– Romans 3:22
Our Source of Righteousness
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Rome, wanted to emphasize that “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [is] for all who believe” (Rom 3:22), meaning that we have an alien righteousness, meaning our righteousness comes from outside of our own selves. Elsewhere, Paul explains this source to the church at Corinth, writing that it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2nd Cor 5:21). Paul is saying that Jesus knew no sin at all, meaning that Jesus never sinned once in His entire earthly ministry in the flesh. He Who knew no sin came to die for us who we knew a lot about sin, but God knew this from the very beginning, so He planned from before time began, to send the Redeemer Who is Jesus Christ to live a sinless life, and to suffer and die and to be raised again on the third day to impute His righteousness toward us. This is the very righteousness of God that comes from Jesus’ Himself on our behalf.
Reconciling us to God
When we finally come to understand that we are separated from God by our sins (Isaiah 59:2), which is a work of the Holy Spirit in us, we seek forgiveness from God Who then brings us to repentance and trust in Christ. This means that salvation is fully a work of God and that Jesus alone can reconcile us back to God. We cannot do anything of ourselves. We must depend on the work of Christ at Calvary to be reconciled to God. This is why Paul wrote that it “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2nd Cor 5:19). If He had counted our trespasses (sins) against us, then we’d have no chance at ever being reconciled back to God, but since Christ came for this very purpose, we should, with grateful hearts, be “ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2nd Cor 5:20). In other words, now that we are subjects of the kingdom of God here on earth, we can now represent the kingdom like an ambassador does his or her own nation. As ambassadors, Christ makes His appeal to the lost through us, since we have the ministry of reconciliation in uniting lost people to Christ, and this in the hopes that they too might become subjects of God’s coming kingdom.
Receiving God’s Righteousness
The Bible teaches that not even one of us is righteous before God (Rom 3:10), and not even one of us can say “we’re a good person” because the Bible declares that none of us are good, not even one of us (Rom 3:12), so why do people believe they’re good enough to go do heaven because they live a “good life?” It may be a case where people just don’t know the Bible well enough to know that none of us are good. Tragically, many who believe they are saved will one day find out that Jesus never even knew them (Matt 7:21-23). If you are not sure that God has declared you righteous in His sight, you had better get this right on this side of eternity. Over and over again I speak with people who think they’re good enough to get to heaven, but sadly, they will find out too late that none of us are good enough to go to heaven, nor can any of us do anything good to save ourselves (Eph 2:8-9). Works don’t save us, only Christ does. Our works are nothing more than filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), and so He will not accept them. If we don’t understand that our righteousness comes only from God and not from ourselves, we will stand before God and be judged for our own works, and the Bible makes it clear that our own human works will send us to hell (Rom 20:12-15).
By Grace Alone
The Bible is clear that it is only “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9). If it were by works, as many of the world’s false religions teach, we’d always worry if we had done enough good works to get us to heaven. How many good works would be enough? How would we know for sure? What assurance would we have outside of Jesus’ righteousness imputed or credited toward us? Since we’re saved by grace through faith alone, we need to realize that we’re saved alone by grace, and not by works. Even though we’re saved by grace and not by works, our faith should naturally produce good works. Of course, these works don’t save us, but God has saved us to do works that He’s prepared for us ahead of time (Eph 2:10).
We know that “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” (Rom 3:21), and that it is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22), but to believe means to obey. We can’t say we believe Him and then not obey what Christ commands us. Remember that even the demons believe (James 2:19), so believe without acting on that belief, our belief is useless. If we really believe in Jesus, we will obey Him because we love Him for His reconciling us back to God. This love will naturally produce a life of obedience; not perfection, but striving for perfection. Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).