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Righteous before God


Job, the most righteous man who ever lived, asked this burning question: “How can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2). The answer:

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But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

—Romans 3:21–26

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This is the only possible solution to our sin. A righteousness must come down to us, a righteousness that is alien to us. “Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it” (Isa. 45:8).

This imputed righteousness is the sole ground of the sinner’s justification. God accepts sinners not because of something good or praiseworthy He finds in them. Remember, “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Our good works contribute nothing at all to our righteous standing. Once more: if your trust is in your own goodness, you are doomed (Luke 18:8). God accepts only absolute perfection, which does not exist in the human realm, except in Christ.

But here’s the good news: true believers are united with Christ “through faith” (Eph. 3:17), and therefore they too are “in Christ” (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:30). God accepts them and blesses them on that basis (Eph. 1:6). That is how He “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). He credits them with a righteousness that is not their own—an alien righteousness, reckoned to their account.

Paul prominently features this truth in his own testimony. His heart’s desire, he said, was to “be found in [Christ], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).

Notice what Paul is confessing: God Himself had to come to the rescue. He alone can save. The very One who gave the law that condemns us also supplies the righteousness needed to save us. And that is the only merit we need to have a right standing before Him.

This is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). And it’s the only way a person can be right with God.

—John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 57–58.



Posted 2018·06·29 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Imputation · John MacArthur · The Gospel according to Paul · Union with Christ

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