Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. [Romans 8:9-11 ESV]
Righteousness means perfect conformity to the moral law of God, which is perfect conformity to God for He is not separate for His law.
Beginning with Adam God adamantly declared a single sin, a lone act of unrighteousness, the smallest transgression against His moral law brought separation from Him. Once separated a righteousness life is impossible for the one who committed the sinful act in thought or will. That single act of rebellion corrupts the person, polluting their essential being. Since no one living, or having lived other than Jesus has absolutely conformed to the moral law, being righteousness is impossible. This truth must be admitted and accepted, along with the admission and acceptance of the consequences of violating God’s law.
What is impossible for man is eternally doable by God.
God must do for man what man cannot do for himself. Yet, God will not violate His own intimate standards to bring anyone back to a relationship with Him. Once corrupted no one can then be made uncorrupted. God does not take the corruption out of a person but instead casts the person away. He is justified in doing this because of His known will, while maybe ignored will, that all who sin are sentenced to death. Spiritual death follows physical death. We have already discussed the differences in the sections on “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” [Matthew 5:4 ESV]. God does the impossible
Christ’s death and resurrection is the heart of the Gospel where my sin is exchanged for His righteousness. He took on Himself on the cross the full measure of my sentence and punishment for my sin, for my violation of the moral law of God. In exchange the full measure of His righteousness enveloped me. This does not mean I am righteous as a natural consequence of being a Christian. It means God views me as righteous. The theological term is “imputation.” My sin is imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to me. I am covered with His blood so when God looks at me He does not see me in sin but sees the blood of His Son which covers my sin.
If I am righteousness in God’s sight then it is His righteousness not mine. It is His righteousness placed over me. In the context of this discussion, righteousness is a tool or weapon acquired by faith to enable me to stand against the unrighteousness of the world which tugs and pulls, tempts to sin. Paul uses the metaphor of a breastplate with righteousness covering and protecting the vital organs. (See Ephesians 6:10 and following.) God placed around me the protection of Christ’s righteousness. I wield this righteousness as an act of the will in obedience to God, my Master.
Before we can use His righteousness to fight against sin we must first view ourselves as His bondservant. In Paul’s illustration in Ephesians 6 the bondservant is also a soldier. Obedience means knowing the mind of your Master, not just the will. When the Master puts a person through training the person has an obligation to do as he has been trained. When God views a person as righteous because of Christ’s blood the person is obligated to do that which is righteous. This obligation comes from the person being re-created and growing in Christ.
We are created in the image of God. But, as a descendent of Adam our nature was corrupted by sin. When God bought us He re-created us in the image of Christ, then adopted and made us a son of God. Not only did He cover us with Christ’s righteousness but infused us with His Holy Spirit beginning our training and preparation for eternity. We are covered and filled making us witnesses of God in this world. Once we are His and the training has begun we are obligated to obey God. We are obligated to Him. He has no obligation to us other than what He has promised.
Much of our training is a comprehensive understanding of God’s moral law. Jesus is succinct in His teaching of this law.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:36-40 ESV]
We must know the difference between right and wrong according to God’s determination. We must determine what is good and acceptable in God’s eyes. We are trained by the world to think we are the center of existence. God does not retrain – He re-creates. That which is old, corrupted by sin, cannot obey God. Only those claimed by God, covered by the blood of His Son and filled by the Spirit can claim righteousness. This means rejecting and abandoning the training of the world which taught us how to think and feel only of ourselves. God is first. Our neighbors come before us. We are last, servants of all.
Righteousness becomes an act of the will of God, done by the servant as obedience to Him who has trained us and given us the tools needed to stand against the world. It is not an act of our will but of God’s will in us under His control. Meekness is God’s strength in us under God’s control. There is no room for compromise. Only a true servant, one who recognizes themselves as a servant, can relinquish control to the place of abandonment to God. Consequently, the abandoned to God servant of Christ must do righteousness as a constant act of the will.
Being covered with Christ’s blood and with His righteousness imputed has eternal implications. Those so covered no longer desire to sin. I did not say “no longer sin.” God leaves us in a sinful world and a sinful body surrounded by sinful people. Our desire is to fulfill His will because we love Him. First time obedience shows love for God.
We all know the propensity of children to not hear when verbal instruction is given. Few parents have the emotional stamina to demand immediate obedience. So children wait, continuing in their own activity. As children they are trained to respond only when there is anger in the voice, or a threat, or the parent begins moving in their direction. God does none of this. God instructs once. If there is no obedience then He disciplines. Focusing upon ourselves means we will not recognize His discipline but will see unfair suffering. Being covered with the righteousness of Christ means we are not under the threat of the eternal sentence and punishment of our sin. Discipline is another story. God disciplines us in righteousness to the place of first time obedience in thought and action.
Like truth we do not determine righteousness. We do not say this is righteous and that is not any more than we say this is true and that is not. Given the mind of Christ and the direction of the Spirit we live as servants and sons of God in a world at war with Him. Righteousness is a protective covering against the assaults of the world. His protective covering of us.