You gotta love Paul.
He says it like it is.
Look at me, he says. I was the perfect law keeper…
Circumcised on the 8th day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the people of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews! As for the law, a pharisee. As for legalistic righteousness, perfect.
Then he says:
But I consider it all rubbish compared to Christ.
And do you know what word Paul uses when he says rubbish?
Our bible translators didn’t have the courage to use Paul’s word.
The word Paul uses, in Greek, is skybalon.
It means dung, excrement, or bulls**t !
Believing we can make ourselves righteous by obeying the law is a load of old bull, according to Paul!
Righteousness comes by faith in Christ.
Paul couldn’t believe it.
There he was, a perfect Jew, a perfect law-keeper, who suddenly found out that he was righteous by faith and not by obeying the law.
Suddenly, Paul didn’t have to try anymore.
No more effort required.
All your life you struggle to obey the law and then someone reveals to you that it’s impossible to become righteous by your own efforts, but not to worry because God has given you His righteousness as a free gift!
This is why Paul couldn’t stop banging on about God’s grace.
Couldn’t stop banging on about how righteousness is a free gift and nothing to do with our own self-efforts.
Not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.
– Ephesians 2:8
Some people teach we are “positionally righteous”, but that we have to struggle and strive to live up to that righteousness.
Well, show me where Paul says that.
There is no talk of being “positionally righteous” in Paul’s letters. There is no “now but not yet” as some people teach in the church today.
We are righteous now.
That is the gospel.
And it’s free!
The battle isn’t ours to overcome sin – Christ already won that battle on the cross.
He appeared once to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
– Hebrews 9:26
Christ has done away with sin. That was His battle, and He won it.
Our battle is to stop believing we have anything to add to Christ’s work.
Our battle is to stop clinging to our own ability to overcome sin, and to cling to Christ’s ability.
Was Christ successful in crucifying sin on the cross, or wasn’t he?
Either Christ did away with sin or he didn’t.
Was the writer of Hebrews lying?
Is God’s Word a lie, or the truth?
Either we believe God, or we don’t.
Either we trust God, or we don’t.
Either we are free from the prison of sin, or we are not.
The answer doesn’t depend on how we live.
We can’t make ourselves free from sin.
The answer lies in Christ’s crucifixion.
Was it effective or not?
Was it finished, or wasn’t it?
Are we free, or aren’t we?
Paul seems to think we are.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
– Galatians 5:1
So does Jesus.
If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!
– John 8:36
Our battle is not with sin, our battle is with our self-righteousness.
Our battle is with our pride.
Our battle is with our need to play a part in our own salvation.
Our refusal to accept we have no part to play in our own salvation keeps us from true freedom.
Christ has set us free yet we chain ourselves back up again, desperate to prove to God how good we can we be, when God has told us
There is no one good, except One.
What does Paul say?
Does he say:
Now that we are righteous by overcoming sin ourselves we have peace with God.
Or does he say:
Now that we are righteous by faith we have peace with God.
– Romans 5:1
He says we now that we are righteous by faith we have peace with God.
We aren’t righteous because of our own brilliant self-effort.
We aren’t righteous because we have succeeded by ourselves.
We have peace with God because of what Christ achieved for us.
We have peace with God by faith.
Nothing we do, no minor success in our battle against sin, can earn us any gold stars with God.
Jesus gets ALL the gold stars.
That’s right, ALL of them!
Every single one!
Nothing we do can make us any more righteous than He has already made us.
Do you think we can add to the robe of righteousness God has draped us in, by our own self efforts?
How proud we are to believe that!
John Stott is right where he says:
We resent the idea that we have nothing to contribute to our own salvation, so we stumble at the stumbling block of the cross.
We have nothing to add.
Christ did it all.
The sooner we start preaching the true gospel, that we are righteous by faith, through grace, the sooner people will be free to enter the rest God wants us to enter.
Does Jesus say:
Come to me all who are weary and I will make you struggle and battle to defeat your own sin.
Or does He say:
Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.
– Matthew 11:28
He says I will give you rest.
To sum up then, we cannot become righteous by ourselves.
Like the Prodigal Son, our Heavenly father has draped us in his best robe.
The robe of righteousness.
I always quote this verse, but I can’t help it. I love how excited Isaiah gets:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God, for He has draped me in a robe of His righteousness!
– Isaiah 61:10
Who draped Isaiah in righteousness? Did he drape himself? Or did God drape him?
God draped him.
And in the same way, God has draped us.
The moment we put faith in Christ He draped us in a robe of His righteousness.
His best robe!
As if we can dress ourselves in a more righteous robe than God has given us!
That’s like the richest man in the world giving you a precious stone for Christmas and you give it back with a proud face, saying:
“Thanks for the gift, but I’m sure I can find one more beautiful, if only I try!”
Try all we might we will never drape ourselves in a more righteous robe than God has given us.
We can’t make our robe more beautiful.
We can’t make our robe more holy.
God has given us our righteousness – as a free gift.
All we have to do is receive.
What an amazing God!