Two Kinds of Righteousness: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
By: Brad Freeman
Blogger at www.bradfreeman.com
Are you righteous?
If you mind goes immediately to your performance when I ask this question, then you need to keep reading.
If you think your standing with God depends on your performance, you might be like this guy:
“And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’
But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Who went home right with God?
The man who trusted in his clean living?
• He went to temple to pray.
• He thanked God;
• He didn’t swindle;
• He treated people justly;
• He didn’t commit adultery;
• He fasted twice a week;
• He paid tithes of all he got.
Or the man who trusted in God’s mercy?
Righteousness is one of those $6.00 religious words that many of us don’t really understand. It simply means “to be as you ought to be” or “to be in right-standing” with God. The words “righteous” and “justified” are translated from the same Greek root word “dikaioo”.
The Bible describes two different kinds of righteousness and it’s important for us to understand these if we’re going to enjoy the peace we now have with God. Paul described them this way:
“And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,” Philippians 3:9
“For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” Romans 10:3
So what are these two kinds of righteousness?
1. The Old Covenant righteousness of your own (self-righteousness) based on your ability to keep the Old Covenant Jewish Law.
2. The New Covenant righteousness of God that He gives everyone as a gift when we abandon faith and confidence in all that we could brag about and put our faith and confidence in Christ!
“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
Self-righteousness (our efforts at gaining acceptance from God by rule-keeping) just does not work. It never did. It’s “filthy rags”. The Jews tried for 1,500 years to keep a great set of religious rules and at the end of 1,500 years Paul said in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righteous, no not one”.
Galatians 2:21 tells us, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
When we believe, we receive the righteousness of God as a gift!
Romans 3:21-23 also tells us, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;’
He gives us His righteousness apart from the Old Covenant Law as a gift by His grace!
Read this carefully: “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh.
If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:3-11
Paul had a lot he could brag about and lot that might give him some self-confidence toward God like the guy in Luke 18. He was a covenant Jew (circumcised), born in the right family from the right tribe in the right nation, he was zealous, expert in the scriptures (a Pharisee) and a blameless law-keeper.
But he counted everything that might give him self-confidence toward God as “loss” and “rubbish” in comparison to the righteousness of God.
Unlike the guy in Luke 18, he chose to suffer the loss of all things and place “no confidence in the flesh”. Paul left the religious life of his father and mother, his brothers and sisters and even his own life behind to be found in Christ and be given “the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith”!
The righteousness of God is not something we “pay the price” for, work toward or work for or earn or deserve. He clothes us in righteousness as a gift at the new birth!
Our efforts at righteous living NEVER form the basis for our acceptance from God or confidence toward God – NEVER. They can’t. Our acceptance from God, our righteousness, is a gift of His grace to everyone who believes!
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4
Christ brought an end to the failed and frustrating legalistic system where you sought to establish your own righteousness by religious rule-keeping. He got us off the religious treadmill where we worked harder and harder and got nowhere with God.
We can now live boldly, fearlessly and confidently! We are free!
We no longer work for righteousness, we work from righteousness!
Our confidence is not based on our flesh, our wisdom, our strength, our resolve or our faithfulness – we place no confidence in any of that. But our boldness and confidence rests in the finished work of Jesus – His flesh given for us, His wisdom, His strength, His resolve and His faithfulness!
We enjoy a New Covenant righteousness not based on our ability to work it out or keep the rules or be perfect. But we have a righteousness “which comes from God on the basis of faith”.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31
Christ has become to us righteousness. Jesus is our righteousness!
The next time someone asks you if you’re righteous, when your confidence is in Christ and not in your flesh, you can confidently say you’re as righteous as God is. Because God has given you His very own righteousness as a gift!
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