Galatians 5:5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
We sometimes forget that Paul was painfully aware that he wasn’t yet righteous by God’s standards, and was simply wearing the mantle of Christ’s righteousness. He had an even more strongly legalistic background than the Galatian believers to whom he was writing here, and he longed to be able to “dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s” at least as much as they did. However, he knew by revelation that God has imparted His righteousness to us through Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21) As glorious as that is, He wanted to be able to walk in that righteousness perfectly, and experience told him he wouldn’t do that in the flesh. People who have been raised in a less legalistic environment might not identify fully with this feeling, but all of us should be desiring earnestly to respond fully to the love and grace that God has poured out on us. That is what this “righteousness” is all about, because the only way to “be right” before God is to be obedient to Him by faith. That said, it’s significant that we have this hope of ultimate righteousness by faith and by the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift, but it is our responsibility to receive it and exercise it so that it functions fully and strongly. The Holy Spirit is God’s impartation to us. We cannot increase Him – He is infinite – but we can grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or even quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19) Him. To receive His help and blessings we need to be in step with Him, which Paul says right after this. (Galatians 5:25) If we are walking in faith and in the Holy Spirit we will indeed earnestly desire perfect righteousness, with the hope, the assurance, that God has provided it for us in Christ Jesus.
As a pastor I am continually urging others on toward righteousness, but I’ve got to keep tabs on my own. Like Paul I know that I won’t be perfectly righteous on this earth, but that needs to be my desire on every level. The fact that I do have that desire is an encouragement to me! As Paul wrote the Galatians so strongly, I know that my imperfect righteousness could never earn God’s seal of approval, but that He has made His salvation available to me anyway by grace through faith. I am never to think, much less teach, that actions don’t matter, but I must never even imply that any sin is too horrendous for the blood of Christ to cover it. I run into people all the time who feel (this isn’t rational “thinking”) that their sins, their weaknesses, are more powerful than God; He can’t save them. That’s a lie from the pit of hell! I am to keep proclaiming the righteousness, power, grace and love of God, so that the lies of the enemy may be shown for what they are and people be brought out of darkness to light, from death to life, for the glory of God.
Father, thank You for this reminder just as I’m about to go to a meeting where the vast majority of attendees don’t know You. Help Cathy and me be Christ in their midst, speaking Your words to them by Your Spirit, so that even this weekend many may be brought into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!