Many people live as if they were eternal, without caring about their spiritual condition. But suddenly they are surprised by serious illnesses, accidents, and situations that lead to death. Others consider the spiritual question, but dedicate themselves to religions that are merely human creations and, for this reason, do not lead their followers to the presence of the Creator. Others, on the other hand, seek to guarantee a good destiny after death through religions of self-salvation, which encourage the practice of charity, good works, and even the effort to fulfill the divine commandments.

Holy Scripture, however, shows that these ways of dealing with man's spiritual issue are inadequate. The prophet Isaiah, speaking in this context, said, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away" (64:6). Our good deeds are worth little, for our iniquities carry us away from God. With respect to keeping God's Law, the Apostle Paul is emphatic when he affirms: "We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law... because by the works of the law no one will be justified... if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing" (Galatians 2:16,21).

Note, from the above, that biblical Scripture shows the impossibility for man to become righteous before God by his own efforts. There is not a single act of human kindness or nobility that is so valuable as to make his reunion with God possible. And with respect to the Law, it cannot save man, not because it has no value. "The Law is holy" (Romans 7:12). The Law is God's will for man. It expresses man's lifestyle, before original sin. However, no one can keep it. See what Paul said about the Jews who trusted in their efforts to keep the Law: "...Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness" (Romans 10:3).

But why does the human being need to become righteous before God? In what sense does he need the "righteousness that comes from God"? Created for a life of fellowship with his Creator, man has departed from the purpose for which he was created. In original sin, seeking an autonomous life under his own moral guidance, he rejected God's will. Man became a sinner, that is, someone who cannot live under the divine will, expressed in His Law. This fact led him to enter into an existence separated from God. Because of this, his being has undergone serious changes. His spirit died, in relation to God, and his body lost its initial characteristics, progressing on a trajectory that culminates in physical death. If this happens without him settling his situation with God, he will spend eternity in an existence separated from the Creator.

For this reason man must become righteous before God, without sin, that is, living within the original purpose of his creation that is expressed in what the Holy Scripture calls God's Law. Many see this expression "divine justice" in a punitive or oppressive sense. However, it is exactly the opposite. The "justice that comes from God" makes man righteous, holy, sinless and puts him back into the original purpose of his being. It exonerates human beings from the guilt of their sin, freeing them from the power of sin that condemns them to eternal death. Nobody is condemned by "divine justice", but precisely for rejecting it. If this is so, then in what does divine justice consist?

The Apostle Paul answers, "This righteousness is given through faith in "Jesus Christ to all who believe... God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, "through the shedding of his blood —to be received by faith" (Romans 3:22,25). But how to understand that Jesus Christ is the righteousness that comes from God? Man, fallen, because of original sin cannot live without sinning. The Son, the second person of the Trinity, emptied himself of his divinity, became man and lived without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He, unlike men, who cannot practice the divine laws, fulfilled all the Law while He lived on this earth (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, the Son of God, as a man of flesh and blood, did what no one else can: He lived without sin and fulfilled the divine law, that is, lived within God's will.

Because of these aspects, Paul called Jesus "the last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45). Yes, the man Jesus Christ did what Adam could not: during his earthly life, he did not sin against God and was obedient unto death (Hebrews 4:15). His death was a blessing to mankind, for on the third day after dying, He rose again and is now at the right hand of God. His resurrection opened the way for mankind to also rise on the "day of the Lord" and be reborn to eternal life with God. Thus, God has granted to the believer the grace of Christ's righteousness and holiness being imputed to him. Human beings become "justified" of their sins when they put their faith in Christ's sacrifice, in his death and resurrection. This is seen in the fact that the Apostle Paul uses the verb "justified" 22 times in his letter to the Romans, between 2:13 and 5:1, designating what happens when one believes in Christ as Savior.

Antônio Maia - M. Div.

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