July 19th 2009

Grace With Gusto

“…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
Philippians 3:9 (NIV)

The great reformer Martin Luther observed that there are different kinds of righteousness. There is political or judicial righteousness, which is, or should be, the goal of court systems. There is ceremonial righteousness, the kind people supposedly receive from performing humanly devised religious rituals or customs. There is the obedience that parents try to instil in their children. There is the legal righteousness expressed in the Old Testament Law of Moses. And then there is the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ, which Luther called “this most excellent righteousness…which God imputes to us through Christ without works.”

Luther calls this righteousness of faith “neither political nor ceremonial nor legal nor work-righteousness.” He calls it “…the righteousness of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which we do not perform but receive, which we do not have but accept, when God the Father grants it to us through Jesus Christ.”

To explain how this works, Luther used a vivid analogy about rain. He wrote: “As the earth itself does not produce rain and is unable to acquire it by its own strength, worship, and power but receives it only by a heavenly gift from above, so this heavenly righteousness is given to us by God without our work or merit.”

The kind of righteousness that clears our conscience and reconciles us to God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. “We do not have it of ourselves,” Luther said “we receive it from heaven.”

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:17: “… in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…”

There is nothing we can do to earn such righteousness; it’s a gift from God. It comes from heaven, not from anything we can do, and we experience it only by trusting God, not by trying to create a righteousness of our own.

This teaching of Paul, which was at the root of Luther’s reformation work, should be powerful encouragement to people who fear they have committed the unpardonable sin or to stumbling sinners who worry that God might not forgive them again “this time.”

The gospel was, is and always will be good news, good news for sinners. And that includes you and me.

Father, thank you that the gospel is always good news and for the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Study by Joseph Tkach