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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Kaczmarek

Two Kinds of Righteousness

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 on the basis of faith.

—Philippians 3:7–9 NIV

I particularly like how The Message translates verse 9 of the third chapter of Philippians: “I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.”

We are instructed here that there are two kinds of righteousness, the righteousness that comes from keeping the law and the righteousness that comes from personal reliance and trust in Jesus Christ. The first one depends on our own efforts and ability to do it right (self-righteousness); the second depends on Christ’s ability to do it right (Christ righteousness). Self-righteousness is worked from the outside, while Christ righteousness is imputed to us as a free gift. The first fosters condemnation, pride, and insecurity; the second fosters righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.[1] Self-righteousness keeps us focused on ourselves and appeals to the human pride; Christ righteousness keeps us focused on Christ and leads to the death of self altogether.

We know from Scripture that no one except Jesus has ever been able to keep the law perfectly. “All have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.”[2]

What solution did God come up with when He saw that His people simply couldn’t keep His law? Did He require that they try harder? Or did He say, “Away with you!”? How did God respond to His people’s inability and failure to obey His righteous law? We can find the answer to this dilemma in Jeremiah 31:31–33.

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was their Husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their hearts will I write it; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.[3]

The Lord simply annulled the first covenant as a means of righteousness[4] by fulfilling it Himself[5], then nailing it to the cross[6] and making a new covenant![7] One that would empower us to obey Him by writing His law within our hearts. He places His Holy Spirit within us. He gives us a new heart, a new nature, and a desire to do His will and to live righteously; and then He helps us do it.[8]

In her book In Pursuit of Peace, Joyce Meyer describes a Christian as “someone who has had his heart changed by faith in Jesus Christ. He has had a change in his moral nature (See 2 Corinthians 5:17). He is not just someone who has agreed to follow certain rules and regulations and observe certain days as holy. Religion is filled with rules and regulations one must follow to be part of a certain religious group. Christianity, however, is agreeing to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit entirely.”[9]

Those in Christ have chosen to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit completely and not to the demands of the law. Somewhere along the way, I realized that I had to take Him at His Word and that nothing other than entire reliance and dependence upon Him would ever work.

Under the new covenant, we have been called to an exciting relationship with the Lord where we are made right with God freely by His grace through faith and from there we are led by the Holy Spirit day by day, moment by moment. The Bible says that as people born of the Spirit of God, we will be like the wind which blows where it wills; and though you hear its sound, you don’t know where it comes from nor where it is going.[10] This is why we rightly say that Christianity is relationship with God.

Remember that faith brings peace and rest, not distress and struggles.[11] That means that the more you know and believe the truth of God’s Word concerning your right standing with God through Christ, the more it will bring peace to your troubled heart. Just stick with Him and do not be afraid, continue to trust Him, and He will sort everything out for you—everything will come together in harmony—every piece of the puzzle will come together.

In the next blog, I will share on imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness. This teaching will help with some of the confusion you may still be experiencing regarding the righteousness that God prescribes—the righteousness that is of faith. Until then be encouraged my dear one; there is hope! There is a way out.

[1] See Romans 14:17.

[2] Romans 3:23.

[3] Jeremiah 31:31–33.

[4] See Romans 10:4 KJV.

[5] See Matthew 5:17.

[6] See Colossians 2:14.

[7] See 2 Corinthians 3:6.

[8] See Ezekiel 36:26-27; Philippians 2:13.

[9] Joyce Meyer, In Pursuit of Peace: 21 Ways to Conquer Anxiety, Fear, and Discontentment (New York: Warner Faith, 2004), 31.

[10] See John 3:8 AMPC.

[11] See Hebrews 4:3.

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