Summary: Ninth in a series on the attributes of God focusing on the possibility of obtaining His righteousness through Christ.

Knowing God Series #9

“Embracing a New Identity”


Most everyone would agree that this world is a mess. I have news for you. It has always been a mess. At times worse than others. In the days of Noah the Bible tells us that…

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5

The sin condition has plagued the heart of man since the time of Adam. Those who God created to display His glorious character decided to separate from God and try to live life on their own.

Look how that turned out. There are those who try to blame God for all the evil in our world.

If He were truly an all-powerful loving God He would do something about all the evil.

First, the evil in our world comes from millennia of rebellious choices to defy God and promote man’s selfish agenda.

Second, in order to change that, God would of necessity have to eliminate the ability to freely choose.

How can the absolutely righteous God enter into relationship with completely unrighteous men?

I. The nature of God

II. The Attributes of God

A. God is infinitely GREAT in His ability / capacity

B. God is infinitely PURE in His morality

1. God is HOLY

He is infinitely separated from all that is contrary to His own moral character and law.


God implants an internal desire to live right in every person. Mankind works hard at trying to be right even if he has to adjust the standard of measure. Every group and society develops a standard of behavior. Even gangs demand adherence to a code. The only group that society condemns for holding people to a code of behavior is Christians. The root word for Righteousness means to “cut straight”, to conform to a standard. The translators usually translate the terms into one of two English words: “Righteous” and “Just”.

God perfectly conforms to His own standard. God infinitely avoids everything that does not conform to His own moral standard. He is both holy and righteous. He absolutely conforms to His own moral and ethical standard. He IS the standard of what is right. He declares it. He lives it. He cannot do otherwise. It is who He is.

The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. Psalm 145:17

The Biblical standard of righteousness

What is the standard by which righteousness can be measured? God communicates the standard in His law. God IS the standard and He communicates that standard in the Word of God.

Personal Implications of serving an absolutely Righteous God

1. It helps me deal with things I don’t understand.

There are two things to remember.

1. Whatever God does is right.

2. If it seems wrong, then refer to principle #1

2. It exposes my own unrighteousness and need for justification

There are TWO ways to relationship with God. Live a perfect life. Appeal to God for mercy.

Just as God made a way for the unholy to become holy, so He has made a way for the unrighteous become righteous.

"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20

What Jesus did was to challenge the people to think of the most righteous people they could think of. In that day it was the Pharisees who from the outside looked perfect. They didn’t just tithe income they tithed EVERYTHING even their spices. Basically He taught that without God’s intervention, no one could scrape up enough righteousness to live in God’s holy and righteous presence.

His justice or righteous character could not ignore violation of His standard.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:18-21

It is like being $100 million in debt with no job, no assets, and no resources. Even if the debt was forgiven or we could declare bankruptcy, without a job, we would soon be back in the same spot. We are a chronic debtor. We need to eliminate debt and generate positive cash flow. It is like having a huge criminal record with irrefutable evidence against us without the capacity to make right choices. We are a chronic lawbreaker. We need to not only be declared right but enabled to DO right. We need to not only be forgiven our impossible debt but to be fully funded. Since we have no resources; God has to do something without violating His own righteousness.

God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…1 Peter 3:18

The answer to this dilemma is called “justification”. Because westerners like to think in sequence of events, I want to try to paint a picture of our journey to glory.

Before Sin entered the Word God decided to address it.

God foreknew and elected some before the foundation of the world.

Those He foreknew He decided “predestined” that they would become like His Son.

He also planned the process by which this would take place.

He sent His son to die in our place to atone for our sin. (Atonement)

That sacrifice satisfied the demands for a just penalty for rebellion. (Propitiation)

That payment redeemed us from the penalty, power and presence of sin (redemption/forgiveness)

Redemption paved the way for justification; an imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.

Justification then enabled full and unhindered reconciliation along with immeasurable blessing.

God then personally applies the work of Christ to individuals through the Holy Spirit

Those He predestined He calls or draws to Himself.

Individuals respond to the call (repentance)

He adopts those who repent. (Adoption)

He sanctifies and cleanses (Progressive sanctification)

He makes us righteous. (Progressive justification)

The work that He starts, He finishes where we will and do His good pleasure and complete avoid willing and doing what displeases Him. We perfect reflect His nature as He intended in the first place.

The Need

Sin disqualifies us to enter into positive relationship with a holy and righteous God. A righteous judge could not have close fellowship with an active criminal; especially if the crime were committed against the judge.

Here is how the Alliance doctrinal statement presents the teaching.

Man was originally created in tile image and likeness of God. He fell through disobedience, incurring thereby both physical and spiritual death. All men are born with a sinful nature, are separated from the life of God and can be saved only through tile atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The prospect of the impenitent and unbelieving person is existence forever in conscious torment, and that of the believer in Christ is everlasting joy and bliss.

I believe there are three strikes against us.

Sinful by imputation -- Sinful by inheritance -- Sinful by intention

I also believe that because of Jesus we can be righteous on three levels.

Righteous by imputation - Righteous by inheritance - Righteous by intention

The most important and key to the others is the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to us.

Our sin was credited to Him so that we might have His righteousness credited to us.

God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…1 Peter 3:18

Helpless to garner enough righteousness to enter a kingdom in which righteousness dwells, unrighteous man is destined to face the deserved wrath of God rather than His acceptance.

The Means of Justification

A good portion of the book of Romans was written to explain justification. How can the unrighteous be reconciled to a righteous God? I am not going to pretend to try to unpack all the points associated with this truth, but in the time we have left, I want to focus on a few verses.

Paul introduced the subject in chapter three after having demonstrated that all are doomed.

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

This short passage is packed full of grand theological concepts. Righteousness, faith, redemption, propitiation and justification all come together. The passage basically teaches that our righteous God could not overlook lawbreakers who weren’t even able to come close to the glorious standard of God. No one could rise to the level of righteousness necessary to live in God’s presence. Therefore, God revealed how his perfect righteousness could be transferred to the unrighteous. To those who put their faith in him, he would as a free gift on the basis of the sacrifice of his own son who would suffer the penalty for our sin and satisfy the righteous character of God. Because a penalty was paid God could remain just and still justify the unjust.

In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul illustrated the principle of justification through an Old Testament character: Abraham

Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:21-25

The word “counted” is an accounting term. Means to suppose, reckon, esteem, impute.

If I were to put $1 million in your bank account apart from any action on your part, I would have imputed money to your account. Apart from any merit of our own, God through his son Jesus imputes righteousness to our moral account. Not just any righteousness, but the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 5 of Romans then touches on just some of the benefits of justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

We have peace with God. The war is over. The hostility has ceased. The wrath is satisfied.

We have continual access to God’s grace.

We have the hope of one day being like Jesus which causes great joy.

We can rejoice in our sufferings because we know that God is working in us.

God’s love is been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

But there’s more!

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:9-11

We are saved from the wrath of God. We are given new life. God becomes the source of our joy because there’s nothing standing between us.

In the last part of Romans chapter 5, Paul contrasts the difference between being in Adam and in Christ.

By reason of physical birth every person comes into this world connected to Adam’s race.

By reason of new birth we become connected to Jesus Christ.

If you are in the car when a crime is committed you are guilty by association. Who you identify with matters. Adam or Christ.

Sin and death entered the world through Adam.

Righteousness and life entered the world through Jesus Christ.

Many died because of Adam’s trespass.

Many live and receive grace because of Christ.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. Romans 5:15

Judgment and condemnation came through Adam’s transgression.

The free gift of righteousness and justification arose out of many transgressions.

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. Romans 5:16

Death ruled those in Adam.

Those in Christ rule in life.

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

Adam’s one trespass led to condemnation for all.

Christ’s act of righteousness leads to justification of life.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Romans 5:18

Because of Adam were many were made sinners.

Because of Christ many will be made righteous.

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19

The law intensifies sinfulness.

Grace out distances sin’s effects.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, Romans 5:20

Sin ruled and death.

Grace rules to eternal life.

So that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21

You can retain your identity with Adam along with his imputed sin, the sin inherited from your family line and your own intentional sin or you can put your trust in Jesus Christ along with his imputed righteousness, inherited righteousness and the intentional righteousness produced by the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.

You can retain your old identity and temporal and eternal consequences that go along with it.

But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matthew 22:11-14

Or you can embrace a new identity through faith in Jesus Christ to a new way of life.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14

The righteousness of Christ is the foundation of our reconciliation and devotion to God.

The righteousness of Christ is the foundation of our resistance and defense against the devil.

According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11