Frank Retief was pastor at St James Church Cape Town for 31 years, having planted the church in 1968 with his wife Beulah. He became the Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in South Africa until he retired in 2010. Frank remains active in ministry through preaching, teaching, pastoral work & writing, and has authored a number of books.
BEING RIGHTEOUSRomans 3:21 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the law and the prophets testify.”Just think for a moment how much good the noble deeds of great men have accomplished in the world. Although our world is fallen we must not forget that we are still created in God’s image and therefore mankind is capable of great and good things as well as great evil and darkness. Philanthropists over the years have made possible hospitals for the sick, schools for the poor children, food for the hungry and various ingenuous endeavours to help those who cannot help themselves for some reason. One only has to remember some recent natural disaster such as an earthquake or flood to see the world respond in great acts of goodwill and generosity.But however good, noble and praiseworthy all these efforts are, we must never lose sight of the bible’s teachings that by our good deeds and noble efforts, i.e., our “righteousness” we can still not know God. Our fallenness is too great, so no matter how we try we cannot know God until he makes Himself known to us. But here in this verse we read that this is exactly what He has done. “A righteousness from God has been made known”. What righteousness is this? It is the righteousness of Christ which supercedes all the noble acts of humankind, over all the ages. And what makes His righteousness so special? It is that He offered His righteous soul up as an atonement for our sins. God’s promise is that to all who believe, the righteousness which belongs only to His Son will be imputed or given to us sinners, while our sins are attributed to Him who pays for them on the Cross. This means that I need no longer strive to make myself acceptable to God – for that is an impossible task. Rather the impeccable righteousness of Christ, given to me, speaks for all and makes me acceptable to the Father. So I may feel a failure, I may feel especially low but now I know that my feelings are not important. It is what is true about me that is important and that is that I now have a “Righteousness from God”. I am saved, forgiven and free from guilt.
Moreover, this is what the Old Testament law and prophets were pointing to all the time. So it’s not new. It’s what God intended from the beginning.
Let’s not stop our noble deeds, rather let us increase them, but this time with the knowledge that they do not gain us Heaven, but are rather proof that we belong to God and that Heaven is our ultimate destiny.
Words fail us as we think of your mighty Grace extended to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. I praise you and thank you for the righteousness He gave us which makes us acceptable to you. Please help me to live in such a way that I demonstrate this daily to all I meet. Amen”