By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr.
Christ and righteousness are inseparable; it is His essence – a fact recognized by the Father Himself.
In a formal eulogy composed in honour of His Son, the Heavenly Father celebrates:
"Your throne, O. God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy"(Heb. 1:8-9 NIV).
It is this Christ, the celebrated lover of righteousness that has called us to follow Him. He calls us to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, and we shall be similarly promoted and ennobled (Matt. 6:33).
Righteousness can never be decoupled from God's kingdom; it's its defining character (2 Peter 3:13).
His call to "repent and believe the gospel" means exactly this: Accept My Kingdom and My Righteousness kept in heaven and on earth (Ps. 103:20-21, Rom. 14:17). The will of the Father mentioned in the "Lord's prayer" is His Righteousness (Matt. 6:9-10).
Christ saves us by His grace through our faith in Him so that He might make us instruments of Righteousness, doing good deeds (Eph. 2: 8-10). As new creations in Him, we have put on His righteous, holy character being a replacement for the old life/man of sin and unrighteousness (Eph. 4:22-24,1 Peter 1:14-16).
On cannot claim to be fashioned in His image and not reflect and live His Righteous character! Amos 3:3 asks, How can two walk together except they agree? (See I John 2:6).
God's kingdom of righteousness is meant for the righteous (I Cor. 6:9-11). That's why today he commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30-31).
The call to repentance is simply a call to cease from the dead works of sin to righteousness as defined by God's law (Heb 6:1, Eph 2:1-3, Ps. 119:172, Rom. 8:3-4).
The redemption work of Christ is essentially to save us from sin (defined as the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). If so, why would Christ, on account of grace, grant that we continue to live in sin?
Romans 6:1-2 asks, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
"God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
Therefore if we build again those things (deeds of sin and unrighteousness) which we destroyed, we make ourselves transgressors (Gal. 2:17-18).
The unclean and the transgressor have no place in Christ's Kingdom of righteousness (Isa. 35:8). Let no man deceive us on this score (Eph. 5:3-6).
The Grace of God is the Divine Hand of mercy that lifts the sinner from the cesspool of sin and fleshly lusts (Rom. 5:8, Eph. 2:4-5) and walks him along the Redemption Highway to the cross to be sanctified by the Blood of Jesus (I John 1:7, John 1:29; Rev. 1:5).
The parable of the prodigal son offers a beautiful illustration of how the grace of God works!
In the story narrated by Jesus in Luke 15, the younger of the two sons of a wealthy man demands his share of the family property and takes off to a foreign country with it. There, he dissipates all his fortune on vain pleasures and soon comes to poverty.
To survive a severe famine in the land, the youngman is forced to take up a job as a pig tender. But that's no comfort; if he has his way, he will gladly help himself to the pig feed, but he has none.
It is here that he realizes his folly and decides to return to his father's house where even servants have food to spare. He sets out in a repentant mood, saying "I will go back to my father and say to him father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men"
From a distance, his father espies him and runs over to embrace him. Ignoring his son's pleas for forgiveness, the father orders his servants to rob his lost son in the best clothes and organize a feast to celebrate his return, "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
Appeasing his elder son, angry at the party thrown for his younger brother, the father reiterates the same point: "this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found" (Luke 15:11-32).
The return of one sinner to God through repentance and faith in Christ is cause for much joy in heaven (Luke 15:10). Isaiah 1:18 beckons the sinner:
"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (NIV).
After a sinner heeds the Divine voice of reason and heads down the Redemption Highway in repentance and contrition, he does not remain a sinner. He re-emerges without the stain of sin but "as white as snow" – purged and washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb! (See Rev. 7:14)
And he must not return to his wallowing in the mire (his past sins) like the proverbial sow (2 Pet. 2:21-22).
Jesus, the Way and the Truth to the Father (John 14:6), is "Our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:6; 1 John 3:7). He has created us anew in His Righteous Nature by writing in our minds and hearts His spiritual, life-transforming law of righteousness (Heb. 8:10-11).
By keeping His righteous law through the power of His spirit, He spiritually restores to us the garment of righteousness which Adam and Eve lost when they sinned through disobedience to God (Gen 3:6-11). White robes represent the righteousness of the saints, and every one of us who follows His righteousness will be clothed in one in the Kingdom of heaven at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9. Compare 6:11).
Note that only those dressed in the white wedding garments of righteousness will be admitted to the marriage dinner. Even though we might have responded to the call of Christ, if we do not do the will of the Father (righteousness), we will be thrust out of the wedding party into outer darkness (hell) for not wearing white wedding robes! (Matt. 7:21-23; Rom 10:9 & 2 Tim. 2:19).
As befell the unfortunate wedding guest not appropriately dressed for the occasion, church-goers who claim to be followers of Christ but don't practice the righteousness of His Kingdom will be cast out of the Kingdom to hell-fire (Matt. 22:8-13).
Therefore, many are called but few are chosen to be guests of God's wedding party for Jesus (vs 14)! The observance of the Father's will (righteousness) is our ticket to heaven (Matt. 7:21, Rev. 22:14 KJV).
Yes, only those who keep their garments of righteousness unsullied unto the end shall be saved; their nakedness will not be exposed (Matt. 24:13, Rev. 3:4-5, 16:15).
Because Christ desires to save us into His righteous Kingdom (a type of Jerusalem), He suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem carrying away our sins – sins that would otherwise permanently keep us out of the city-and dumped them out there (Heb. 13:12). By this act, Christ showed that repentant believers, washed clean by his blood, now qualify to enter the Holy City of God, the Jerusalem Above (Heb. 13:14; Gal 4: 26).
In effect, Christ on the cross changed places with us so that we-who were destined to remain outside the city-might gain access to it, provided we accept His atoning sacrifice and do His commandments. He became a curse that we might be a blessing (Gal 3:13-14; Isa 53:4-6).
However, those who reject Christ's sacrifice and call to repentance show by their deeds that they do not qualify to enter the Holy city of God, and that is exactly what happens to them:
"And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defiled, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).
"For without [i.e. outside the city of heaven] are dogs, and sorcerers and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Rev. 22:15).
Righteousness is what opens the doorway to heaven. Grace must lead us to serve God "acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
When God's grace leading to godliness (Titus 2:11-12) is despised and turned into a license for immorality, the punishment is always severe (Jude 1:4, Heb 10:26-29).
We must be careful therefore not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1). Christ is our Righteousness, and we must be pure as He is pure and righteous as He is righteous (I John 3:3, 1:29).
This is because, like His Father, there is no unrighteousness with him (John 7:18) Halleluiah!