What Is Righteousness By Faith?
Habakkuk 2:4 (NKJV) 4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith."
"When we consciously cherish Christ's presence within, and consciously will His 'right-doing' in our lives, we are receiving the imparted righteousness of Jesus. He works in us 'both to will and to do of His good pleasure.' This is righteousness, or “right-doing,” by faith."—Meade MacGuire
This appeared as an article in 1928 in Ministry Magazine
Of all the great principles of eternal life and truth revealed in the Scriptures, none is more important than the principle of righteousness. Though the term “righteousness” is used many times in the Bible, and is constantly incorporated into our discourses and writings, still many people do not seem to have a clear understanding of it.
The Scriptures speak of two distinct kinds of righteousness, which originate from different sources. One is the righteousness of man, produced by man's works, and the other is the righteousness of God, wrought by Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of the first classification as “mine own righteousness, which is of the law,” and of the second, as “the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Phil. 3: 9. Paul also states that Sabbath-keeping Israel sought righteousness by the works of the law, and did not find it. Why? “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” “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.” Rom. 9: 32; 10: 3.
In these scriptures it is clearly implied that those who seek righteousness by obedience to the law, can attain only self-righteousness, never God's righteousness. Yet, sad to say, thousands of earnest people give such Scriptural statements a superficial reading only, and do not realize that in their own lives they are repeating the very experience of Israel. Day by day they try to establish their own righteousness by strict obedience to the law, but fail to submit to the righteousness of God.
Righteousness is rightly defined as “right-doing.” But whose right-doing? Righteousness can never be the right doing of any man. The Scripture declares that all man's righteousness is self-righteousness and in the sight of God is but “filthy rags.” There is not, never has been, and never can be any righteousness except Christ's righteousness. If we have any righteousness, or “right-doing,” other than that which is termed “self-righteousness” and worthless as “filthy rags,” it must be the righteousness of Christ; and this righteousness comes by faith. God's moral law is the only standard of right-doing; therefore, Christ's righteousness is perfect obedience to the divine law.
The lesson which is given to us in the writings of the spirit of prophecy, and which it is so essential that we learn, is this: Christ's righteousness imputed is our “title to heaven;” Christ's righteousness imparted is our “fitness for heaven.” The first part of this lesson is not so difficult to understand,— the imputing of the righteousness of Christ to cover our past sins. But the second part causes the greatest difficulty — the simple recognition and acceptance of the fact that Christ's righteousness imparted means Christ dwelling within us and perfectly obeying the divine law moment by moment. To Paul this fact had become a reality, and he declares the provision made “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Rom. 8: 4. He does not say fulfilled by us, but “in us.” Of course this necessitates our co-operation.
The following paragraphs clearly distinguish between the true and the worthless righteousness, and guide into the channel of “imparted” righteousness, which provides the “fitness for heaven:”
“In their professed service to God, the Jews were really working for self. Their righteousness was the fruit of their own efforts to keep the law, according to their own ideas, and for their own selfish benefit. Hence it could be no better than they were. In their endeavor to make themselves holy, they were trying to bring a clean thing out of an unclean. The law of God is as holy as He is holy, as perfect as He is perfect. It presents to men the righteousness of God. It is impossible for man, of himself, to keep this law; for the nature of man is depraved, deformed, and wholly unlike the character of God. The works of the selfish heart are “as the unclean thing;” and “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
“While the law is holy, the Jews could not attain righteousness by their own efforts to keep the law. The disciples of Christ must obtain righteousness of a different character from that of the Pharisees, if they would enter the kingdom of heaven. God offered them, in His Son, the perfect righteousness of the law. If they would open their hearts fully to receive Christ, then the very life of God, His love, would dwell in them, transforming them into His own likeness; and thus through God's free gift they would possess the righteousness which the law requires. But the Pharisees rejected Christ; “being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God.” — “Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing,” pp. 84, 85.
When we consciously cherish Christ's presence within, and consciously will His “right-doing” in our lives, we are receiving the imparted righteousness of Jesus. He works in us “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
This is righteousness, or “right-doing,” by faith.
Meade MacGuire, Ministry Magazine, September, 1928