Bible Study – Salvation

The Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus

Look at Romans verses 21–22. Paul just said in verse 20 that no human could ever be justified by works of the law. You can never have a right standing with God on the basis of legalistic strivings. Then he says (to show how justification is attained), “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

So even though no one can be justified by works of the law, there is a righteousness of God that you can have through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what I mean when I say being justified means being reckoned righteous. God’s righteousness is counted as ours through faith.

When Jesus dies to demonstrate the righteousness of God, as we saw last week from verses 25–26, he makes that righteousness available as a gift for sinners. Had Christ not died to demonstrate that God is righteous in passing over sins, the only way the righteousness of God would have shown itself is by condemning us. But Christ did die. And so the righteousness of God is now not a condemnation but a gift of life to all who believe.

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most breathtaking passages about this great gift of imputed righteousness. “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ knew no sin. He was a perfect man. He never sinned. He lived perfectly for the glory of God all his life and in his death. He was righteous. We, on the other hand have all sinned. We have belittled the glory of God. We are unrighteous.

But God, who chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, ordained that there would be a magnificent exchange: He would make Christ to be sin—not a sinner, but sin—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our alienation from God, our unrighteousness. And he would take the righteousness of God, that Christ had so awesomely vindicated, and make us bear it and wear it and own it the way Christ did our sin.

The point here is not that Christ becomes morally a sinner and we become morally righteous. The point is that Christ bears an alien sin and suffers for it, and we bear an alien righteousness and live by it.

Christ Only Suffered Once

And mark this: he only suffered once. He is not sacrificed again and again in the Lord’s Supper or the Mass as though his first sacrifice were insufficient. Hebrews 9:26 says that “Christ appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (cf. Hebrews 7:27). And again it says in 9:12, “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” This is utterly crucial in order to grasp the glory of what God did for us at the cross.

Do you see the connection between the once for all death of Christ and the totality of your sins and the sins of all God’s people? It isn’t some sins, or certain kinds of sins, or past sins only, but sins and sin absolutely that Christ put away for all his people.

So the forgiveness of justification is the forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future. That’s what happened when Christ died.

2. Reckoned Righteous with an Alien Righteousness

Being justified means being reckoned righteous with God’s righteousness imputed to us, or counted as ours.

We are not merely forgiven and left with no standing before God. God not only sets aside our sin, but he also counts us as righteous and puts us in a right standing with himself. He gives us his own righteousness.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith in Jesus

Look at verses 21–22. Paul just said in verse 20 that no human could ever be justified by works of the law. You can never have a right standing with God on the basis of legalistic strivings. Then he says (to show how justification is attained), “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

So even though no one can be justified by works of the law, there is a righteousness of God that you can have through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what I mean when I say being justified means being reckoned righteous. God’s righteousness is counted as ours through faith.

When Jesus dies to demonstrate the righteousness of God, as we saw last week from verses 25–26, he makes that righteousness available as a gift for sinners. Had Christ not died to demonstrate that God is righteous in passing over sins, the only way the righteousness of God would have shown itself is by condemning us. But Christ did die. And so the righteousness of God is now not a condemnation but a gift of life to all who believe.

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 5:21 is one of the most breathtaking passages about this great gift of imputed righteousness. “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christ knew no sin. He was a perfect man. He never sinned. He lived perfectly for the glory of God all his life and in his death. He was righteous. We, on the other hand have all sinned. We have belittled the glory of God. We are unrighteous.

But God, who chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, ordained that there would be a magnificent exchange: He would make Christ to be sin—not a sinner, but sin—our sin, our guilt, our punishment, our alienation from God, our unrighteousness. And he would take the righteousness of God, that Christ had so awesomely vindicated, and make us bear it and wear it and own it the way Christ did our sin.

The point here is not that Christ becomes morally a sinner and we become morally righteous. The point is that Christ bears an alien sin and suffers for it, and we bear an alien righteousness and live by it.

Justification Precedes Sanctification

Be sure that you see the objective reality of this outside ourselves. This is not yet the reality of sanctification—the actual process of becoming morally righteous in the way we think and feel and live. That too is a gift (we will see it in three weeks). But it is based on this one. Before any of us can make true gospel progress in being righteous partially, we must believe that we are reckoned righteous totally. Or to put it another way, the only sin that you can overcome practically in the power of God is a forgiven sin. The great gift of justification precedes and enables the process of sanctification.

3. Loved by God and Treated with Grace

Being justified means being loved by God and treated with grace.

Christ Proves the Measure of God’s Love for Us

If God did not love you, there would have been no problem to solve by the death of his Son. It was his love for you that made him pass over your sin and that made him look unrighteous. If he did not love you, he would have solved the sin problem simply by condemning us all to destruction. That would have vindicated his righteousness. But he didn’t do that. And the reason is because he loves you.

This is most beautifully pictured in Romans 5:6–8.

While we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

What God is proving in the death of his Son is not only the truth of his righteousness, but also the measure of his love.

Why? Because you are sinless? No. Because you are justified by the blood of Christ.

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