by Art Katz — From The Cost of Discipleship

That is quite a difficult concept to grasp. Everything within us resists it as if it were not true. The American Standard Version of the Bible has this Scripture written in this way: 2 Corinthians 5:21(ASV) Him (Jesus) who knew no sin He (God) made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The King James Version has it written like this: (KJV) For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Jesus). The phrase “might be made” comes from the Greek word ginomai which means to cause to be. Check out what the Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary says about this word: G1096 γίνομαι ginomai (ghin’-om-ahee) A prolonged and middle form of a primary verb; to cause to be (“gen”-erate), that is, (reflexively) to become (come into being), used with great latitude (literally, figuratively, intensively, etc.)

Please take notice: This message is not for the immature Christian who thinks that they have to accomplish a list of good works in order to become something in the Lord Jesus Christ or that they must maintain the status of “Christian” by doing good things. It is solely for the one who realizes that Jesus has completed the work and that we, through faith in Him, have become something in God; and not just something, but the righteousness that God’s Law requires. We are no longer considered law-breakers, but now, through Christ Jesus, we have come into right standing with God.

As we go through the following Scriptures, allow God, through His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to speak to your heart. Won’t you invite Him right now to speak to you? Let’s pray and ask Him to do that very thing. Praise the Lord forever more. Now let us, through the precious and eternal Word of God, which is our map for life, place pin markers on our journey as we attempt to understand who we are in Christ regarding righteousness.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul wrote, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” I have underscored the words “milk” and “solid food” for the sake of this message. In another place, we read this: “…of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14) The word “milk” is a symbolic gesture that Paul used to stand for any basic Christian or Jewish teaching that involves salvation through Jesus Christ (for the Gentile or non-Jew) and the Law of God (for the Jew). The words “solid food” are another that Paul used metaphorically when referring to things such as the atonement of Christ, justification by Christ, and the fullness of Christ dwelling in the souls of men.

This is certain, it is impossible for babies to eat meat. They will choke. So what is Paul trying to tell us? Anyone who lives on milk is “unskilled in the word of righteousness” and has remained a baby in their life with Christ. He didn’t say that this person isn’t truly saved. He just called him a baby. The problem with being or remaining a baby is that babies can’t walk. They are completely dependent on someone else for feeding them, changing them when they mess themselves, and putting them to bed at the proper time. Without constant supervision they would repeatedly get themselves into some sort of troubling predicament.

We have been commissioned by our Lord Jesus Christ to teach. Babies can’t do that. Look in Matthew 28:18-20 were it says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We can’t fulfill this great commission if we can’t teach. And we can’t teach if we don’t understand the “word of righteousness” that is spoken of in Hebrews 5:13. Our understanding of righteousness is paramount to maturing in Christ and leaving the elementary principles that would keep us infants in God.

Let’s turn our attention now to what Paul wrote in Romans 10: 3 through 10:

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Once we have received the Lord Jesus as our savior through faith and confession, we almost immediately try to maintain or establish ourselves as righteous in God’s sight by doing the right things and not doing the wrong things any longer. Now, it should be quite obvious that if we are genuinely saved and love the Lord Jesus Christ that we should do good things and stop doing the bad things we once did. But that is where most of us stop; never coming to understand that through Christ we have become righteous. Besides this, even the best of the good things we do are considered “filthy rags” to God. Look at what Isaiah said, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are like filthy rags: we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.” (Isaiah 64:6,7) So we must receive Christ’s righteousness in order to be truly righteous. Our attempts at being right before God miserably fall short.

Please turn to the book of Galatians. In chapter 2, beginning in verse 16 we read:

“…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”

How was it possible for the Galatians to be bewitched? How is it possible for Christians today to be bewitched? Looking at what Paul wrote in Romans 7:1-4 will provide the answer to this question.

Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.

Because of the dominion of the law, everyone here is married. And there are only two husbands: 1.) The Law, who is cruel and hard, always pointing out your mistakes and failures which in turn makes you feel like a constant failure, and 2.) The Lord Jesus Christ, who willingly laid down His spotless life so that you might become the righteousness of God through Him. It is spiritual adultery to go back under the law. It cheapens the cross of Christ to think that you have not become righteous in Him. That is why He died. That is who He will return for. Ephesians 5:27 says that He will return for a church “not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” When would we become such a church if we haven’t already through Christ? Read what Paul wrote again in Romans 10:3-10 with a new understanding.

Don’t you see, when we try to establish our own righteousness we miserably come up short. When we try to maintain our salvation or the feeling of being saved by doing good things, we have failed to receive all that Christ has accomplished through the cross. Turn with me to Philippians 3:8-11 where we read, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

We are stuck in the infant stages of Christianity when we won’t receive the righteousness that Jesus purchased for us through His cross. Christ fulfilled the law, then gave His life as a ransom for all who would believe. Included in that payment was our righteousness; that we could not hope to gain by keeping the law, for all are lawbreakers. In the book of Titus we read: But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Please hear this, if we won’t receive the fact that we are righteous in God’s sight, what’s more, that we have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, then we destroy our faith. We remain spiritual babies that are not able to grow up in the things of God. And let’s face it, nobody wants to be around an adult who acts like a child. It eventually wears on and wears out the best of us. We can’t afford to live another day in the deception that we are not righteous in Christ. Reject that nagging, relentless feeling that you’ll never be good enough, righteous enough, or holy enough. Where does that feeling of unrighteousness come from? The Bible says that there exist in the world an accuser, who lays the blame on us day and night (Zechariah 3:1-5 & Revelation 12:10). Many precious brothers and sisters in the Lord just quit because the feeling of trying to measure up is too great. They just throw in the towel since they can’t escape the feeling of not ever getting it right. Paul said, “Who has bewitched you?”

Please turn now to Colossians 2:9-10, 14. This is a wonderful portion of Scripture that will solidify the fact that YOU ARE righteous in God’s sight. You can stop trying to measure up. You can caste off forever any attempt to gain God’s approval. Why? Because if you believe in Jesus Christ, you already have it. Colossians 2: 9, 10 & 14: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

When we are ignorant of righteousness, when we remain as babes, a spiritual tragedy takes place. We will read or hear the wonderful promises of God, but not be able to respond in faith to them because we have a inner voice saying, “You’re not good enough to receive any of those.” Our consciousness of sin and the feeling of disapproval makes us put the promises of God off for the future. We think, “I’ll have victory someday in heaven” or “I know I’ll overcome sin one day.” Don’t you know the devil just loves to deceive God’s people. When do you expect that:

You’ll be complete in Him (Colossians 2:9-10) You’ll be more than a conqueror through Him that loved us (Romans 8:37) You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you? (Philippians 4:13) God will always lead you to triumph? (2 Corinthians 2:14) There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus? (Romans 8:1) You’ll have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30)

The answer to everyone of these questions is NOW. Right now! In Jesus Christ. For He has accomplished it through the cross. By dying for us, He has fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law and removed all the condemning handwriting. Once and for all! 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 says, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If that weren’t enough, look at Romans 8:3 & 4: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Let’s look at Colossians 1:13-21 and allow the Spirit to transform how you see yourself and quiet the condemning voice of the devil once and for all.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heave, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled (called back into union or relationship) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.

Paul writes in Romans 1:16, 17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

So what’s next? What do we do with this righteousness? We live. We live for Him, knowing that we are right in His sight. How do we live? By His Spirit. We walk and live by His Spirit. John 6:63 says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Praise Jesus! Let’s grow in the realization that He has made us righteous and provides the Spirit so that we can live victoriously for Him.