Seek righteousness through grace

by Leonard Lauriault

In Matthew 25: 31-46, the sheep and goats were separated because of what they had or had not done. In meeting people’s needs, the sheep knew they were doing right because they were following God’s plan (Deuteronomy 15: 11; 14: 28, 29; Leviticus 25: 35).

Apparently, they didn’t realize that in serving others, they were actually serving God. We find favor with God when we do what’s right because that’s when we exhibit his righteousness as his children – those who’ve been born of him (Acts 10: 34, 35; 1 John 2: 29; 3: 7-10; Genesis 4: 7).
We’re to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness before all else because without righteousness (holiness) we won’t see God (Matthew 6: 33; 1 Peter 1: 15, 16; Hebrews 12: 14; Psalm 17: 15; Revelation 22: 4; 1 John 3: 1-3). Consequently, we must acquire and fulfill righteousness as a necessary part of our salvation. While we’re saved by God’s grace rather than our own works, we’re called to share in Christ’s sufferings by being crucified with him so we also can share in his righteousness (Romans 3: 10-12; Isaiah 64: 6; Ephesians 2: 1-9; 1 Peter 2: 21-24; Philippians 3: 8-11; Romans 6: 3-11). And so, we do actually have a role in our salvation (Philippians 2: 12, 13; 2 Peter 1: 3-11).

Being crucified with Christ is an ongoing process that begins with baptism and continues for our lifetime (Colossians 3: 5-11; Romans 8: 12-17; 1 John 1: 5-9). It isn’t a work we do that sets aside God’s grace (Galatians 5: 24, 25; 2: 20, 21; God does the work in us when we obediently submit to his plan for salvation (Colossians 2: 9-13, 20; 3: 1-4; Titus 3: 4-7; Philippians 1: 6).

Being crucified with Christ is actually how we accept/receive God’s grace, purifying ourselves from our past sins and becoming born again servants of righteousness rather than being free of (without) righteousness (Romans 6: 16-20; 1 Peter 1: 22-25; John 3: 3-6; Hebrews 9: 14; 1 John 5: 1-8). This purification also is how God’s righteousness comes to us by faith in Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit (Romans 3: 21-24; Isaiah 61:10; Galatians 3: 26-4: 7; Revelation 19: 6-8; 22: 14, 15; Matthew 22: 11-14). We don’t belong to Christ, having his righteousness, if we don’t have his Spirit (Romans 8: 9, 10).

Being crucified with Christ also doesn’t negate the basis of righteousness coming to us by faith in Christ Jesus because, similarly to anything done without love being of no avail (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3), anything done without faith is sin (Romans 14: 23; Hebrews 11: 6).

This is why Jesus said that, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16: 16; Matthew 20: 18-20; Luke 24: 46, 47).” In Matthew 3: 13-15, Jesus required John to baptize him to fulfill all righteousness. And he indicated that we shouldn’t call him Lord unless we do what he says (Luke 6: 46-49; John 14: 14, 15; Deuteronomy 6: 25; 1 Corinthians 9: 20, 21; Romans 2: 13-16, 28, 29).

Faith leads to righteous acts and the receipt of the Holy Spirit, all of which are associated with the portrayal of the crucifixion (through preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper) (James 2: 18-26; Galatians 3: 1-14; Acts 18: 24-19: 5; 2: 36-38). Consequently, righteousness isn’t fulfilled and God doesn’t impute his righteousness to us until we act on our faith because until then we’re not born of God, belonging to him.

In Romans 4: 6-8, Paul makes the connection between the forgiveness of sins and the receipt of God’s righteousness. As sin and God’s righteousness, imputed through the indwelling Holy Spirit, cannot occupy the same space, forgiveness is always precedent to righteousness. Note again Galatians 3: 7 and 26-29; we must understand what every first century Christian knew –our faith/belief includes baptism and leads to our belonging to Christ as Abraham’s seed. Remember, God inspired Paul to write Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians and there’s no contradiction in scripture (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17). Baptism is how we crucify the sinful nature by God’s grace. This promise hasn’t changed (Acts 2: 39) and is why Romans 3: 22 can affirm that righteousness comes to all who believe.

Don’t receive God’s grace in vain. Follow God’s plan for acquiring and fulfilling his righteousness by acting upon your faith in the obedience that brings about salvation (1 Corinthians 6: 1, 2; Acts 22: 16; Romans 10: 13). Contact a Christian who’ll faithfully administer God’s grace to you through baptism (1 Peter 4: 10). I’m available (461-4421; 1 Corinthians 15: 1, 2, 10, 11; Hebrews 6: 9-12).
Leonard Lauriault, church of Christ