“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us… righteousness.” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)
There is a righteousness God bestows on sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. This is none other than justification – God declaring sinners righteous upon the basis of His own righteousness. And this righteousness is none other than Christ’s righteousness.
Martin Luther discovered this God-righteousness as he struggled to comprehend Romans 1:16-17. It was there that His mind was opened to a righteousness which God gives to the needy sinner, and which the sinner accepts by faith. This was a spotless, perfect righteousness, earned by Christ, which God graciously bestows on all who believe.
When we are united to Christ by faith, God grants to us the righteousness of Christ. This becomes the basis of our standing with God. He counts us as complete in His Son. He credits us with the merit of Jesus. He clothes us with the perfection of Christ and declares us righteous forever.
This is what makes biblical Christianity different from all other religions. Our acceptance with God is not based on our own inherent goodness or our own works-righteousness. Our acceptance is found in the righteousness of another, the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This is the only hope that frees sinners from futile religious systems and failed attempts at self-righteousness. Only when we look to Jesus and see that God has made Him to be our righteousness can our souls rest in the peace and love of God. Such was the discovery of John Bunyan (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners):
“But one day as I was passing into the field, with some dashes on my conscience, fearing yet that all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, “Your righteousness is in heaven.” I thought I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. There was my righteousness. Wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me that I lacked His righteousness, for that was ever before Him. Moreover, I saw that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, “the same yesterday, today, and for ever”.
“Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my afflictions and irons, my temptations also fled away. From that time those dreadful Scriptures of God quit troubling me; now I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.”