Our righteous acts are like filthy rags…and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
Notice God doesn’t say it is our sins that are filthy, but our ‘righteous acts’.
We can not achieve righteousness ourselves.
We can not attain to God’s level of moral perfection.
Does this mean we should stop trying?
Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Only when we give up, admit we are powerless, and we rest in His finished work – in His GRACE – can Christ work through us, as Jesus says to Paul.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
(2 Cor 12:9)
The Greek word for righteousness is dikaios.
The Bible hub website says this about the word:
In the writings of Paul this word has a peculiar meaning: the Jews believed that they secured the favor of God by obeying the law.
Yet the Isaiah verse says that our good works (our righteous acts) to ‘secure the favor of God’ are as ‘filthy rags’.
It’s a strong statement.
This is why amazing grace preachers like Joseph Prince and Spurgeon talk of God’s ‘unmerited’ favor.
Unmerited means undeserved.
We do not deserve to be righteous, to spend eternity with the Creator of the Universe, whose name is Love.
Yet God, through Christ, has dressed us in His righteousness to enable us to abide with Him forever.
And he has given it to us as a gift…for free!
This is why we should never, ever think we can become righteous ourselves, or add to the righteousness God has given us. That is rejecting the gift.
Who would reject the gift God has given them?
Who would throw away the precious sacrifice of Christ, and say it wasn’t enough to make us perfectly holy, and perfectly righteous?
That is taking the cross and slapping God round the face with it !
No…all we can do, is in humility, say THANK YOU to God and accept the free gift, and accept we have nothing to add to the righteousness He has given us.
The blood of Christ plus nothing, as grace teacher Jim McNeely has said.
And as Spurgeon says:
In every part of the process of salvation, these words from Paul are appropriate: “not of yourselves.”
And, even though Isaiah says our sins sweep us away from God, Paul has the Good News in Ephesians 2:13:
Now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near – by the blood of Christ.