“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
by the righteousness
God is perfect, and thus 100% righteous (1 John 1:5). He is so righteous that He does not tolerate sin to the slightest degree (Haggai 1:13). He cannot rationalize sin away. However, God is just to forgive us for our sin because he sent Jesus to pay for our sins (Romans 3:26). The argument of the book of Romans explains how God declares sinners to be as right as Jesus is right in His eyes.
We tend to think that God is just an extension of people like ourselves. We believe that He is finite to some degree. But, God is absolute, and as a perfect Being, He does not bend or flex to finite standards. He operates according to His own limitless standards. Man is the opposite. Man is finite. We operate on the relative plane and a system of degrees. That is why our best efforts are obnoxious in God’s eyes, no matter how righteous they may be in our own eyes. God’s righteousness is perfect. Our attempts will not hold up before a perfect God (Romans 3:10, 21-26; Matthew 5:20).
We receive faith by grace. This does not mean that grace did not cost something. Jesus paid a great price for the privilege of exercising our faith. The means of our faith is the righteousness of the God-man, Jesus Christ.
The good news is that God makes available His righteousness (as over against our righteousness) to all of us whenever we accept His Son’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is accessible to anyone (Romans 3:22). The one qualification is whether we believe in Jesus’ death to forgive our sins and give us His righteousness. God reckons our faith for His righteousness (Romans 4:5). God puts to our account His very own righteousness. We go to heaven on the merit of Christ’s righteousness. This is a righteousness that can come to us only by faith (Hebrews 11:7). We cannot earn this righteousness; we obtain it as a gift from God (Romans 5:17). As soon as we work for it, it is no longer a gift but a work.
God’s standard for accepting us into His heaven is His own righteousness.
Our good works are obnoxious to God (Isaiah 64:6; Titus 3:5). No matter how righteous, cultured, or educated we may be on human standards, we are not righteous on God’s standards. By earthly standards, we may hold character and good habits. Those are areas of personal strength, but even our areas of strength do not measure up to God’s 100% standards. None of us is absolute. That is why we need the righteousness of God given to us by Christ.
None of us wants to be the finest person in hell. Who wants to be the most outstanding person in the Lake of Fire!? What a dubious distinction! We are totally lost in God’s eyes, even if the areas of strength of our character far exceed our areas of weakness. With all our character, we cannot live up to the standard of who God is. This is why God says none of us are righteous in God’s eyes (Romans 3:10).
God imputes His righteousness to our account the split second we believe in Christ’s penalty for our sin (Romans 3:22). There are no degrees of God’s imputed righteousness. Each believer has the same perfect position before God. God accepts us because He loves Christ (Ephesians 1:6).
There are no degrees of justification. God justifies each believer fully the moment he becomes a Christian,
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
None of us can say that we are more justified than someone else is because we have been Christians longer than him or her. The length of salvation is inconsequential and irrelevant when it comes to justification. Justification is the same for us all.
God redeems us all equally. None of us can say, “I am more redeemed than you.” There are no degrees of redemption (Ephesians 1:7). We all share equally the forgiveness of sin. None of us can say, “Only 50% of your sins are forgiven, but 75% of mine are forgiven. I’m more of a Christian than you are because I have more sins forgiven than you.” There are no degrees of forgiveness of sin. Each born again person has all sins forgiven the moment he came to Christ. The penalty for our sin has been fully paid by Christ (Acts 10:43).
Each of our names is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. None of us can say, “My name is in indelible ink, but your name is written in pencil! Someone may come along and erase it (Revelation 20:15).” Eternal life is the same for everyone. No one can say, “I have 900 billion years of eternal life, and you only have 500 billion years.” We all have the same amount of eternal life (John 6:47). We all possess the same eternal life by virtue of what Christ did for us. Each Christian has the blood-bought right for eternal life. We cannot be almost saved. If we are almost saved, we are entirely lost. Each born again person is totally in (1 Corinthians 1:13).
God did not almost reconcile us. He totally reconciled us to Himself (Romans 5:10). Therefore, there are no degrees of salvation.
Open your heart and receive God’s righteousness. Don’t work for it (Romans 10:1-10; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:7-9). Receiving the absolute righteousness of God is the genius of the gospel. We have no righteousness of our own that we can present to God as some form of merit in His eyes. We cannot earn brownie points before God. That is fashionable, present-day religion. “Do good. Be sincere. Have a good batting average with the Ten Commandments. Live by the golden rule. Be nice to your neighbor. Do these things, and you have a good standing before God.” This is rational, but it is a deadly rational. It is the opposite of dealing with God’s righteousness. It simply deals with man’s righteousness. This is the surest route to hell that we could try to conjure before God. We must come to Christ’s righteousness. No human righteousness will impress God. The only righteousness that impresses God is the righteousness of Christ.