Saturday, 4 February 2017
…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; Philippians 3:9
Following up on his words of the previous verse where he said, “that I may gain Christ,” Paul now shows what that means. It is to “be found in Him.” In dying to the world, we live to Christ. We positionally move from Adam to Jesus. Whereas we once were fallen and destined to eternal separation from God because of both inherited and committed sin, we become alive in Christ, having both cancelled. Our sin debt dies with Him on the cross and we are granted His righteousness.
Paul explains this by saying, “not having my own righteousness.” This should be worded, “not having a righteousness of my own.” It then eliminates any other type of righteousness than the one he will identify; something which could be implied in this translation. Paul is stating clearly and unambiguously that he possesses no such righteousness “which is from the law.” This idea is explained by Paul elsewhere. In Galatians 2, he says –
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 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.” Galatians 2:15, 16
The law could not justify, or make righteous, anyone. Rather, it stood opposed to that. Only a person with inherit righteousness could satisfy the law, but other than Jesus, there is none righteous. Instead of being justified by the law, Paul states that he is found in Christ Jesus by possessing a righteousness “which is through faith in Christ.”
Faith in the work of Christ is what grants someone righteousness. This is explained in Ephesians 2:8, 9. However, Paul is showing the contrast of this to that of those who apply adherence to the law into their life and conduct. In Romans 10:3, he explains it this way –
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Christ bears inherit righteousness, and He also fulfilled the law. Through faith in Him, righteousness is imputed to us. If we reinsert the law, we seek to establish our own righteousness apart from Christ. In this, there can be no hope. Only by faith in Christ can we possess His righteousness, “the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Charles Ellicott states this concerning the final two clauses of this verse –
“This verse is notable, as describing the true righteousness; first imperfectly, as coming ‘through faith of Jesus Christ,’ a description which discloses to us only its means, and not its origin; next, completely, as ‘a righteousness coming from God on the sole condition of faith’—faith being here viewed not as the means, but as the condition, of receiving the divine gift.”
Life application: What do you suppose you could add to the work of Jesus to satisfy God’s righteous demands? Let’s see – He was born without sin. Were you? He lived under the Law of Moses perfectly. Have you? He died in fulfillment of the law. Did you? He annulled the law through its fulfillment. Did you know? He offers us salvation by grace, imputing to us His righteousness, if we simply believe. Do you? Ok then, what more can you add to these things in order to be “more righteous” before God? Think it through, and then put away your childish attempts to be “super holy” by reinserting a law which can only condemn you.
Lord God, Your word shows us that Christ was born without sin. He lived under the Law of Moses perfectly. He died in fulfillment of the law. The law was annulled when it was fulfilled, and a New Covenant was established in His shed blood, one based on faith in what He has done. How can we be so utterly foolish as to think that adhering to precepts of an annulled law could ever make us more righteous? Do we presume to know better than You? Do we presume that we can be “more righteous” than Christ the Lord? Help us to think clearly and to rest in Your grace, offered through the work of Jesus. Amen.