Righteousness never comes by faith in self, but by faith in God.
Initial sanctification occurs instantly at the moment of salvation when we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Christ (see Colossians 1:13). Progressive sanctification continues over time until we go to be with the Lord. Initial sanctification is entirely the work of God the Holy Spirit who imparts to us the very life of Christ. Progressive sanctification is also the work of the Holy Spirit, but it involves a response on our part so that we as believers are actively involved in the process.
Scripture speaks of both a holiness we already possess in Christ before God and a holiness in which we are to grow more and more. The first is the result of the work of Christ for us; the second is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The first is perfect and complete and is ours the moment we trust Christ; the second is progressive and incomplete as long as we are in this life. The objective holiness we have in Christ and the subjective holiness produced by the Holy Spirit are both gifts of God’s grace and are both appropriated by faith.
Because we are united by faith to [Jesus Christ] who is perfectly righteous, God accepts us as perfectly righteous. God does not resort to some kind of legal fiction, calling something righteous that is not. Rather, He declares us righteous on the basis of the real accomplished righteousness of Christ, imputed to us because of our union with Him.
Man’s method of sanctification is by law, God’s method of sanctification is by the Gospel; the former is by works, the latter is by faith, unto works.
But I observed that, although I was such a great sinner before conversion, God never burdened me heavily with the guilt of sins committed while I was in ignorance. He only showed me that I was lost if I did not have Christ because I had been a sinner. I saw that I needed a perfect righteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness was nowhere to be found but in the person of Jesus Christ.
One day as I was passing into the field…this sentence fell upon my soul. Thy righteousness is in heaven. And…I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me; now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.
Man cannot be righteous in God’s sight until he repents of his own expectation that he can be righteous in his own sight. God is not mighty toward man until man is weak toward God.
As we feel the calamities of war more than the pleasures of peace, and diseases more than the quietness of health, and the hardness of poverty more than the commodities of abundance; even so we ought not to marvel if we feel the stingings and pricks of sin a great deal more than the consolations of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of His law and commandments, therefore can no man by His own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified, and made righteous before God: But every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive of God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God, for our perfect and full justification.
I learned early on that to be “set apart” is not a punishment; it is not an attempt on God’s part to deprive us or to condemn us to a cheerless, joyless lifestyle. It is a priceless privilege – it is a call to belong, to be cherished, to enter into an intimate love relationship with God Himself, much as a groom declares his intent to set his bride apart from all other women to be his beloved wife; to fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe; to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created; to be freed from all that destroys our true happiness.
There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to Him.
The Pleasure of God and the Possibility of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung taken from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, copyright 2012, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton Illinois 60187, www.crosswaybooks.org, p. 70.
One man may appear to be righteous before another man, but before God there is no one truly righteous. The only righteousness that God accepts is His own. To stand before God in our own righteousness is certain rejection.
We miss the radical nature of Paul’s teaching here to our great loss. So startling is it that we need to find a startling manner of expressing it. For what Paul is saying is that sanctification means this: in relationship both to sin and to God, the determining factor of my existence is no longer my past. It is Christ’s past.
If we think it is unfair for us to be represented by Adam, then we should also think it is unfair for us to be represented by Christ and to have His righteousness imputed to us by God.
Thou must be righteous and holy, before thou canst live righteously and holily.
Christ’s righteousness is so imputed to believers that their justification is not merely the act of a sovereign dispensing with law but the act of a judge declaring the law to be satisfied.
Sanctification, therefore, must be understood as being both definitive and progressive. In its definitive sense, it means that work of the Spirit whereby He causes us to die to sin, to be raised with Christ, and to be made new creatures. In its progressive sense, it must be understood as that work of the Spirit whereby He continually renews and transforms us into the likeness of Christ, enabling us to keep on growing in grace and to keep on perfecting our holiness.
Such are we in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God Himself.
The remission of sin proceeds from the passive obedience of Christ, His offering up of Himself as the propitiation for our sins. Christ’s active obedience provides that righteousness which constitutes the believer righteous. It is human righteousness. The incarnation was essential. As man he lived out righteousness for us throughout his life on earth.
In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Paul [addressed] the Corinthians as “those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). The congregation in Corinth was anything but a “holy” people in terms of life and conduct; false teaching, schisms, and immorality marred the church. Still, it was a congregation of saints, of the sanctified, because in spite of the sinful conduct of many of its members and the worldly character of the church itself, it was still the church of God in Corinth.
Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives… In their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification… Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.
Imputed righteousness makes practical righteousness possible, but only obedience to the Lord makes practical righteousness a possibility.
God saves believers by imputing to them the merit of Christ’s perfect righteousness – not in any sense because of their own righteousness. God accepts believers in Christ. He declares them perfectly righteous because of Christ. Their sins have been imputed to Christ, who has paid the full penalty. His righteousness is now imputed to them, and they receive the full merit for it. That is what justification by faith means.
As Christ was not made sin by any sin inherent in Him, so neither are we made righteous by any righteousness inherent in us, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.
Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Ghost, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood, but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart, and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God… The subject of this work of Christ by His Spirit is called in Scripture a “sanctified” man.
Though every other world religion teaches it, and there are many false churches under the guise of Christianity that are willing to accommodate it, the Bible knows nothing about earning God’s favor. The reason is because we can’t. God is so perfectly holy. He simply can’t accept an ounce of sin in His presence. He’s not looking to bestow eternal life on those who think they are righteous as some sort of a reward. He’s looking for those who acknowledge their own rebellion and look to Him to receive His righteousness as a gift by running to Him for complete rescue.
We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?
The equation is simple. If God requires perfect righteousness and perfect holiness to survive His perfect judgment, then we are left with a serious problem. Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such righteousness can be found is in Christ – that is the good news of the Gospel.
When our inequity had come to its full height, and it was clear beyond all mistaking that retribution in the form of punishment and death must be looked for, the hour arrived in which God had determined to make known from then onwards His loving-kindness and His power. How surpassing is the love and tenderness of God! In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself. He gave His own Son as a ransom for us – the holy for the wicked, the sinless for sinners, the just for unjust, the incorrupt for the corrupt, the immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!
The only hope there is of standing righteous and acceptable before God is by receiving by faith what another has done for you. All self-attainment, self-accomplishment, self-righteousness must be abandoned realizing the vanity and hopelessness of bringing to pass our own right standing before God. We must humble ourselves before a holy God, recognize our sin, acknowledge our complete inability to remove that sin. Then we must embrace what Christ has done for us, instead of us, paying the penalty of our sin in our place in order to bring to us, by faith, a credited righteousness by which God may rightly justify us as ungodly sinners. Look to Christ and Christ alone.
There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His “blood and righteousness” alone that we can rest.
God freely justifies the persons whom he effectually calls. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them but by pardoning their sins and by accounting them, and accepting them as righteous. This He does for Christ’s sake alone and not for anything wrought in them or done by them. The righteousness which is imputed to them, that is, reckoned to their account, is neither their faith nor the act of believing nor any obedience to the gospel which they have rendered, but Christ’s obedience alone. Christ’s one obedience is twofold – His active obedience rendered to the entire divine law, and His passive obedience rendered in his death.