Everyone is struggling for righteousness. Dan Gable is wrestling’s (not wrassling’s!) most famous winner. Gable had only had one loss in his entire career: 64-0 in high school, 118-1 in college, and Olympic gold medal winner in Munich without giving up a single point. ESPN did a recent article on Gable ironically called “The Losses of Dan Gable.” The writer said, “His time in the wrestling room, and his quest to make sure the sport survived, helped control the storms he felt inside. Gable’s life is governed by justification and guilt, as if he’s forever paying off some unseen debt. He doesn’t like to eat, for instance, without working out, constantly balancing a ledger in his mind. One day in March, he stared at a bowl of pasta, hungry and stubbornly trying not to eat. He’d skipped the gym and now looked longingly at the noodles. ‘I don’t deserve it,’ he said quietly.”
Everyone is struggling for righteousness. It could be Olympic-righteousness, achievement-righteousness, Mom-righteousness, body image-righteousness, food-righteousness, relational-righteousness, ideological-righteousness, or religious righteousness. Romans 1.18-3.20 is sixty-four verses of the epic struggle for righteousness in each of us. Look at verse 21, “But now the righteousness of God (or “the righteousness from God”) has been manifested….” Just like that, sixty-four verses are erased. Just like that, the Apostle Paul ends the struggle for righteousness.
The righteousness from God (or justification) is the establishment of a legal, loving relationship with God. Don’t let the legal part get in the way. For example, the legal reality of marriage doesn’t make the relationship between a man or woman less personal, intimate, loving, and real, but more so! The man says, “Honey I love you to the moon and back! I want to spend the rest of my life with you, have a family together, grow old together. You complete me!” The woman says, “Are you asking me to marry you?” “Uh…” the man says. “Our love doesn’t need marriage. You don’t need my promised love, my sealed, bonding, covenant-making, permanently committed love and loyalty. My feelings of love are enough!” The righteousness from God (justification) in verse 21 is the establishment of a legal, loving relationship with God that consists of full acceptance, unfailing welcome, a perfect record, perfection itself, priceless worth and value, complete approval, total validation, the highest honors (medals of honor) with all the blessings and life that go with it. Forgiveness means “You may go.” Justification means “You may come.”
How does this righteousness from God come to us? First, Paul tells us how it does not come to us: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law….” Full acceptance and approval before God does not come to us by our own performance; it comes by the performance of another: “the righteousness of God…in Jesus Christ” (verse 22). The righteousness from God comes to us by Jesus Christ’s own righteousness. When we trust in Jesus’ righteousness and not in our own strategies of righteousness, Jesus’ own perfection, acceptability, validation, performance record, works, worth, value, or justification is transferred to us. It’s now ours. The struggle for righteousness is over. End your struggle today in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.