Good morning to you, beautiful church family. I love this church. I love being the pastor of this church. I’m so thankful for your patience towards me. The Lord’s been teaching me a lot since I’ve been the pastor here. I look back sometimes on my sermons that I preached during my first couple of months, and I think to myself, “You hired me? What on earth were you doing?” Well, you did. And I’m thankful you did. Having this job is one of God’s greatest blessings to me. It is such a joy for me to open up God’s word with you every week. I am so thankful to be your pastor. The Lord is good, amen? Amen he is.
If you have a Bible this morning, please go ahead and open to Phil 3:9. For these next three weeks, we will cover vv. 9–11. We will cover three verses these next three weeks. Each verse will be covered over each week. This week we will cover v. 9, next week v. 10, and the following week v. 11. These three verses break up nicely because each verse concerns a different aspect of salvation.
When you study the Bible as a whole, what you will see is that the concept of salvation involves a past tense reality (“I was saved”), a present tense reality (“I am being saved”), and a future tense reality (“I will be saved”). The Bible teaches each of those. Theologians spoken of these different tenses of salvation—past, present, and future—with different words. Different labels. For the past tense salvation (“I was saved”), the label “justification” is given, “justification.” For present tense salvation (“I am being saved”), the label “sanctification” is given. For future tense salvation (“I will be saved”), the label glorification is given. So past tense is “justification”; present tense is “sanctification”; and future tense is “glorification.”
Now with that in mind, let’s go ahead and read Phil 3:9–11. The Lord says,
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—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
What is really cool about this portion of Scripture is that each verse refers to a different aspect, a different tense of salvation. Verse 9, the verse that we will cover this morning, deals with justification. We will explore that topic this morning. Verse 10, our verse for next week, explores sanctification—the process of salvation. And v. 11, the passage we explore in two weeks, deals with glorification. Very cool. So that paradigm—justification, sanctification, and glorification—will be our paradigm for this week and the next two weeks. This morning we will explore justification in v. 9, next week sanctification in v. 10, and in two weeks glorification in v. 11.
For this morning’s topic of justification, I am going to explain what this doctrine is based upon what Paul says in v. 9 with an illustration. The illustration relates to the idea of citizenship. The illustration relates to the idea of citizenship.
So I was born in America. To be specific, I was born in Brandon, Florida. As a result of me being born in Florida, I am a citizen of the United States. What a tremendous privilege it is to be
a US citizen. We live in such a tremendous county in comparison with countries around the world. The country of the new heavens and the new earth will be far better than this country, but I am so thankful I live here in America. I am a citizen of this country.
My citizenship here in this country is a sign of my allegiance to this country. I support this country. I support the values that this country teaches. I support the Constitution. It’s not an infallible document but it is a great political document. My US citizenship is a symbol of my allegiance to the US.
Now some US citizens are dual citizens. They have citizenship both in the US and in some other countries. The US allows this. Maybe some of you are dual citizens. If you are, you likely have an allegiance to two countries—the US and some other country. Maybe you were born in another country but later moved to the US. You love your home country and you love the US. You have an allegiance to both countries. You have a dual citizenship, a dual allegiance. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Now another reality is that some US citizens actually have renounced their US citizenship. Some US citizens renounce their US citizenship. I would never do this, but some people do. There are several reasons for this. Some people do this for financial reasons. If you live overseas and maintain a US citizenship, you actually get taxed. Some people feel that it is best to renounce their citizenship in the US to avoid these taxes. I could never do this because of the issue of allegiance. This is my country. I have an allegiance to it. I am loyal to it.
Now bringing this to our sermon this morning. What I am going to do this morning is answer the question, “What is justification?” based upon this illustration of citizenship. I will make three observations, three points about what justification is based upon Phil 3:9 by using this illustration of citizenship and allegiance. I am going to explain justification in terms of allegiance.
Justification is Not Self-Allegiance
For our first point this morning, write this. “Justification is not self-allegiance.” This is our first observation of justification from our passage this morning. Looking at the passage, let us read it again together.
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.
The key point to understanding this passage is grappling with the word “righteousness.” Righteousness is a very important word in this passage, in all of Paul’s letters, and in all of Scripture. This is a very important word for us to grapple with.
To begin our discussion of this word, look with me at Phil 3:6. Paul uses the word “righteousness” here. He writes,
As to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless
When we dealt with this passage, I taught that what Paul is saying here is the when compared to his fellow Jewish man, he was considered right before his fellow man. He was acceptable, upright, praiseworthy. He had a type of righteousness that made him stand above and beyond his male Jewish contemporaries. No fellow Jew could malign him for not being an upright man.
Now in our verse, v. 9, what Paul does is he takes that righteousness that he had before people, that “I am blameless before my fellow man because of my upright status,” and he takes it heavenward. He applies the boast, the privilege that he had here on earth before his fellow man and applies it to God.
Looking at v. 9 now, look how he describes this righteousness. Paul modifies the concept of righteousness, of rightness with God, with the modifiers of “my own that comes from the law.” We can break that down into two parts: from the law first, then my own.
From the Law
“From the law” means a rightness that is derived from obeying the law. Law here is the OT law. Law here is the Jewish law. Law was what Paul sought to obey and study prior to coming to Christ. It was his source of focus in his Jewish life. Paul mentions this “law” in v. 5 and v. 6. In his former life, Paul believed that the way one became right with God was through obedience, attention, a striving after the law. Paul believed that acceptance from God was attained through Paul’s own rightness. Righteousness, Paul though, came “from the law.” He thought that it was derived from obeying the law.
Of My Own
Because this righteousness came from Paul’s obedience to the law, Paul believed, at one time, that this righteousness was his own. Notice the “my own.” Paul had, at one time, believed that this righteousness is his own possession. It was his. It was his possession because he had acquired it.
Bringing all of these points together, what is Paul saying in this first part of v. 9. He is saying this. Paul has chosen to reject the idea that he is considered right by God based upon the obedience he rendered to the law. In other words, Paul rejects the idea of self-righteousness. He rejects the idea that he is right before God based upon what it is that he earned from the law by being obedient to it. Paul rejects this former way of thinking.
The Necessity of Self-Rejection
Dear friends, what does this mean for you? It means this. To be a Christian, to follow Christ, to be right with God, to be justified means that you must reject the concept of self-righteousness. It means that you must reject the concept of self-righteousness. Let me say this as clearly as I can, you can not be a Christian without rejecting self-righteousness. You must reject the idea that you are right with God because of some inherent goodness that you have in your heart.
Going back to the citizenship illustration, to be a Christian means that you must renounce your belief in self-righteousness. Just as people do with their citizenship by renouncing, so you too must renounce your own allegiance to yourself. You must forsake it. You must get that passport
of yours that says, “Self-allegiance,” and you must throw it far from you. You are not good because of your own goodness.
Let me point out something very interesting in this passage. Based upon this verse (and upon the whole section), what is Paul’s problem? What is it that kept him from God? It’s himself, right? You know what isn’t mentioned here? The devil. The devil is not mentioned. Often times when we think of evil or sin, we often think of the devil and/or demons. The Bible clearly teaches that the devil is real. I am not discounting that. But I think often times when Christians discuss the devil, he gets too much credit. There is no devil in this context. Based upon Paul’s statements, what kept Paul away from Christ was Paul’s own thoughts of his self-righteousness, the righteousness that Paul thought he had attained from his obedience to the law. Paul was Paul’s worst enemy, not the devil. You worst enemy is yourself as well. You must renounce self-righteousness.
Justification is Not a Dual Allegiance
Going back to our guiding illustration for this sermon, there is also a notion of dual citizenship. Some people have dual citizenships. Some people are citizens of more than one country. Some people have more than one passport. Is this you? Do you have this?
(I’ve heard as well that you can have a multitude of different citizenships. I heard this week of one man who had eight different passports. Seven different countries recognized him as a citizen. Wow. That’s a lot. I won’t be dealing with this reality of more than two citizenships. I’ll only deal with two citizenships, a dual allegiance.)
When we come to the biblical idea of justification, what Paul teaches here, a helpful question to ask is, “Is there such thing as a dual allegiance?” Does the idea of a dual citizenship, showing your allegiance to two different countries, work when it comes to the doctrine of justification?
The answer is, “No.” When it comes to justification, there is no dual allegiance. Here I am transitioning to my second point this morning. It’s this: “Justification is not a dual allegiance.”
Two Kinds of Righteousness
Once again looking at the text, I want you to see that Paul mentions two different types of “righteousness” in this passage. There are two different types. Only two. Now, dear friend, what are those two different types of righteousness that Paul mentions? What are they?
The first type we’ve already covered in our first point. That is a self-righteousness that comes from the law. We won’t spend any more time explaining that. There’s a second type of righteousness in this passage. Look at the end of v. 9. It is “the righteousness from God.” So we have a self-righteousness and a righteousness that comes from God.
Theological Middle Ground
Does this passage allow us to view righteousness as a little bit of self-righteousness and a little bit of God’s righteousness? Might there be a middle ground here?
For many, this middle ground—little bit of self-righteousness and a little bit of God’s righteousness—is a very appealing option. Many false religions teach this as their doctrine of salvation.
One false religion that teaches this is Mormonism. Mormonism has been in the spotlight here in Pierre recently. The Cap Journal, our local newspaper, ran a story about young Mormon missionaries in our city, helping out the community in various ways. That’s very nice for those Mormons to do. However, Mormon doctrine is very wrong when it comes to the issue of righteousness. Mormonism teaches that there is a middle ground between our righteousness and God’s righteousness. They teach that it’s a little bit of us and it’s a little bit of God.
This is what 2 Nephi 23:25 states. 2 Nephi comes from the Book of Mormon, one of the holy books of Mormonism. It reads,
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
Specifically, notice the last line there. It says, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” This verse teaches that salvation is by grace “after all we can do.” To put it another way, first you have to work hard for your salvation. Now, you’re not going to be able to fully earn it. Once you’ve done your best, God’s grace will come and supply what you need. Essential, the
Practical Middle Ground
While this type of theological clarification is important (doctrine matters and it matters that we understand what a correct form of salvation is), this type of theological middle ground is really my concern for us, for Community Bible Church. I don’t think would have people who call CBC home who read the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God and believe that this passage teaches in 2 Nephi. I don’t believe that’s the case.
My concern is different. My concern is that could be people who attend this church while on paper they would say, “Pastor, you’re right, with justification there is no dual allegiance,” but in practice and in the deep part of their hearts they do hang on to forms of self-righteousness as a means of boasting before God.
I do believe strongly that there will be people who attend good, godly churches there whole lives, hear good preaching, and yet who end up in hell. I do believe this. I do believe that good churches can and do have non-Christians in them. And I believe strongly that part of the problem for why the church can be a mixing of Christians and non-Christians is because of this notion of dual allegiances—a little bit of our righteousness and a little bit of God’s righteousness.
For some people, coming to church, doing the religious thing, throwing some tithe money in the plate, that makes people feel good. It makes people think that they are right with God. “See, God, look what I’ve done,” type of thing. To support the church makes people feel good. So they support the church to make themselves feel good.
Dear friends, I want you to see here that there is no compromise between self-righteousness and the saving righteousness that comes from God. There is no hybrid. There is no middle ground. There is no mediating position. Any reliance want has upon themselves for salvation is a false reliance. While a dual allegiance might work with citizenship of a country, it does not work with God. God forbids us from having a dual allegiance—to our perceived righteousness and to his righteousness. You must choose, dear friend.
Justification is Allegiance to Christ Alone
If some form of dual allegiance doesn’t work with God, what is it that does work? What is it that God wants? Or, in other words, what is justification? This is my third point. Write this: “Justification is allegiance to Christ alone.”
Looking again at our passage. It is from the Bible where we need to see these things. Look at v. 9. Paul says,
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
We’ll be focusing on the last part of v. 9. “But that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” To clarify, I need to fill in some of the blank with the last part of v. 9. Paul does not include a verb in the last part of v. 9 but it is implied. We might understand the last part of v. 9 like this, “but [having a righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, [having] the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” To better understand what Paul is saying we have to supply the verb having to our English translations. That makes it more understandable.
Once again, the term righteousness comes up. But how is this righteousness spoken of? Paul mentioned previously that he rejected having a righteousness that comes from the law. Not Paul says he accepts, he clings to the righteousness that comes from God. What he clings to is not a self-righteousness but a righteousness that comes from God. Now how exactly might we understand this righteousness from God?
Before I answer that question, I want us to look at the text again. There’s one more nugget in the text that will help us answer that question. In this passage, Paul also speaks of faith. He mentions it twice. “But that which comes through faith in Christ.” And again, “the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” What Paul is teaching here is that there is a close relationship between us having faith in Christ and us having the righteousness of God. This is an important theological point. There is a close relationship between us having faith in Christ and us having the righteousness of God.
God the Father
To understand this relationship, we must first understand what Paul means when he says, “The righteousness of God.” There’s Jesus and God in this passage. “Wait, pastor, I though Jesus was God.” He is. Jesus is God. Often times the authors of Scripture refer to God the Father as just
“God.” So, when Paul says here, “the righteousness of God.” He is saying, “The righteousness of God the Father.” Paul has this righteousness from God the Father.
Now how does Jesus come into play here. This is where we must fill the gap. Look with me at Phil 2:8. Look what Paul says of Jesus here.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Notice what it says of Jesus here. It says that he was obedient—“obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Now, when Jesus was obedient, what the means is that he was righteous. Jesus obeyed the law. He earned righteousness. He fulfilled the law and hence was the perfect man, a man of righteousness. This righteousness is the very righteousness of God himself. Jesus shows us what and who God the Father is. And he earns for us his righteousness. The righteosuness of Christ by fulfilling the law is the very righteousness of God himself.
And how do we attain this gift of God’s righteousness? How? This passage uses the word “faith,” specifically “faith in Christ.” What this passage calls us to is to find the righteousness of God by placing our faith in the person who has earned for us that righteousness. The object of our faith—Jesus Christ—is the one who has earned for us God’s righteousness. We place our faith in the person who has earned for us the righteousness of God.
Faith is simply the idea of trust. To have faith in Jesus is to trust that Jesus has earned for you God’s righteousness. An illustration of what this means would be helpful. And I want to bring to talk to the children of the congregation specifically with this illustration.
Children, when you come into the sanctuary this morning, do you sit down? Well I don’t see anyone standing up so yes you did. When you sat down on the chair, did you think to yourself, “I hope this chair holds me up?” “Oh no will this chair hold me up?” “Is it going to crash when I sit on it?” Did you have those thoughts? I bet you didn’t. Why didn’t you have those thoughts? Because you had faith (trust) that the chair would work just fine. You had faith that the chair would support you.
Faith in Jesus is like that. When we place our “faith” in Jesus, we trust him. Just like we do with chairs. We trust that Jesus will keep us, will save us, will protect us. We trust that Jesus lived for us and died for us. That’s what we do, children.
Bringing this point and this sermon to a close this morning, this is how I would like to do that. Do you remember my third point? It was this: justification is allegiance to Christ alone. Using the citizenship illustration—we must forsake our allegiance to self, we must forsake dual allegiances, and we must cling to Christ alone. Christ alone.
Now, in that phrase “Christ alone,” which of those two words are more important? Based upon this passage, which of those two words is more important? I set y’all up. That’s a bad question,
pastor. The question assumes an “either/or.” Obviously the first word, “Christ,” is important. He is our savior! But, dear friend, the second word, “alone,” is just as important. Based upon this passage, Paul demands of us that we have faith, not just in Christ, but in him and nothing else!
I know Jesus means something to you all. I know that. You wouldn’t be here if he was meaningless to you. But does he mean enough to you that it is him and nothing else. When you stand before God on judgment day, what will be your plea? It is Christ and something else? Or, will you say to God the Father, “God, accept me because of Christ alone!” Dear friend, are you willing to die for the “alone” part? Are you willing to give your life up—not just for Christ but for him alone? You must, dear friend. Justification is having the righteousness of God through Christ and Christ alone.