Not Our Lack of Self-Righteousness, by Tianqi Wu
A line from a Taiwanese pop TV show several years ago, “if apology works, then what’s the point of police?” If your apology can move God to forgive you, then what’s the point of Christ’s death?
The prevailing idea is salvation is by “do what you can” – the requirement varies based on their assessment of human ability, the more optimistic ones require a close to perfect reform, and the more pessimistic ones require “faith alone” – we can’t do the law, but at least we can “believe”, and God being gracious will accept that…one such person says, “God looks for reasons (in us) to save us”.
But righteousness is never about what the unrighteous can do, just as life is never about what the dead can do.
God demands men to be righteous. Born in Adam, we are already unrighteous. Since we desire to have our unrighteousness covered, in our evil imagination (unless and until we are effectually called by God’s gospel) always buy into the lie that yes, we can cover our unrighteousness. Given that we are ALREADY guilty, this reaction of “yes, we can” is FURTHER defiance of God’s law, and COMPOUNDS our guilt.
It is not anything in us or proceeding from us that placed us under God’s wrath. We are ALREADY condemned by imputed guilt, before we are FURTHER condemned by our works of flesh, among which is our self-righteousness, i.e. our imagination that yes, we can cover our unrighteousness.
Our fundamental problem is not our self-righteousness, but our unrighteousness. We are not saved by our not being self-righteous. We are saved by Christ’s death for God’s elect, and one result of Christ’s death is that God causes those for whom Christ died to repent from their self-righteousness and believe in Christ’s righteousness(and not our repentance or belief)as the whole reason of our salvation.
It is self-righteousness to condition our justification on our not being self-righteous. It is unrepentant unbelief to condition the application of Christ’s death on our repentance and belief. The elect repent and believe as a result of Christ’s death for them.