Matthew 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
The baptism of Jesus is of course a very famous scene, but it bears more thought. In English it says, “fulfill all righteousness,” but that is rendered in Japanese as “actually do everything that is right.” Even thought “right” is the root of “righteousness” in English, we don’t necessarily connect the two. We tend to think of righteousness as an abstract good, when it is actually just getting everything right. That’s why we know that “our righteousness is as filthy rags,” (Isaiah 64:6) because we hardly ever get anything perfectly right. Jesus is the only one to ever get it all right, and that’s why we depend on Him. In every discussion of righteousness I keep coming back to 1 Corinthians 1:30: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” By faith, we who don’t get it right are included in Christ, who got it all perfectly, That’s why it’s not our righteousness but His that is our breastplate. (Ephesians 6:14) However, that’s no excuse to slough off. We are to seek to do right at all times and in all circumstances, but that is possible only by His wisdom, grace, and power. (Philippians 4:13)
In some ways I tend toward perfectionism, toward myself and others, and that misses the whole point of grace. I am to strive to get it all right, but I must remember that we are all equally in need of God’s grace. At the same time, as a pastor I am to help people understand that righteousness isn’t some esoteric substance that is imparted with a wave of the hand, but rather the down and dirty business of doing what is right. God gives each of us a conscience, and He hones and grows that conscience by His Spirit so that it becomes more and more reliable over time, if we aren’t constantly shutting it down. I am to be thankful for the conscience He has given me and seek to help others do likewise, so that increasingly we may indeed do what is right, for the glory of God.
Father, thank You for this very basic reminder. I was recently reading about some of the problems generated by “hyper grace” teaching. I want to teach people how wonderful Your grace is, but not get into that kind of mess. I ask for Your wisdom and guidance, because it’s for sure I can’t get it right/be righteous on my own. Thank You. Praise God!