SALVATION UNLIMITED    by Edward Heppenstall


2
SAVING 
RIGHTEOUSNESS 
REVEALED


Jews and Greeks alike are all under the power of sin. This has scriptural warrant: "There is no just man, not one." For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death (Rom. 3:9, 10; 6:23, N.E.B.).

WE FIND from Scripture that manís alienation from God is marked by two fatal consequences: He is wholly without righteousness, and he is under sentence of death. Therefore, for man to be saved, God must do two things: He must remove the death sentence, and He must provide a perfect righteousness and the divine power that brings men into a right relationship with Himself. The first God does by the death of Christ; the second by Christís righteous life on earth. This is the gospel, "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16).

The Gospel is Godís Gospel; God is the planner of this Gospel. God is the initiator of this Gospel. Indeed everything about the Gospel should always be in terms of God primarily, for this reason, that sin after all is rebellion against God. Sin is not just something that means that you and I have failed, and have let down ourselves and our standard; sin is not just something that makes us miserable and unhappy. The essence of sin is rebellion against God leading to estrangement from God; and if we do not conceive of sin always in reference to God and our relationship to Him, we have an inadequate conception of sin.... This is the starting point of the Gospel. . . . And our central need, therefore, is to be reconciled to God. . . . As our sin is separation from Him, salvation is reconciliation to Him.ó MARTYN LL0YD-JONES, Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 33. Used by permission.

The Sinnerís Need of Righteousness

Men seem almost indifferent to the desperate peril created by sin. All too often men are utterly unaware of the power of sin in their own lives and the record of sin that stands against them in the courts of heaven for which they must answer in the judgment. Sin is an unlimited evil. Once it is committed, it cannot be undone.

Yet the Bible is full of expressions of Godís love for sinners. It is God who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Rom. 8:32). It is God who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It is God, our heavenly Father, who will never dishonor His character of righteousness and truth by offering to save man in his sins and let sin continue to reign. The everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ meets the needs of sinful man.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to) faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom 1:16, 17).

In this text Paul affirms that the gospel saves sinners because in it is revealed the "righteousness of God," which is now made available for unrighteous men. Godís answer to the sin problem is tied to the word "righteousness," the one thing that man does not have.

The frequency with which the word "righteousness is used in the Bible when speaking of Godís plan to redeem man stands in contrast to the human race where none is righteous. How can man get right with God? How can man be reconciled to God? How can man be restored to the image of God and to His likeness?

In the very same verses where Paul speaks of the revelation of Godís saving righteousness he also speaks of the revelation of Godís wrath.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness (verse 1 8).

We make no plea for a God who must execute justice and demand payment, but for the need of a loving God who must reveal mercy and righteousness if the sinner is to be redeemed. What a universal need for saving righteousness exists in the world, the need for man to be restored to God and to his original state from whence he is fallen! At the same time God makes no compromise with sin.

Of course we do not mean by "the wrath of God" capriciousness or some uncontrolled emotion, or arbitrary anger, and loss of self-control. What it means is Godís utter detestation of sin and evil. This is something that is revealed everywhere in Scripture. What is the meaning of the Ten Commandments if it is not this? They are a revelation of the holy character of God. God says to His people, "Be ye holy; for I am holy ... God cannot but hate sin. God would not be God if He did not hate sin God is light and in him is no darkness at all."óIbid., pp. 8, 9.

Godís answer to the sin problem is the revelation of His righteousness. What is this "righteousness of God" that saves men?

The Biblical Meaning of Righteousness

The Bible uses the word righteousness in several different ways.

First, righteousness is spoken of as an attribute of God, a specific quality of Godís own character. God is righteousness in the same sense that He is truth, light, love. Perfect righteousness belongs to God as an intrinsic part of His own being. Speaking of God, Isaiah says: "And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins" (Isa. 11:5).

But righteousness as a divine attribute does not save men. On the contrary, were God to manifest Himself openly to sinners in His untrammeled righteousness and perfection, this would result in manís destruction. No sinner could endure it for a moment.

Second, the word "righteousness" is also used to describe the uprightness of men, the morality of those who seek to live righteously in this present world. Daniel, when addressing King Nebuchadnezzar as he faced the judgment of God, urged upon him: "0 King, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness" (Dan. 4:27).

The word "righteousness" is here conceived in terms of right-doing. It can refer to moral men either Christian or non-Christian, describing a way of life in obedience to moral principles and personal integrity. A certain moral righteousness does belong to man insofar as he obeys the law of God and the moral laws underlying society. This relative righteousness is of great importance in terms of manís responsibility to his fellow men. This human uprightness and morality does play a significant part in maintaining the social and civil order of the nation.

But again, this does not save man, since man cannot obey the law of God perfectly in himself. The righteousness that saves men is not attainable by human effort whatsoever. Man is not saved by works of righteousness, although righteous living will follow as a consequence of a right relationship with God. God is not saying that the morality of law-abiding citizens is not a good thing for the present world order. It certainly is desirable. But it does not save a man.

Third, the righteousness that saves is the "righteousness of God" revealed to man through Jesus Christ alone.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 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: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:21-24).

The beginning of manís return to God converges in the life and death of the Son of God. He is the "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). Alone, God in Christ reconciled the world unto Himself (see 2 Cor. 5:19). He requires no help from man in this supreme revelation of saving righteousness.

Thus saving righteousness is not an attribute of God or an ethical requirement and demand by God. It is a divine act that reveals in historical events Godís plan and power to save man. It is an objective act that changes the hopeless situation of mankind whether men believe and accept salvation or not.

Salvation by the righteousness of Christ means that man acknowledges and believes that God has revealed and effected in Christ alone a righteousness that is eternally all-sufficient for all men. This perfect righteousness consists of Christís fulfillment of Godís commandments and obedience to the will of God that was maintained even unto the death on the cross. It is a righteousness that satisfies all the requirements of divine justice, revealed in the sphere of human sin and death. This makes the gospel the power of God unto salvation.

The Christian faith is not a philosophy, it is not merely a teaching. It is based on a series of historical events. The teaching derives from and is grounded in the historical events. That can never be too much emphasized, because this is the point at which our faith differs from every so-called religion. All religions are teachings; this (the Christian faith) is event and historical happening before it is teaching; it is an announcement of events, of actions and of facts. . . . God has revealed this, and He has done so in the historical events connected with the life and work and ministry, the death and resurrection and ascension of the Son of God, and with the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost.óIbid., pp. 40, 41.

It is important to understand Paulís statements on this great truth. First, he emphasizes the fact that the righteousness that saves is "the righteousness of God," in order to distinguish it from the righteousness of men. It is the righteousness of God revealed and not the righteousness of man achieved (but it is the righteousness of Christ achieved in man). The saving initiative is Godís. To be saved man needs a revelation from God, not a new set of requirements.

The particular form that the revelation of saving righteousness takes is determined by God alone. It does not come through the involved and complicated arguments of the worldís great men. No amount of mental activity by man can produce it. Saving righteousness is due entirely to divine action. God alone, in a unique act of redemption, has brought to bear upon manís lost condition a revelation of His saving power and righteousness.

Now the revelation of God in nature has no solution to the sin problem. Nature speaks to manís need of God, but brings no satisfaction. The argument for the existence of God from nature has meaning only for the man who already has a Christian orientation and experience. To claim to believe in God because one can see design in nature and an orderly universe does not make a person a Christian. Simply to theorize about the design and purpose of God in creation can only distract from the first business of life, to "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). Without the divine intervention of God in Christ, the shadows of sin and death that have fallen upon all men can issue only in the continual descent of the race into eternal darkness from which there is no escape.

Neither is salvation to be conceived as a solution to the social problems of the race effected by the wisdom of man. The "righteousness of God" is not a soothing of oneís guilt or cheering one up in the hours of discouragement. Man is never saved by his own moral development. No righteousness exists among men that is acceptable to God. Only the righteousness of God is the power unto salvation, because only God can provide and bestow it. Without it man must remain in slavery to sin and under the sentence of death.

Salvation does not merely consist in our receiving forgiveness of sins. The thing that Apostle [Paul] stresses is that we are given a positive righteousness. "But now" he says, "the righteousness of God." What man had been trying to produce, and especially the Jews, was a righteousness that would satisfy God. The Jews thought they were doing it through the Law; others thought they were doing it with their morality and their philosophy. Paul has proved that it was all vain. "But now," he says, there is an entirely new positionóa righteousness from God is available. This is the big thing in salvation; . . . Before we can be admitted to heaven we must be clothed with righteousness. . . . A righteousness of God, or from God, is now available because of what Christ did when He came into the world and what He has completed by going back again to the Father.óIbid., pp. 42, 43.

The divine source of saving righteousness is Jesus Christ, His person and His work on earth. Here alone God has revealed the righteousness that man needs.

You are in Christ Jesus by Godís act, for God has made him our wisdom; he is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30, N.E.B.).

I count everything sheer loss, because all is far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I did in fact lose everything. I count it so much garbage, for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself incorporate in him, with no righteousness of my own . . . but the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ, given by God in response to faith (Phil. 3:8, 9, N.E.B.).

Saving righteousness is called the righteousness of Christ because it belongs to Him alone, it comes from Him and not from the law. The prophet speaks of "The Lord our righteousness" (Jer. 33:16). Paul describes it as the "righteousness of one" man; "obedience of one" man; "the gift of righteousness . . . by one, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5: 17-19). In stating it this way, Paul proclaims His to be the one righteous life, the one life on earth perfectly obedient to the law of God, lived under human conditions, a life lived entirely by faith in His Father, dependent upon God alone.

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me (John 6:57).

Jesus Christ on earth lived righteousness by faith. As a man He lived as all men ought to live, a life of complete trust and dependence upon His Father. This perfect righteousness had never occurred until Christ came to earth. Jesus Christ is the only reason for Christianity and the Christian church. Christ did descend from heaven into this world. He did live a perfect life on earth. He was crucified and died for the sins of all men. He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. Today He is the living Christ. He alone is our righteousness.

These facts stand forever and cannot be dethroned any more than the stars in their courses. Christ is the turning point of manís sinful history. In Christ and through Christ new life from above begins. Christ thrust into the sinful stream of humanity a current of righteousness so powerful as to turn the face of men back toward the living God. There can never be another Christ who is both Saviour and Lord. The believer must look to Him and depend on Him who continually communicates His righteousness to those who live by Him.

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life (1 John 5:11, 12).

This is the good news for sinners: Godís redemptive action in His Son, originated and planned by God as expressions of His everlasting love and power. This action of God saves men. This power gives man that which he could never provide for himself: salvation, redemption, transformation, and reconciliation with God.

Furthermore, this divine gift of righteousness is complete in Christ. When Christ was about to leave His disciples, He promised to send them the Holy Spirit, who would "convince the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment." Convincing of righteousness, He said: "Because I go to the Father and you will see me no more" (John 16:8-11, R.S.V.). Christ meant that the gift of righteousness is now complete in Him. It is a perfect righteousness, objective in Christ alone, offered to man as a gift.

Paul never wearies in making Christ and His righteousness the pivot in manís redemption. In Romans, chapter 5, he further emphasizes this by comparing the first Adam with Christ, the second Adam. The way to salvation was closed by the first Adam and reopened by Jesus. The first man was the first sinner. Thus death began and has continued ever since to reign in the world. Paul does not say that all men are punished because Adam sinned or that God regarded Adamís descendants as guilty by virtue of Adamís guilt, but that all men are involved in the sin and death that began with Adam.

The sin of Adam inflicted universal injury on the human race, not by implicating all men in the sin Adam committed, but by involving them in its consequences. This is the reality to which men must accommodate their thinking and living. Paul saw in this the glorious opportunity for God to manifest His grace and mercy and to provide a divine righteousness, the power of God for salvation. As sin and death came to all men through Adamís sin, so life and righteousness are available to all men through Jesus Christ. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22).

The only cure lies in another Manís righteousness. To experience that righteousness man must be united with Christ by faith. This righteousness that belongs to Christ is reckoned to the believer who trusts wholly to Christís help.

The relation of the subjective attitude to the objective act of redemption needs special explanation. . . The historical manifestation of pardoning righteousness is the very power of God, who rules over all, and it is manís business to submit to it.... This means being directly challenged and arrested by God, brought under his authority, made partaker at once in the mighty act of salvation through faith, and set within the sphere of Godís righteousness. All who believe share in that righteousness. The demand for faith always accompanies the most objective utterances concerning the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17; 3:22-28; 4:5, 1). The achievement and proclamation of salvation are never separated from the appropriation of it. (GOTTFRIED QUELL AND G0TTLOB SCHRENK, Righteousness (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1951), pp. 47, 48.

Righteousness and Law *

[*The use of the term law in this book should be identified with the moral law of the Ten Commandments. This specific aspect of law is distinct from the generic use of the Hebrew word torah. In contrast with the Decalogue, there is much flexibility in the use of the term torah either with reference with the first five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) or the general reference to Old Testament teachings and instructions from God. In this book "law" is concerned primarily with Paulís use of it, particularly as found in the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians. When Paul says "by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 1:20); ĎĎI had not known sin but by the lawíí (chap. 7:7) "love is the fulfilling of the law" (chap. 13:10); he is speaking of the moral law of the Decalogue.]

Paul is careful to point out the relationship of Christís righteousness to the law of God.

But now the righteousness of God without the law [that is, independently of law] is manifested (Rom. 3:2 1).

Paul emphasizes the fact that saving righteousness is altogether different from any righteousness attempted by manís efforts to keep the law. Salvation does not come by right doing; otherwise it would be salvation by law.

Christ also is silent about any righteousness acceptable to God that can be attained by human effort. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said:

Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).

Christ is saying that the righteousness He brings and offers exceeds the righteousness of the Jewish leaders. When pointing out the failure of the Jews to attain salvation, Paul put it this way:

For they being ignorant of Godís righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3).

These scriptures affirm that saving righteousness is beyond the reach of the most meticulous observance of the law. While saving righteousness involves the fulfillment of the law, it is not achieved or produced by law. In Godís plan of redemption through Christís righteousness, there is no place for the Christian saving a little corner for righteousness by works in order to safeguard the law and defend it. Saving righteousness comes by a right relationship to Christ; and not out of a manís relation to the law. The second relationship comes as a result of the first. This was where the Jews failed.

Whatever your interpretation of "without law" means you must never say that the Law has disappeared, vanished, or been cast away for ever out of Godís sight. That is not the case. It does not mean that. What then does it mean? It means that our attempting to keep the Law perfectly ourselves as the means of salvation has been entirely set aside, not because the Law no longer applies, but because Another has rendered this perfect obedience to the Law on our behalf. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ saves us by keeping and honouring the Law for us. The Law has not been removed; God has not done away with the Law. The Lord Jesus Christ has satisfied it and kept it, and we are given the fruit and the result of what He has done.

The Law of God is still there, and it is still the means of judgment; and there is no conceivable standing in the presence of God without a righteousness which answers the demands of the Law and satisfies it, and conforms to it. Our view of salvation must never be one that dismisses the Law; it must be one which establishes" the law.óLLOYD-JONE5, op. cit., pp. 44, 45.

The gracious gospel of righteousness by faith which brings salvation is not offered to men on lowered conditions of obedience. The righteousness that Christ lived in His entire life on earth met the requirements of the law of God and is a fulfillment of it. Had Christ disobeyed the law in the slightest degree, there would not be a divine righteousness to reckon to manís account. In light of Christís perfect obedience to the law, it can be seen that there can be no lessening of the moral obligation to keep the law of God. Christ does not offer men a perfect righteousness in order that man no longer need obey Godís commandments or live righteousness, but to provide man with the power to obey them.

The fact that God in Christ made an atonement for sin in order to reconcile men to Himself does not give to any man the right to go on sinning and breaking the law of God. In the very nature of the case, it is salvation from, not in, sin.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law (chap. 3:31).

Ellen G. White makes the point thus:

Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith be can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinnerís account. Christís righteousness is accepted in place of manís failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted for righteousness.óSelected Messages, Book 1, p. 167.

Every soul may say: By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. . . . He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,.óIbid., p 196.

It is never to be forgotten by saint or sinner that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (chap. 7:12), that Godís holy law must ever speak and ever remind us how sacredly Christ regards it and kept it. He who partakes of the righteousness of Christ will likewise regard and honor the law.

"Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to complete. I tell you this: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke, will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has happened. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Lawís demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have the lowest place in the kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the Law, and teaches others so, will stand high in the kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. 5:17-19, N.E.B.).

While Scripture, particularly the New Testament, exalts the law of God as the standard of righteousness, at the same time it opposes man's using the law as a method to gain merit and a standing with God. Righteousness by faith is diametrically opposed to righteousness by works.

By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20).

But we know that no man is ever justified by doing what the law demands, but only through faith in Christ Jesus; so we too have put our faith in Jesus Christ, in order that we might be justified through this faith, and not through deeds dictated by law; for by such deeds, Scripture says, no mortal man shall be justified (Gal. 2:16, N.E.B.).

Because all men break the law of God in one way or another, the law convicts all of sin. The law judges and estimates the works of men according to the objective facts in a manís life. Hence any appeal to works done in an effort to keep the law can only point out manís inadequacy to obey it.

Salvation by faith means trust and commitment not to oneself, but to Jesus Christ. The more a man is convicted of his sinfulness and shown his need of a perfect righteousness, the more he is convinced that anything in the way of personal merit or perfect obedience can never be rendered without Christ. Unless God provides a perfect righteousness for him, he can never be saved at all.

Thus the saving righteousness of Christ stands in clear contrast to the claimed self-righteousness of man. Self-righteousness does not remake man. It does not create in man a new nature. Man is never born again under his own auspices to keep the law. Usually, its effect is to make man more self-satisfied, more complacent, less conscious of the need for the gift of Christís righteousness. It is not in manís right or reason to choose his own conditions. Repent, believe, and obey are involved and are part of manís response to God. These are manís responsible acts and attitudes to the gospel.

The Christian life is not self-improvement. It is not trying to perfect oneís own natural life. It begins with the appropriation by faith of the righteousness of Christ. This brings man into oneness with God and gives man victory over sin, not by sheer will power but by the presence of Christ in the life. The Christian now seeks to live righteously and keep Godís commandments, not by laborious self effort but by coming more and more under the control of the Holy Spirit. Christian obedience does not come by outward conformity to the law of God, but by the reality of the Holy Spiritís presence.

By faith in Christ the Holy Spirit is given His rightful place. He is the controlling power, enlightening the mind in the knowledge of Christ, renewing the will and the heart, empowering the life to be fully in harmony with God.

It is with deep concern that we learn of those who believe that people can be saved by some other method than through Jesus Christ, who are willing to stand at Godís tribunal in their own righteousness. The lie of Satan, "ye shall be as gods," pervades the hearts and minds of men and women.

When Christ came to earth to bear the sins of men and provide in Himself the gift of righteousness that is the power of God unto salvation, He knew that one sin, discerned and judged in Godís presence, was more than any soul could bear alone. That sin, unpardoned and unforgiven, must forever sink man into the depths of despair and eternal night.

When Christ came to the earth He beheld on every side the transgressions of men against God. He knew that man without a Saviour must receive the sentence of eternal death. Christ came to bear the sins of men and remove the death penalty. There was no concealment of the worldís sin from Christ. All the forces of evil conspired to destroy His work and His person. Principalities in high places united to make a life of righteousness impossible. This was the crisis of the worldís destiny.

All the lines of human history meet at the cross. Christ alone has ransomed men. God has only one voice from heaven. Christ, the perfect Man, covers the believer with the robe of His righteousness. There is no Bible truth so rooted in the heart of God and in our world as that saving righteousness comes through Christ alone. The Christian must ever depend upon the righteousness of one Man, where mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other in Godís supreme act of redemption.

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