Paul uses Israel as an example to teach what true righteousness is. “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4, ESV).
Paul’s text challenges us with several questions. Does being justified make us righteous? Yes, in the sense that justification positions us as righteous. Does being sanctified make us righteous? Yes, in the sense that sanctification is the process of experiencing Christ’s righteousness functioning in our daily lives. Jesus is our source for both justification and sanctification; we attain both through His gift of grace.
Most Christians give lip service to all this, saying, “Jesus is my source for everything.” But does their walk actually reflect that? The sad truth is, many Christians live as if justification comes from God alone—and as if sanctification is accomplished through their daily performance. It’s as if they say, “I have attained grace through faith in Jesus. Now I have to conduct a relentless personal campaign to be sanctified.”
In a sense, they are telling God they want to pay Him back for His great gift to them: “Thanks for justifying me, Lord. You’ve put me in right standing with You through the cross and in return, I’ll be sanctified by obeying You. You do the first half of the work and I’ll do the second half.”
This mindset leads straight to a life of bondage. How many times have you driven by a church marquee that reads, “CHRIST DIED FOR YOU. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR HIM?” It has become pervasive throughout the church.
Jesus was crucified, buried and rose on the third day that we might have eternal life. What could we possibly do in return for that? Tithe? Go to prayer meetings? Evangelize more? That’s pretty much what Israel tried to do. They “pursued a law that would lead to righteousness” (Romans 9:31, ESV). They tried to engage their wills to achieve righteousness, but they could never attain it.
This verse has brought freedom to all generations of believers: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4). Christ is the end. There is nothing else! “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).