Paul described the Jews as having, “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom.10:2). Like many religious people, they were sincere but sincerely wrong. Paul then went on to identify the main area where their misguided zeal was most evident. He said: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Rom.10:3).
The Gentiles were characterized by unrighteousness, but the Jews by self-righteousness. The Gentiles ate from the ‘evil’ side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Jews ate from the ‘good’ side of the same tree. Satan doesn’t mind which side you eat from as long as you eat from that tree. God wants us to partake of the Tree of Life, i.e. His Son Jesus Christ, for He has been given to us as our righteousness.
Sadly, the efforts of man to establish his own righteousness are not confined to the Jews. It is the very essence and heart of all religion. That’s why the message of the gospel of grace is so unique and so beautiful. Righteousness will never be attained by our endeavors. Our best efforts will never be good enough. We will always fall far short of the glory of God. But God has given us His righteousness freely in Jesus.
God’s Lamb Is God’s Righteousness
When a Jew brought a lamb to a priest to be offered up for his sins, the moment the priest took the lamb the Israelite was no longer under investigation. From that point on the focus turned to the lamb, and the only thing that mattered was whether the lamb was without spot and without blemish.
Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. Throughout His entire earthly life He did no sin, He knew no sin and in Him there was no sin. He fulfilled righteousness by His perfect obedience to God. He was obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross where our sin received its righteous judgment once and for all. This is the righteousness of God. All that God’s righteousness has ever demanded from a human being was totally fulfilled by Jesus on our behalf. He is the One with whom God is well pleased, and we are complete in Him!
On the Cross God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us. And in return His righteousness was imputed to us. He is now our righteousness (1 Cor.1:30). That’s His name, Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness (see Jer.23:6).
By Whose Obedience Are You Righteous?
Which of our sins did Jesus commit in order to be made sin? None; our sins were credited to Him. Which of His righteous deeds did we fulfill in order to become righteous? None; His righteousness was imputed to us, or put into our account. On the basis of the great exchange God has justified us, i.e. declared us to be righteous. This is His ‘forever statement’ concerning us. Furthermore, He will always treat us as righteous, because that is what we now are.
The Jews, like many religious people, made the mistake of thinking that they could become righteous by their behavior, especially by their obedience to the law. They made this mistake because they were ignorant of the righteousness of God. God’s way of righteousness is not through right behaving but through right believing. We do not behave unto righteousness; we believe unto righteousness.
By whose obedience are you made righteous – yours or His? The Bible leaves us in no doubt: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom.5:19). He obeyed; we believe – that’s the righteousness of God. Have you submitted to the righteousness of God?