begins to serve God as the New Testament directs, he will face an angry Christ. His talent will be taken from him and given to another. He will be thrown into the outer darkness. This is what the Bible says.

He has no concept of the Kingdom of God. He has no idea that when the Lord returns he is to follow on a white war stallion, ready to face the hordes of Hell. He thinks he will spend eternity in Paradise in the spirit realm, not understanding that his task as a member of the Body of Christ is to drive all sin and darkness from the earth and to install righteous, peace, and joy in their place.

He is not overcoming the accuser by the blood of the Lamb. He is not overcoming the accuser by the word of his testimony, because his testimony does not line up with the written word of God.

He is not overcoming the accuser by loving not his life to the death. He has been taught that God loves him too much to permit him to suffer. Christ became poor so he might be rich, he thinks. Christ suffered so he never will have to suffer, he imagines. Such is the American Christian.

He is not bearing the fruit of the moral image of Christ because he is not abiding in Christ. He is filled with the love of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and self-will. He shall be removed from the Vine, from Christ, along with those teachers who have cried to him "rapture, rapture, rapture, grace, grace, grace, Heaven, Heaven, Heaven."

He has little in common with the heroes of faith because his only faith is a mental assent to Christian theology. He is not bearing his cross after Christ. He does not know Christ, only the sayings and ways of the churches.

The path to becoming the righteousness of God is outlined in the New Testament, beginning with Matthew and ending with the Book of Revelation. This entire text is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is addressed to Christians. None of it is "for the Jews." All of it is directed toward the one Seed of Abraham, that is, Jesus Christ and all who are part of Him, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.

It is well that the human being, Christian or non-Christian, behave righteously with the moral strength that he has. God will always bless righteous behavioróeven when it proceeds from the adamic nature.

Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism But accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." (Acts 10:34,35óNIV)

But adamic righteousness, while certainly more pleasing to God than no righteousness at all, is a lower level of righteousness, even though God accepts it and will bless the individual who is truthful, honest, and merciful.

The righteousness of God is infinitely purer and stronger than the best efforts of the adamic nature. The righteousness of God is that which God Himself is, His moral Nature. It is Godís will that His Nature be formed in us. When it is, God and Christ will come and live forever in the new creation we have become as Christ has been formed in us.

The Apostle Paul, quoting from Psalms, has stated:

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12óNIV)

Christian teaching emphasizes that no person on earth ever has or ever will live righteously. The conclusion is that we can be righteous only through identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, both the Old Testament and the New on many occasions refer to people as righteous, even when they were not identified with Christ.

This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. (Genesis 6:9óNIV)

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19óNIV)

The Bible speaks in numerous instances of righteous people. Then it states that there is not even one righteous person.

How do we reconcile this seeming contradiction?

It is as we have said. God welcomes every attempt of human beings to live righteously, unless, of course, they hear the Gospel of Christ and seek to employ their own righteousness in place of receiving Christ.

At the last judgment human beings will be judged according to their works. God honors those who, in terms of their conscience or cultural standards, try to do what is right. To say this is not true is to deny the clear statements of the Bible.

People of the world also honor righteousness even though they seem to fight against it at times. Because the Christian churches do not preach righteous behavior the world despises the believers as being no different from themselves.

However, it is as we have said. The righteousness of God is a kind of righteousness that far exceeds the attempts of the human being to act according to conscience, and therefore the seeking of Godís Kingdom and His righteousness is the first duty of every person.

The nations of the earth will not glorify God until we who are Christians begin to practice the righteous works for which God has created us in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is well that we bring the Gospel to them, but this is not the light that Christ spoke of. The light that Christ referred to consists of our good works. Such good works can be seen in us only as we forsake our sinful nature and embrace the righteousness which is that of God Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16óNIV)