Righteousness and Divine Nature

At the beginning of the week I woke with the following statement in my mind:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5)NKJV

I couldn’t think why that particular phrase of scripture was fixed in my thoughts.
Later in the day, I decided to look it up and see if its context helped me to understand why.

I highlight the parts that seemed to standout as I read it with that phrase in mind.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

I’ll look at the highlighted parts in reverse order, mainly because my initial search centred on the last sentence. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”.

I’m sure that we struggle to grasp the implication of that statement about the exchange that took place. Jesus became sin – OUR sin – so that we could become the righteousness of God. The proviso being that we access that exchange through being IN HIM.

When we are IN HIM we are beneficiaries of the righteousness of God instead of continuing to be subject to the destructive power and penalty of the sin that was ours. This is MUCH more than merely being forgiven, and having sin covered over. Our sinful nature is exchanged for God’s own righteousness. I have to wonder – what should that mean, what should occur in our lives as the outcome?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

I’m sure we are familiar with that quote, but do we actually believe it? Or has familiarity stopped us thinking about what it actually says and means?

If we are IN CHRIST (that phrase again) we are totally different in every way to what we were before we came to Christ. “ALL things have become new”. And yet we carry on as if nothing has happened apart from having our name written in the book of life ensuring a place in heaven after death.

However, like any other benefit, that exchange is not automatic, but is obtained through faith: that is believing God’s word and acting on it. We need to put off the old and put on the new.

put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4) NIV

To be like God – some might balk at that suggestion because wasn’t that the claim of Satan in the garden? That eating of the forbidden fruit would make Adam and Eve “like God”?
Ironically, they were already like God, created in His image, and their sin actually made them less like God. So being “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” as per that verse, would be a restoration to God’s original intention for mankind, something to be received and embraced, not a satanic perversion to resist.

But how can we consider ourselves to have any chance of being like God? Aren’t we just poor sinners saved by grace – far from godliness?

That’s what Satan would like us to continue thinking. Such thoughts paralyse us and keep us locked into our past instead of being motivated by the changes God has made in our lives.

We have to stop seeing our old selves as our continuing reality and start seeing ourselves as God has made us, and by faith start to live as if we believe God and His word.

The third of the statements I’ve highlighted states WHY we’ve been made new, and why we need to live as if we really believed we have been made the righteousness of God in Him.

…those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

What does that mean?
How should that impact the lives we live?
Does it mean we can merely go on living as we always lived – but with the “assurance” of heaven after death?

Or SHOULD it mean that our lives will be significantly changed? That our priorities will be totally different? That we make sure we know HIS will for our lives and start DOING it, genuinely living our lives for Him according to the changes the new creation brings about within us?

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. (2 Peter 1) NIV

Maybe the strongest sense I’ve developed so far is a realisation of how little the church seems to understand about God’s righteousness, His provision of it, and what it means when scripture makes it clear that it is now OURS.

One thing that is becoming more and more clear in my mind is how insipid our experience – and maybe our expectations – of the Christian life actually are.
I remember how, decades ago, I was frustrated by the vast gulf between what I read of the early church in scripture, and what I saw in the church then. While the churches I attended all professed belief in miracles, healing, and other Spiritual gifts, they were notably absent in practice. And despite the professed belief, that absence didn’t seem to worry the majority.

Today I not only see that absence continues, but I’ve seen how expectation, and faith for change are barely existent. I have seen how the very basic, foundational aspects of Jesus’ commission to the church to preach the gospel, with supporting signs, are being dismissed. In some cases, the extent of explaining and excusing their absence, come perilously close to calling Jesus a liar. I suspect that in some cases, that line has actually been crossed.

Maybe the starting point for change – for those who actually desire it – is to start believing and living according to God’s word – giving it more than vain lip-service.

4 thoughts on “Righteousness and Divine Nature

  1. “‘I have seen how the very basic, foundational aspects of Jesus’ commission to the church to preach the gospel, with supporting signs, are being dismissed. ” I think the key issue in this is that people who have not received, i.e. been taught, the full and authentic gospel that Christ and the early believers taught, cannot preach that full gospel (with supporting signs) to others. The gospel being passed around today is devoid of the Cross. The concept of following Christ by taking up our cross, and being baptised into His death, buried with Him and raised with Him (Romans 6,7,8) is almost unknown among modern Christians. These things, the true gospel of the Kingdom, are barely ever preached. As a result we have churches full of converts, but not disciples. The gospel being delivered to these new converts is devoid of the fellowship of His sufferings, therefore devoid of the power of His resurrection. There are exceptions of course, but by and large the result is we now have a powerless insipid churchianity as you have noted, rather than a dynamic, miracle working, kingdom focused, Christ at all costs group of maturing disciples who know who they are. And please note I am not attacking the body of Christ, of which I am a part, but sharing my observations of modern church life gathered over sixty years of Christ following. The gospel we have today is one of imitating Christ (which is not the gospel), not one of partaking IN Christ, which is the gospel. Just my thoughts in response to your article:-)

  2. The gospel we have today is one of imitating Christ

    Hi Cheryl,
    I don’t think the church even goes as far as “imitating Christ”.
    Instead He is just a means to the end of getting to heaven by saying a prayer and maybe joining a church to attend meetings.

    My current situation has made it necessary for me to seek God with a degree of commitment I’ve never had before. It’s been a time of blessing – but has mostly been a time of incredible challenge, having some of my beliefs and attitudes turned inside out and upside down.
    The main thing that has become obvious is how far off the mark the church and so much Christian belief actually is – and significantly, from a personal point of view, how off the mark I have been.

    You point to an important aspect of what is missing – that is an understanding of what it really means to be IN Christ. That term, or variations (“abide in Me”), are spread throughout the New Testament, and its use highlights some of the qualities and characteristics that are part of the “new self” we are supposed to put on – parts of the “all things have become new”.

    And yet, there’s little new about the majority of professing believers apart from their assurance about their post-death destination.

  3. Yes, I fear you are right, in many current church settings even imitation of Christ is not sought, it’s just “Jesus did it all, so now go out and enjoy your life”, but that life is not IN Him, it’s a licence for the old self life to keep living and increasing rather than decreasing and dying. But at the other end of the spectrum imitation is very much alive in terms of Old Testament law and legalism, where people spend their lives trying to be ”good” and “like Jesus” and they are never taught that is not the gospel either. And abiding in Christ is just about a lost art I think. It must break His heart. Thankyou for continuing to share your journey with us and all that you are discovering along the way. Every blessing in Christ Jesus be yours and Gloria’s today. May you discover Him in new and untravelled ways!

  4. Yes, some people try to imitate Christ, which is through their own strength, rather than live IN Christ, becoming like Him through His provision.

    The first is just a variation of the trying to attain a righteousness by way the Law (Rom 9: 31), the latter is something that has to be by faith (Rom 1: 17, 3: 21-26 & 9: 30)

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