Christ our Righteousness Bible Study (Part 7)by Steve Wohlberg
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe (Romans 3:21-22).
Here Paul plainly stated that "the righteousness of God" (which is what we sinners desperately need and must have), comes "through faith in Jesus Christ." Genuine "faith in Jesus Christ" means:
1. That we accept the biblical fact that we are "guilty before God" as violators of His moral law (verse 19), and realize that we are hopeless in ourselves (verse 20).
2. That we make a firm choice to turn from (repent) of all sin.
3. That we trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and not in ourselves in any way.
4. That we believe in Jesus Himself as our personal Savior.
5. That we realize that the very "righteousness of God" is given to us when we have faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul stressed that this "righteousness of God" comes "to all and on all who believe." "To all" means that it is now being offered "to all" human beings on planet Earth, no matter how sinful they may be. This is most encouraging. Do you feel too sinful to be saved? Do you imagine that there is no hope for you? If the devil tempts you to believe this, resist him. Say, "Away with you Satan. Jesus died for me!" Rest assured, there is hope. "To all" includes you. Jesus loves you. His righteousness is now available to cover your sins. Right now, God is offering it to you; yes, even you.
Yet look again. God's righteousness comes "on all who believe." Thus we must personally "believe" in order to get it. Some say we already have it before we believe, and that we should simply believe in what we already have—but this is not what Paul says. A simple way to illustrate this error is by noting that Jesus Christ's righteousness is also referred to in the Bible as a "garment." In Revelation 3:17-18, Jesus tells Laodiceans that they are "naked," and must put on "white raiment that you may be clothed." Thus to be "naked," and to "be clothed," are opposites. We can't be naked and clothed at the same time. The question is, "Are Laodiceans really clothed, but don't realize it? Or are they really naked, and not clothed, without realizing it? The answer should be obvious. They are naked, and not clothed. But if they would only follow Christ's counsel to "be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19), then they would be clothed, and be no longer naked.
It's the same with us, and with Romans 3:22. When we genuinely repent of our sins and have "faith in Jesus Christ" as our Savior, only then can we be clothed with the white robe of His righteousness. Only then are we no longer "guilty before God."
When Paul wrote that Christ's righteousness is "on all who believe," he meant legally. Such a transaction is "written in the books" of record in heaven (see Daniel 7:10; 12:2; Rev. 20:12), and our status of being "guilty before God" is removed. In other words, we stand clear before His law as if we had never sinned.
As we shall see later, it is only as we are first justified legally, that we can be fully transformed morally. Both are essential. But the legal precedes the moral.
Never forget it.