Romans 3:21-26 Perfect righteousness and assurance of salvation come through intimacy with Christ

Romans 3:21-26 Perfect righteousness and assurance of salvation come through intimacy with Christ

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Background

Biblical history has shown that Abraham walked with God by displaying the attributes of God (righteousness) even before Moses was given the Law. Thus, Abraham manifested some level of righteousness purely from his willingness to walk with God by obeying His word. That said, Abraham and the Old Testament saints await a greater display of righteousness, the perfection that comes through Christ. Today, believers can live out perfect righteousness through the Spirit of Christ who dwells within. Today’s devotion teaches us: Perfect righteousness and assurance of salvation come through intimacy with Christ.

Observation

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.

God supplies grace to one who obeys Him to live out His righteous attributes: divine love, wisdom and power. Paul, in saying, “now apart from the law …” asserts that the Law (scriptures) by itself does not help one experience and thus, acquire God’s righteous attributes. Without an encounter with God, it is impossible to possess God’s righteous attributes by studying and trying to adhere to the commandments of the Law. It is through an encounter with God that He supplies divine qualities through which man lives out God’s righteousness. Scripture records that Abraham began to display righteousness when he met God and receive God’s grace for righteousness. With that, Abraham understood God’s will and left his country for a place that God would show him (see Genesis 12:1-4, 15:6). Hence, Abraham displayed righteousness not after but before the Law of circumcision was given (apart from the Law). Thus, Abraham’s display of righteousness was purely a result out of his relationship with God. That said, Abraham’s righteousness is only a precursor to the righteousness of Christ which is far greater and perfect.

Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.

In the Old Testament, God caused Abraham to live righteously when he was willing to obey God at His word. In the last days, God caused us to live with perfect righteousness when we are willing to forsake at Christ’s word. To such, Christ baptise them with His Spirit to live the perfect life. The Gentiles do not walk with God because they have not heard of Christ’s way of righteousness. As for the Jews, although they knew the righteous ways of God, but they did not want to follow Christ. Thus, there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles for all have gone astray. It is not about knowing the bible, but about walking with Christ and obeying His directives in the decisions of life.

That said, the righteousness given to Abraham whom the Old Testament believers look to is not perfect. There is a later righteousness, the righteousness of Christ that is far greater than the righteousness that Abraham possessed. And only the righteousness of Christ will make one worthy to receive eternal life at the final resurrection. The fact that Abraham did not resurrect when he died proves that he is still under the bondage of sin. Thus, we can say that Abraham’s righteousness is a precursor, a semblance to the perfect righteousness of Christ. Even though we (like Abraham) may be imperfect, all who walk with Christ through His Spirit will be assured of salvation. Salvation is to inherit eternal life and be resurrected with the body like Christ’s body on that day (Ephesians 1:13-14).

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

All who do not walk with God and obey Him (not that they are unwilling, but because they have not heard of Christ’s way of righteousness) will die in their sins. But by God’s grace, all are given the opportunity to walk with Christ who has destroyed the power of sin and guaranteed their resurrection (salvation). This salvation is graciously offered to all through the shedding of Christ’s blood. The blood of Christ destroys the power of sin and death that results in the baptism of the Spirit. To have faith in Christ is to be willing to walk with Him and obey Him in all of life’s decisions.

This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

“His righteousness” here is not to be confused with the spiritual transference of grace to believers. “His righteousness” refers to God’s attributes of divine mercy and justice. God demonstrates His righteousness of divine mercy by bearing patiently with sinful humanity. He demonstrates His righteousness by implementing a New Covenant that destroyed the power of sin and death.

Divine Mercy

God exhibits His righteousness (mercy) when He forbore with sinners and did not immediately judge them for the sins they commit: passed over the sins previously committed by man. His mercy and forbearance are evident throughout the course of human history. Because of His mercy, He forbore with Abraham’s imperfection. And seeing his willingness to obey, accorded him with divine virtues. It is clear that despite Abraham’s unbelief, God continue to supply Abraham with divine virtues to obey Him. Likewise, despite our bent towards sin, God willingly supplies all believers with divine virtues when we profess our willingness to obey Him.

A New Covenant

God exhibits His righteousness by implementing a New Covenant through Christ’s blood. For those who have faith in Jesus, the power of sin is broken enabling them to reject darkness and to live for God. Through God’s righteousness of the New Covenant, Old and New Testament believers now enjoy eternal life (Christ-likeness) and resurrection through the Holy Spirit.

God’s righteousness (mercy) gives sinful man time and space to respond to Him. Without His righteousness (mercy), there is only a certainty of immediate retribution. On the other hand, God’s righteousness (of the New Covenant) gives all who believe in Christ the Spirit of Christ-likeness and a perfect body on that day.

Truth

Perfect righteousness and assurance of salvation come through intimacy with Christ.

Put it simply, Abraham enjoys the inflow of divine virtues as long as he walks intimately with God. As long as Abraham is willing to obey God, God supplies His Spirit and considers him as the righteous one. Here, righteousness is felt in one’s spirit as a sign of God’s residential presence, an assurance of salvation. It cannot be manufactured by immersing oneself in spiritual songs, by prayer and fasting or by religious indoctrination.

Many churches in order to assure new believers of salvation bring them down the path of religious knowledge and observances. For many, God remained aloof despite the knowledge they acquired. To help them feel “better”, they are given more bible studies as if it is purely a matter of understanding. To make matters worse, some were told to get baptised to prove the sincerity of their belief. But Paul said, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested…” Assurance of salvation or righteousness does not come by way of the law or religious indoctrination or baptism for that matter. It comes when one aligns his goals and desires with Christ and walk intimately with Him. Many study the bible and do religious works thinking that will earn them God’s favour. The fact that God seems far away is evidence of their wayward desires.

How does one draw near to Christ and walk intimately with Him?

One must deny his selfish and fleshly desires to serve God and others. For many, their fixation on personal desires and significance, and even their salvation has become a hindrance to their walk with God. Intimacy with God requires us to align our goals and desires with Christ on a daily basis. Jesus said,

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

When we hear Christ’s words today (either by reading the bible or by hearing another speak) and make a conscious effort to align our desires with Him, God makes us righteous. Some obey God’s directives but with their desires remaining unchanged. Even as God honours their obedience, such will find themselves increasingly frustrated and their journey with Christ unsustainable. But when a man denies himself and aligns his desires with God, God makes him righteous and perfects him in the day when He returns. That said, there are different levels of perfection and glory. And each person will be accorded with an appropriate degree of glory according to the virtues and desires of his heart.

Therefore, the more we align our desires, goals, interests and habits with God, the more we become intimate with Him. The more intimate we are with Christ, the more assured we are concerning blessing and salvation. Salvation and a blessed life must never be the goal, but Christ has to be our vision and desire of life. Assurance of salvation or righteousness is a process and journey toward perfection. It requires great perseverance in overcoming temptations and destroying the sinful nature within. The more we walk with Christ, the more we will come to experience His presence.

Application

Describe your experience of intimacy with God. Many knew the scripture, but could not converse with Christ in the manner the 12 disciples did. Learn to converse with God by listening to the thoughts as they enter your mind. Write down those thoughts in a journal. You will see a pattern emerging as God speaks to you concerning your present circumstances and the future.

Dear Lord, you know what is in my heart all along. My desire is to be able to converse with you face to face. To discuss the daily issues and challenges, and things that concern the nations. Teach me how I can converse with you and to understand your ways clearly. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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