Grace + Self Righteousness

‘Self-righteousness’ has just been a word before – a bit like ‘grace’ – there in my inner lexicon but without any depth of meaning. Like the sun can set in the most spectacular display of visual brilliance without us seeing it because we’re doing something else – some words can slip by unnoticed until the Holy Spirit illuminates their meaning.

And just as God has revealed the true meaning of ‘grace’ to me, He’s revealed the true meaning of ‘self-righteousness’ too – the belief in our ‘self’ being righteous, without any need of God. Trusting in our own ability to reach the standard God sets: holiness and purity. Trusting in our own ‘good deeds’ to make us ‘right’ before Him. Trying to obey the law just as the Pharisees did, just as Paul did before his personal revelation of ‘righteousness by faith.’ Pointing to our own achievements, rather to Christ’s achievement on the cross. Trusting our ‘self’ to live a righteous life, rather than trusting in Christ’s righteousness attributed to us by faith.

Nothing we can do make us righteous before God. So many men in the church seem to think things they do make them holy, when it’s not about what we do at all, but about what Christ has done.

We are justified through faith, by grace. Not of yourselves, says Paul. It is the gift of God.

However, now that I’ve grasped grace I’m also in danger of self-righteousness, thinking I am a ‘better’ Christian than those who believe righteousness can be earned – that they can achieve holiness by their own actions – like the religious Jews of Jesus’ day  – because I have grasped grace.

Pointing to my own achievement – the act of grasping – I become self-righteous.

I have grasped grace.

Not ‘God has revealed grace to me’ but ‘I have grasped grace’.

The great ‘I’.

Reminds me of Satan in Isaiah 14:

“I will ascend above the clouds of God. I will make myself like the most High.”


We who have grasped grace must pray for those in the church who are yet to grasp this wonderful miracle; those who strive in their own strength to fight sin, not knowing they are dead to sin already (Romans 6), those who feel ashamed and guilty when they stumble, because they have not yet grasped the fact we are holy in God’s sight in spite of our failings – that our holiness and right standing before God has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do but all about what Christ has done for us. For –

“We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all.”(Hebrews 10:10)

I who have grasped this amazing miracle must stop thinking of myself as ‘better’ because God has revealed grace to me. I must learn to model grace – hold it out like Jesus does – in the palm of my hand, free and available for any willing takers.

A knowledge of Grace in and of itself is useless if it doesn’t bear fruit. If this revelation doesn’t empower us to live lives free from sin we haven’t really grasped it at all. For truly knowing that we are completely free and can never be condemned by God will supernaturally eradicate our desire to rebel against Him – just as Christ supernaturally eradicated the sin of mankind once for all. Our crimes against God can cause no punishment. And if we abuse that amazing truth we deserve to have grace ripped out of us – not that our loving God ever would. How incredible that nothing we can do can cause His anger to rage against us, for every last drop of His anger at sin raged against Christ on The Cross.

How thankful should we be?

We must pray for those who trust in their ‘self – righteousness’ that they may grasp grace. And please pray for people like me that we always point to the cross of Christ, not boasting about how we have grasped grace, but boasting about Jesus and how His ‘grace’ has grasped us.


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