FAITH, OUR IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

What does it mean to be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?

The New Living Translation says: For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Being made the righteousness of God in Christ does indeed sound a lot more spectacular than simply being made right with God; yet when the whole counsel of scripture is taken into account, being made right with God is exactly what is meant by the words “made the righteousness of God in Christ.”

We are in right standing with God through Jesus Christ and it is God’s own righteousness that has brought this about.

Consider the following for Romans 4:

Now it was not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, that it (righteousness) was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (v.23-25)

Regarding Romans 4:25, W.E. Vine states, “…all that was necessary on God’s part for our justification had been effected in the death of Christ. On this account he was raised from the dead. The propitiation being perfect and complete, his resurrection was the confirmatory counterpart.”

Christ Jesus is the one through whom we are justified in the sight of God. However, it is how this justification is accredited to us that is sometimes misunderstood.

For instance, in Calvinist theology, being made righteousness in Christ means that Christ’s own personal righteousness is imputed to us as righteousness. Though it is understandable how someone could reach this conclusion, the Bible doesn’t actually support this claim when the whole counsel of scripture is taken into account.

Allow me to expound on this briefly. Let’s look again at the verses in Romans cited above:

Now it was not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, that it (righteousness) was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (v.23-25)

A careful reading of Romans 4 reveals that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed God.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS COUNTED UNTO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Romans 4:1-3)

Notice that “it” is a reference to Abraham’s faith which was accounted or accredited to him as righteousness.

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but BELIEVETH on him that justifieth the ungodly, HIS FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (ROMANS 4:4-5)

Notice that for the one who believes in God through Christ, his faith is counted or accredited for righteousness.

Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God IMPUTETH RIGHTEOUSNESS WITHOUT WORKS, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord WILL NOT IMPUTE SIN. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that FAITH WAS RECKONED TO ABRAHAM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (ROMANS 4:6-9)

Paul, quoting David from the Psalms, describes the blessedness of being forgiven as imputed righteousness. He then cites Abraham’s faith again and says, faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

HOW WAS IT THEN RECKONED? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH which he had yet being uncircumcised: THAT HE MIGHT BE THE FATHER OF ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE, though they be not circumcised; THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS MIGHT BE IMPUTED UNTO THEM ALSO: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also WALK IN THE STEPS OF THAT FAITH OF OUR FATHER ABRAHAM, which he had being yet uncircumcised. (ROMANS 4:10-12)

Notice that Abraham is the father of all who believe and righteousness is imputed to them in the same way it was imputed to Abraham: through faith.

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH. (ROMANS 4:13)

The righteousness of faith refers to righteousness that accredited through faith. That is the train of thought here.

For if they which are of the law be heirs, FAITH is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of FAITH, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is OF THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before himWHOM HE BELIEVED, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in FAITH, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was STRONG IN FAITH, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. AND THEREFORE *IT* WAS IMPUTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.(Romans 4:14-22)

The “it” which was imputed to him for righteousness is faith!

Now it was not written for his sake alone, THAT IT WAS IMPUTED TO HIM; But FOR US ALSO, to whom IT SHALL BE IMPUTED, IF WE BELIEVE ON HIM that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:24-25)

Notice that, that which was written concerning faith being imputed for righteousness was not written for Abraham’s sake alone, but for us also to who it – faith – will be imputed as righteousness if we believe on him who raised Jesus from the dead.

Also notice that Abraham’s faith in God is specifically tied to the promise God made to him that he would be the father of many nations. According the Galatians 3:8, thise was the gospel in advance. Abraham believed God’s promise, in Christ, that he should be the father of many nations and was justified.

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it (Abraham’s faith in God) was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).

Likewise, our faith in Jesus is accounted as righteousness,because faith in Jesus Christ is a righteous and holy thing in the sight of God. It is our faith in God through Jesus Christ that isimputed to us as righteousness to us.

How then are we to understand scriptures such as Galatians 2:16 & 20, and Philippians 3:9, which speaks of justification by the faith OF Christ?

In the traditional KJV of the Bible, the faith OF Christ, is an old English reference to, the faith which is in Christ, or better yet,faith in Christ. It is not a reference to Christ’s own personal faith.

For example, Galatians 2:16 in the New King James Version says the following:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, even we have BELIEVED IN CHRIST JESUS, that we might be JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN CHRIST and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Verse 20 says, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Philippians 3:9 in the NKJV says, … and be found in Him, 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.

Notice in the text above, Paul says ” the righteousness which is from God by faith. In Galatians 2:16 and Philippians 3:9, justification through faith in Christ is set contrast to justification through the works of the Law.

In Philippians 3, Paul refers to justification through the works of the Law as his own righteous. Conversely, Paul refers to justification through faith in Christ as the righteousness which comes from God. 

Nowhere in the new testament is the theology of being justified by Jesus’s own personal faith ever clearly defined, expounded on, or articulated; but being justified by faith in Jesus Christ is. Jesus is the gift of God to us and righteousness is imputed to us freely through our faith in him.

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