Are You Righteous?

3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:3-11)

Paul is summarizing and getting to the point of his previous discussion. He is concluding his thoughts with some very important truth, distilling the message for us. In verse 8 Paul has said that all of his accomplishments in life prior to his salvation, all of those things he treasured so much, he now counts as rubbish, trash, garbage, in order that he may gain Christ. He wanted and had gained Christ, which is now the thrust and focus of his life. The prize of his life is Jesus Christ. Paul has fully embraced the truth that his life of self-righteousness was ridiculously incapable of getting him to God or making him right with God, no matter how hard he tried to do that, and that the life of Christ was gloriously capable of getting him to God.

Self-righteousness is damning, but the righteousness of Christ received by faith is salvation. Paul says that he desires to be found in Him, in Christ, not having a righteousness of his own but a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. Not by my righteousness but a righteousness of faith in Christ. We can get these confused and head down a path where Paul had been and where many have traveled, which is trying to earn righteousness on our own. It’s a dangerous path, and one that Paul had turned from.

I think there is a correlation with Paul’s new, post-conversion understanding of a righteousness that comes from another, and humility. To come to a place where any of us can say, “I am lowly, weak, unable to reach even the lowest parts of heaven on my own.” This is a place of belief not only in our need for God, but of our utter helplessness apart from Him. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” One who is poor in spirit is one who has come to understand their spiritual bankruptcy, they know their spiritual need. It’s only after getting to that place that we can fully embrace the truth that Christ Jesus alone can provide what cannot be obtained on our own, no matter what sort of effort has been exerted. This is, simply put, salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ. This is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, a key teaching throughout the Bible. Paul is teaching us this and he often reminds us of this, that the only way to God is through Christ. This puts us in a place of humility if we accept this. That we are weak, but He is our strength. That we are unable to recover from our sin, but He is able to save. Salvation is His work in us, never our works for Him.

I think that most of us here understand the theology of what I am saying and what Paul is teaching us. My guess is that most of us understand that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, because none of us could live perfect lives, and that He gave Himself in His perfection and paid our penalty, and through Him Paul says by faith we can receive Him, repent of our sins, be born again, into a new life where Christ is our covering, He is our Savior. Lives anew, believing that God is pleased with our covering, and we are hidden in Christ. 

When Paul uses the phrase “in him,” be found “in him” in verse 9, he is using one of his favorite phrases to describe a Christian, he is referring to this truth. He is describing an intimate relationship where one person, in love, covers another person for his care and salvation. This transaction that has taken place of salvation then is so personal and over arching that Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul is describing a relationship that goes beyond a one time transaction and extends to the very core of his being. Salvation is transactional for sure, but it is much more than that.

I purchased an airline ticket with American Airlines for a flight to Indiana this summer. I entered into an agreement with American Airlines. The agreement was that I would pay a fee and they would reserve a seat for me on an airplane on a certain date at a certain time. I have a responsibility to pay the fee, and I’ve done that. They have a responsibility to get me to Indiana on that plane and to take reasonable steps to care for me while I’m on the plane. When I get off that plane in Indiana, having been delivered according to our agreement, I am done with American and they are done with me. American is not going to call me a month later to see how I am doing. And next time I fly somewhere I may fly Southwest. We, American and me, we did not form a bond together, we just transacted business, and then we move on.

I am concerned that too many people who call themselves Christians have viewed their faith as a one-time transaction. Like, “I made a deal with God. I will say a prayer and maybe do some deeds for God, and God will then be obligated to take me to heaven when I die. In fact, once the deal is done, it doesn’t matter how I feel about God, what my actions are, what motivates my actions, or what sin I choose to enjoy habitually. I did my thing with God, I paid my fare, He guarantees my future travel to heaven, so let’s move on with life.”

There are two indications from our passage this morning that one cannot view salvation as a simple one-time transaction to merely get to heaven. Two indications from this verse that tie together a profession of faith in Christ to how we live after our profession. Paul shows us that a relationship is forged, that life changes, and righteousness is not just a covering to get us to heaven but is a covering that changes everything about life today. Our prayer to God for salvation is much more than a ticket to heaven. In the midst of verse 9, while speaking on salvation based on the life of Christ, Paul never assumes nor does he ever teach that it is a salvation that is merely a one-time transaction, a ticket to heaven alone. It is not just an investment for a future event, it is instead a full-orbed, radical, relational, directional, life encompassing transformation. I want us to see that this morning.

Why am I going here with this message? Because I want us to be careful that we don’t read verse 9 and say, “Yep, I am saved by the righteousness of Christ, not mine, and since it is His righteousness I am then free to live however, doing whatever, living with whatever attitudes, whatever lusts, whatever self-centeredness, it doesn’t matter because I wasn’t saved by what I did anyways, so it doesn’t matter how I live. Christ has it covered for me, so I’ll do my thing here and then I’ll see you in heaven.” Paul is not going to let us get away with that type of thinking.

So two things for our protection to keep us from wrong thinking that may lead to damnation. Let’s consider this: how do we know that salvation is more than a one-time transaction leading to a one-time event, getting to heaven, and that there is nothing more than that? From verse 9 let’s look at a phrase first, and then a word. The phrase I’ve already mentioned, which is the phrase “in him” at the beginning of verse 9, and the word is the last word in verse 9 which is “faith.”

First, “in him.” Paul expresses his personal desire when he says, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own.” He is describing not just what is now his but who he now is. He has not just gotten something, he has become someone different. He is describing his existence in relation to Christ Jesus. Being in Christ means that life has changed, not just that some day life will be different, but life has changed now. Paul’s desire to be in Christ, to be found in Christ speaks of a union he has with Christ, “found in him” has a meaning of “prove to be” or “be present.” It takes a perspective of a divine investigation on one’s relationships. Paul desired and had obtained a relationship with Jesus Christ. We see this from 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” So “in Christ” we are new creations. We have been changed right then. We “no longer walk following the course of the world” according to Ephesians 2. Now clothed in Christ we are new creatures, on a new course in life. In Christ we are also sons of God. Galatians 3:26, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.” Now I realize that we can be sons or daughters of our earthly fathers and have no relationship with them, or to have an awful relationship with them, but here in Galatians we need to see that we are sons of the perfect Father, a Father who desires relationship, who loves His children dearly and perfectly. To be “in Christ” is to have the perfect Father, a relationship with Him.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)

Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)

Being in Christ there is an abiding in God and God in us. And John says we know this as God has infused His very Spirit into us. God has given to us, His children, His very Spirit. And as a Christian you’ve got to love Colossians 3:1-5. Just listen to this and note what has happened to you in Christ Jesus, note who you now are if you’re a believer, see the life that is now yours in Christ.

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you (Colossians 3:1-5)

Paul says, “for you have died.” Or in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him,” suggesting then that we are no longer slaves to sin. Or Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” So three phrases here: “For you have died,” Galatians 3:3, “Our old self was crucified,” Romans 6:6, “I have been crucified,” Galatians 2:20. And what has emerged? New life, different life hidden with Christ, abiding with Christ, His Spirit given to us, children of God, loved by the Father, new creatures. That’s what it means to be in Christ.

So when Paul begins to say emphatically that his righteousness is not his own but it is the righteousness of Christ that has made him presentable to the Father, he begins with, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own.” How is he to be found? In a relationship in Christ, forever changed by Christ, for all eternity relating intimately with Christ. His righteousness did not come to him like some fast food approach of just picking it up, with a prayer, and driving away as usual. No, it is characterized and galvanized in a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are not found to be “in him,” we will not be found as righteous before God. John MacArthur says of this phrase “in him,” “Believers are inextricably intertwined with Christ in an intimate life and love bond.” He is in us and we in Him.

Are you dead to self and alive to Christ? Is your life hidden in Him? Will you be found in Him? Is it just a ticket to heaven that you are looking for, or are you yearning for and growing in a relationship with Jesus Christ? Are you able to say, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” 

As we think about relationship, real relationship with Jesus Christ, the second point I’d like to make regarding this is found in the word “faith.” Paul uses this word two times in verse 9. 

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 (Philippians 3:9)

Some view faith, even the Christian faith, as a one-time effort to get to God. Maybe this has been the case for you. We hear, “have faith in Jesus and that will get you to heaven.” But what does that mean? What does it mean? Does it mean just believe that Jesus is better than we are? Just believe that He lived at one time? Is it just an acknowledgment that we do bad things, that we are sinners, and not perfect like God? Is faith something that we just have at one point in time and then we are good to go, to do whatever? It is apparently important for our righteousness, as Paul points out. What is this faith? It is this: it is a confident confession that is continuous and expresses a total dependence and trust in Jesus for His perfect fulfillment of every requirement necessary to enter God’s Kingdom. It is a trust in the Lord, in what He has done for us, and a surrendering to His Lordship in life. This faith is a believing the full gospel, which must then include surrendering to Him in life today, not just at the time of our future death. Faith is then not just a belief that we need Jesus for a future event, like when we die we think, “Now I need Jesus to take me God, now I am need of Him.” No, it is believing that we need Him right now, and stand ready to submit to Him. Paul reminds us elsewhere that faith is to be effectual today, not just at some future time, as in death.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)

He is speaking of our walk, our current life, living on this earth right now. It is to be done by faith. In other words we are to live this life, right now, in a way that daily reveals a trust in Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Lord. We can be of good courage because we walk in life, trusting Jesus in life and in death, at home in this body of flesh and away, relieved of these bodies in heaven with God.

So as Paul teaches us that we are righteous as Christians because of the life and work of Jesus, we can also see that this righteousness comes with and includes an intimate and real relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who are righteous in the eyes of God are in Christ, and those who live by faith in Him.

I want to leave you with this question: are you living in a relationship with Jesus Christ? What I mean by that is are you loving Him, desiring Him, wanting to walk with Him, spending time with Him in prayer, in His Word, longing for His leadership in your life, depending on His involvement with you in everything, being aware of His presence? Are you in Christ and living by faith in Him? If you are, you can be assured that you have the imputed righteousness of Christ and are pleasing to the Father through Christ.

Salvation is not simply a ticket to purchase at a window, and then a long wait to present it at the door of heaven. Salvation is a vibrant, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ, living for Him, in Him, by faith.

What a glorious thing to be called a child of God and to be found in Him, with the righteousness of Christ ours by faith! There is no better place to be, there is nothing more glorious than that. If this is where you are, who you are, then let me close by encouraging you with truths from Ephesians 1. If you are in Christ, by faith, then…

  • You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
  • You are chosen before the foundation of the world
  • You are holy and without blame before God
  • You have been adopted
  • You are accepted
  • You are redeemed
  • You have forgiveness of sins
  • You know the mystery of His will
  • You have obtained an inheritance
  • You are His glory
  • You are sealed with the Holy Spirit
  • Your inheritance is guaranteed

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 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— (Philippians 3:8-9)