The Righteousness of God which is by Faith
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
Horatius Bonar wrote, “Faith is not our righteousness. It is accounted to us in order to righteousness (Rom 4:5, GREEK), but not as righteousness; for in that case it would be a work like any other doing of man, and as such would be incompatible with the righteousness of the Son of God; the ‘righteousness which is by faith.’ Faith connects us with the righteousness, and is therefore totally distinct from it. To confound the one with the other is to subvert the whole gospel of the grace of God. Our act of faith must ever be a separate thing from that which we believe.”
Christ, Not Our Faith
We must never make our faith our savior. Christ is our Savior, and Christ alone. He bore our sins in his body on the tree, not our faith. He endured the wrath of God for us, not our faith. He died in our stead, not our faith. He satisfied the justice of God, not our faith. He brought in everlasting righteousness for us, not our faith. He put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, not our faith. He is made of God unto us righteousness, not our faith.
God reckons the believing sinner righteous. That is to say, God almighty considers that man or woman who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly righteous before him and totally without sin. He considers us, upon the ground and merit of Christ’s representative obedience for us (obedience of infinite merit), as having done all righteousness. You know, (at least I hope you do), and I know that we have never done anything righteous, and never can. Neither our works, nor our thoughts, nor our faith, nor even our prayers are righteous.
Yet, the Scriptures speak of “the righteousness of faith” and “the righteousness of God which is by faith.” How are we to understand such statements? We must never attempt to interpret any word or sentence or isolated passage of Holy Scripture standing alone. We must never build our doctrine on single statements, verses, or passages, or by combining them. Such handling of the Word of God is utterly dishonest. We interpret Scripture by seeking to understand the parts in the context of the whole. We build our doctrine on the whole Word of God.
This is how God reckons sinners righteous by faith. God reckons the obedience of Chris, the Object of our faith, to be ours. This declaration of righteousness imputed, imputed justly, is received when the chosen, redeemed, justified sinner is born of God and granted faith in Christ by the almighty, irresistible operation of God’s saving grace. AMEN