Christ Plus Nothing
Pastor Jon Hueni | May 16, 2021
Pastor Jon Hueni | May 16, 2021
Some things can be ruined by adding anything to it. Think of the perfect chocolate chip cookie with just the right ingredients. The kind that Mom’s been making for years and everyone’s devouring. And then one day Dad thinks that he’s going to improve on the recipe and so he adds a cup of chopped walnuts and the kids cry, “Dad, you’ve ruined the whole batch of cookies!” It was ruined not by something that was taken OUT, like the chocolate chips, it was rather ruined by what was ADDED to it. And the gospel of Jesus Christ can be ruined not only by subtracting from it, but also by adding to it. And it’s this latter danger that Paul is addressing in our text today in Philippians three, the first nine verses. Gospel additives. Christ PLUS something else for salvation. And it leaves us without any gospel at all.
Now Paul’s been addressing three great themes in this letter to the Philippians: the theme of joy, unity, and the mission. And as we come to chapter three he’s not going off on some rabbit trail forgetting these three great themes, rather he’s continuing them. For our mission is to make disciples…and how do we do that? We do it by holding out to them the saving gospel of Christ. But if we lose the gospel our mission is lost. We have no good news for sinners. And as for the theme of unity, how is it that we’re made one? It is through faith in the gospel of Christ that we are joined to Jesus Christ. I’m joined to Christ. You’re joined to Christ. And so we’re joined together as brothers and sisters of the same Savior. Nothing shatters our unity like the intrusion of false doctrine and a false gospel. And as for our joy, what joy can there be for hell-deserving sinners apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ? The good news that we can be saved, not by our own deeds, but by the good deeds of another done for us, even Jesus. So you see the very foundation of these three themes of our mission, of our joy, of our unity, is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we get the gospel wrong, we lose everything, even our own salvation. Hence the seriousness with which Paul takes up this theme and addresses the heresy of gospel additives.
Notice how he begins chapter three—“Finally brothers, REJOICE in the Lord!” So in warning them against the false gospel, Paul is still pursuing their joy in the Lord. It’s only in the gospel, the true gospel, that we have a reason to rejoice in the Lord. And notice as well that Paul is here repeating himself in what he’s about to say. This isn’t the first time he’s warned them about false gospels. They’ve heard it before. Maybe it was on an earlier visit. Maybe it was an earlier letter that we’re not aware of, but look at the last part of verse 1—“It’s no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it’s a safeguard for you.”
We have an unwholesome itch to hear new things. And it can lead us to actually dislike listening to old things. But the truth is most often what we need to hear is not some new thing, but some old thing that we have forgotten. And so the Bible’s often saying to us, “Do you not know? Do you not know?” You do know but you’re acting as if you don’t know. And so Isaiah, Paul, Peter, Jesus, are not above repeating themselves, calling to mind what we’re forgetting and need to remember. So brothers and sisters, you need warnings. And you need them more than once. Don’t tune it out, saying to yourself, “Oh, I already know that. I already heard this.”
Just this week I learned of a member of a church who walked out on his spouse after many years of marriage. He knew it was wrong. You know it’s wrong. But we need the warning again and again. Why? Because we live in an adulterous and wicked generation that is tempting us again and again. So… "Flee evil desires that war against your soul!" and "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall!" Well that’s what Paul’s saying here. “I’m writing the very same thing to you again. It’s no trouble for me and it’s safe for you.”
Now in this chapter Paul’s going to warn against three different false doctrines. He’s going warn against legalism, against perfectionism, and against antinomianism. And we’ll see those as we proceed through this chapter.
This morning, the warning against legalism. Now as you know the gospel was first announced to the Jews and only then later to the non-Jews—the Gentiles, the nations. That was God’s plan. That was God’s order. And so the gospel came first to the Jews and some Jews came to believe that, indeed, Jesus was the promised Messiah and so they converted to Christianity. But they held on to this idea that salvation came by believing in Jesus Christ PLUS keeping all the laws of Moses, and especially the old covenant sign of circumcision that marked them out as the people of God. Now Paul did battle with these Judaizers in Acts 15 when “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch” (where Paul was) “and they were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’” And the Gentile believers would say, “But we have Christ!” And they would say, “Oh, but that’s not enough! You must also be circumcised or you cannot be saved.” There was the fatal addition to the gospel. It takes Christ PLUS circumcision to be right with God.
Now when any meritorious work or ritual that we must do in order to be right with God is added to the work that Christ has already done for sinners, it’s—according to the apostle Paul—another gospel than the gospel that he preached. In fact, it’s no gospel at all. And those who preach it come under the curse of God. They’re adding something to Christ’s work for salvation. That’s the problem of all forms of legalism and it seems wherever the gospel of Christ has gone, this lie of gospel additives has been found. In fact, the lie is already there in the human heart even before the gospel arrives. This is the religion of natural man without God. That in our spiritual blindness we think that we can get on good terms with God by doing enough good things to please Him, to satisfy Him. That’s the common thread running through all man-made religions. And Biblical Christianity, this religion not made by man, but revealed by God to man, is the only exception.
Now precisely what good things must be done differs for religion to religion. With the animist it’s certain bloody animal sacrifices. With the Muslim it’s his prayers and fastings and good deeds. With the Hindus it might be their self-denial, the meditations of the Buddhist, the keeping of the Torah by the Jews and all sorts of all things even within Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. But in all of them its man’s work that makes the difference between a man going to heaven or to hell. It’s the self-help religion that is so popular all over the world.
Ligonier Ministries every year does a survey on the state of theology in the US. I’ve quoted it before to you and this came from their survey in 2020. Listen carefully—true or false…”God counts a person as righteous, not because of one’s works, but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.” Fifty-five percent of United States’ adults agreed with that statement. True. Well, good for them, but bad for the 45% who think that somehow by their own works they can make themselves right with God. And now we’re told that 16% of Evangelicals…that’s people who say, “I’m a born-again, Bible-believing Christian”…16%. If we had a hundred people here this morning, it would be 16 of you, would say, “Well I don’t believe that. I can’t agree with that statement that it’s only through faith in Christ, apart from our works, that we’re made right with God.” The last two fellows I talked to and asked what their confidence was for getting into heaven, both answered, “It has to do with how well we live our life here.” Christ PLUS religion. But you can’t add anything to Christ’s work for salvation without ruining the gospel. It’s no longer Christianity. It just becomes another religion. And it’s powerless to save.
And so it’s possible that these legalistic Judaizers were already in the church at Philippi, harassing the believers there. Perhaps some of them were boasting of their circumcision as if they’re one up on the others who weren’t circumcised. That doesn’t do a whole lot for unity, does it? Which was a problem in Philippi. But whether already present or coming, Paul warns them of these dangerous men. Now three times he sounds the warning—“WATCH OUT! WATCH OUT! WATCH OUT!” I’m not sure why the NIV only has it once. I don’t know if they’re trying to saving ink or paper or what the deal is, but in the Greek it is there not once, but three times in each phrase the words “WATCH OUT” precedes the phrase that follows. Verse 2—“WATCH OUT for those dogs. WATCH OUT for those men who do evil. WATCH OUT for those mutilators (of the flesh).” Paul’s tone is intense. The danger is real and serious.
Now in these statements we have a threefold description, we might say three snapshots, of these false teachers. First of all—“Watch out for those dogs.” Now there’s the first picture. You’re walking past and there on the chain-link fence there’s a sign: WATCH OUT FOR DOGS. Only Paul’s posting this sign, not by a junk yard, but in the church at Philippi. “Watch out for those dogs.” The legalist who prowls around fighting and biting and devouring others, praying off of the church. They’re like scavenger pack dogs that roamed the city streets of that day. They were unclean carriers of all kinds of diseases and so they symbolized all that was unclean and impure. And the Jews, the circumcised, loved to look down their nose at Gentiles, the uncircumcised, and call them “dogs”. And Paul turns the phrase right on them and says, “You may be a Jew and you may be circumcised, but you are the dog. You’re the unclean one who has nothing but your filthy self-righteousness. You’re the one feeding on and devouring others like these pack dogs with your false gospel. And so we learn that Paul’s emphasis on unity is not unity at any cost. No, no. Not when the gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. So--“Watch out for those dogs.”
And then secondly, “Watch out for those men who do evil.” Evil-doers. Now that’s not what they look like. They appear quite harmless, even virtuous. They live moral lives. They’re very religious people. They’re not out murdering and stealing. In fact, they’re teaching the Ten Commandments. They’re teaching the Golden Rule. They’re even preaching Jesus! Jesus! “We must have Him to be saved.” They’re not hurting anyone. Surely there’s nothing here to watch out for? And Paul says, “Oh no. No, they’re evil doers because they’re teaching a Jesus PLUS gospel.” And though they don’t pull a knife and rob you of your purse, by their teaching they would rob you of eternal life. And though they wouldn’t think of taking your life with a knife, by their doctrine they destroy the souls and bodies of men and women, bringing them down to everlasting torments. “Watch out” for these evil doers. Trusting in Jesus PLUS something for salvation has eternal consequences.
And then, third—“Watch out for those mutilators of the flesh.” Dogs, evil doers, mutilators. Now what they were peddling was circumcision as being necessary for salvation. In the Old Testament circumcision was required of men as a Jewish badge of membership in the covenant. Marking them as belonging to the God of Israel. But it was never, even in the Old Testament meant to be a mere outward act alone. A mere ritual. But was to be matched by a spiritual circumcision of their hearts. A cutting away of the sinful nature and sinful desires, and so God often called upon them to circumcision their hearts so as to love the Lord whole-heartedly and to be stiff-necked no longer. Oh, but these people, these teachers, all they cared about was the outward sign even while their hearts were fighting against the true gospel that God has given us to believe.
Now here we are in the New Covenant. We’re not in the Old Covenant anymore. We are in the New Covenant in Christ, purchased by His blood. And the only circumcision that counts now in Christ is the spiritual circumcision of our hearts, and it’s a work by Christ. Colossians 2:11-12—“In Him (in Christ) you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” That’s it. Well, these Judaizers had nothing of that spiritual reality of cutting out that sinful, God-hating tendency. No, they didn’t have the spiritual reality. They were just boasting in the outward circumcision of the flesh, as if it made them pleasing in God’s sight and added to Christ would get them into heaven. So they proudly called themselves “the circumcision.” We are the circumcision. We’re the real people of God. Rather than giving them that term and letting them have that term, Paul says, “You’re not the circumcision, you’re the mutilators…because that’s all you’re doing in your ritual. There’s nothing spiritual about it. It’s as pleasing to God as mutilation of the body.” So watch out for these Jesus PLUS teachers. They’re dangerous men and if you follow their ways they’ll lead you away from God, not to Him.
So if they’re not the real people of God, if they’re not the circumcision…who are? Well they claim to be the circumcision but notice what Paul says in verse three. “Not so. It is WE. It is WE who are the circumcision. WE, we who believe in Christ alone and are united to Him by faith alone. Whether Jews or Gentiles, circumcised or uncircumcised, we’re the true Israel of God. We’re the true Jew. The true covenant people of God whose hearts have had that spiritual operation done by the Lord and His Holy Spirit.” That’s what Paul said in Romans 2—“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly,(had the outward act) nor is circumcision merely outward & physical. No, no, no. A man is a Jew if he’s one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”
So we are the true people of God. The true circumcision. And now he gives three descriptions of the true people of God. See if these marks describe you. He gave three marks of the false teachers, now three descriptions of the true people of God. It’s we who worship by the Spirit of God. You see, these men were all about ritual. As if doing something would actually contribute to their salvation. And Paul says, “No. True worship does not consist in mere external rituals like circumcision. It’s a heart to heart thing. It’s a Spirit to spirit thing between God, the living God, and me. It’s a meeting of HIM. A linking of my spirit with HIS. That’s what true worship is, as Jesus told that woman at the well. (That) “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit.” There must be that connection and to worship in spirit and in truth. And that can only take place where the Holy Spirit has come into the heart and changed the heart and given it a love for God rather than a hatred of Him and His laws and His gospel. So we are those who worship by the Spirit of God. You see, the Spirit must come to our hearts if true worship is ever to occur. So I ask you, “Do you worship by the Spirit of God? Is He helping you to have a meeting this morning with the Living God?
And the second picture of the true believers, the true people of God, it’s we who glory in Christ Jesus. It’s we who glory, who boast, who rejoice in Christ Jesus. Now these false teachers were glorying in their circumcision, but no confidence and trust for heaven is in anything that you do or that you are. No, we glory in Jesus Christ. So ask a real child of God how it is that she is saved? “How’s that happen that you’re a Christian?” And she will give all the praise to Christ Jesus. She’ll boast of His perfect life in her place, and of His atoning death in her place. Not “98% praise to Him and 2% comes to me.” No, she boasts in Christ alone. Is that you who glory in Jesus Christ?
And the third picture goes right with it. It’s just the negative. We’re glorying in Jesus Christ and “put no confidence in the flesh”. So no confidence in anything that I am or do to get me in to right status with God. As the pastor used the passage in Psalm 115 this morning—“Not to us, Oh Lord. Not to us, but to Your name be the glory because of Your love and faithfulness.” That’s the theme song of every true believer. They swear off any trust in themselves, any confidence in themselves, any boasting, any praise for themselves…and they lay it all at the blessed Redeemer’s feet.
The false teachers were trusting and boasting and putting their confidence in Christ PLUS their flesh, their circumcision, and their law-keeping. And so flesh here is anything that you trust in to get you right with God, other than Jesus Himself. So what about you? Are you one of these that’s described as the true people of God? The true circumcision? Is it Jesus PLUS nothing? Trusting in nothing but Christ alone for salvation. You know, the whole plan of salvation was designed by God in such a manner that excludes boasting in self. There is no other way of salvation. Almighty, perfect wisdom has designed the one way of salvation and it leaves all of us humbled with nothing to say for ourselves and only to lay the praise at Jesus feet. So if there’s any boasting in self at all, you can know that you’ve missed the gospel. If you’re saying, “Yes, Oh Jesus, thank you for that and that and that. But by the way it was sure great that I was smart enough to figure it out and put my trust in You.” You’ve missed the gospel. All the praise goes to Jesus…who “put no confidence in the flesh.” That’s the mark of a true Christian. Saving faith looks away from self entirely and says, “There is my salvation. The Lord is my salvation.”
Well, Paul knows all about these legalists. Do you know why? Because he “once were one” (however that’s said). He once was the greatest legalist. And so he shifts from “us” to “I” and “me”. He’s giving a personal testimony in verses 4 to 6 of his past religious life. Seven things that he leaned on for salvation. Seven things about his flesh that he was confident would make him right with God.
So he talks about his PEDIGREE. That’s who he is and this is what he inherited from his parents. First he says, “I was circumcised on the eight day. You guys have nothing on me, you Judaizers. I didn’t become a Jew later and (was) circumcised later. NO, right from the beginning as the law said… ‘on the eighth day.’ I am a true-blooded Jew from birth. Of the people of Israel, that right pedigree…the chosen race that God chose in the Old Covenant. I’m of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. Now Benjamin was a small tribe but it had special honor, because within their locale was Jerusalem and the temple. That’s my tribe. A Hebrew of Hebrews. Hebrew son of Hebrew parents. If there was ever one true Hebrew, it was me.” There’s his pedigree.
Now he turns to his PERFORMANCE. What he did. “Well, in regard to the law, I was a Pharisee.” And the Pharisee was that party of Jews that was the strictest party in Judaism, known for their scrupulous concern for law-keeping. At least outwardly, you see, in the eyes of men. Ignoring the motives. But Paul could say, “I was a Pharisee. I was very concerned about law-keeping.” And then, 6th, he says, “As for zeal, I was persecuting the church.” Now he’s not putting that down as a negative. He’s putting that down as a positive, you see. “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women, throwing them into prison. And when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. Many times I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. And in my obsession against them I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” And, you see, all the while he’s doing this he thinks he’s serving God. Why? Because he’s wanting to obliterate this false religion that centers around this false, lying messiah, named Jesus, who’s dead and gone, “and we want to clean up religion of this scourge.” So he’s serving God and that’s why he lists it as one of the things going for him. He thinks God’s going to be pleased with what he’s doing in killing these followers of this dead messiah figure. And then last…“As for legalistic righteousness, well I was faultless.” In his own eyes, his righteousness, his law-keeping, was above fault. You couldn’t find anything amiss in Paul.
So this is what Paul was pinning his confidence and hopes for heaven upon. Who he was, what he’d done. As confident in his flesh as any Judaizer that he’s here exposing. But now, all that changed one day on the road to Damascus to arrest Christians. When Paul met this Jesus…and he wasn’t dead either. He was very much alive. And he wasn’t a false messiah. He was God’s chosen Messiah. And in persecuting His people, Paul learns that he’s been persecuting HIM. Such is the connection between Christ and all who are in Christ. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” Jesus said to him.
Suddenly Paul found himself in big trouble. What he prided himself was winning God’s favor was actually the greatest sin possible against God. And he was humbled in the dust. He saw that if he got what he deserved he’s a damned man. But he also found that Christ had come not to damn him, but to save him. He came to learn on that road to Damascus, and later in Damascus, that Jesus Christ was more full of grace than he was of sin. Christ had mercy for him. Oh, his sins were many, but His mercy was more. And he learned that salvation is by grace alone. By faith alone. In Christ alone. To the glory of God alone. And he came away with a whole new way of thinking. A whole new value estimator. Things he placed value on, verse 7…”Now whatever WAS to my profit I NOW consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
He’s talking in accounting terms and you’ve got two columns, two pages. You’ve got your profits and your losses. And all these seven things that he had leaned on to put him in good standing with God were over here in this profit page. “These are the things that are getting me gain with God, and favor with God”. Ah, but now with a renewed mind he moves them over where they belong and counts them as loss. Loss. Because not only do they fail to profit him and save him, they’re actually liabilities. To lean on your own works to make you right with God…it’s only not profiting you…it is a HUGE loss before the Almighty. When He sacrificed His own Son for sinners and you come traipsing into his presence and say, “Oh, but I have something to contribute to your Son’s work.” That’s not just not profit, that’s loss. And Paul sees it that way now and he shifts it all over into the loss column. “Anything I was trusting in for favor with God for my salvation…it’s a LOSS.” He’s undone. “Because trusting in these things robbed me of the greatest profit of all—Christ, Himself.” So he counts them all loss for Christ’s sake. What’s more, he says, “I consider, I estimate…” He’s the accountant, he’s doing the estimating work, “I consider EVERYTHING a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, my Lord.” We’re hoping to unpack that next week when we look at knowing Christ. But NOTHING compares to the supreme worth of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord. “For whose sake I have lost ALL THINGS.”
What does it cost a man or a woman or a boy or a girl to follow Jesus? According to Jesus it will cost you everything. You must deny your SELF. That life that you were living for yourself and you must renounce it and deny it and you must take up your cross, a cross on which you are ready to die and to follow Jesus. It will cost you everything and that’s exactly what it cost Paul. It cost him all the popularity and praise of the Jewish leaders, being the great persecutor of Christians, and now he is one of them. A follower of the despised Nazarene. It cost him his promising future. He was advancing beyond others his age, working himself up the ladder of Judaism. A favored son of the Pharisees. It’s all lost now. He enjoyed the safety of the smiles and favor within Israel. And now he’s a hunted man for believing in Jesus. He lost it all, but he did it with a smile. He did it willingly, because he says he gained far more than he lost. He gained Christ! He gained Christ. All that he had lived for, all that he had going for him, all that the Judaizers prized as so valuable in the sight of God…”I consider them rubbish,” he says, “garbage with your spoiled food in it that you pull out to the curb each week. It’s good for nothing, it’s rubbish.” And why? “That I might gain Christ.”
Now, before he had counted Christ as rubbish. As the greatest loser of all. But now that he knows Him, now that he has Him as his Savior and Lord, he counts Him great gain. Indeed such gain that to have Him he considers everything else loss. Everything else rubbish compared to Him. What is Christ to you? Is He worth everything to you? Paul tells us why gaining Christ is worth losing everything else for. He says, “Because having Christ I have everything, and specifically I have righteousness. That which makes me right with God. Notice how he puts it…the end of verse 8, “I’ve lost all things that I may gain Christ…(now here it is, verse 9)…and be found in Him (In Christ) not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
That verse is more important than most Christians realize. We ought to memorize that one right after John 3:16 because it teaches us what truly believing on the Son of God is that gives us eternal life. It’s to believe on Him for righteousness. “To be found in Him.” Paul’s thinking of a final appointment that he has with his Creator and Judge. The end of this life when each of us will stand before Him as our judge, and each person will be assigned either to heaven or to hell forever and ever. Now how did you want to be found in that day? That’s what Paul’s talking about. When you stand before your Maker and the one thing you need to make it into heaven is righteousness, and not just any old righteousness will do. No, no. It’s got to be perfect righteousness. It’s got to be the very righteousness of God. Yours must match His because His is the standard of judgment. And if you don’t measure up, you’re under the curse forever.
Galatians 3:10—“All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Have you kept EVERY command of God? Perfectly? Continually? If not, and you’re relying on your own works of the law, you’re under the curse. The righteousness that is the standard for heaven is perfect righteousness. The righteousness of God. And it’s precisely that required righteousness that Paul got when he gained Christ. Because to be found “in HIM” is to have everything that He is. Having Him, receiving Him is to receive His righteousness, the very thing I need for heaven. It comes WITH CHRIST.
Notice two things about this righteousness, Paul says. First he says, “It’s not my own, but His—Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law.” It’s not a self-made righteousness coming from my pitiful attempts at keeping God’s laws. My commandment-keeping, my religious rituals, my good deeds. No. No. Outside of Christ, Isaiah says, “All of our righteousness is like filthy rags.” Oh we’re so proud of it. We think, “Look at my good deeds, God. I sacrificed to put this money in the plate. I became a member of this church. I took communion. I was baptized. I this, I that, as if God’s to be impressed. And God looks at it, if we are outside of Christ, and He says, “It’s a filthy rag. Defiled. Unclean.” Augustine said, “Splendid sins”. That’s all they are. Imaginary righteousness is no righteousness at all in God’s sight. Certainly not that which will measure up to His standard. “Oh but, in Christ the righteousness I have is not my own,” Paul says, “but that righteousness which comes from God. He’s the source of it, not me.”
And that’s why Luther called it an “alien righteousness”. It’s something that comes from outside of us altogether. And alien is someone who’s come from outside this planet. Well that’s how are righteousness is. It’s come from outside of us. It’s not found in us at all. It has nothing to do with how you lived your life. It has everything to do with how Jesus lived His life, and that’s the righteousness I need. And since it’s from God, it’s a righteousness by God Himself approved.
So this righteousness is Jesus’ perfect record of obedience to the commands of God. So we see Him tempted forty days and forty nights. We see the devil ever at His heels, tempting Him through the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and all the people that He meets and they try to trip Him up. He’s being tempted, you see, in every way like we are, yet not one sin. Without sin. Then we see Him on the cross, hanging there, suffering, dying. Under God’s wrath for sin that was not His own, but His people’s sin. And what we are seeing is obedience. Paul says, “He was obedient to the Father, even to the death of the cross.” He is there being obedient to the Father’s command, “You go, Son, and die for them.” And He’s obedient even to the death of the cross. All His life of 33 years, His final work there on the cross, what is He doing? He’s obeying, obeying, obeying. Sinless righteousness is put to His account that He might have a righteousness to give to sinners who don’t have anything but filthy rags. It’s not my own, but His.
Well, the question that comes then—“How do I get it? How do I get it? How can it become mine?” And that’s the second thing Paul says about this righteousness—not by law-keeping, but by faith in Christ alone. He says, “This righteousness does not come from the law. It doesn’t come from keeping the law. But it comes FROM God, through faith in Christ Jesus.” I don’t get it by trying harder to keep God’s commands, or being a better boy or girl. No, it comes from God as a FREE GIFT that is to be received by faith alone, in Christ alone.
It becomes mine by faith. Period. And it’s not like my faith is such a wonderful thing that it merits God’s righteousness. It’s not that our faith is a work that somehow puts God in our debt and so He’s got to give us righteousness. Not at all. Christ’s perfect obedience is what merits God’s favor and faith is just the empty hands that receive Christ and His righteousness as mine. Empty hands. Nothing good to say for myself. A humble, contrite heart that says, “Lord, I bring nothing to You as a reason why You should let me into Your favor and into Your heaven. No, I receive your promised GIFT of righteousness through Your promised SON, Jesus Christ. I trust in what HE did, not what I do.” And that’s the faith that receives Christ and “in Him”, to be found “in Him” is to be found with this righteousness when we will need it like we’ve never needed it before. Is that your only plea? That Jesus Christ has lived and died for me?
Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die;
Another's life, Another's death, I rest my whole Eternity!
Do you have all your weight on what Jesus did when He obeyed the law? Do you have all your weight on what Jesus did when He died in the place of sinners? Are you resting your whole eternity on Christ? If so, His righteousness is yours. He’s yours and His righteousness is yours. “For God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
I had an interesting call from my son one day wanting to know what he should wear to his job interview. It’s hard to know anymore these days. But hear me…you all have a personal interview with your Maker and Judge. And what you’re wearing in that day will make all the difference between heaven and hell. What you’re wearing in that day will make the difference between heaven and hell forever. As you appear before the blazing light of God’s holiness that sees everything you’ve ever done in secret as well as in the open. That penetrates to the deepest motives of your heart and why you did it. That penetrates your thoughts and what you thought, and penetrates and sees and hears and will judge every careless word. What will you be found wearing in that day? The spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness? Or will you still be dressed in the filthy rags of your own righteousness? If God called for your final interview today how would you appear? Dressed for heaven or dressed for hell? To be found in Christ is to be clothed in His righteousness, dressed for the wedding feast of the Lamb and His bride. Christ is all you need. Then perish any of this preaching about Christ PLUS something else for salvation. No, having Christ, I have His righteousness, so I have all I need to be right with God.
No wonder Paul begins this section with “My brothers, rejoice in the Lord.” You’ve got Christ’s righteousness put to your account. You’re clothed in His righteousness. Isaiah said it—“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.” Why? “For He has clothed me with garments of salvation & arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Dear believer, here’s a reason to always rejoice in the Lord. Kids sick and fussy? You having a bad day, nothing going right? You’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ! Your health breaking? The end of life sweeping in? Your finances shaky? Your calendar’s squeezed? Your pressures mounting? Emotions all over the chart? God has arrayed you in a robe of righteousness! His own! Rejoice! Your greatest problem is solved. Christ is yours! Rejoice! Your greatest need has been met. His righteousness has been credited to your account! Whatever else is happening, you’re ready for the final interview whenever it should come. You’re ready to launch away into world’s unseen.
“When I shall launch in worlds unseen, O may I then be found in Him (Christ)”
The hymn writer was borrowing from the apostle Paul (Phil 3:9)—“To be found in Christ”
Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before His throne”
Rejoice in Christ, your righteousness. And as you rejoice in Christ, your righteousness, all these Christ PLUS “gospels” that are being peddled in our day won’t mean anything to you, because you have Christ and everything you need in Him.
Lost friend, are you still trying to earn your way to heaven? Coming to church because you think it might get you points for heaven? Don’t show up for that final interview dressed in the filthy rags of your own righteousness. Do you know if you come to Jesus right now by faith, you know what He’ll do? He’ll take those filthy rags and He’ll give you His own righteous robe to wear. Come. Come to Him. Let’s pray.