Understanding Righteousness (Part 5)

How to get rest?

So how does Jesus give us this rest? Remember that Jesus did not die on the cross to emotionally blackmail us. [Galatians 2:21] (RSV) says “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”.

Paul explains God’s idea of righteousness for His people in the book of Romans. In [Romans 1:16-17] (NRSV) Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘the just shall live by faith.’” That’s right God has revealed ‘His righteousness’ in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We knew and heard about the impossible task of righteousness by the Law, but now look at what Paul says in [Romans 3:21] (NRSV) “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” * Here we clearly have God showing us righteousness without or apart from the Law. Who are the witnesses? The Law and the Prophets. Why? Because they (the Law and Prophets), had prophesied about Jesus’ coming with His righteousness. The word of God says in [Isaiah 56:1] (NRSV) “My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.’” And in [Jeremiah 23:5] (NRSV) “’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness’”, and in the next verse “Now this is His name by which He will be called: ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS'”. This is repeated in [Jeremiah 33:15-16]. But were these prophecies meant for the Israelites or the Jews only? In [Isaiah 42:6] (NRSV) God the Father speaking of Jesus says “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.” The Father had the gentiles i.e. us in mind when He revealed His plan of salvation to the Jews. What a wonderful loving Father we have! He is the creator of righteousness and has designed it in such a way that it will be made available to all people just as rain pours down from the skies [Isaiah 45:8].

Continuing with [Romans 3:22-25] (NRSV), “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed”. Notice, Paul says that the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ is given to all and on all who believe. Isn’t that amazing? God has chosen to gift His righteousness to us as long as we believe and have faith in Jesus Christ. This means no more toiling and labouring for us to become righteous, we are made righteous by God through our faith in Jesus.

I can say that this has been the most mind blowing revelation of the gospel to me, when I understood this, I was so thrilled and thankful to Father God and Jesus for what He did that I truly began to rejoice and only then I began to understand what His ‘grace’ is really all about and understood that the Lord had truly passed over the sins that I had committed. The woman who wept at Jesus’ feet really understood this grace as Jesus told the Pharisee of that house in [Luke 7:47] (NKJV) “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

By our believing we are made righteous and by our confessing we receive salvation [Romans 10:10]. Jesus came not only to forgive me my sins but also to clothe me with righteousness. [Isaiah 61:10] (NRSV) says, “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with the robe of righteousness”. Yes this is also the white robe which is spoken of in [Revelations 7:9]. This is the robe that all those who want to enter the kingdom of God must be wearing, those without this robe will be cast out just like the man who had no wedding garment  in the parable of [Matthew 22:2-13].

Now another important thing to note about God’s gift of righteousness, it is not like a bottle of perfume gifted to you by someone, that will run out after some time and you will again be in need of more. No, but once you have this gift it remains with you forever, because His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness [Psalms 119:142]. The righteousness of God and not our own righteousness is what will give us entry into His kingdom; because our own righteousness is as filthy rags to God [Isaiah 64:6]. Now we know that the kingdom of God is not something that will happen at some point of time in the future (although there is a future physical manifestation of it), but this kingdom is already present among us and within all believers (Refer to my article on ‘The Kingdom Of God’) and righteousness, peace and joy [Romans 14:17] are the possessions of a citizen of this kingdom right now on earth.

Before the righteousness of God was made available, the law which is known as the ‘ministry of condemnation’ prevailed over mankind. However [Romans 10:4] (NRSV) says “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” So this ministry of condemnation came to an end and Jesus ushered in a new ministry which is called the ‘ministry of righteousness’ which exceeds much more in glory [2 Corinthians 3:9]. Now before Jesus could die on the cross He spoke to His disciples in [John 16:5-7] about the promise of the Holy Spirit. He told them that it is to their advantage that He goes away so that the Holy Spirit can come to them. In [verses 8-11] (NRSV) He says “And when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgement: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you see Me no more; of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Now the Holy Spirit will convict the world (i.e. those who have not yet become believers) of sin and the only sin that they will be convicted of, is of not believing in Jesus Christ the Son of God. He will convict the world of righteousness, because after Jesus would lay down His life, the Father would be pleased with Him for fulfilling all the righteousness requirement of the law and thereby making God’s righteousness available for anyone who believes. The Holy Spirit will also convict the world of judgement, because those who refuse to accept God’s expression of love for them would remain under the dominion of the ruler of this world i.e. Satan and Satan has already been judged by Jesus to eternal damnation.

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