19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Rom. 3:19-28
The Apostle Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Hmmm. Much food for thought there.
The truly remarkable thing about Paul is that from the moment he understood the righteousness of God, he walked in that righteousness to the end. He was able to completely cast off his own righteousness.
Many of us might not be aware of it, but walking in the righteousness of God is the steepest gradient we will ever confront in our spiritual “safari”. This is because the righteousness of God is the basis of our salvation; but the human nature within us wants to institute its own false righteousness. We like to think we are good. That is nothing but human pride.
Without a doubt, the greatest contradiction in God’s Kingdom is a proud Christian. This is someone who does not understand the basis of his salvation. We could also say he does not understand the basics of salvation. He does not understand the littlest rudiment of the gospel. As such, he is a babe in Christ.
Sadly, there are many preachers, pastors, prophets, apostles and other men of God who are proud, by which definition they are babes in Christ. (If you haven’t seen a proud “servant of God”, you must have just walked in from the moon. They are packed in the ministry! And while we are still at it, did you notice how the word “ministry” sometimes rhymes in with “nursery”? And that’s seriously speaking.)
A proud Christian is someone who does not understand the rot he is or was until Jesus came to wash him clean. The Bible says clearly, “All have sinned”. There is no way, even by the longest stretch of the imagination, that man could conceive of himself as sinless. But still God takes the trouble to show us that we are (Rom. 3:9-18).
That leaves God, and God alone, righteous. As impossible as it is to conceive of ourselves without sin, it is equally impossible to visualize God as having sin.
There are some things that our spirits understand which our human mind does not.
The basis of our salvation is therefore Christ. In Him is God’s righteousness revealed. Jesus came and died on the cross so that God’s righteousness may be imputed to us. The word “imputed” means “credited”. Therefore, God’s righteousness is credited to us when we believe on Jesus. By His death on the cross, Jesus offered up a sacrifice that sufficed fully for God to be able to impute His righteousness to us.
That is why the Apostle Paul concludes that a man is justified before God by faith without the works of the law.
Works are good and they are certainly demanded of us. But you cannot put the cart before the horse. Works not built on the foundation of the righteousness of God are like rags of cloth in God’s eyes.
In verse 27 the apostle asks, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (v. 27).
Faith decrees or acknowledges that we are what God’s Word says we are – rotten – and that there is none righteous, except God Himself. By His own love for us He decided to impute His own righteousness to us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, that we might become righteous, just as He is righteous.
Those are three incredibly important facts tied in together. And our position in that equation is not an enviable one.
Where is our boasting, then? Where is the place for human pride? None whatsoever. The minute we allow ourselves to think of anything of us outside the realm of God’s righteousness, we automatically go back to our old state – rotten.
God’s righteousness and our own righteousness. The presence of one throws out the other.
Dare we then think of ourselves as anything? Not unless, of course, we are bewitched. We could laugh at the word “bewitched” there were it not for the unsavoury truth that our bewitcher is the carnal nature which we carry within us. One careless moment and we get entangled in its snare.
This is the nature that needs to be crucified. And this is where the word “maturity” comes in.
That is why every Christian needs to grow, to mature. We need to go beyond a rudimentary understanding of the cross. We need to understand the cross’s ability to mature us in Christ. Our understanding of the basics of our salvation is tied in with our spiritual maturity. The more you grow spiritually, the more you understand God’s righteousness as opposed to ‘your’ righteousness.
That is why the truly mature Christian is also the truly humble Christian.
[Below: Are we daily crucifying the flesh and racing on towards maturity … and an understanding of the righteousness of God?]