God's Gift: Jesus
Lesson 3

Lesson Three

Jesus: Our Means for Being Righteous Before God

Texts: 1 Corinthians 5:20,21; Galatians 3:23-29; Isaiah 64:6; Philippians 3:2-11

All of us tend to place more confidence in what we see than what we hear. What we tend to regard "what we see" as real. "What we hear" is more prone to deception. Words and their claims can more easily be deceptive than can appearances.

When God looks at only the person [any person], what He sees is clearly unholy. When God hears only the person [any person], what He hears is clearly unholy. God cannot be deceived by any human ploy (Galatians 6:7,8). The holy God knows what He sees or hears when He sees or hears unholiness. The contrast between the holiness of God and the unholiness of people is as distinct and definite as the contrast between absolute light and absolute darkness.

That being true, how is it possible for unholy people to be in the presence of the holy God? What can people do [of themselves] to make themselves holy before God? Nothing! Nothing humans do [of themselves] make humans holy before the God of genuine holiness.

As Isaiah wrote to Israel centuries ago, "Our righteous deeds are like filthy garments before God" (Isaiah 64:6). "Israel, do not place your trust in what you consider to be your righteous, obedient deeds performed before God! Trust God, not your acts! Your best deeds fall so short of God's holiness! Dependence on your deeds cannot make you righteous before God! When you depend on your deeds to make you righteous, your actual appearance in God's eyes is that of a person wearing filthy rags."

As Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi, "Nothing I did [do] or was [am] has the power to make me righteous before the holy God (Philippians 3:2-11). The incredible value of Christ is this: he can do for me what I cannot do for myself. He, not I, can make me appear righteous before the holy God. Therefore, I want the righteousness that comes through trusting Christ rather than the righteousness that is derived from my own deeds. I know both and have tried both. Attempts to make myself righteous are pitifully inadequate and insufficient. Righteousness produced by trusting what God did and does in Jesus Christ is the only thing that allows me to appear righteous in the holy God's sight."

If believers are not quite careful, they become lost in their own questions/issues and miss Paul's emphasis. Paul was not preaching an inactive, "do nothing" trust in Jesus Christ to the Philippian Christians. At least two negative things existed among those Christians. First, they had serious relationship problems among themselves (verified by 2:1-11 and 4:2,3). Second, as was quite common in first century congregations, the Jewish Christians versus the non-Jewish Christians controversy reared its ugly head in their fellowship (verified by 3:2-6). Paul wanted them to understand that the dividing line of acceptability before the holy God (a) was not formed by Jewish ancestry, traditions, practices, and deeds, but (b) was formed by placing trust in what God accomplished in Jesus' death and resurrection.

Thus, Paul urged them not to place their confidence in human deeds, but in the Christ. Paul did not urge them to reject acts of obedience. Paul urged them not to place their confidence in their acts of obedience. "Serve God obediently, but place your confidence in God's accomplishments in Jesus Christ." Acts of obedience should demonstrate "who I belong to," not "I trust me." Christians demonstrate that their confidence is in Christ through obedience. That is the basic purpose of obedience.

To see the spiritual reality of this lesson, we must remember the last lesson. God made Jesus sin so that we can be God's righteousness in Jesus. That happened when God clothed Jesus in humanity's sins. When God looked at the dying Jesus on the cross, He saw sin because Jesus was clothed in humanity's sin. Jesus was sin before God, not because he did anything evil, but because humanity's evil was transferred to him. When the holy God saw Jesus on the cross, He saw humanity's evil because the righteous Jesus was clothed in our sins.

For us to appear righteous before the holy God, the reverse happens. Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that was the purpose of God allowing Jesus to be sin. God made Jesus sin to provide us the means to be the righteousness of God in Jesus. Just as God allowed Jesus to be clothed in humanity's sin, God allows a person who trusts what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection to wear Jesus' righteousness. That is the primary purpose of baptism (Galatians 3:26,27). At baptism the person becoming a Christian does two things. He or she needs to realize these two things at baptism [remember Galatians 3:27 was written to Christians for their learning/instruction]. First, he or she must understand that he or she is declaring confidence in what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection. Second, he or she must understand that he or she is allowing God to transfer Jesus' righteousness to him or her.

Why? The man or woman becoming a Christian declares confidence in the adequacy of Jesus' sacrifice and God's acts. He or she is allowing God to make him or her righteous by clothing him or her in Christ. Just as God looked at Jesus on the cross and saw sin, God looks at the man or woman in Christ and sees Jesus' sinless righteousness. Because that man or woman has no sin? No! Because the man or woman wears Christ!

For whom did Paul say that can happen? Just Jewish believers? No. Just non-Jewish believers? No. Paul said that can happen for anyone--Jews and non-Jews; slaves and non-slaves; man and woman. Why can it happen for anyone? Because everyone in Jesus Christ is one, or everyone is the same before God. Why? Everyone in Christ is clothed in Christ. Paul then said an astounding thing: everyone in Christ is Abraham's descendant [they share Abraham's faith]. Everyone in Christ is an heir to the promise God gave Abraham. They are part of the universal blessing God gave Abraham, a part of the blessing God promised to all families of the earth.

Every Christian man and woman should know that he or she can be in the presence of the holy God because he or she is clothed in Jesus Christ. It is only that reason that allows men and women who are unholy to be in the holy God's presence!


Read 1 Corinthians 5:20, 2l and Galatians 3:23-29. Remember both statements were written to Christians who placed faith in Christ and were baptized. The first statement was written to Christians at Corinth. They endured the immediate consequences of numerous ungodly problems. The second statement was written to Christians in the Galatian province of the Roman Empire. They struggled with the Jewish Christian versus the non-Jewish Christian issue.

  1. Why were all Christians children of God?

  2. What did Christians need to realize about their baptism?

  3. Explain the importance of that realization.

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 3

Copyright © 2003
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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