Pristine Grace

by John Pedersen

According to the Bible, the issue central to the gospel and the Christian life may be expressed by a single word: righteousness. The gospel is a revelation of the righteousness of God, and a righteousness from God (Romans 1-3). 

All persons are said to be governed by one of two fundamental life-motives: Either they are seeking to establish their own righteousness, or they are submitted to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ (Romans 10:3).  

This matter of righteousness is the fundamental concern; it is the headwater of all doctrinal understanding and discussion, from which discussions of doctrine and life are streams to the river. Understand this, and you understand the gospel and what grounds and motivates all Christian thought and expression. Fail to apprehend the truth of God’s righteousness, and you may know many things, but you know not the one thing needful.   

Doctrine and doctrinal discussion is all about making distinctions. It is about differentiation, about knowing one thing in distinction from another thing, and knowing why it matters. 

One essential point concerning righteousness informing all subsequent distinctions is this: The difference between God’s righteousness and man’s self-righteousness is not expressed in terms of degree, but in terms of antithesis.  

Comparatively, God is essentially, absolutely, righteous. His character wholly consistent with His revealed law, e.g., the Ten Commandments. Man, which is to say, all mankind save one, the Lord Jesus Christ, has, for want of this essential, absolute righteousness, only a pretension of it, and in truth, no righteousness at all, even in his “best” state of conformity to the moral law of God. 

This is why we need the forgiveness of sins. This is why the Lord Jesus died as a substitute for His people- so that God would be just in this forgiveness. 

The concept of righteousness is at the heart, soul, and center of all gospel preaching. Not surprisingly, it is a rare thing to even so much as hear the word mentioned by so called preachers nowadays, and when it is mentioned, it is even more rare to hear it defined biblically, or used as the Scriptures use it.