Since the beginning of time, human beings have dreamt of having a better social system, better laws, better education, and better conditions based on righteousness and justice. In the family, in society, in schools, in private circles, and in government institutions, the need for and call to righteousness, to respect for human rights and dignity, are increasingly imperative. What is the answer and solution to mankind’s problems? Minorities, communities, groups, and individuals all suffer because of unrighteousness which is continually perpetrated by individuals and ruling segments of society.
It is not necessary to center our attention on others to see if righteousness can be reached; it is sufficient to look at ourselves–our own life, character, nature, and behavior. Who can say that he is righteous before God and man? Who can look at his own conscience and past life and say, “I’m good; I’m satisfied with myself; I have everything in order?” If we are honest with ourselves, we have to recognize that evil begins with us, because our spiritual and moral condition is very weak and influenced by selfishness. This is why Job posed the question: “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?” “I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?” Job 4:17; 9:2. And not only are we impure before God; our human tendency is to be partial in our judgments, corrupt in our desires, and unbalanced in our decisions. Truly, “What is man, that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” Job 15:14. To the very same degree that we may wish for and promise to be righteous, we fall in sin and unrighteousness.
But praise the Lord that we are not left to ourselves, to our weaknesses and impossibilities; the marvelous promises of His righteousness are right before us: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jeremiah 23:6. And the promise was repeated: “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” Jeremiah 33:16. That very time has come; the Redeemer has brought righteousness and offers it to human beings in the gospel. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17. Yes, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” Romans 3:22.
Think what this means! The righteousness that we have wished for and not found in this world, beginning with ourselves, is offered to every one of us, as the gift to everyone who believes! It is wonderful. “The sweetest melodies that come from God through human lips–justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ–… The heavenly Merchantman displays before them the richest jewels of faith and love,… He invites them to buy of Him ‘gold tried in the fire,’ and ‘white raiment’ that they may be clothed, and ‘eyesalve’ that they may see,…” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 426.
In 1888, the Lord sent the very special message of “Christ Our Righteousness” to His people; but instead of receiving it with joy, they made it a subject of debate. Now, after so many years, we want not only to study this wonderful truth in a humble spirit, with faith and prayer, but also to receive this gift of righteousness that the Lord is offering to us today. We need to make Jesus the center of our lives, experience, faith, and preaching.
For this reason, we suggest that this special study be integrated with other precious lessons, reading the message directly from the letters to Romans and Galatians and from other wonderful books, including:
• E.G. White, Steps to Christ
• E.G. White, The Sanctified Life
• E.G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons
• E.G. White, The Desire of Ages
• E.G. White, Selected Messages, vols. 1 and 3
• E.G. White, Faith and Works
• E.G. White, The Faith I Live by
• E.G. White, A New Life
• E.J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness
• E.J. Waggoner, Studies on Romans
• A.T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection
• A.T. Jones, Studies in Galatians
• A.G. Daniells, Christ Our Righteousness
“There can be no growth or fruitfulness in the life that is centered in self. If you have accepted Christ as a personal Saviour, you are to forget yourself, and try to help others. Talk of the love of Christ, tell of His goodness. Do every duty that presents itself. Carry the burden of souls upon your heart, and by every means in your power seek to save the lost. As you receive the Spirit of Christ–the Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others–you will grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more you will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely.
“‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’ Galatians 5:22, 23. This fruit can never perish, but will produce after its kind a harvest unto eternal life.
“‘When the fruit is brought forth, immediately He putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.’ Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 67-69.
Let us therefore open our hearts so Jesus may enter and live in us, completely changing our nature into His holy image. The goal of these lessons is to help this happen, and we pray that it may be achieved in every one of us.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference
Sabbath, July 4, 2009
“… The heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself.” “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee?” Psalm 50:6; 71:19.
1. What great, comforting truth is presented in the Holy Scriptures regarding God and His character?
Psalm 11:7 For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.
Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
“The righteousness of God is absolute. This righteousness characterizes all His works, all His laws. As God is, so must His people be. The life of Christ is to be revealed in the lives of His followers. In all His public and private acts, in every word and deed, practical godliness was seen, and this godliness is to be seen in the lives of His disciples.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 198.
2. Although we don’t understand and are not able to explain many things, what is said regarding the foundation of His throne? How does this reflect His character?
Psalm 89:14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
Psalm 97:2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
“He that ruleth in the heavens is the one who sees the end from the beginning–the one before whom the mysteries of the past and the future are alike outspread, and who, beyond the woe and darkness and ruin that sin has wrought, beholds the accomplishment of His own purposes of love and blessing. Though ‘clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.’ Psalm 97:2, R.V. And this the inhabitants of the universe, both loyal and disloyal, will one day understand. ‘His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.’ Deuteronomy 32:4.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 43.
The righteousness and character of our Redeemer
3. How did the prophet Isaiah describe the character of the Messiah?
Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
“Christ is our righteousness; He goes before us in this work, and the glory of the Lord follows.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 267.
“Jeremiah also bore witness of the coming Redeemer as a Prince of the house of David: ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.’ And again: ‘Thus saith the Lord: David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.’ Jeremiah 23:5, 6; 33:17, 18.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 223.
4. What does the New Testament tell us about the righteousness of Jesus?
1 Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
“The law of God is the only true standard of moral perfection. That law was practically exemplified in the life of Christ. He says of Himself, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments.’
“The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought…. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law that in obeying them we might have joy.” –The Faith I Live by, p. 85.
“All the treasures of heaven were committed to Jesus Christ, that He might impart these precious gifts to the diligent, persevering seeker. He ‘is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’ 1 Corinthians 1:30.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 371.
“Having made us righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ, God pronounces us just, and treats us as just. He looks upon us as His dear children. Christ works against the power of sin, and where sin abounded, grace much more abounds. ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Romans 5:1, 2.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 394.
Righteousness and God’s law
5. What is the relationship between righteousness and God’s holy law?
Psalm 119:86 All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
Psalm 119:138 Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.
Psalm 119:172 My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
“The law of God, from its very nature, is unchangeable. It is a revelation of the will and the character of its Author. God is love, and His law is love. Its two great principles are love to God and love to man. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Romans 13:10. The character of God is righteousness and truth; such is the nature of His law. Says the psalmist: ‘Thy law is the truth:’ ‘all Thy commandments are righteousness.’ Psalm 119:142, 172. And the apostle Paul declares: ‘The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ Romans 7:12. Such a law, being an expression of the mind and will of God, must be as enduring as its Author.” –The Great Controversy, p. 467.
6. What similar principle is found in the writings of the New Testament?
Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
1 Timothy 1:8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.
“Since ‘the law of the Lord is perfect,’ every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ. The Saviour’s life of obedience maintained the claims of the law, it proved that the law could be kept in humanity, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did are likewise declaring that the law is ‘holy, and just, and good.’ Romans 7:12.” –The Faith I Live by, p. 85.
“To this day there are still aspects of truth which are dimly seen, connections that are not understood, and far-reaching depths in the law of God that are uncomprehended. There is immeasurable breadth, dignity, and glory in the law of God; and yet the religious world has set aside this law, as did the Jews, to exalt the traditions and commandments of men.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 238.
Our first priority
7. Considering the character of God, Jesus, and His law, what should be our prayer and greatest desire?
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Psalm 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
“I have come to open to you the kingdom of love and righteousness and peace. Open your hearts to receive this kingdom, and make its service your highest interest. Though it is a spiritual kingdom, fear not that your needs for this life will be uncared for. If you give yourself to God’s service, He who has all power in heaven and earth will provide for your needs.
“Jesus does not release us from the necessity of effort, but He teaches that we are to make Him first and last and best in everything. We are to engage in no business, follow no pursuit, seek no pleasure, that would hinder the outworking of His righteousness in our character and life. Whatever we do is to be done heartily, as unto the Lord.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 99.
“Christ perfected a righteous character here upon the earth, not on His own account, for His character was pure and spotless, but for fallen man. His character He offers to man if he will accept it. The sinner, through repentance of his sins, faith in Christ, and obedience to the perfect law of God, has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; it becomes his righteousness, and his name is recorded in the Lamb’s book of life. He becomes a child of God, a member of the royal family.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 371, 372.