The Righteousness of Christ
And what is means for us
I’m hoping to encourage your faith as you read this. This is a message from the Scriptures that has greatly encouraged me and so I hope it’s going to do the same for you. If you’re happy to, I encourage you to pause and ask God to speak to you from His Word as you read.
3He (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 7Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” 8But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God (the Son), is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God (the Father), your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” – Hebrews 1:3, 1:7-9
I would like to get you to think about the the righteousness of our awesome and faithful Friend, Jesus.
If you don’t regularly think about His righteousness, I really want to encourage you to!
Before we take off, I want to state something clearly. I believe that the Bible teaches that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one God and all co-eternal. Some of the things I’m going to say will emphasise their distinction as opposed to their unity but I am only doing that where I believe the writers of the Bible do it to help us understand something.
Okay, so with that disclaimer out of the way, let me make an outrageous statement: Jesus’ death is meaningless and His resurrection is impossible without His righteousness.
Around Easter we bring the death of Jesus into sharp focus. We tell the story, we perform sketches, we post clips from the Passion of the Christ movie and we break bread together. But it’s so important for us to remember that He didn’t just die for us, He also lived for us too!
Let’s define righteousness. The Old and New Testaments define righteousness as moral purity or sinlessness. Essentially that means that righteousness is action or intention that’s “right” in the eyes of our perfectly good and holy God.
In Hebrews 1:3 we read that the Son of God is the radiance of His glory. Have you ever stop to think about what that phrase means? The radiance of His glory? The word glory means a bunch of stuff throughout the Bible but it often has to do with light, think ethereal glow, brightly shining. So the writer to the Hebrews is sort of telling us that the Son is the brightness of God’s light. Have you ever tried to separate light from its brightness? No? Me neither. But what would you have left? Exactly right! So it makes sense that it follows up by calling Him the exact representation of His nature!
It goes on to that Jesus rules/judges in righteousness and is anointed by God because of this righteousness. What we’re being told is that Jesus’ righteousness reflects the glory of God, displaying His moral standard. In choosing right and shunning wrong throughout His earthly life, Jesus was declaring and revealing that right and wrong exist, and matter and that God judges both.
So to be righteous, you just have to do the right thing all the time and never do the wrong thing. Does that describe you? No, me neither… Don’t worry Romans 3:9a-12 is here to save the day!:
“For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:9a-12
BUT there is one Man who walked perfectly in righteousness. Always. Every day of His life He lived in obedience to His Father. Just thin about that! He is so not like us! No seriously, think about it…
We all probably have something we’ve done in secret that we never got caught for. Maybe you kissed someone you shouldn’t have at a party years ago. Maybe you smoked a cigarette and never told your parents. Maybe you took something that didn’t belong to you and no one ever knew. Maybe you told a lie to someone close to you and never confessed. Maybe you thought about someone else in ways that you shouldn’t. Maybe sent pictures of yourself to someone and now you feel ashamed. Everyone you know will have had something to look over their shoulder about. Every friend that you have. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus still doesn’t. He is still righteous and that means He is even righteous towards you! What a friend! How much can you trust someone who has NEVER lied?!
Jesus invites you to see His love for you as you read this. He laid down His perfect, righteous life and took on the burden of your sin! He who knew no sin became sin for us. For you! He laid down His innocence and took on your guilt because of the love of the Father because remember, He perfectly mirrors the Father even in His love and the Father loves you so much! He sent His Son to die for you for crying out loud!
He really gave Himself for you! Not just in the single act of His death but in the daily decisions of His life! He wants to live His righteous life in you now! Yes, you!
In this we understand Paul’s cry in Galatians “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
He didn’t just die for us, He also lived for us too! Jesus lived in continual obedience because He loves the Father but think about this, if He gave in to sin, even for a moment, we would have all lost. His death couldn’t save us without His righteousness. Death would have had a claim on Him if He had sinned.
Hebrews 9 and 10 tell us that unlike the repeated animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect, once and for all because He was our spotless lamb. Spotless means that He was without sin. Righteous!
Only a righteous person can take the place of a guilty sinner – a sinner has their own sin to pay for. He had none. Jesus lived a life of righteousness for us because we could not do it. The wages of sin is death right? The grave couldn’t keep Jesus because He had NO SIN!
We have a tendency to try and make Jesus more manageable by making Him more like someone we know. A lovely person. Really nice. Really caring. Really thoughtful. Then we just amplify that up to divine proportions. But Jesus is different to all of us.
Anyone remember that song? “What if God was one of us?” If God was just like us, we’d all be in big trouble!
Dane C. Ortlund says: “But what about our sins? Should we be discouraged that Jesus can’t be in solidarity with us in that most piercing of pains, the guilt and shame of our sin? No, for two reasons. One is that Jesus’ sinlessness means that He knows temptation better than we ourselves do. C.S Lewis made this point by speaking of a man walking against the wind. Once the wind of temptation gets strong enough, the man lies down, giving in – and thus not knowing what it would have been like ten minutes later. Jesus never lay down; He endured all our temptations and testings without ever giving in. He therefore knows the strength of temptation better than any of us. Only He truly knows the cost. The second reason is that our only hope is that the One who shares in all our pain shares in it as the pure and holy One. Our sinless high priest is not one who needs rescue but who provides it.”
He is nothing like anyone you’ve ever known. If you’re a Christian this should be a real comfort to you!
In Hebrews 1:7 we see that the flipside of Jesus loving righteousness is hating wickedness. Not overlooking it, not tolerating it, hating it. We’ll come back to that later.
If you are a believer reading this, the Bible says that because you have repented and have received the forgiveness of your sins through trusting in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the sake of us all, you have the righteousness of Christ. You have it!! You have it within you now to walk in His righteousness everyday! Does that mean that you’ll walk in sinless perfection? Probably not (but we need to be wary of having more faith in our ability to sin than in Him who is able to keep us from stumbling…) but if you sin, you have an advocate with the Father and guess who that is? Yes but Jesus who? Yes but Jesus Christ who? The answer is in 1John 1:9-2:2
9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us. 1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
That’s right! It is Jesus Christ the Righteous One who stands on our behalf before the Father! He is decked out in His righteous as He represents us before the throne of God.
It is really important for us to grasp as Dane Ortlund pointed out, that His Righteousness doesn’t propel Him away from us in our sin! We think that when we sin, Jesus draws away from us, don’t we? Our hearts tell us that He doesn’t want to be near us any more because of disgusting sin.
The Bible often equates sin with sickness and contrasts it with righteousness
31Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:31-32
Isaiah prophesied of a sinless Saviour saying that on the cross He carried our sins and sicknesses and diseases and by His stripes, we are healed. Healed of what? Yes, He heals our bodies but He also heals us of our Sin which is fatal by the way! Everyone who contracts the sickness of sin dies. Everyone. (Isaiah 53:4-5) The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20).
But in our sin, He actually draws closer! Just like a doctor with a sick patient, he or she draws close to minister because they know that they have the cure! It is their delight to do so! Jesus came call the sinners and give them the cure! The cure for our sin is His righteousness!
We are encouraged because instead of contempt He has compassion for our weaknesses as He alone knows the true strength of temptation and also the way of escape.
“Righteousness, meaning holy integrity and uprightness, is the breastplate in the armour of God that Christians are called to wear in order to counter the devil’s attacks (Eph 6:14)” – J. I Packer p.36
Did you know that the armour of God we read about in Sunday school from Ephesians 6 is literally the armour of God from Isaiah 59:17? That breastplate is HIS righteousness! Not yours!
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are given the righteousness of Christ. We have it, Christians but we must wear it! We must walk in it. Righteous acts must follow.
Don’t worry about trying to make your own way. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. When we try to make our own way back to God it’s called self-righteousness. We end up like the emperor with no clothes, thinking he is clothed but he is really walking around naked…
Mediate on this: Jesus is the only One who can lead us in the paths of righteousness as the famous and frequently quoted Psalm 23 says because He is the only One who knows the way! He’s the only One who has walked that road to the end! Other people might be able to give us helpful pointers but only up to where they fell into a ditch! He alone knows how to overcome every time!
Remember that the Bible says that the righteous shall live by faith. That’s faith in Jesus not in ourselves. Faith in Him is what saves us!
I’m going to change gears now because in John 5 Jesus says that the Father is not the Judge on Judgement Day…
"…the Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son." - John 5:22
Jesus is the One who will judge the earth but Jesus judges in righteousness because He is righteous in Himself. No other earthly judge can make that claim.
If you were sat in a courtroom and you watched the Judge let off a thief, then a robber and then a murderer, you’d know pretty quickly that he or she is not a good judge. A good judge punishes the guilty and releases the innocent.
So if the Good Judge does what good judges do on Judgement Day, where does that leave you? How many lies have you told? How many times have you taken the Lord’s name in vain? Committed adultery? (Don’t forget Jesus says you can do that with only your eyes) Stolen? How do you think you will do standing before a Righteous Judge who cannot be bribed or bargained with?
This is why you and I need the Gospel. The Gospel tells us that through God’s grace and mercy, The Righteous One has paid the price for our sin.
If you don’t know Him you are currently living in rebellion against God and you are standing in your sin, waiting to be judged when you face Him. But The Righteous One is offering you His righteousness and He wants you to give Him your life for His. You have nothing to lose but your sin and everything to gain! Do it!
This is not an invitation to try harder to be a good person. There are no good people in heaven, just people who have received the grace and mercy of a good and loving God.
God shows us clearly in His Word that your goodness isn’t good enough to get you into heaven. It’s Jesus’ righteousness alone! It’s His grace alone! If you’re a Christian and you’ve been walking in self-righteousness, comparing yourself to those around thinking “well at least I don’t do this or that so I’m a better candidate for heaven” you need to repent. It is by Grace and Grace alone that we are saved, not by our works so that no one can boast.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Let Him love you.