“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.”
“Not having my own righteousness which is from the law”
At death, we can never stand in our righteousness. Our righteousness from trying to live up to the standards of the law will be consumed in the fiery judgment of God’s perfection.
Paul’s “own righteousness” was his religion. He had all his religious bills paid (v.6), yet he was not right with God. Human righteousness is commendable in the eyes of men, not God. Good works, integrity, responsibility, and honesty are all good in the sight of men. They are good on a horizontal level, but not on a vertical level. These things do not commend us to God. We cannot become Christians by turning over a new leaf.
Christianity is not a matter of dropping old habits and acquiring new ones. Becoming a Christian involves coming to God bankrupt of any self-righteousness and depending solely on Christ’s righteousness.
“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.” (Isa. 64:6)
“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.” (Titus 3:5)
Good works are dependent upon the energy of the flesh. Paul, previous to his conversion, was a man weighed down with religion. In previous verses, he recorded the things that he supposed would commend him to God. He listed seven of them. These things he thought were assets turned out to be liabilities. He had to reject them all. He replaced character, religion, and success with Jesus Christ. In doing so, he did not trade religions. He traded in everything to receive a person. Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.
“For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them.'” (Rom. 10:5)
In other words, the righteousness that is of the law is summed up in the word “do.” We never know when we have done enough. That uncertainty produces anxiety that will never be satisfied. We never know whether the quality is good enough. We never know whether the quantity is large enough. We work and hope but never know for sure whether we have done enough, even to the point of reaching death’s door.
Self-righteousness can never satisfy God’s righteousness.
Only Christ’s righteousness can satisfy God’s righteousness. Some people try to earn God’s favor. They try to bribe God by tithing or witnessing. Some business types feel that if they tithe, God will bless their business. To do that is to depend upon self-righteousness to gain God’s approval. In effect, it is a bribe to get God’s blessing: “If I live up to some standard, then God may give me what I want.” Yet, there is nothing we can do to get blessings from God. This passage teaches us that we have a blessing from God. There is not enough money in the world to bribe God for anything. God does not bless us because He is impressed with us; He blesses us because He is impressed with Christ. If God uses any of us, it is because of God’s provision, not because of who we are.