[Personal Note: When I was preparing this lesson, I got so personally excited that I was dancing around the room. What a joy to know that I have been made righteous, not by my own feeble efforts, but the work of Christ on the cross. What I could not do through my works, God did by his work.]
My mother was a children's worker for many years. One of the stories she told was about Whosoever's house. The story goes something like this: There was a man called Whosoever, and he was given a house by the Good King of Heaven. He was told that he must keep the house clean because one day the King would knock on his door and expect to visit with him. Not long after he got his house, a man came to his door. He was big and ugly. He was smoking a cigar, carrying a bottle of whiskey in one hand. He had an angry scowl on his face. He pushed right past Whosoever saying, "Hey this is a great place you have here. I think I'll stay awhile." As he came in he dropped ashes on the floor spilled the whiskey, left smudges from his dirty boots and scattered trash everywhere. Whosoever asked the man who he was and the man said he was "Bad Habits." "Well," said Whosoever, "Mr. Bad Habits, I don't mean to be rude, but you can't stay. The King is coming this way and I need to clean up this house he gave me." "That's too bad," answered Bad Habits with a sneering grin. "I'm here to stay." The house went from bad to worse until the doorbell rang again. Fearful it was the King coming for a visit, Whosoever slowly opened the door to find a nicely dressed young woman dressed conservatively presenting her card, "Miss Morality's House Cleaning." "Oh, I'm so glad you're here," I need the house cleaned immediately. "No trouble, I'll have everything ship shape in no time." But as she began to sweep, it just stirred up dust. Whenever she picked up one piece of paper, Mr. Bad Habits threw another one down. Finally, Whosoever went out on the porch steps and just cried. As he was crying a man came by and said "Why are you crying?" Whosoever told him the entire story, finally adding, "As hard as I tried, I couldn't keep my house clean for the King when he came." The man smiled and replied, "That wasn't your job, but mine." As he smiled, Whosoever recognized the man as his King. The King swept by whosoever and entered his house. As soon as he did, Bad Habits and Miss Morality fled, and, by the time Whosoever got on his feet, his house was completely clean.
I like that story because too often we are like Whosoever. We forget whose job it is to clean up our lives. The glorious truth of the Gospel is that the very God who requires us to be righteous is the same God that gives us that righteousness as a free gift. As John Fisher put it in a musical entitled The New Covenant, "The Law required everything from us with no help from God. The New Covenant requires nothing from us because everything comes from God."
When we look at the word for righteousness, we see this clearly. The word dikaiosuni means literally "the condition of being acceptable to God." It is the exact same word that is translated as "justified." The doctrine of "Justification by Faith" is the same as "Righteousness by Faith." We do not, in fact we cannot, become righteous by our own actions. Indeed, righteousness is not something we do, but it's something we are simply by virtue of being Christians. Now, this does not relieve us of the responsibility to live holy lives. In fact, it makes it even more important that we do. Look at it this way, if you are the child of a peasant, not much is expected of you in the way of gentility, civility, noble bearing, protocol, etc. But, if you are a child of the King, much more is expected of you. You do not have to option of being course or uncouth. You are royalty by birth, but you become noble by action. Such is the situation with a Christian. You are a Prince or a Princess in the Kingdom of God. Your actions need to be in accord with your position. We will talk more about this next week. I think we can really rejoice in our righteousness when we understand exactly what Paul means when he uses the word. This passage from Thayer's Lexicon was what started me dancing around my house.
In the writings of Paul dikaiosuni has a peculiar meaning, opposed to the views of the Jews. To understand this meaning, the following facts must be kept in view: the Jews as a people, supposed that they secured the favor of God by works conformed tot he requirements of the Mosaic law, as though by way of merit; and that they would thus attain to eternal salvation. But this demands perfect obedience to all its precepts and threaten condemnation to those who do not render such obedience (Gal. 3.10-12). Obedience of this kind no one has rendered (Rom. 3.10), neither Jews nor Gentiles--for with the latter the natural law of right written on their souls takes the place of the Mosaic law (Romans 2.14). On this account Paul proclaims the love of God, in that by giving up Christ, his son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of men he attested his grace and goodwill to mankind so that they can hope for salvation as if they had not sinned."
What wonderful words, "as if they had not sinned." Think about that. God relates to you through his righteousness, which he gave you, as if you never had sinned. What great divine grace. Human grace forgives. It may even forget, somewhat. But God's grace forgives, forgets and turns back to clock to reverse the process of sin itself. Washed in the blood doesn't just mean the old man is cleaned up, it means the old man is washed away and replaced with a new man. Now, if that doesn't get you excited, then you really don't understand what God has done for you. I suspect it does get you excited, when you look at where you came from, when you look at where you could have been, and when you look at where you are now by the Grace of God. Feel free to dance if you must.
Marilyn Bennett Alexander, James Preston
Elizabeth Stuart / Hardback / Published 1997