Does the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by God imply that we are actually and truly righteous?
2 Corinthians 5:21
NKJV - 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
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The following passages provide more insight into us receiving the righteousness of Christ. Romans 3:25; 5:17; 8:10-11; 10:4 1 Corinthians 1:30 Galatians 2:21 Philippians 1:11; 3:9 2 Peter 1:1 First I would say that we receive the righteousness of Christ based on our faith. We believe that Jesus sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty for all our sin - past, present and future - and we accept Jesus Christ as our personal saviour. The moment we believe, God declares us justified in his sight and gives us the Holy Spirit - his free gift of eternal life. A moment after this happens we are actually still sinners and we will continue to sin, but because Christ lives in us by his Spirit, when God looks at us he sees us clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). God knows our sin is still there but he chooses not to let it to be barrier in our relationship with him. However, this is not the end of the story. We received the Holy Spirit not just to guarantee our salvation, but to make us righteous and holy. He enables us to put off the sinful desires of our flesh and to put on our kingdom clothes (the character of Christ). So over the course of our Christian life, as we walk with the Holy Spirit, we will not become “sinless” but we will definitely “sin less” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
To me, the attitude of the publican in Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14) speaks to this subject. The publican, in an attitude of deep repentance and humility, confessed his sinfulness to God. Despite that self-confessed sinfulness, Jesus described the publican as subsequently going back to his house justified. There is no indication that the publican somehow became incapable of committing future sin, but it was the pubican's repentance and the publican's lack of the pride shown by the Pharisee that resulted in the publican being declared righteous in God's sight (the meaning of "justification"), and that would similarly result in his forgiveness for future occasions of sin for which he would seek God's pardon. Even Christians will remain sinners throughout their earthly lives (although that is not an excuse or justification for the continued deliberate commission of sin) (Romans 6:1-2). However, Christians (in addition to repenting and asking God for mercy) can now plead the finished sacrifice of the atoning blood of Christ that was shed on their behalf. When God looks at repentant Christians, He no longer sees their sins, but the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to them because of their faith. Also, the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit as He indwells Christians is sanctification (that is, making each of us progressively more like Christ throughout our earthy lives) (Romans 8:29-30) -- although that process will never be fully completed in this life. But (as John said 1 John 3:2) when we are with Him in eternity we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
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