“The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… for in it the righteousness from God is revealed’.” – Romans 1:16-17
One of the most moving subjects in the Bible, which is at the heart of the Good News, is called ‘the righteousness from God’. What is ‘the righteousness from God’, and why is such good news?
Certainly, it tells us that God is a right God who only does what is right, but what makes it good news for people is that it involves God making people right in His presence who, by themselves, are not right. Or, to say it this way, it’s about God making people acceptable before Him who were not acceptable. How great is that?!
Acceptance Has Nothing To Do With Our Performance
What is very clear about this acceptance of God is that it actually has nothing to do with our performance, whether it be good or bad. It is not as though God sweeps the human race, accepting the good living people and rejecting the bad living people.
This is an acceptance which has nothing to do with human work at all. It’s totally a gift of grace given to anyone who has faith in the saving work of God in Jesus, no matter what their life looks like. Though we might think there is a distinction between good and bad people in the world, God does not acknowledge a distinction between those who don’t believe in the saving work of Jesus, and nor does He acknowledge a distinction between those who do.
“The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and all are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23
This acceptance has nothing to do with any goodness of our own, nor anything we ourselves have done, but through our faith in the performance of God in Jesus to make us right.
“God has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” – 2 Timothy 1:9-10
“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.” – Titus 3:4-5
Jesus Is Eternal Life
We must abandon all ideas of human work gaining God’s acceptance or hindering God’s acceptance. It is ‘not because of anything we have done’ – bad or good! Jesus came to the world with these words: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life’ (John 3:36). Whoever!
Sinfulness makes no difference and goodness makes no difference. Eternal life is not hindered by a person’s sinful life, but nor is it gained by a person’s ‘righteous’ life, ‘For there is none righteous, no, not one’ (Romans 3:10). All sinfulness is to be laid down at Jesus’ feet, and all ‘righteousness’ is to be laid down at Jesus’ feet also. Sinfulness preventing salvation has to be surrendered, and goodness gaining salvation has to be surrendered. Redemption and eternal life are in only one place – God’s Son Jesus: ‘Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life’ (1 John 5:12-13).
Eternal life is Jesus. If I have Jesus, I have eternal life. If I don’t have Jesus, I don’t have eternal life.
Perhaps we think that if a person does more good than another, they will become more accepted than another. But how can this be when God’s acceptance is clearly decided, not by what people have or haven’t performed, but by belief in Jesus’ life? If all our acceptance is carried entirely on the shoulders of Jesus’ performance and my faith in that, the idea that I can gain more of it by my performance is false. God accepts only one kind of life – His own. Either I live that exactly, or I need God to graciously and lovingly give it to me by my belief in His salvation. And if God gives it to me then I don’t have any more or any less of it than another person to whom He gives it also.
It’s not to say there are not different levels in holiness and character between people, but rather that God does not count you as a more righteous, or a more saved person than another who has not been developed in holiness as much. If God is bestowing His own perfection upon many people through His Son Jesus, unless it’s because they’re all living exactly the same, it means their varying degrees of holiness and sinfulness have got nothing to do with it. Their belief in Jesus must be the common denominator because they are all accepted, yet their development in holiness is diverse. Universally, all people are by themselves totally unacceptable to God with no degree of difference, but universally, all people who put their trust in the saving work of God in Jesus, are totally accepted by God with no degree of difference!
Made Free In Jesus
One of the results is this: freedom from the heavy burden of thinking my sins and shortcomings in holiness are altering God’s acceptance of me in Jesus. My failings no longer cast doubt on my acceptance before God, nor does my goodness achieve it, because neither hindered nor gained my acceptance in the first place! Acceptance was given to me because of my faith in God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ who lived the life of God.
Therefore, now being made free, I am now able to pursue the God I love, and the Lord Jesus that I love, without fear that my failings in every area of life are casting me out of their acceptance. As I pursue, as I grow, as I develop, I always remember that it is not my successes which are gaining me acceptance, nor is it my failings which are hindering it – but that my acceptance is because of Jesus and my faith in him! The joy of ‘the righteousness from God’ is that my failings and my growth all happen within the realm of God’s acceptance of me by my faith in Jesus Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:1-2
It’s not as though God holds off accepting us until we reach a level of improvement. God’s acceptance meets us right where we are when we look to God and place our faith in Jesus’ life to save us. That is the power which helps us begin growing – not as a way of progressing towards acceptance, but because God has loved me and accepted me in His Son Jesus.
It’s not me developing in holiness which leads to God accepting me, it’s God accepting me in Jesus which leads to me developing in holiness. This rich kindness of God towards us is the power for change:
‘‘Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4