When we are in a problem, or someone else is in a problem, and we don’t know what to do, then we know just what to do – pray. Is there something in your life that you don’t know anything to do about? Pray. Is there something in someone else’s life that’s bothering you, baffling you? What to do? Pray. Is there something in the institution that’s concerning you, and you wonder why someone doesn’t do something about it, can you do something about it? Pray. Is there something in the church that you wish was different, and you wonder when someone is going to get around to taking care of it, can you get right at the heart of the matter? Where? On your knees. Thank God.
Last week, we studied imputed righteousness. We studied especially from Romans chapter 3. Today, we are going to study imparted righteousness, and we’ll read these first four verses of Romans 8.
–Imparted Righteousness… In Us–
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4
Notice the last verse. What is the purpose of the plan of salvation? What is the purpose of God sending His Son to this world and living for us and dying for us? “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” If I were taking notes, I would put down those two words “in us.” That’s the focal point of the study. The righteousness of the law is to be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. We looked at a righteousness which is said to be upon us:
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe. – Romans 3:22
When a sinner comes to Jesus and finds that he has no works of righteousness of his own, he falls at the foot of the cross and says, “Dear Lord, I see that You are taking my death, and now I accept your life. Forgive my sins, and count me as if I had been righteous.” Will God do that? That’s what He says. And so He clothes us with His righteousness; He covers us with His life. The prodigal son got that the minute he arrived home. The father’s robe was thrown around him. In fact, the father ran out to meet him and put the robe around him…. When the boy got inside he probably didn’t just loll around with all his rags and dirt underneath the father’s robe waiting for the feast. He probably got busy and took a shower and got into some clean clothes. I think he did. Don’t you?
Any illustration falls short of the glory of the fullness of the reality, of course. We must remember that. Nevertheless, it must be clear to all of us that God is seeking to do something more for us than merely pardon our past and accept us as if we had not sinned. That’s wonderful, that’s glorious. But there is something still more wonderful, still more glorious – God wants to work such a change in your heart and mind that not merely upon you, but in you, the righteousness of God will be fulfilled (the righteousness of the law, this says).
In studying imputed righteousness (click here to review), I called your attention to the fact that the righteousness which we receive when we accept Christ is witnessed by the law. We read that in Romans 3:21. Then it must be a righteousness that is equal with the law, must it not? If it were not, if it came short in any point, the law would say, “I can’t witness to that, you’re out of line there.” The righteousness of Christ which we receive when we accept the Saviour is in full harmony with the Law of God – the Ten Commandments. He said:
“I have kept My Father’s commandments.” – John 15:10
So it’s the righteousness of the law which is put to our credit (the righteousness of the law not as lived in us, for we haven’t lived the righteousness of the law; we’ve broken the law), but that righteousness of the law as lived in Jesus is put to our credit the moment we accept Him. We call that justification. Paul says:
Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1
Just as soon as we are justified, accounted righteous, our standing is as good as if we’d never sinned. Isn’t that wonderful? But having received that standing, having been accounted righteous, God says He wants to do something in us. His goal is that the righteousness of the law shall be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.
Let’s illustrate it. Here is a man who has been swearing, breaking the third commandment. He’s been taking God’s name in vain for the last 40 years. But he comes to Christ and confesses that sin and asks God to forgive him. Will God do it? Yes. He’s pardoned; he’s justified. The life of Jesus, who always honored His Father’s name, is put to that man’s credit.
Suppose he dies the next minute. Is he saved? Certainly he is saved. He is saved like the thief on the cross. He is under the blood. He is counted just as if every time he said God’s name he’d said it reverently for 40 years. How can God do that? Ah, that’s the mystery of salvation. That’s the love of Jesus. He lived for me and died for me, and He offers me His life if I will accept His death in my place. Isn’t that wonderful, friends?
Now watch. Here is this man who has never spoken God’s name reverently for 40 years, but now it’s counted as if he had. But instead of dying like the thief died on the cross, he lives on for another day, another week, another month. Is it God’s plan for that man to go on swearing and taking God’s name in vain the next week and the week after, and then ask God to forgive him, and keep that up day in day out so that every night when he goes to bed he can say, “I’m safe if I should die tonight”? Is that the plan?
Nobody would say that. It is strange how the viewpoint changes on different things. There is a church which separates sins into two kinds. But that’s not the true church. Oh, friends, if Jesus has a plan that will keep a man from swearing, from taking God’s name in vain, do you think that He could save him from other sins too? Yes. Here is a man who is a thief; he’s a pickpocket. It has been his business to go around in crowded places, railway depots, people waiting for the bus, and watch for his chance to put his hand in people’s pockets. That’s the way he makes a living. But somewhere, he hears the gospel. He sees that picking pockets is the road to hell. The love of God gets hold of his soul and he kneels down and asks God for mercy. Will God forgive him? Is it counted as if he had always been honest? That’s right. But does the gospel include a plan that will keep him from stealing next week? Would you expect God to do that for him?
You could tell him, “Tom, God will keep you from doing that.” He says, “Oh, but I have done that all my life. My father was a pickpocket before me, and I learned it when I was growing up. It’s just a part of my nature.” You could tell him that he could quit by the grace of God. Suppose he were to say to you, “Are you sure of that? Is there anything you ever did “all your life” that God took out of your life so you didn’t do it anymore?” Would that be a fair question on his part? That’s not the most important thing to him. The most important thing to him is what God says. But would that be a fair question? And we should be able to say, “Yes, thank God, there is something.”
That something which enables the thief to quit stealing and to be honest, and enables the swearer to quit taking God’s name in vain and always speak God’s name reverently, is imparted righteousness. That’s the righteousness of God in us, worked out through us. That’s God’s plan for dealing with every sin in our lives – not just swearing or stealing or murder, but evil temper, appetite, lust, impurity, criticism, gossip, gloominess, complaining, whining, disobedience – every sin in the calendar. If a man really has victory on any of those points, he gets it like he got righteousness in justification – as a gift from God. Because you and I have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the
claims of the law of God. We are just as helpless to keep from sinning as we would be helpless to pardon ourselves of our past sins.
Someone says, “But, I know some people who don’t know the Lord at all, and they don’t steal. What about them?” We might argue the question of what they steal or what they don’t, but my point is: The devil hasn’t exhibited yet all that’s in them. Don’t forget that. The sins that put people in the penitentiary are in every one of us naturally. I hope you will never have to demonstrate that to find it out, but it’s there. Peter hadn’t the slightest idea that he would deny his Lord, especially with cursing and swearing. But he did it, and he did it within just a few hours of the time when he said he knew that he would never do it. Where was it all the time? In Peter’s heart.
Please don’t go about trying to establish your own righteousness. The Bible says it is filthy rags. Our best efforts without God are vile and polluted with sin. So when I come to God and ask Him to forgive my sins, then it’s my privilege to say, “Dear Lord, I know you want to do that, and along with it I know that you want to give me a righteousness which will work out the same thing in me that you’re accounting to me.”
It is my privilege to accept that how? By faith. What is that life that covers my past? The life of Jesus. What is that life which He is going to give me to work out in me? The life of Jesus. How does that work? What we are studying is righteousness by faith, and faith is believing God.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. – Romans 4:3
Abraham believed God, and that was righteousness by faith. By the way, people did get it that way in Old Testament times. The only way anybody has gotten any righteousness, before the cross or after, is by faith – by believing God. You can all see that that’s the only way we can get it for the past. But we are told that many have the idea that they must do some part of the work alone. And while they trust in Jesus for the past, they have the idea that they must toil and struggle and make the effort to do right after that, more or less on their own.
I suppose that we perhaps think of it this way: If God has been so good to forgive the past, we at least ought to show our gratitude by not falling into the ditch again. Well, we ought to, but we had just as well confess we can’t do it. Hadn’t we? As medical missionaries, one of the experiences that comes to us is trying to help people who are really in the ditch. Here is the man who is an alcoholic. He has tried again and again to get away from alcohol. Again and again, we have seen him under the influence of it. Isn’t it wonderful that we can tell him that there is something more than forgiveness?
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.