Although Gospel righteousness is alien and unexpected, something quite new to our human way of thinking, it is not new to God

It is testified to by the Law and the prophets (3:21). Gospel righteousness is something that God had in mind right from the beginning. The ‘Law and the Prophets' bear testimony to this righteousness which is from God and apart from law. For example,

Abraham believed God and God credited that to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

David said ‘Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him’ (Psalm 32:2).

Jeremiah twice refers to Jesus as ‘The LORD our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16).

 Isaiah wrote of the suffering Servant of the LORD, who in his own body would bear our sin and its penalty:

‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him ... the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all ... for the transgression of my people he was stricken ... Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, ... the LORD makes his life a guilt offering ... my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. For he bore the sin of many ...’ (Isaiah 53:4-12, selected statements).

Before the beginning of time. The Law and the prophets testify to this gift of righteousness, not because it suddenly became necessary, but because it was embedded in God’s eternal purpose.

Paul affirms ‘This grace was given us in Christ before the beginning of time’ (2Timothy 1:9).

Jesus is ‘the Lamb slain from the creation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8), the one ‘chosen before the creation of the world’ (1Peter 1:20).

The gospel, this grand plan of God to save us through a righteousness not our own, is ‘God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began’ (1Corinthians 2:7).

Never for a moment must we think that the death of Jesus Christ for our salvation is God’s ‘Plan B’. Even before we sinned, even before God created us, he planned that he would one day save us through the death of his beloved Son. This is grace. Deep, deep grace.

Jesus came to die. That was God’s plan. That is God’s eternal purpose.

Jesus ‘came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).

Jesus came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).

Jesus ‘must suffer’ (Luke 9:22). So with deliberate intention he ‘resolutely set out for Jerusalem’ (Luke 9:51).

So Jesus came to implement the eternal purpose of God: ‘I have come to do you will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).

By that will, by Christ bearing our sin and guilt in line with God’s eternal purpose, we are justified. We are declared ‘righteous’. We are ‘made holy’ (Hebrews 10:10).

But it is not automatic. It is not applied universally.

It is a righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (3:22). Here we are confronted with a critical truth, the one thing without which none of what Paul teaches would apply. Although gospel righteousness is apart from law, there is one pre-requisite: faith in Jesus Christ. Paul here identifies, for the first time in this letter, who the object or focus of faith is: it is Jesus Christ. We receive this gospel righteousness when we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the One he claimed to be.

‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

‘... if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins’  (8:24).

‘... if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9).

As Paul said to the Philippian jailor ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). And as Peter said to the Jewish rulers and elders ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

© Rosemary Bardsley 2019