Whose Righteousness?

Hebrews chapter eleven is called the hall of faith for in it those who trusted Jesus Christ and demonstrated their trust in Him through their works are honored for their faith.  God tells us about the faith of Abel in Hebrews chapter eleven.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.  Hebrews 11:4

Here we have contrasted the righteousness of Abel through His faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the self-righteousness of Cain through the offering of his own works.  This rivalry between these two opposing ways of righteousness has continued through the ages, setting one against the other.  The self-righteous persecute those who are righteous through faith in Jesus Christ and protest that they are the genuine followers of God, but their works belie their profession.  The Jews rejected Christ and murdered Him and they persecuted and murdered those who believed in Jesus Christ.  They followed the example set by self-righteous Cain who murdered his righteous brother Abel. Paul speaks to the self-righteousness that the Jews pursued and contrasts that with the righteousness of faith in Romans chapters nine and ten.

…but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.  Why?  Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.  For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  As it is written:  “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 9:31-33 and Romans 10:3-11

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”  But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'”  (that is, to bring Christ down from above)  or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'”  (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say?  “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”  (that is, the word of faith which we preach):  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:3-11

From these verses we understand that the works of the law make no one righteous.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to be righteous in our Holy God’s sight.  This faith is devoid of any works and rests fully in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.  In the book of Galatians Paul addresses those who try to add works to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and the righteousness that comes alone from God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Read what he says about those who try to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ in Galatians chapter one.

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.   Galatians 1:6-9

 Certain men from Judea tried to add circumcision to salvation and Paul vigorously refuted and opposed them, revealing that they were accursed.  From this attack by false brethren the apostles were led by the Holy Spirit to reassure the Gentiles that their faith was sufficient for salvation.  We need to be aware that there are those who also desire to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ by asserting that something else is needed for our salvation.  They are false brethren and should be avoided. Some of the works that these false brethren try to add to faith are baptism, keeping the Sabbath day, and keeping the law.  Nowhere in the New Testament are these works required for salvation.  To the contrary, read what Paul says about each of these “works” under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the epistles that he wrote in the New Testament.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.  1 Corinthians 1:17 

 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  Colossians 2:16-17

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.  Acts 20:7

For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith… Philippians 3:3-9

Notice Paul says nothing about the necessity of baptism, the need to keep the Sabbath or keep the law for salvation.  Those who insist we must add our work to the work of Christ, who suffered and died on our behalf, are trying just like Cain to establish their own righteousness based on what they do.  Self-righteousness is always a work of the flesh as described by Paul in the verses quoted from Philippians and in no way establishes our salvation or righteousness, and we know from Scripture that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

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