A Practical Gospel of Self-Righteousness
March 2, 2012, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Law/Gospel Distinction, Repentance

written by David Bishop

I once believed that I stood before God accepted according to my own righteousness.  I believed that His demand for absolute obedience from the moment of my conception to the moment of my death could be satisfied by my attempts to change my behavior, to conduct myself in a certain way.  And this wasn’t the average, formal religious way either.  It wasn’t that I didn’t cuss, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t watch certain movies or listen to certain music, because the truth is that I continued to do all those things and much more.  Nor was it that I carefully kept to a schedule of bible study, prayer and church attendance, though I did indeed do these things and much more.   No, it was that I thought that if I expressed what I believed to be the heart of God for the people I lived, worked and interacted with on a daily basis, then I would be demonstrating that I was in tune with God’s heart.

This self righteousness worked itself out in an odd way.  I became a fantastic neighbor, a polite and productive member of society.  I washed cars for free, just to “show God’s love in a practical way.”  I gave away cans of soda pop to thirsty drivers from my post along busy street corners during particularly hot Summer days.  I canvased the more poverty stricken portions of my neighborhood, going door-to-door to hand out free groceries.  And the list goes on and on and on.   All these things done to show God’s love in a practical way.  Thinking that showing God’s love in a practical way would one day serve to save me from the day of judgment.   “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Come in.  You’ve earned it.”     

The gospel, the good news, is that God satisfied His demand for perfection on behalf of all those He chose from before the foundation of the world.  Christ took upon Himself human flesh and lived, from the moment of His conception to the moment of His death, an absolute perfect, obedient life.   In His death, itself an obedient act, the Father laid to Him the guilt for all the sins that His people had ever and would ever commit, so that when He died, He fully satisfied God’s wrath against the sins of His elect.  Having so obediently lived and died, God declared His Christ just.  That is, He declared Him acceptable.  He made this declaration by raising His Christ from the dead.In all the past and future annals of earth’s history, Christ was and will always be the only person to have ever obtained an acceptable standing before God based upon His own performance.   Christ earned the right to stand before God accepted as just based upon His own works.  It is this Christ, this Righteous One, whom God credits to His people’s account by grace alone.  It is upon the performance of this Christ, and this Christ alone, that His people stand before God accepted and declared just.  No other performance will do.  No other work will be accepted.

Some people have a problem with me saying that this is true only for the elect.  They don’t like it when I say God satisfied His demand for perfection on behalf of His elect.  They prefer that I say God satisfied His demand for perfection on behalf of everyone.  Some people like this have even gone so far as to draw up a doctrine they refer to as the doctrine of the free offer of the gospel.  In this particularly nasty piece of doctrine, they state that Christ died for everyone, but that His death is only effectual for the elect.  But if Christ died for everyone, even if there is talk of His death being effectual only for the elect, then either His death is unjust because it failed to save everyone, or God is unjust for not saving everyone.  In either case, the whole basis for the gospel being the revelation of God’s righteousness is undone (Romans 1:16-17).  In other words, the free offer of the gospel is fatal to the gospel.

Not only is Christ’s death effectual only for the elect, He also died only for the elect.  And in His death for them, He secured their salvation.  They shall every one of them be saved from the day of judgment.  They, and only they shall be saved.

As for self-righteousness, lots of self righteous people these days talk about repentance.   They say repentance concerns a change of our ethical behavior so that we go from doing things like practicing homosexuality and murdering unborn babies to building a nuclear family and giving birth to litters of babies.   Friend, this is nothing less than the false gospel of self-righteousness.  I’m not saying that homosexuals wouldn’t be better off in this world were they to give up their homosexuality, but giving up a certain lifestyle is not what the gospel means by conversion.  Nor am I saying that Christians shouldn’t make every effort to avoid temptation and sin, because Christian or not, you will find yourself sitting in the dark if you neglect to pay your light bill.

No, what I am saying is that avoiding temptation and sin is not the Christian’s righteousness.  The Christian does not stand righteous before God because he avoids temptation and sin.

Philippians 3:8 (KJV) – Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Repentance is about counting as dung all the things that I once counted as my righteousness.  Or as Paul says here in Philippians 3, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ.  Faith is about agreeing with God that Christ alone is the only person who had and ever will stand before God accepted by His own behavior.  The gospel is the message that God graciously and freely, through no work of their own, but instead based exclusively upon what Christ has done for them, declares His elect clothed with Christ.  This is the gospel, friends, and this is what God commands everyone to believe.

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Thank you for sharing the Gospel.

Comment by elon




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