Have you wondered why preachers who focus on the gospel of grace and the new covenant in their teachings always seem to end up talking about righteousness – that we are righteous by grace and not through works of the law (our own efforts)? You might be thinking: Why do they always teach on grace all the time – shouldn’t they be teaching the ”whole counsel of God”?
We surely should preach the whole counsel of God, but the question is what the whole counsel of God really is. (Maybe I will write a book on this subject in the future.) People who believe that they do preach the whole counsel of God often tend to preach a message that contradicts the good news of the gospel. Instead of relying on the love and goodness of God to lead people to repentance (Rm. 2:4), they normally end up using the law and threats about eternal punishment.
But Jesus did not tell us to go out and preach “whatever we find in the Bible”. He said ”preach the gospel”, so we’d better make sure that whatever we preach or teach is truly the gospel – good news about Jesus and His finished work – and not outdated and obsolete Judaism or a “turn or burn” message.
We read in Romans 1:16-17:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Verse 17 shows us that the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God (or God’s righteousness). What is God’s righteousness in this context? The gift of righteousness that we receive from God by grace because of the finished work of Jesus at the cross, as opposed to our own self-righteousness. In other words: If the message does not line up with God’s “free gift righteousness”, that we are righteous independent on our performance and that everything in the Christian life is by grace, it is not the true gospel.
I used to think that righteousness is only one among many other subjects we can preach about from the Bible. There are also subjects like faith, holiness, healing, how to live in victory, how to hear God’s voice, obedience etc. But I have come to understand that all these subjects, if preached from the new covenant perspective, are connected to the fact that we are righteous by grace through faith, and not through our own performance.
The book of Romans teaches us that there are two ways by which we can approach God:
1) By our own self-righteousness. We then come before God based on how good we have been at living the Christian life, how well we have prayed, read the bible, and fasted etc. Don’t get me wrong – all these things are good to do if we do them for the right reason. But the question is: do we trust in what we have done, or how good we have been, in our relationship with God? If so, we am coming to God based on our own self-righteousness.
2) By God’s righteousness; the same righteousness that the Gospel reveals. This means to come before God only based on His righteousness and what Jesus has done for us.
We read above that the gospel reveals righteousness from God. The teaching about God’s kind of righteousness is thus the very core of the Gospel. It is intertwined with every other subject we can ever teach on if we preach the true gospel, which always lines up with the new covenant. This likewise means that if we don’t preach the new covenant we are not preaching the true gospel.
The gospel is God’s power unto salvation for everyone who believes. That means: If we want people’s lives to be changed, we need to preach Jesus as their righteousness. If we want people to live a holy lifestyle, we need to preach Jesus as their righteousness. If we want people to experience healing, we need to preach Jesus as their righteousness. If we want people to succeed in life, we need to preach Jesus as their righteousness.
Can it really be this simple? Yes, the gospel is always so simple that the religious mindset takes great offense. The religious, and fleshly, mind thinks: “Come on, it can’t be that simple! Don’t I have to do something? Aren’t there 7 steps to victory, 10 steps to healing etc.?”
No, there is only one step: Believe the gospel. Believe in the finished work of Jesus. Believe that you are righteous by faith apart from your own works. From that revelation everything else in our Christian lives flow naturally, just as blood flows naturally into our veins because of our heartbeat. The revelation of righteousness is the very heart and core of the Gospel.