Righteous Identity Or Righteous Works
(Taken from Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham, Pages 34-35)
Let’s start by coming to a common understanding of the term “righteousness.” This understanding alone could revolutionize your life. You can consider the term “righteousness” from two viewpoints: 1. righteous works (behavior); or 2. righteous identity (state of being).
It’s my conviction that most Christians think only of righteous performance — holy behavior — when they think of righteousness. Of course, godly behavior is important. Biblically it refers to “righteous works.” But the Word is very clear that there is a righteousness that is absolutely unrelated to performance.
GAL 3:6 Even so Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
GAL 3:7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
GAL 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU.”
GAL 3:9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
RO 4:9 Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS RECKONED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
RO 4:10 How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
RO 4:11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them,
RO 4:12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
RO 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
It is a declaration by God of a person’s identity. He says that He will declare a person righteous under one condition — if the person is hidden in Christ by faith.
Using this definition of righteousness, then, it means that God declares a person accepted, “right” with Him. The tragedy is that most people who have been declared, “all right” by God continue to strive to generate their own declaration of being “all right.” The Bible refers to this as “dead works.”
The Two Dimensions of Righteousness
(Taken from What God Wishes Christian’s Knew About Christianity by Bill Gillham, Page157)
…we must understand that there are two dimensions to God’s righteousness equation in the new covenant:
The first is the state or condition of righteousness. This righteous identity is acquired by our new spiritual birth. Christians are righteous via our birth in Christ.
The second involves righteous performance. Although we are now righteous by birth, acting righteously is a moment-by-moment choice. Only when we let Christ express His life through us, by faith, do we produced righteous (acceptable) behavior.
[ROM. 14.23: …whatever is not from faith is sin.]
Although the Christian can produce righteous-looking behavior independently, such action is rejected by God as unrighteousness.
HAB 1:11 … But they will be held guilty, They whose strength is their god.”
JER 17:5 Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
Folks, no man works for God. He doesn’t need our help.
[AC 17:25 neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things;]
It is our privilege to offer ourselves to God as a living and holy sacrifice, allowing Christ to do the will and work of God through us, by faith.
RO 12:1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
RO 15:18 For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,
This alone produces righteous (approved) work.
These two dimensions of righteousness (identity and performance) must always be considered as separate entities. The first is by faith alone; the latter is by faith combined with your obedience (works). Blurring the line which delineates these will lead you into theological quicksand.
Sanctified Personhood-Identity Or Sanctified Performance
(Taken from What God Wishes Christian’s Knew About Christianity By Bill Gillham, Pages 184-187)
Sanctified means “holified,” “to cause to become holy”; it’s like being submerged in bleach. It’s more than just forgiveness, wonderful as that is. It’s the purifying of our personhood–our identity. You and I were stains on God’s landscape whom he purified in Christ by crucified us and spiritually rebirthing us. God initiated a spiritual purge through Christ. Listen to the Holy Spirit as He reiterates these words that He spoke to the penmen of His Love Letter:
JN 17:19 “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
AC 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
AC 26:18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’
1CO 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
1CO 6:11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
Those last two verses were spoken to the most licentious performers of the first-century churches: the church at Corinth. These guys invented the phrase, “Character doesn’t matter.” Even though these born-again Christians were “lacking in no spiritual gift,” much of their behavior was reprehensible according to the biblical record. However, incredible as it is to the human mentality, they were sanctified (holy) as far as there identity was concerned. God said so! Their behavior obviously didn’t match their holy identity. In addition to our sanctified personhood — identity, there is a second type of sanctification which the Corinthian’s lacked: sanctified performance.
It’s common for Christians to fail to differentiate between these two types of sanctification. They do not simply lump sanctified identity and sanctified performance together into the same ball of wax, however. They’re harder on themselves than that. They believe that a sanctified identity (holiness) can only be attained via performance, which makes it seem like climbing Mt. Everest in high heels! (Guess who dreamed up this idea.) The result is that many Christians believe they will never become sanctified (purified) on this earth. That’s why some folks only bestow the title of saint by committee vote on certain high-profile, super- performers.[even though Christians are called saints more than 50 times in the New Testament] I don’t intend to be ugly by saying this. Folks, we just read a few of the multitude of verses showing unequivocally that each person who is in Christ Jesus is already holy. The Bible is not speaking of performance here, but of identity — who we are, not what we’ve done. Sanctification is somewhat like being born in Texas. Although this guarantees that you are a Texan, we must wait to see if you buy your boots, big hat, big belt buckle, and brag about Texas to determine whether you act like one.
In addition to this new, sanctified identity, sanctified performance is also attainable through Christ. This is not achieved by trying harder, but by letting Christ express His life through us. His work alone is acceptable (sanctified) to the Father. This is demonstrated by what Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Clearly, the fruit produced by vine life is acceptable to God, but anything produced by an independent branch is “nothing” (i.e., an imitation, worthless, not sanctified, fit only for God’s trash heap). And remember God gets to make the rules. He loves relationship. He loves community. Those are tens with Him. God rejects all independent human effort. He insists on a joint effort; Jesus and a believer or believers. “They will be held guilty, they whose strength is they’re God”(Habakkuk 1:11). “Thus says the Lord, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength’ ” (Jeremiah 17: 5). This encompasses all independent human effort, ranging from gardening to preaching, plucking eyebrows to teaching Sunday school, mowing the lawn to soul winning, ad infinitum. However, these identical tasks could have been sanctified by Christ performing them through the Christian, by faith. Yes, even eyebrow plucking (except for you guys). Such a mundane task can become a sanctified (holy) act when the Christian performs it by trusting Christ as life. Hey, unloading the dishwasher should be done in the Spirit! Let Christ do it [through you].
So, as regards our identity, the new Testament teaches time and again that all who are born-again have (drum roll) been (drum roll) sanctified in Christ. End of argument. We’re holy and righteous before God. I fear however that should a person present himself for membership in most evangelical churches claiming to be holy and righteous, the members would be scandalized. They hold to the power of sin’s lie that Christians are [just] sinners saved by grace [rather than saints who still have the ability to sin. Remember, Christians are called saints more than 60 times in the New Testament]. Folks, this breaks God’s heart. Our sanctified identity comes with the salvation package by faith in Christ, never by human performance. God explains why: so no one can brag about his own achievement.
EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
EPH 2:9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
Such a beneficient gift speaks volumes about the love, grace and mercy of the Giver.
While obtaining your sanctified identity in Christ requires faith alone, producing sanctified behavior requires faith plus obedience. Just as Christ is the focal point of providing our sanctified identity, He is also the focal point of providing our sanctified performance. Behavior acceptable to God must be produced by Christ expressing His life through the believer via faith and obedience. There is no other way.
2CO 4:10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
2CO 4:11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.