FIVE KINDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There are five kinds of righteousness. There are the “filthy rags” of our own attempts to do religious works, our self-righteousness. There is the righteousness that ordinary people possess to a greater or lesser extent. There is the righteousness of Christ that is ascribed to the person who puts his faith in Jesus and lives according to the Spirit of God. Then there is the beginning Christian righteousness which is a joint venture of the adamic nature and the Spirit of God.
Finally there is the fifth form of righteousness. It is the righteous personality and behavior that are created in the Christian as he follows the Lord, counting his personality crucified with Christ and risen with Christ. Christ is formed in him and God and Christ make the new creation their eternal dwelling place. The fifth kind of righteousness is the Kingdom of God.
FIVE KINDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8—NIV)
A righteous personality and righteous behavior are those that are pleasing to God.
There are several kinds of righteousness. There is religious self-righteousness. There is the righteousness of ordinary people. There is the righteousness that is ascribed to us when we turn from the Law of Moses and put our faith in Christ. Finally there is the righteousness that is of the Kingdom of God. The righteousness that is of the Kingdom of God includes the righteous personality and behavior of the person who, through the Spirit of God, is obeying the commandments of Christ and His Apostles and in whom Christ is being formed and is dwelling.
The righteousness that is of the Kingdom of God may be viewed in two aspects. There is the beginning righteousness of the Christian who seeks, through the Lord’s help to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. Then there is the final, ultimate righteousness when Christ has been formed in us and the Father and the Son are dwelling in Their eternal rest in the new creation that has been formed in us.
- Religious self-righteousness.
- The righteousness of the ordinary person.
- The righteousness of Christ ascribed to us.
- Beginning Kingdom righteousness as we seek, with the Lord’s help, to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
- Eternal righteousness of being and behavior as Christ is formed in us and the Father and the Son dwell in the new creation that has been formed in us.
The Christian ministry has done a good job of emphasizing imputed righteousness, except that today imputed righteousness is just about the only righteousness that is preached. Imputed righteousness has overshadowed the main topic of the New Testament, which is actual righteousness of personality and behavior. This overemphasis, of course, wrecks the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the actual doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
The fourth and fifth kinds of righteousness, actual righteousness of personality and behavior, have not been preached and taught nearly as well as has imputed righteousness. There may be a reason for this, having to do with God’s timing as He prepares His Kingdom.
Another problem in current preaching and teaching is the confusing of ordinary human righteousness with religious self-righteousness. In our haste to get across the point that religious self-righteousness is as filthy rags we do not always distinguish it from the righteousness of the adamic nature, which is esteemed by the Lord.
I know the Scripture says there is none righteous, no not one. But the Scripture also has a great deal to say about righteous people. And these were not people who were righteous because of imputed righteousness through Christ, or who had been born again.
Notice how the Lord esteemed the righteous behavior of Cornelius.
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (Acts 10:4—NIV)
The angel did not say, “Cornelius, your prayers and alms are as filthy rags. In spite of this I am going to bring the Gospel to you.”
The Bible says the righteous acts of Cornelius came up as a “memorial offering before God.”
Notice also what Peter deduced from the testimony of Cornelius.
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism But accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34,35—NIV)
When the Bible says God “accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right” it is not referring to Christians but to people who are righteous in their adamic personality.
The first kind of righteousness, self-righteousness, is often referred to as “filthy rags.” Where does it say this in the Scriptures?
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6—NIV)
Every Christian evangelist knows this passage. But how many evangelists know the numerous passages in the Bible that refer to righteous individuals, not those who were righteous by imputed righteousness or because Christ had been formed in them, but righteous because that is what they were as demonstrated by their behavior?
This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. (Genesis 6:9—NIV)
Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:7,8—NIV)
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalms 1:6—NIV)
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalms 5:2—NIV)
And so on and on and on.
It is obvious we are overstating the case when we say that any attempt of an individual to be honest or truthful is as filthy rags in the sight of the Lord.
There is a difference between righteous behavior and religious self-righteousness. Righteous behavior, which the man in the street understands, includes honesty, truthfulness, kindness, patience, friendliness, generosity, humility, compassion, mercy—doing to others what we would have them do to us.
Religious self-righteousness sometimes works against actual righteous behavior. For example, the man who spends all his time in prayer and studying the Bible may neglect his wife and family. He is religiously self-righteous but God views his selfish attempts to earn favor with God, to promote himself in spiritual matters, as filthy rags. Truly righteous behavior would be to take care of those who are dependent on him.
It is not unusual for religion to pervert righteous judgment. Think about how many innocent Christians were murdered by the Catholic Church because they sought Christ in an unorthodox manner! Think of how many Jews have been cruelly treated by Protestants who viewed themselves as followers of Christ?
One perversion of righteous judgment that troubles me is the Christian viewpoint that those who never heard the Gospel will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire because they did not “accept Christ.” This is a case of religious zeal totally wiping out sound judgment and common sense. Some have gone so far as to say babies will be thrown into the Lake of Fire if they die before they have had an opportunity to “accept Christ.”
There is no use belaboring this point further. Most of us probably know about works of religious zeal that are contrary to righteous behavior.
So when the Bible says all our righteousness is as filthy rags it means the kinds of religious activity I have mentioned here. The Lord Jesus said the same thing when He mentioned the custom of having a young man claim he could no longer help his mother and father because his life was consecrated to God.
“Blind leaders of the blind,” the Lord said, referring to the self-righteous.
God esteems genuine righteous behavior no matter where it is found. God is not as interested in doctrine as we are. But He is mightily interested in behavior—more than we are sometimes!
But what about the Bible statement “there is none righteous, no not one”?
In the final sense, all people were born in sin and have sinned at one time or another. No doubt Noah, Daniel, and Job, three men highly regarded by the Lord, committed many sins in their lifetimes.
God regarded these three men as righteous. Yet in the final sense they, as is true of the rest of us, were sinners. God therefore has regarded all as being sinful that He might make the perfect atonement through the Lord Jesus Christ. From the time the sacrifice was made on Calvary no human being can conclude that God has saved him or her because of his own righteousness. All must come to God through the blood of the Lamb or they will not be accepted into the Kingdom of God.
So much for the first and second kinds of righteousness—religious self-righteousness, and then the acts of decency and selflessness of ordinary people, the righteousness of the upright adamic nature. There are many unsaved people who are models of honor and integrity. Have you known any such individuals? I have met a few.
Imputed righteousness and actual righteousness are acceptable to God. Self-righteousness is not acceptable.
The third kind of righteousness, that which is ascribed to us when we turn from the Law of Moses, or from our own moral code, and place our faith in the atonement made by Jesus Christ, is so well known to Christians it is unnecessary for me to pursue it.
It is the fourth and fifth kinds of actual righteousness of personality and behavior, that are unknown to many of us. I would like to comment briefly on these. The fourth kind of actual righteousness of personality and behavior is a joint venture of our adamic nature and the Spirit of God.
We in our adamic nature must choose to cooperate with the Spirit of God as He leads us each day. We must choose to read our Bible, pray, fellowship with fervent saints, desire the gifts and ministries of the Spirit that we may help build the Body of Christ, give, serve, and do all else associated with wholesome Christian discipleship.
Above all we must present our body a living sacrifice each day, choosing to be crucified with Christ, choosing to be resurrected with Christ, choosing to take up our cross and follow Jesus, choosing to remain in the prison the Lord assigns to us. As we do these things we are able to jump the hurdles placed before us continually.
Our old nature must choose to do these things. One of the greatest of the mistakes of modern teaching is that Christ did it all for us, or He within us, with no effort on our part, will choose to do what is right. Another delusion is that God does not expect us, for whatever reason, to keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
We must decrease but He continually must be increasing in our personality and behavior. The promises are to the overcomer. It is only as we overcome the obstacles we face that we gain the authority to eat from the Tree of Life, to eat the body and blood of Christ.
We must choose to forgive. We must choose to resist immorality. We must choose to surrender our life to Jesus. When we find it difficult to live as a Christian we are to go to God in prayer, entering into the Most Holy Place in the heavenlies. As we pray we gain strength to keep the numerous commandments and exhortations found in the New Testament.
We see, therefore, that the fourth kind of righteousness is a joint venture of our adamic nature and the Spirit of God. As we choose to obey God He sends grace to help us in our time of need. We can keep God’s commandments, but only as He keeps giving us wisdom and strength through His Holy Spirit.
The purpose of imputed righteousness is to make it possible for us to attain such actual righteousness by forgiving the part of our personality not dealt with as yet by the Spirit. But when we do not follow Christ each day, doing His will, growing in actual righteousness, then eventually imputed righteousness will be withdrawn. God has no intention of shielding people from judgment who are not doing His will, not taking advantage of the plan of salvation He has provided.
The common teaching is that imputed righteousness will bring us to Heaven. I cannot comment on this belief because the New Testament does not talk about our going to Heaven. The subject of the New Testament is the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
The Apostle Paul states clearly that sinful Christians will have no place in the Kingdom of God.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21—NIV)
I am told that Christian scholars handle this and similar verses in the New Testament, of which there is an abundance, by saying they do not apply to Christians.
If this is what is being maintained it indeed is a reckless point of view. If the passage above does not apply to the believers in Galatia then who is to say what passages of the New Testament are addressed to Christians? What we have then are many private interpretations of the Scriptures, none of them being valid.
The truth is evident: Christians living in known sin will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Now, why is this? It is because there is no sin in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God does not consist of people who are righteous by imputed righteousness but actually are continuing in sin.
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:6—NIV)
We know the atonement made by Jesus Christ includes both forgiveness of sin and deliverance from sin. We know this from the celebration of the Jewish Day of Atonement. One goat was slain and its blood sprinkled upon and before the Mercy Seat. The blood of the slain goat made an atonement for the sins of Israel.
The other goat, after the sins of Israel were laid on it by Aaron’s hands as he confessed the sins of the people, was led away into the wilderness. This also was a goat of atonement, but an atonement of the removal of sin rather than an atonement of forgiveness accomplished by the blood that appeased the wrath of God.
No sin is permitted in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will on the earth as it is performed in Heaven.
So the question becomes, how do we go about driving the sin from us so we can grow in righteous behavior and inherit the Kingdom?
First of all, there probably is a time period during the Church Era when deliverance will take place. The New Testament always has promised that if we will confess our sin God is faithful and righteous both to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. No doubt many have taken advantage of the promise and have been forgiven and cleansed.
But as far as the Christian Church as a whole, salvation has been regarded primarily as a means of forgiveness rather than deliverance. Grace has come to mean only forgiveness, whereas the actual use of the term grace in the New Testament is by no means limited to forgiveness. Rather we might view the grace of God as God in Christ bringing people from the rule of Satan to the rule of Christ. Grace is not merely forgiveness, as wonderful as forgiveness is.
No, the Kingdom of God does not consist of forgiven sinners but of new creations in Christ—creations who have been transformed from the image of Adam to the image of Jesus Christ in both personality and behavior.
I think now, in our day, we have come to the second goat of the Day of Atonement, the goat of the removal of sin.
Several verses in the New Testament speak of the coming Day of Redemption. One of my favorites is as follows:
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28—NIV)
I believe the day of salvation has begun and will continue throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age, often referred to as the Millennium.
By salvation I mean the removal of sin from us. Won’t that be wonderful?
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is physical death. The destruction of physical death will take place at the return of the Lord for those who are living by His body and blood.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54—NIV)
Let us think of the removal of sin as being our land of promise. We must begin to invade and conquer the areas of our personality that are held by the enemy. We cannot do this all at once but city by city, so to speak, as the Holy Spirit leads us.
By the way, if you do not think this program has begun in earnest, ask the Lord Jesus about it. See what He says to you.
It is time to take the Kingdom of God. We knew it had to come some day. Well, I think it has begun.
When Israel went out of Egypt, a type of our being saved from the world, the Jews did not have to fight. God did the fighting for them. All they had to do was sprinkle the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses.
As soon as Egypt had been destroyed, God began to lead the Jews toward their land of milk and honey. But guess what? When they got there God did not do all the fighting. The Jews had to fight, with God’s directions and help.
So it is that we have come now to the Plains of Moab, so to speak, on the east side of the River Jordan. We are preparing to go across Jordan and engage the enemy in battle. The trumpets are sounding today. You can hear them if you are listening carefully to the Lord at all times.
The drums of Hell are beating to the attack. We are going to see troubles come to America of which we little dream. God’s people will be viciously attacked. Only those who press into Jesus will be able to stand.
The drums of El Shaddai also are beating to the attack. The ultimate conflict between good and evil is drawing close. Those who are qualified and competent to be in God’s army will participate in the Battle of Armageddon.
But what do we do today?
First of all we must recognize that we cannot be delivered apart from Divine judgment falling on the enemy that has us bound. Every true Christian, every disciple of Jesus Christ, is one of God’s judges. Our deliverance depends on our judging the evil that is in our personality.
We do not do the fighting. The angels of God do the actual fighting. Our role, the role of God’s Israel, is to bring the judgment of God against the enemy. This is how we fight.
The battle is conducted by the Holy Spirit. He points out to us a bondage in our life. The bondage may have to do with our love of the world. The bondage may have to do with the passions and appetites of our flesh and soul. Or the bondage may be of our self-will and personal ambition.
Once we perceive that our behavior is not righteous in some area we must make a judgment concerning it. We must confess it to the Lord as sin, not as a flaw in our personality but as sin! The Bible does not talk about imperfections in our personality but about sin. The point of deliverance is not to improve us as a person, as though it were psychological therapy, but to get at God’s enemies so they can be put into the Lake of Fire. These bondages of ours are an offense to God and will not be permitted in the Kingdom.
We must judge the particular area of darkness as sin and name it clearly. Then we are to denounce it, renounce it, and by God’s help turn away from it. We are to draw near to God and resist the devil. If we will do this diligently with all the determination we can summon we will be delivered.
I realize some deliverances require a period of time before they are final. If we do not quit but keep on renouncing the behavior as sin it finally will be brought down to death and ultimately removed from us.
We are never, never, never to give up in despair. God will deliver us. It is His will to deliver us. But we must realize this is a fight to the death. Satan regards the physical realm as his possession, just as the Amorites who had been in the land of promise for hundreds of years regarded the territory as their possession.
It is time to take the Kingdom.
As we said, to be delivered is to bring judgment on the adversary.
Notice Jesus’ remarks in His own home synagogue.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, (Luke 4:19,20—NIV)
Jesus was reading from the scroll of Isaiah.
To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2—NIV)
Do you see what Jesus omitted? He omitted “and the day of vengeance of our God.”
It is my opinion that the scroll is being opened in our day. I believe we have come to the day of vengeance of God.
If what I think I am hearing from God is true, then we have arrived at a massive move forward in the Kingdom of God. The emphasis is shifting, for the members of the Body of Christ, from imputed righteousness to actual righteousness of personality and behavior.
The message of forgiveness and imputed righteousness is still to be preached to the unsaved. But to the disciples the emphasis is now on actual righteousness. No more can we live a casual Christian life ignoring the sins evident in our personality. No more can we say: “God is seeing me through the blood. Although I am sinning constantly God sees me in Christ as totally righteous.”
In the first place the Scripture does not say that God sees us through the blood of Christ. This may be our tradition but it is not in the Word. The blood forgives us as we walk in the light of God’s will, but the blood is not a screen that shields the believer so God cannot see what he is doing. Christ sees our works, as He informed the seven churches of Asia.
Today is not an hour for Christians to rest in the unscriptural belief that God is not aware of their behavior. Rather it is time to return to God with all the strength we can gather and ask Him to help us drive the enemy from our personality.
God will teach our hands to war if we will allow Him to do so.
There is a picture in the Old Testament of the change from ascribed righteousness to the actual casting out of wickedness that characterizes the entrance of the Kingdom of God.
The picture is found in the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua.
When Joshua was fighting against the Amorites he imprisoned five of their kings in the cave at Makkedah.
Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, He said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. But don’t stop! Pursue your enemies, attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.” (Joshua 10:16-19—NIV)
Then when Joshua had gained complete victory over the Amorites he returned to the cave at Makkedah.
Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” (Joshua 10:22—NIV)
Joshua brought the five kings out, killed them, hung them on five trees, and then threw them back into the cave.
What a picture this is of the way we are delivered from sin!
When we receive Christ the kings of wickedness hide themselves in us. We do not even realize they are there, but Christ does.
Christ puts them under guard in us while He goes to war against the lesser evils in our life with which He is concerned.
When Christ is assured these external problems have been taken care of satisfactorily He returns to our personality and calls forth the kings of wickedness that are in us. He puts them to death and hangs them on His cross. They no longer can compel us to behave in a manner displeasing to God.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Christ is ready to put to death the “kings” in us that He will not accept in His Kingdom. But we have to cooperate with Him by naming them, judging them as wicked, and then denouncing and renouncing them. We must draw near to God and resist them.
Just as the Lord helped Joshua in the battle for the land of promise, so Jesus will help us as we go from battle to battle in our land of promise, which in this case is our own personality.
We want above all to dwell in peace with God and to always do His perfect will. But we cannot because these kings in us keep pressuring us to disobey what we know to be God’s will.
If you have been a Christian for a while, and God considers you to be strong enough for the work of eternal judgment to begin in your personality, you may find that things in your life that you thought were long dead are now beginning to emerge. This means Christ is bringing out the kings hidden in you. He is ready to put them to death and hang them on the cross.
A passage that suggests the work of judgment and deliverance will take place at the end of the age is as follows:
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43—NIV)
I suppose most of us have read the above passage many times. Maybe we thought this would take place when we went to Heaven; or perhaps, as is so often the case with Christian scholars, all such unpleasantness is directed toward the Jewish people.
The passage is not directed toward the Jewish people but toward the Kingdom of God. It is saying that first, everything that causes sin will be weeded out of the Kingdom, and then all who do evil will be removed. This means there will be a time when the evil can be removed from us; but if we do not cooperate with the Holy Spirit at that time, then we ourselves—Christian or not—will be removed from the Kingdom and thrown into the fiery furnace.
The above passage is showing us the working of the Day of Atonement, which I like to term the Day of Reconciliation. Every person that is to be brought forward to the new heaven and earth reign of Jesus Christ must be free from evil. The evil will be incarcerated for eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Sooner or later all who would be saved, whether members of God’s elect or citizens of the nations of saved people, must be reconciled to God. This means all love of the ways of the world (which the Father hates), all the ungovernable lusts and passions of the flesh, and all self-seeking, must be removed. God will not have fellowship with any of these.
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17,18—NIV)
Notice that the above passage is addressed to the Christian people of Corinth, not to the unsaved. It is we Christians who are commanded to “come out from them and be separate”; to “touch no unclean thing.” God receives us on the basis of our cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Then He regards us as His sons and daughters.
So the great day of cleansing, of judgment, of deliverance has finally come. Whenever a person makes such a statement we should go to the Lord and determine if this is true. In the case of the present writer, the Lord, I believe, spoke to me over fifty years ago that the Day of Atonement, that follows the Jewish feast of Pentecost, signifies the next move of God after the Pentecostal experience would be judgment on the churches.
All I have experienced over the ensuing half-century has confirmed that it really was the Lord who spoke to me.
In between Pentecost and the Day of Atonement is the Jewish Blowing of Trumpets. This tells us there will be a time during which God sounds the trumpet of war against the enemy. I believe this is taking place now.
The battle will be joined and the enemy driven from God’s saints. This is the exercise of eternal judgment on Satan, and the result will be the reconciliation of God’s people to Himself: not just legally, as in the case of justification by faith, but actually, in accord with the concept of the Kingdom, the rule of God.
God is a Person and we are to relate to Him person to Person, not through a religious formula, a legal maneuver that serves to screen from God what we are.
As we have stated, we think the Day of Vengeance against the enemy has either begun or else is at hand. We believe it will continue throughout the thousand-year Kingdom Age and is the purpose for this long period of time that will take place before the new Jerusalem descends from Heaven to be established forever on a high mountain of the new earth.
If this is true, then the emphasis, for the Christians at least, is no longer on imputed righteousness but actual righteousness of behavior.
After we have been released from the chains of Satan it will be easier to behave righteously. Who would not want to be always kind, always truthful, always compassionate, always merciful, always honest, always helpful, always considerate of others, always modest, always loving, always joyous, always self-controlled? This is the moral image of Jesus Christ.
There are many people who demonstrate one or more of these virtues in their adamic personality. However, if enough pressure is put on them the adamic virtue eventually will fail. In order to get at the sin that is in people, God assigns their adamic nature, the good and the bad of it, to the cross with Jesus Christ.
Then we are born again of His Spirit. As we in our adamic nature and by the wisdom and strength given to us by the Holy Spirit obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles, Christ is formed in us. When Christ is formed in us the Father and the Son make Their eternal abode in the new creation that has grown in us. Now the kindness, truthfulness, compassion, mercy, honesty, helpfulness, consideration of others, modesty love, joyfulness, and self-control we have always desired are revealed in our behavior because of the new born-again spiritual nature that has been created in us. This is the ultimate form of righteousness.
We see from the above that righteousness is righteousness, whether it is performed by the natural man or by the new spiritual creation. The difference is not that one is filthy rags because it comes from the adamic nature and the other is acceptable to God because it comes from Christ. The difference is that one is imperfect and will crumble under enough pressure while the other, being of Christ, is perfect and will survive in every situation.
The “filthy rags,” on the other hand, are the religious efforts of the individual who in his pride strives for spiritual mastery while at the same time disregarding the normal rules of life, and the will and Presence of God. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was as filthy rags because they, in their religious zeal and self-seeking, attacked Jesus whose only wickedness was to go about doing good and healing the people.
The religious righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not the genuine righteousness of truthfulness, uprightness, justice, mercy, compassion.
The last great witness to be given to the nations, as symbolized by the “two witnesses” of Chapter Eleven of the Book of Revelation, will be borne by people who reflect in themselves the righteous Personality and behavior of Jesus Christ; not perfect people, not manifested sons of God or anything of the kind. Just ordinary believers operating under a double portion of the Holy Spirit to cast out devils, heal the sick, raise the dead, and preach the soon coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
In addition they will perform mighty works of judgment in order to ensure that the Gospel witness reaches every nation, and also to reveal to earth’s people that the coming Kingdom of God will be installed by force; it will not be brought into being by gentle philosophers and teachers who plead with the wicked of the earth to begin doing what is decent and honorable.
Let’s review the five kinds of righteousness.
The religious self-righteousness exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees. This kind of righteousness sometimes leads to unreasonable and cruel acts as the devotee attempts to adhere to his or her religious acts or rituals. This form of righteousness has little sympathy for those who do not follow its principles. Jesus spoke of religious leaders who loved to sit on Moses’ Seat in the synagogue but robbed widows.
The second kind of righteousness is the upright behavior of ordinary people who have integrity. There are people who are kind, gentle, and honest. You can find them about anywhere and among all nationalities. God does not regard the attempts of decent people to do what is right as filthy rags just because they are not Christians.
Sometimes people of the world demonstrate more integrity of character than is true of many Christians. Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?
It appears that current Christian teaching with its overemphasis on imputed righteousness often produces people who do not behave well at all. They are malicious slanderers, filled with bitterness and unforgiveness. Yet their pastors tell them that they are righteous in God’s sight because they have “accepted Christ.” But the people of the world see them as they actually are, so they are not good witnesses of God no matter what they proclaim.
Sometimes we say Heaven will be filled with sinners who are saved by grace. Let us pray that this is not true, or if it is that we might not go there.
Could you picture yourself in Heaven surrounded by sinners who are saved by grace? Imagine what would happen if one of these “saved sinners” stole one of your golden slippers. You found out about it and went to the individual.
“Give me back my slipper.”
“You are a thief.”
“No I’m not, God sees me through Jesus so I’m not a thief.”
Oh Brother Thompson, don’t you know you can’t sin in Heaven?
Oh no? Sin began in Heaven around the Throne of God.
Heaven will not be filled with sinners saved by grace but with new creations—the spirits of righteous people made perfect, as the Book of Hebrews says.
The third kind of righteousness we have mentioned is imputed, or ascribed righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly and then died for our sins. In accordance with God’s laws Christ is authorized to impute the fulfillment of the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses to whomever He will.
There is a condition attached to being without condemnation based on imputed righteousness—it is that we are not living in our fleshly desires but in obedience to the Spirit of God.
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4—NIV)
Imputed righteousness is forgiveness, not moral transformation. Therefore it does not solve God’s problem of sin in His creation. The Divine problem does not begin to be solved until we embark on the remaining two kinds of righteousness.
The fourth kind of righteousness of personality and behavior comes into existence as a joint venture of our adamic personality and the Holy Spirit. As we choose to obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles the Holy Spirit provides us with the necessary grace to be successful. The promises to the overcomer are attained by those who, through Divine grace, do God’s will in spite of the obstacles, challenges, and pressures placed in their path. Such people increase daily in actual righteousness of personality and behavior and Christ is formed in them.
The fifth kind of righteousness is found when the last traces of the adamic nature are removed from us and we are living by the Life of Jesus Christ. To attain to such righteousness is an accomplishment so superior to anything else available to the human being that comparison is not possible.
To have the very Life of Christ as our life, in both our inward nature and our body, is to dwell in the land of promise, in the rest of God. All joy has become ours. We forever are an integral part of the new Jerusalem and bring the holy city wherever we go. Paradise follows us and is maintained by us just as eternally is true of the Lord Jesus.
The fifth kind of righteousness is accomplished as we enter the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. The spiritual fulfillment of Tabernacles, which, as we have said, is equivalent to the fifth kind of righteousness, is set forth in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Isaiah:
In that day you will say: “I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” (Isaiah 12:1-6—NIV)
At this point your life has become so filled with Christ there is nothing left of your old nature. This is the mark, the heavenly calling toward which we are to press at all times. Old things have passed away. All things have become new and are of God.
God Himself has become our strength, our joy, our song, and our righteousness. As soon as such fullness is true of us, and our physical body has been made alive and then clothed with our house from Heaven, our salvation is complete.
We have made some pretty strong statements in the above essay. Would you like to go to the Lord Jesus and see if what we are saying is really coming from Him?
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8—NIV)
- Covenant keeping.
- Purity of personality and behavior.
- A forgiving nature.
- Justice and fairness of behavior.
- Being slow to anger.
- Being a peacemaker.
- A wholesome fear of God.
- Obedience to God.
- Avoiding spiritism and the occult.
“Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.”
(“Five Kinds of Righteousness”, 3973-1)