Christ - Our Righteousness
"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:30, 31 ).
A Fourfold Benefit in Christ
In this matchless verse from the pen of the apostle Paul, notice the fourfold benefit that belongs to those in Christ: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. What a treasure of gifts bestowed by a gracious God! In view of the blessings coming from God and His being their giver, it ill behooves men to glory in themselves or in their accomplishments respecting salvation or spiritual attainment. Let them count their blessings in these matters as divine bestowals; and let them glory in the giver of these glorious gifts, not in themselves.
The Relationship of Christ to This Benefit
That God has made all these gifts possible and has placed them within the reach of all men by his work of redemption in Christ is here affirmed by the apostle. The specific role of Christ in that work and plan is being considered in these verses. It appears that Paul, in effect, says that God has made Christ to be our benefactor in respect to these benefits; that is, God has given wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to mankind through Jesus Christ. He is the one through whom all can enjoy the benefits here set forth.
The principal thought of the verses is the joint work of God and Christ in salvation, but the relationship of Christ to the believer in these matters is also implied. Christ is the cause or the means of the Christian's receiving them. He is the cause or means of wisdom (Col. 2:3), of righteousness (Rom. 5:17), of sanctification (2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2), and of redemption (Eph. 1:7). The statement that He is our wisdom, righteousness, etc., is similar to Jesus' statement that He is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25) and to His claim to be the way, truth, and live (Jn. 14:6), in that all of them are figurative statements; they employ a figure of speech which uses the cause for the effect or the effect for the cause. Jesus meant that He makes the resurrection and the life possible and that He is the means whereby one can learn the way, know the truth, and gain the life. In the passage of 1 Corinthians 1 that we are considering, Jesus is the means whereby men receive divine wisdom and benefit from it, whereby they can be just or righteous (not guilty).and the means of sanctification and redemption. The relationship of cause or means in relation to redemption is clear in Eph. 1:7, where He is the means of our redemption through His shed blood. In that Jesus bears the same relation to the other blessings of 1 Cor. 1:30 that He bears to redemption, then it must be His relationship as cause or means that is being set forth here.
Same Thought-Different Passage
The identical thought of Jesus' role as the cause or means of our righteousness is found in 2 Cor. 5:21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." It is in Christ (means, cause) that the righteousness given or granted by the Lord is found. The chief difference between this passage and the earlier one is that this one indicates we can receive righteousness from God in spite of our sins, for Christ became as sin, or as a sin offering, for us. He bore our own sins in His own body on the tree of the cross, so we sinners might obtain an opportunity, for justification in the court of God in heaven. Thank God for it! Remember, however, that the blessing is gained in Christ and in compliance with His will.
A False Idea
We have discussed Christ as our means of righteousness at length that we might have a good foundation against the false idea that Christ's personal righteousness, performed during his perfect life, can be transferred from Him to us (imputation). Such an idea is sometimes based on 1 Cor. 1:30. Surely we can see, though, that the blessings mentioned in the verse are not actual descriptions of Christ's personal qualities. The verse is not even emphasizing Christ as our substitute, or as one whose personal perfection in keeping God's requirements can be imputed to us where we lack. It is setting Him forth as the divine agent who made all of them possible. There is not even one verse in the entire Bible that teaches that Christ's personal righteousness can be transferred.
How thankful we should be that in Christ our sins can be washed away, our guilt cleansed, and our righteousness obtained. The obtaining of them, however, depends upon our doing the will of the Lord, what Peter called working righteousness in Acts 10:34, 35. Would you learn the obedience that He requires of you that you might perform it and thereby receive the gift of righteousness and reign in life by one, Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:17)?
Truth Magazine XXII: 12, p. 194