God’s righteousness is as high as the heavens. No man is like God.
Psalm 71 “God, your righteousness also reaches to the heavens. You have done great things. God, who is like you?”
But man has always tried to reach God’s righteousness and wisdom by his own efforts:
- Adam tried to become like God by knowing good & evil.
- The tower of Babel was man’s effort to reach the heavens.
- Abraham tried to self-fulfill God’s promise of a son through Ishmael.
- Moses tried to lead Israel in his strength but was rejected by his people.
- Peter tried to follow Christ but denied Him three times.
- Paul tried to be righteous by keeping the 613 commandments of the Law but failed.
- We can all insert our own stories here.
This is why God gave the Law to show that none of us are righteous in our own good deeds. The Law was given to expose our sins and shut man’s self-righteous mouths. (Romans 3:10-20)
The righteousness of God is ONLY fully displayed in the person of Jesus Christ – who is the Son of God who came in the flesh. No man had seen God until Jesus came (John 1:18).
Jesus came to fulfill the Law – living out the Righteousness demanded under the Law – the very righteousness of God Himself.
17 “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Israelites thought they were righteous by superficially obeying the Law.
But Christ shattered their self-righteousness by showing them the true requirement of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and throughout the Gospels.
Jesus warned that if people want to be righteous by keeping the Law then they have to obey ALL these commandments to be saved:
- It was not enough to avoid murder, but also abstain from anger to be saved (Matthew 5:21-26)
- It was not enough to avoid adultery, but also abstain from lusting and sinning with the eyes & hand to be saved (Matthew 5:27-30).
- If a person divorced for any reason other than sexual immorality and then remarried, then they are condemned as adulterers (Matthew 5:31-32).
- If anyone swore/made oaths, then they sinned (Matthew 5:33-37)
- If anyone judged others, then they were condemned (Matthew 7:1-5).
- In the LORD’s prayer, Jesus shattered their self-righteousness. He told them that God would forgive them ONLY if they forgave everyone ALL the time (Matthew 6:9-15, Luke 17:3-4). Otherwise if they didn’t forgive others then they would not be saved.
- They had to obey the Law by loving God with all their heart and not love money at all (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). They had to obey the Law by SELLING everything and giving the poor, otherwise they would not enter the kingdom. They had to seek the kingdom by giving up everything – give up their possessions, jobs, lands, families and even their own lives (Luke 12:31-34, Matthew 19:20-26, Luke 14:26-35, Matthew 6:19-20).
- It was not enough to be circumcised, but they had to carry the cross, following Jesus unto death as martyrs to be saved (Matthew 16:24-28).
- It was not enough to just love the neighbor, but they also had to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, run the extra mile, give their extra cloak and become PERFECT like God if they wanted to be God’s children (Matthew 5:38-48).
- They were commanded to be exactly like Jesus to be saved.
Jesus shattered man’s self-righteousness by declaring that only those who are PERFECT like GOD will be saved (become the children of God).
Matthew 5 “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, 45 that YOU MAY BE CHILDREN of your FATHER who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 48 Therefore you SHALL be PERFECT, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus showed Israel that if they wanted to be saved by keeping the Law then they had to BE EXACTLY as RIGHTEOUS as GOD and JESUS CHRIST Himself!
They had to perfectly obey everything in the Law otherwise they would not be saved.
James 2:10 “10 For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
Galatians 3 “ 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
The entire Sermon on the Mount and many of Christ’s teachings showed God’s Righteous Perfection that no man attained except Jesus Himself.
Jesus preached all of this to CONVINCE us that we cannot be saved by our works.
Jesus is the Only ONE who practiced what He preached (Matthew 7:24-29).
Jesus ALONE lived the PERFECT righteous life that we are utterly unable to do so!
Jesus is the only One who FULFILLED the law that we cannot obey.
He fulfilled the Law on our behalf so that we are saved not by works but only by Faith in Him:
Romans 10 “4 For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes…..5 For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law, “The one who does them will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness which is of faith says this….9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes resulting in righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.”
The Law demanded that only those whose DO ALL the works would be declared righteous.
And no man could do it – therefore Christ fulfilled it by His perfect obedience to the Law. He became the only human being to perfectly live without sin and therefore His obedience fulfilled the Law. After His perfect life, He died on the cross for our sins to forgive all our sins. He rose from the dead so that we are set free from the demands of the Law. We are now saved by faith alone in Christ!
What did Jesus say to people who trusted in their works?
Jesus told the self-righteous rich young ruler to KEEP the LAW, sell everything, carry the cross (be a martyr), following JESUS (becoming like JESUS) if he wanted to be SAVED by works (Matthew 19:16-26). But the man went away sad because he trusted in himself. Then Jesus said this:
Matthew 19 “25 When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
It is impossible for man to be saved by works. Salvation is only possible by GOD’s GRACE, not by man’s obedience.
Compare the Rich man of Matthew 19 VERSUS the Jailer of Acts 16:
- The rich man proudly trusted in the Law and asked Jesus “what good thing can I do to be saved?”. Jesus told him to become perfect like God to be saved !! He went away sad because he trusted in himself instead of believing in the GRACE of GOD.
- But the jailer in Philippi was a humble man. He asked Paul a different question “what can I do to be saved?”. The question was not about works but about faith. Paul told him in Acts 16:29-34 to believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved. The jailer was filled with the joy of salvation because he believed in the GRACE of GOD.
God’s righteousness in CHRIST JESUS is as high as the heavens compared to our lowly fleshly efforts. Our righteousness is “dust” compared to JESUS CHRIST. Using a mathematical analogy, it’s like comparing the number “0” versus “Infinity”. We have no righteousness of our own! We can improve our own righteousness to 10, 20 or even 100…but it’s still horribly short of Infinity!
Our righteousness is garbage compared to the Righteousness of CHRIST.
Paul the greatest follower of the Law considered his righteousness as COW-DUNG compared to the righteousness that we receive by FAITH in Christ apart from our works!
Philippians 3 KJV
“6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
We become Righteous not by our works but by TRUSTING in JESUS CHRIST alone!
Romans 3 “21 But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God’s forbearance; 26 to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.”
Galatians 3 “11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, “The righteous will live by faith.””
We are righteous NOT by our works but ONLY by faith through Christ’s perfect/sinless righteous life, death and resurrection.
Romans 4 ” 4 Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, 7 “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”..………who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.“
We are made righteous by HIS DEATH and not our works.
We will be saved by HIS LIFE and not our good deeds.
Romans 5 “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; ……9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.
18 So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous“
We are righteous by CHRIST’s OBEDIENCE and not our own!
Our righteousness is CHRIST HIMSELF. He is our Righteousness and not our deeds!
1 Corinthians 1 “28 God chose the lowly things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that don’t exist, that he might bring to nothing the things that exist, 29 that no flesh should boast before God. 30 Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: 31 that, as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.””
We are only flesh and blood, mere dust – but JESUS IS ALMIGHTY GOD – the Alpha and Omega.
We have nothing to boast in our deeds but only BOAST in JESUS CHRIST – HE IS EVERYTHING – and He DID Everything to save us!
We dare not boast in our puny works because it’s nothing compared to the perfect righteousness of Christ. Unlike Jesus, we could never life a perfect life and then die for our someone else’s sins and be raised from the dead – not in a million years!
Christ embodied the righteousness of God and never sinned. And yet He became sin on the cross. So that we who did no good works have received Christ’s Righteousness as a FREE GIFT.
2nd Corinthians 5 “19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is the glorious divine exchange!
God reconciled the world by judging ALL our sins on the body of Christ who never sinned.
We reconcile back to God by FAITH in Christ, not trusting in our works so that we are declared RIGHTEOUS apart from our works but by GRACE ALONE.