2 Kinds of Righteousness (Philippians 3:9)

In a couple of previous posts I had made reference to the concept of righteousness and rewards based on personal righteousness (Quadash and Practicing Righteousness). In my bible time today I found a verse that so clearly showed the 2 types of righteousness I couldn’t resist adding it to the mix.  Again the basic premise I’m talking about is that there are 2 types of righteousness: one that leads to salvation – which cannot be earned but is given by grace through Christ – and one that is earned and has to do with our own personal choices.

To begin let’s look at Philippians 3:9 (ESV)

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

This verse clearly delineates between the two kinds of righteousness:

  1. a righteousness of my own that comes from the law
  2. the righteousness from God that depends on faith

The context of the verse helps us to further understand the second kind of righteousness (the kind through faith that leads to salvation), which is achieved through faith by grace that no man should boast (Ephesians 2:9). Most confusion occurs around the first type of righteousness mentioned though.  People seem to view these 2 types of righteousness as “either or” instead of both having a place in our walk.

Let me be very clear here, the first type of righteousness (personal righteousness through the law) will not earn you salvation. This is what Paul spends time addressing in Philippians (ch 3), Ephesians (ch 2), Galatians (ch 2-3), etc. (and we should remember that the reason Paul is stressing the 2nd type of righteousness is because his audience already understood the 1st kind, the problem was they were relying on the 1st kind for salvation too, which is why he is correcting them).

The word goes as far as saying that those who are relying on personal righteousness are under a curse (Galatians 3:10) – which is true because no one but Christ is able to keep the law perfectly (the law – aka Torah –  being God’s set measure for personal righteousness). And if you haven’t kept it perfectly (i.e. you’ve broken the law, which is sin as defined by 1 John 3:4), you are under its penalty (i.e. curse). You can compare this concept to our secular law: if you are speeding, you get a ticket (broken law = penalty).

However, we have been released from the curse of the law (i.e the penalty) by Christ (Galatians 3:13)! This is why we are not stoned when we break the Sabbath – Christ already paid the price for our sin we don’t need to pay it again. In the same way that if I go out to eat and a friend pays for my meal, there is no need for me to pay again once they’ve already covered the cost. Christ has covered our cost for salvation if we will receive it, which is done by faith.

Where some get confused is in why we follow the law if we no longer endure a penalty for NOT doing so.  This is a great question and it comes down to a heart issue.  Should we not do the right thing simply because it’s right? Or do we simply do the right thing because there are negative consequences if we don’t? Paul addresses these very questions in the first two verses of Romans 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

This phrase “by no means” is the greek word me (G3361), which is a categorical NO!!!  Other versions translate it “God forbid!” And yes the word for sin here (G266) is the same word used in 1 John 3:4 where sin is defined as being “transgression of the law”. James 1:22-25 exhorts us to take action:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

And James 2:14-26 goes on to tell us “faith without works is dead” and that we are “foolish” is we don’t understand that faith with no works is useless.  We must take action. We must obey. Not so that we may be saved, but rather as a product of the salvation we say we have.  For more on why we want to walk this out, check out my post called Practicing Righteousness.

I pray this blesses and challenges you! May Father reveal His heart to you as you seek after Him 🙂

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