“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
One of the benefits of salvation is that you get endued with the righteousness of God. That sounds like a big deal, and when you peel back the layers it really is a big deal. My question for you is do you really understand what righteousness means and more specifically the righteousness of God?
Let’s answer that question, and in addition I want to share with you three things to know about the righteousness of God.
What Does Righteousness Mean?
According to Dictionary.com a person who is righteous is described in the following manner
- Characterized by uprightness or morality
- Morally right or justifiable
- Acting in an upright, moral way; virtuous
A righteous person is a moral, upright person who follows or does what is right. In essence, they live the right way. Therefore, the definition of righteousness is the state or condition of being declared upright, moral, just, or virtuous. This righteousness is not in your own eyes, but when people look at you they know and declare you to be an upstanding, moral person.
What Is God’s Righteousness?
In the passage in 2 Corinthians 5:21, the word righteousness means God’s approval or being considered right in his eyes. Think of it in this fashion: When God sees you he approves of you because you are a bearer of his righteousness. You are justified in his sight.
If you let that sink in you will find great reason to rejoice because God sees you and approves of you. In fact, I would say go ahead and get your shout on! But if you don’t shout, some praise will do just fine.
As wonderful as knowing the definition, it still requires a closer examination. That’s why I want to share with you three things to know about the righteousness of God.
3 Things to Know about the Righteousness of God
1 – It’s Not Earned, It’s Given Through Exchange
The unique thing about God’s righteousness and God seeing you as approved is that there is not enough you could ever do to earn God’s approval. This is not only unique, it is also a relief because it takes the burden off. Imagine the weight of trying to go through life wondering if you have done enough to earn God’s approval. That is a pressure that is simply too great to carry and one I don’t want you to carry.
God’s righteousness is not earned, it is given through exchange. Here is how the exchange works: Christ takes on our sin, in fact he became our sin and in exchange for our sin we receive his righteousness. To be declared righteous in God’s sight you must be willing to put all your sin on Christ and take up his righteousness. I know sometimes that is hard to grasp because it sounds too good to be true, but thankfully it is true. If you will allow him, God will take your sin and exchange it for his righteousness. That my friend is a winning proposition.
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2 – It’s Not Bought, It’s Paid For
Another wonderful aspect of God’s righteousness is that it really doesn’t cost you anything, but it cost Jesus everything. The fact is the price of your righteousness is so high that all the money in the world could never buy it anyway. However, that’s good news because God doesn’t ask you to buy something you could never afford. It has already been paid for.
“So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).
You are declared righteous and justified because of the blood of Jesus Christ. As the old song goes:
“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.”
You and I were guilty as sin (no pun intended). Yet there was a savior who came down from heaven and shed his blood so that all our guilty, sinful stains would be washed away and we would be declared righteous. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior then this moment, right now, you are righteous in God’s sight. All the guilty stains are gone. Paid for by the blood of Jesus and applied to your account so that your sinful account is now paid in full. There is nothing more required.
3 – It’s Not Temporary, It’s Eternal
I must admit that sometimes Christians struggle with sin, repentance, forgiveness, and God’s righteousness. One thing you must understand is that God’s declaration of righteousness over you is not temporary – it is eternal. In a legal courtroom when a case is dismissed, sometimes it is dismissed with prejudice. What this means is the case is dismissed forever. That issue is over and done with, once and for all. That case can never be brought before the courts again. When God declares you righteous he is in effect dismissing your original sin case with prejudice. Consider this passage in Romans:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24).
God’s justification or declaration of righteousness over your life has made you right in his sight both now and forever. It is one of the most important things to know about the righteousness of God. Your problem of original sin had been dealt with and you are not only the righteousness of God, you become his very special possession. In short, you belong to him both now and forever.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
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How Does God’s Righteousness Apply When I Sin Now?
It is important to understand the role sin plays in relation to God’s declaration of righteousness. As I mentioned earlier one of the important things to know about the righteousness of God is that it dealt with your original sin. The sin that separated you from God, that would have condemned you to an eternity apart from God has been tried and dealt with and dismissed with prejudice. That’s why Paul could write in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
By the way, he wrote these words right after talking about the struggle we all face with our sinful nature in Romans 7. As he put it:
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19).
I am sure you can clearly understand the fight that Paul is having. I know I can. Paul acknowledges that in this body you will have struggles with your sinful nature, however that struggle does not disqualify your right standing with God. In fact, one of the meanings of the word condemnation is the penalty that comes down after standing trial. Because you are the righteousness of God, you have stood trial and been found not guilty and there is no eternal penalty.
Does This Give Me a License to Sin?
It does not. I would say that a person who views God’s grace or declaration of righteousness as a license to sin has no understanding of justification or grace. I would wonder if they have ever truly really received Christ at all. While sin may not affect your declaration of righteousness, it does affect your ability to have close fellowship with God. That’s why when you sin you should repent quickly because it keeps the fellowship open between you and God.
The other side of the sin coin is that sin does have potential consequences. Just because it doesn’t remove your declaration or lead to condemnation, you may still have to pay the price in this life over sinful choices. The difference is the price you pay is temporary and not eternal because that has already been dealt with. So with the help of the Holy Spirit, avoid sin at all costs. But should you fall into sin, repent quickly so you will be able to maintain your beautiful fellowship with the Father.
How Do I Become More Righteous?
This is a wonderful question to consider, but I think it is the wrong question. One of the things to know about the righteousness of God is that it is not something you become, it is something you are. Once you are declared right with God or approved by God, you don’t become more right.
If I were to consider this question I would ask it in this fashion, how do I become more like Christ? Your goal as a believer should be to look, act, think, and behave like Christ did. When you do this, you reflect who he is in the earth. This is what God desires in our lives anyway.
So don’t seek to be more righteous, you already are, seek to be more like Christ. The best part is the Holy Spirit is here to help you do it.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
A Closing Thought
Today my friends, you are declared righteous. Now I challenge you to do one thing. Live like it. With the help of the Holy Spirit live like one who has been tried and found not guilty, because that is what you are.
I don’t know what is the most important thing to know about the righteousness of God, but knowing that you are approved in his sight might be one of them. Live today knowing that if you are in Christ, you have and are the righteousness of God. You don’t have to doubt or ever question it again.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.