Today in our brief time together I would like to share with you some thoughts on a topic we will be considering throughout eternity—Christ and His righteousness. This is such an important topic to understand as we are rapidly coming to the close of earth’s history. Jesus is indeed coming soon!
In preparation for His soon return, Scripture invites us to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). However, some critics have accused Seventh-day Adventists as teaching or promoting legalism, that is, righteousness by works, but nothing could be further from the truth. As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe that salvation is through Christ and Christ alone!
Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8-10 that we owe everything to Christ: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone would boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
It’s the grace of God and His power alone that accomplishes this in us as we accept the justifying robe of Christ’s righteousness. Then, as we accept the power that accompanies justification, Christ begins to sanctify us—transforming us into His glorious image. This entire change is the all-encompassing righteousness of Christ.
When we accept Jesus into our lives, a miraculous Spirit-filled conversion takes place and Christ changes us into His likeness so that we become more and more like Him.
The provision for this right relationship is described in one of the most powerful verses of the Bible, 2 Cor. 5:21—“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God, the Father, provided His perfect Son as a sacrifice for our sins that we would be able to take on the perfect righteousness of Christ. This is the “born again” experience that Jesus talked about in John 3:3, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This born again experience makes us entirely new persons, as we read in 2 Cor. 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, as we confess our sins and fall at the foot of the cross, we are cleansed of our sins and re-created into the image of God.
This is God’s all-encompassing righteousness—we are saved by grace and we live by faith—all through Jesus Christ! And when we accept Christ and His righteousness, we also follow Him in believing and accepting His beautiful truths revealed in the doctrines of the Bible—all centered in Him. In Titus 2:5-6 Paul indicates that it was “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
He further states “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works (vs. 7-8).
The good works are the manifestation of the sanctifying power of Christ. The Holy Spirit works in us to make us more and more like Christ. We are totally dependent upon our relationship with Christ for sanctification. That is Christ’s righteousness.
The Spirit of Prophecy gives us deep insights into the Biblical truth of Christ’s righteousness, especially in the marvelous little book, Steps to Christ: “We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. . . . He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. . . . More than this, Christ changes the heart. . . . You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. . . . So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. . . . Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us” (pp. 62-63).
No wonder Paul proclaims, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Let no Seventh-day Adventist think of themselves as better than anyone else or accuse others of not being holy or perfect. We are all sinners at the foot of the cross in need of a Savior who provides for us His righteousness.
As we consecrate ourselves to Christ and allow Him to work in us to stay close to Him and His Word, we can then better understand these inspired words: “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69).
The character of Christ is perfectly reproduced in our lives when we lean completely on Christ alone. We must daily allow the Holy Spirit to change us more and more into the likeness of Christ. This is the work of a lifetime. We are to ask for Christ’s character in our lives as we learn practical obedience to His Word through His power.
We aren’t to work toward what may be termed “perfectionism,” reflecting a legalistic checklist. Nor should we point out the faults of others or bring strife into the church with accusations that we are more righteous than others.
“No one who claims holiness is really holy. Those who are registered as holy in the books of Heaven are not aware of the fact, and are the last ones to boast of their own goodness. None of the prophets and apostles ever professed holiness . . . The righteous never make such a claim. The more nearly they resemble Christ, the more they lament their unlikeness to Him” (True Revival, p. 62).
So how should we understand the plan of salvation in these last days of earth’s history? Cheap grace won’t do it. It denies the power of the Holy Spirit to change the life day by day to become more and more like Christ. Legalism won’t do it. It blocks the only way to salvation—total dependence on Jesus Christ, our only way to salvation. An intellectual, higher critical approach won’t do it. It destroys the very miracle of conversion and sanctification, and strips God’s salvation of its power to change lives.
It is only Christ’s all-encompassing righteousness of justification and sanctification that will save, change, and nurture us into true disciples of Christ. It is something that Jesus does both for us and in us. Through His grace, we can have divine power and His character as we are made more and more like Him.
We are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that righteousness by faith is the very core of the three angels’ messages. What a privilege to urge people to turn back to the true worship of God acknowledging His all-encompassing righteousness and salvation. The culmination of Christ’s saving grace and righteousness will be to welcome Him at His second coming——proof to the world of His justifying salvation and ability to change our lives through His sanctifying power.
What a day that will be!
Let me pray with you. Father in Heaven, thank you for the offer of all encompassing righteousness that is provided to us through the life, the sacrifice and the ministry of Jesus Christ. Lord, thank you for your justifying power, which provides us with a robe of righteousness from Christ, covering our lives and making us perfect in the sight of the Father, all because of Jesus’ grace and what he has done for us. Thank you for the sanctifying power, the work of the Holy Spirit working in us, changing us to become more and more every day like Jesus, as we lean upon the power of Christ. Lord, we look forward to the time when Jesus will return and we will be taken to heaven and it will only be because of the righteousness of Christ.
Thank you for hearing us. And may we live daily in the presence of our Lord and Savior, taking into our lives, His righteousness. In Christ's name, we ask it. Amen.