Christ our Righteousness
…And ye are complete in him….And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross…
C12.1 Dead to the Law
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Paul in Romans 7 uses marriage as an illustration of our relation to the Law. It is necessary to remember that in Roman times the woman was the property of the man, and was under his dominion, or Lordship. It was only death that could break that bond between man and wife. Otherwise the woman would be an adulteress if she married another whilst her husband lived.
The apostle then applies this illustration to us. By our baptism into Christ we become dead to the Law. Once we were married to it, and so we could not be married to another. But being co-crucified with Christ we are freed from that bondage, and are free, this time to be married to Christ. We are no longer under the dominion, the Lordship of the Law. We have a new Lord!
Now that we are freed from the Law of sin and death we are to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh. Again we addressed this topic in our Galatians studies to which the reader is directed.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after 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, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Paul uses an interesting phrase in this passage the righteousness of the Law, to which we will now turn our attention.
C12.2 The righteousness of the Law or of Christ?
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. The Message of Salvation to All For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
In this section of Romans Paul is dealing with the subject of Israel, and how he longs for their salvation. He mentions that they refuse to submit themselves to the righteousness of God, and instead go about establishing their own righteousness. That is the righteousness of the Law.
Quoting Lev.18:5 Paul shows that if we keep the Law we live in them. This is the same as when Paul in Galatians states that if a man is circumcised then he is a debtor to keep the whole Law, and hence trying to be justified by God by the Law Gal.5:3-4. This, of course, is impossible for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight Gal.2:16.
Instead Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believes. The righteousness of faith is that the word is nigh in your mouth. Paul here quotes a passage from Deut.30:11-14. Paul is giving to us the Holy Spirit’s commentary on this passage.
We are not to say in our hearts : who is to go up to heaven or descend deep to bring Christ to us? Rather the word is near now and in our heart. This seems a strange thing to say, but essentially Paul is telling us that we do not need to go here or there to find Christ, that is to do something to find Christ, but He is here now and all we need to do is exercise faith in Him.
One example of this is Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal on mount Carmel I Kgs 18. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal that the God who answered by fire was God. Without retelling the whole story, we will briefly mention the salient points.
The false prophets laid their sacrifice on the altar and pleaded with their god to send fire. Nothing happened so in order to entreat their god they called don his name from the morning until noon. They leaped up on the altar but no answer. This continued crying and even cutting themselves with knives. This they did till the evening but no voice answered. I Kgs. 18:25-29.
The prophets of Baal were trying to bring their god down from above. They were trying to whip up a frenzy thinking he would hear. We may be amused by such antics but we need to be careful that we don’t have the same mind set and think we can only get God to speak by similar means of outward demonstrations. Elijah on the other hand simply prayed in faith. And God answered by fire.
In short we receive from God by faith and not by any work we may do. No amount of jumping up and down, and outward show will achieve anything. Christ is near and we live by faith.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
C12.3 Stand fast
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
When writing to the Galatians Paul was horrified that they had gone back from the truth of the Gospel in such a short space of time. He warns them about their course of action. They had started in the Sprit and were now continuing in the flesh, they had gone back to the ways of the Law.
Christ, he argues has freed us from the Law so stand in that liberty! This echoes Paul’s exhortation to the Colossians, as ye begun so walk in Christ Col.2:6. Don’t go back to what Christ has freed us from.
Further, as Paul explains, love is the fulfilling of the law, in Christ we don’t keep the law but fulfil it. We are led by the Sprit and are therefore not under the Law. If we walk in the Sprit we will see the fruit of the Sprit manifested. Whereas if we walk in the flesh we will manifest its works.
This complete salvation in Christ, that Paul speaks of in Colossians, means that the handwriting of ordinances that was against us is blotted out. Through Christ’s death the debt incurred by the Law has been blotted out. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe.
We have received His life so let us walk after the Spirit and not return to the legal bondage that He has freed us from. And this includes any legal requirements or codes of practice of any man made philosophical system. These things we shall return to when we consider the third danger the Colossian church faced.