The Sanctuary 
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

6 – Christ Our Righteousness

Hebrews 9:11-12:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

As Christ’s ambassadors, God’s people are to search the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error, and every ray of light received is to be communicated to others.  One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other — Christ Our Righteousness.”  In this chapter we will deal with this glorious truth.  Our last two chapters on The In Christ Motif and Christ our Substitute were to prepare you for this study.  The central theme of the sanctuary message is Christ Our Righteousness.

The first thing to note and be familiar with is that the Bible — and especially the New Testament — talk of our salvation in two phases:  first, what God did to us and to all mankind in Christ two thousand years ago.  In theological terms, we say this is the objective gospel.  It is the truth as it is in Christ.  It is something that took place two thousand years ago.  We covered this in the last two chapters.

The second phase of salvation is what God is doing in us — believers in Christ — now and until the second coming of Christ.  We call that the subjective gospel.  These are not two gospels.  They are simply two sides of the coin.  In both phases of salvation, Christ is our righteousness whether we look at what He did two thousand years ago or at what He is doing for us now.  There is only one formula for the gospel and that formula is, “Not I, but Christ.”  Whether we talk in terms of the objective facts or the subjective experience, it is the same:  “Not I, but Christ.”

Having said this, we must be clear that there is a distinction between these two phases.  We will first look at two phrases in the New Testament that express these two phases of salvation.  Whenever the New Testament is talking about the objective fact of the gospel, the phrase is “you in Christ.”  Whenever the Bible is talking about the subjective experience of the believer, it uses the phrase “Christ in you.”  The two phases make the complete picture and both are essential.

Turn to John 15:4-5:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

“Remain in me” is the objective truth; “I also remain in you” is the subjective phase.  And notice the two phrases in “If you remain in me and I in you.”  It is not I, but Christ.  Because what Christ does in me is based on my response to what God did to me in Christ, the phrase “you in Christ” will sometimes be used in a subjective sense but it always refers to an objective truth.

Let us now look at another text that refers to us as the last generation of Christians.  It is Revelation 3:20:

Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in [that is you in Christ] and eat with that person, and they with me.

Please notice it is reciprocal.  When the Bible talks about “you in Christ,” it is referring primarily to an objective truth of what God did to you and to me in Christ two thousand years ago.  When the Bible talks of “Christ in you,” it is dealing with the subjective experience.  The relation of these two is important, too.

We must be clear in these four main distinctions between those two phrases, otherwise there will be confusion as there is already in the minds of many Christians.  The first distinction, “you in Christ,” is a finished work — done two thousand years ago.  It is something that has already taken place, something that is complete, something that is perfect.  You can’t add to it, you can’t improve on it.  It is finished!

The Corinthians were not the best Christians in Paul’s day.  They were having problems in their church.  Their behavior was far from what it should have been and Paul is rebuking them and he is telling them in verses 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that the unrighteous cannot go to heaven:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

He keeps on reminding them what he means by that.  In verse 11 he says:

And that is what some of you were [this is how you behaved before you were converted].  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice Paul is using the aorist tense — referring to something that has already happened to them.  He says, “you were washed.”  That means you are clean, “you were sanctified,” not “you are being sanctified” but “you are already sanctified”; not being justified, but “you were justified.”  It is a finished work.

But he tells them that this finished work is not in their experience but in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.  In Christ, the Corinthians stood perfect and complete, but, in experience, they were far from it.  Paul was rebuking them for not building up their experience.  Ephesians 1:3:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Also in Colossians 2:10:

...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.  He is the head over every power and authority.

We are complete in Him.  So you in Christ is a finished work but Christ in you is not a finished work; it is an ongoing work, something that God began when you were converted and He is still working in you until the second coming of Christ.

One day in Idaho I was driving behind a car that had a bumper sticker.  This one caught my eye because it said, “Please be patient with me, God is not through with me yet.”  I think that is a true statement.  God is not through with us.  So what Christ is doing in me is an ongoing work.  It is incomplete.  Here is a statement from Paul that I hope will help.  It is found in Philippians.  Remember that Paul was an old man now and Philippians is one of the last letters he wrote in prison just before he was martyred for his faith.  Philippians 3:12-14:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

He meant that he had not attained to what he is in Christ.  He is still growing towards it.

I was speaking in a campmeeting some years ago.  One young man said to me, “I have not sinned in the last two years.”  I asked him, “Have you ever read 1 John 1:8 where it says, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us?”  Then I turned around to his wife and asked her, “Is this true?” and she smiled.  I think she was too scared to tell the truth.  But here is Paul — the champion of the gospel, the man that God separated to expound the truth as it is in Christ — saying that even he hasn’t obtained the goal.  Now I believe it is possible through the power of God to overcome all sin, otherwise God is too weak, but you will never know it.  There will never come a time when you will feel, “I have made it.”  If you have been convinced of that, it is not God who convinced you; it is the devil and your own sinful flesh.

Here Paul is saying, “I am not yet perfect,” but he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  He says, “I stand perfect in Christ.  That is my goal,” and that should be the goal of every Christian, the truth as it is in Christ.  “I have not reached that goal, but I am pressing towards it.”  He says:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it [or reached the goal].  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead [that which is before him is Christ’s likeness], I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

“I stand there and that’s my goal” and that must always be our goal.

We must never lower the standard.  The goal that Christ has for us is “Christ likeness,” but we will never say, “I have reached it” for we will always have a sinful nature until Christ comes.  That nature will always tell you that you are a sinner.  If it doesn’t, it is lying or you have been trapped into the heresy of “holy flesh.”  Colossians 2:10 says:

...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.  He is the head over every power and authority.

You are complete in him.  But in verse six Paul says:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,....

It is an ongoing thing.  It is not perfect.  Colossians 1:27:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

In Christ, you have already been glorified but, in experience, you are far from being glorified.  We are still living in a sinful world.  John 17:23 also talks of this ongoing work:  “You in Christ” — finished.  “Christ in you” — ongoing.

I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

The second distinction is that “you in Christ” applies to all mankind.  God did not put only the elect (like the Calvinists teach) but God put the human race into Christ.  Therefore, what God did in Christ does not apply only to a segment of the human race but to all people.  We call this “universal salvation,” not “universalism,” which is a heresy.  Universal salvation simply means that, in Christ, God has redeemed all men and that is the good news of the gospel.

To verify this, we read Romans 5:18:

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [by Christ] resulted in justification and life for all people.

In other words, what Paul is saying here is that legally all men stand justified today in Christ.  That is the good news!  Too often we teach the good news as conditional good news:  “If you believe, God will justify you,” but the Bible doesn’t teach that.  The Bible teaches that God has already legally justified all people.  You have to accept it because it is a gift and you can never enjoy a gift unless you receive it.  Romans 5:17 brings this out clearly:

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Those who receive the gift of life will reign in life.

Justification as a legal statement has been prepared for all men in Christ.  Turn to 1 John 2:1-2.  The first verse says:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

The first half of verse 2:

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins...

That word in the Greek (for “atoning sacrifice”) is the same word used in the sanctuary for the mercy seat.  He is the mercy seat; He is the Saviour; He is the righteousness for our sins.  The word “ours” here refers to the believers.  The second half of the verse:

... and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

So the “you in Christ” motif applies to all people, but “Christ in you” does not apply to all; it applies only to the believers.  It is subjective.  A clear statement is in Romans 8:9-10:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Notice that the Spirit lives in you.  If God’s Spirit is not dwelling in you — which means if you are not converted, you have not experienced the new birth — you really are still, in experience, outside of Christ.  As an objective truth, God put you in Christ two thousand years ago, but that has to be made effective.  When the Spirit of Christ dwells in you, then you belong to Christ.  Verse 10:

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Now Christ is in you through the Spirit; the Spirit is Christ’s Representative.  That is why Paul will say “Christ in you” and the “Spirit in you” as if they are synonymous.  Remember that “Christ in you” only applies to the converted believer.  In Ephesians 3:17a, we are told how Christ dwells in us:

...So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

Our part is faith.  Remember that “you in Christ” applies to all people — the objective gospel; the subjective applies only to the believer — the person who has accepted the gift, who has received Christ.

Let us go now to the third distinction, a very important one.  “You in Christ” is entirely, totally, completely, God’s work.  We have not contributed one iota to the righteousness that was produced in Christ two thousand years ago.  It was a loom of heaven without a single thread of human devising.  In the clearest gospel of all (as Martin Luther called it), Romans, in chapter three, Paul describes our sinful condition.  In verses 19 and 20, he says the whole world is guilty before God and that nobody can be saved by keeping the law:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

In verse 21 he brings the good news:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

When he uses the phrase “righteousness of God,” he means a righteousness planned by God, prepared by God, and all of God.  “Apart from the law” means without our contribution towards it.  We did not by our law-obedience contribute toward the righteousness of God prepared in Christ.  It is all of God and you and I get no credit in the doing of it.

1 Corinthians 1:30 which says God took you and put you in Christ and made Christ “our wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” — our everything:

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.

Then in verse 31 he says:

Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

It is all of God!  And yet “Christ in you” does require our cooperation.  And our faith.  For example, look at Galatians 5:16:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

“Christ in you” demands that you walk in the Spirit.  So “Christ in you” does invoke your cooperation.  Also look at Romans 13:14:

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

You and I cannot conquer the flesh.  Christ conquered the flesh but we have to put Him on.  There is a part that we have to play.  Now we can’t produce righteousness, so the righteousness that is in us is all of Him, but we have to allow Him to do it.  God created us as free moral agents.  He will never do anything in us by compulsion.  We have to walk which is surrendering our wills to Him and He will take over and do the righteousness.

The righteousness is His in both cases but, in the first case, we had no say in it.  God did it without our permission.  Now He comes to us and says, “I did it for your benefit.  Will you accept it?”  For example, in John 3:16, God does the loving, not us; God does the giving, not us, but we do the believing.  John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

“Whoever believes.”

Let us look at one more text concerning this being entirely God’s work because it is an important concept.  In Philippians 3:9 Paul is saying he wants to be found in Christ:

...And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

He is now referring to the objective truth — to the fact as it is in Christ.  I want to be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law.  The righteousness that God gives us is entirely Christ’s, but he is offering it to us as a gift and Paul is saying, I want it.  He does not want his righteousness because he has discovered now that his righteousness is filthy rags.  He wants the righteousness of Christ.  He says,

...And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

It is not our righteousness but it is God’s; the work is entirely His and it is ours because we receive it by faith.  “You in Christ” is entirely of God without any contribution or cooperation of faith on our part.  Christ does not live in us without our cooperation or our surrender of the will.  So the third distinction is the righteousness that God produced.

The fourth distinction is crucial.  I want you to clear up your hearing for there is much confusion on this fourth distinction.  Here it is:  What God did to you, in Christ, is meritorious.  What Christ does for you is not meritorious.  It is demonstrative.  What God did for you two thousand years ago in Christ is what qualifies you for heaven.  What God does in you today does not contribute one iota towards your ticket to heaven.  It is simply evidence that you have received Christ.  It is proof that Christ is dwelling in you.  It is a means of witnessing but never a greater ticket to heaven.

So when you pray, “Dear Jesus, help me to be good that I may go to heaven,” you are contradicting the truth as it is in Christ.  And God comes to you and says, “You fool, don’t you know that righteousness is already yours in Christ?  What are you praying for?”  Never ask God to help you be good so that you can go to heaven.  He will never answer that prayer because, if He does, He is contradicting His own gift, Jesus Christ.  Yes, He wants to live in you so that He can witness His life to the world.  What Christ does in you is for the purpose of witnessing.  It is a purpose of proving that you are already righteous in Christ.  It does not add one iota towards your ticket to heaven.  That is already finished.  I have no problem with that.

Turn to Ephesians 2:8-9:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

It’s entirely God’s gift.  Turn now to Titus 3:5:

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,...

He did this all in Christ.  So both these texts are telling us that what God did to you two thousand years ago in Christ is meritorious.  It has salvic value.

There is a word in the German language that is a theological word that applies to what I have just said.  It is heilsgeschichte, which means in English “salvation history.”  That history two thousand years ago is what saves you.  What God does in you doesn’t save you, but it is essential to witness Christ.  Remember the statement of that famous pagan philosopher Nietzche, who hated Christians:  “If you expect me to believe in your Redeemer, you Christians will have to look a lot more redeemed.”  If the world doesn’t see Christ in you, there is nothing attractive about Christianity.

The famous Mahatma Gandhi made this statement in South Africa to the Dutch Reformed Church:  “When you Christians live the life of your Master, all India will bow down to Christianity.”  It is a profound statement, but very true.  I know from Revelation 18 that God one day is going to lighten this earth with His glory through us; but we need to know the truth first.  It is the truth that sets us free.

The first two verses of Ephesians two are dealing with the objective truth; verse 10 is giving the subjective application:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus [which is the objective] to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God made you righteous in Christ and now He says, “I want you to walk in it.”  In John 15, Jesus tells us how.  John 15:5a,8:

If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  ...This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

He says, “Remain in me and I will remain in you.  Without me you can do nothing.  If I remain in you and walk in you, you will bear much fruit and my Father will be happy because you are witnessing for Him.”

Both these statements from the same chapter and the same books are given because too many Christians will use Ephesians 2:8-9 and stop there, or they will use Titus 3:5 and stop there [both verses appear above].  We see the subjective aspect of the gospel which is “Christ in you” in Titus 3:8:

This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God [notice he is talking to believers] may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

These good works do not save you but they give evidence that you are already saved in Christ.  Look not at your performance but at the history of Christ for your ticket to heaven.  In that history you stand complete and perfect and that’s the good news.

All this is to show how God saved us in Christ.  Now I put our last three chapters into a nut shell.  Now we come to the conclusion.  In the next study we will come to another important truth about the sanctuary:  How did God save us in Christ?  I am dealing now only with the objective.  The subjective I will deal with in detail later on.  I am now only dealing with the first phase of salvation:  how Christ became our righteousness and qualified us for heaven.  Sometime in the future I will deal with how Christ lives in us and produces righteousness for witnessing.  We must lay the foundation first.  There are three steps:

Step l.  In order for Christ to be our Righteousness, He had to qualify to be our Saviour.  God qualified Christ to be our Saviour by taking us, the corporate human race, and His Son and joining them together in one person at the incarnation.  That is the “in Christ” motif that we covered.  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.

God took the corporate man and put it into Christ and we became one.  The humanity of Christ is everything to us because that humanity was our humanity that needed redeeming.  So Christ and we became one; therefore, He became the Second Adam since He qualified to be our Saviour.  1 Corinthians 15:45 talks about two men, Adam and Christ, and Paul calls both of them “Adam” because the word “Adam” means mankind, a corporate term:

So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

The first man, Adam, was made a living soul.  At creation, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul.  But that living soul sinned and brought death and condemnation.

In the second half of verse 45 we read:

...the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

Christ was made a life-giving spirit when our corporate humanity was united to Christ’s divinity.  He became the last Adam, the Adam who brought life back to us, who made us spiritually alive, and raised us up and set us together with Christ in heavenly places.  Ephesians 2:4-6:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

So step number one, God put humanity into Christ at the incarnation and, by doing that, He qualified Christ to be our substitute, our surety and our representative.

Step 2.  Having become one with us, there were two things that Christ had to do in order to qualify to be our righteousness.  He had to obey the law positively.  In His 33 years of living on this earth, He met the positive demands of the law so that, at the end of His life, He could say, “Satan has come and can find nothing in me.”  Not even by a thought did Christ sin.  But this perfect obedience, which is step number two, could not cancel our sins.

Step 3.  Having positively obeyed the law by His doing, Christ took our condemned humanity to the cross and there He met the justice of the law.  When He did that, all the requirements of the law — the positive demands plus the legal justification of the justice of the law — were met.  By His doing and His dying, he became our Righteousness.  Today’s English Version of the Bible puts it very clearly in Galatians 2:19-20:

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“So far as the law is concerned, however,” says Paul, “I am dead; killed by the law itself.”

The law demanded that from each one of us because we are sinners, and Paul is saying, “I died.  I was put to death by the law itself in order that I might live for God.  I was put to death with Christ on His cross.”  2 Corinthians 5:14 says that the death of Christ was a corporate death; One died, therefore all died:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

“I have been put to death with Christ on His cross so that it is no longer I who lives but Jesus Christ who lives in me.”

Let us summarize this in terms of the law.  Two thousand years ago, God took you and took me.  He took the Adamic life which belonged to the human race, that has sinned, and that stood condemned.  He took that life and united it with His Son Jesus Christ so that, in the incarnation, God and man became one.  When He did this, He placed Christ under the law.  This is clearly presented in Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Then, under the law, Jesus had to fulfil two things that the law demands from us in order to be saved.  Number one, it demands positive obedience.  In the center stands the law.  On the left is condemnation (disobedience of the law) and on the right is justification or obedience.  We are by birth and performance under condemnation.  We have disobeyed the law.  We want to know how we move from condemnation to justification, which is the opposite side of the law.  It is by positively obeying the demands of the law and, in Christ, we did this.  His holy history is our history because He and we are one.

But obedience could not cancel our disobedience and so He went to the cross and met the justice of the law, the second requirement.  Both by His doing and His dying he moved the human race from condemnation to justification.  Paul says in Romans 5:18:

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

And the free gift is justification unto life.  That is the good news of the gospel that the world desperately needs to know from you and me.  Jesus Christ is the righteousness of all men.  He is the Saviour who saves you and me.  That is our hope and our anchor.  And may God bless you that you will always rest in this righteousness of Christ.

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