RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH FAITH

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:7-11

“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8,9)

For a period of time in Paul’s life, he trusted in his own efforts to gain righteousness through attempting to keep the law. It was a legalistic righteousness, also known as self-righteousness. This type of righteousness is man’s attempt to earn God’s favor by works of the law. It is a form of self-salvation. It was the righteousness taught by the Pharisees. Self-righteous people are proud of their morality and religion. They trust in their own moral efforts and religious traditions to save them. They also look down their spiritual noses at other people. Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax gatherer in Luke 18:9-14 is an illustration of the pride that self-righteousness produces in a person.

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself — “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11,12). On the other hand, the tax gatherer stood at a distance, beat his breast and prayed — “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Jesus said of the tax gatherer — “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14)

The problem with legalistic righteousness is that our greatest efforts cannot save us. We are all sinners like the tax gatherer. We have all failed God. No matter how hard we try, we cannot become righteous by works of the law — “For whoever keep the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). We will always struggle with self-righteousness, for it is our default mode.

Paul wrote — “That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, 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.” When we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven and the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. It is Christ’s righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

What kind of righteousness are you trusting in — your own self-righteous efforts or the imputed righteousness of Christ? We must constantly be aware of our tendency to resort to self-righteousness. We must repent of our self-righteousness and turn in faith to Jesus Christ who has given us His perfect righteousness.

Lord Jesus, please forgive me for trusting in my own religious efforts to gain Your approval. Forgive me for my self-righteous tendencies to look down on others who are not just like me. Let me look to You alone in faith, for I know that true righteousness that pleases God is not from me but is from You alone.

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