Righteousness Through Christ
Open Your Bible
John 1:1-5, John 1:14-18, Romans 3:21-28, Ephesians 1:7-10, Colossians 1:13-14
You know that kids’ toy where you have to push the triangle block through the triangle hole and the square block through the square hole? As a toddler first starts learning to sort their shapes, they keep trying to squeeze the star through the circle and the diamond through the oval with no success. But over time, they learn where each shape fits in.
Not unlike learning to sort our shapes, at some point, we also learn to sort our people. We head off to school and have to navigate the playground. Looking around at the other kids, we wonder who is popular or shy, smart or foolish, well behaved or unruly, kind or unkind. Of course, we all desperately want to be included in the “right” group, because who wants to be left out at recess or have no place to sit at lunch?
Though we might not admit it, as we grow up, most of us continue to sort people—we just use fancier labels. Perhaps even in the Church we have mental categories for the godly or ungodly, well connected or unknown, engaged or distant. Though we’re not worried about being mocked on the playground, we still desperately want to be included in the “right” group.
So what do we do? We try to prop ourselves up on our accomplishments. We join the right Bible study, associate with the right people, do the right thing. And when we think we’ve done it all “right,” we look out from our little throne we’ve built for ourselves and judge everyone who is doing it “wrong.”
Paul addressed this behavior in his letter to the Jews in Rome. They had the esteemed ethnic background of being God’s chosen people and had followed the law of Moses. Therefore, they thought they must be better than the Gentiles. They thought that God was only for them.
But Paul levels them. He slashes their idols and brings them down from their ego trips, telling them, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). ALL, meaning nobody is excluded from the status of “sinner.” It doesn’t matter if you grew up in a Christian home, led a small group, or donated half your income to the church. You and I and everyone else are equal in this; none of us can measure up to the glory of God. In fact, even on our best day, we don’t come close.
This would be such bad news, knowing that we don’t make the cut for the “righteous” category, if not for Jesus. Because once we realize how far outside God’s holiness we land, we can understand what an extravagant gift God’s grace is. And that is why we celebrate His birth each year.
God doesn’t look the other way on our sin because we do enough of the right things. No, “the righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). This is the only way. Just like the Jews in Rome, we must admit that we deserve to be in the “guilty” category and place our hope for salvation on the work of Jesus, not ourselves. We can rejoice in the promise that God lavishly covers the guilt of all who believe with the righteousness only He can attain.