What is God’s goal for your life? Does God wish you to be morally upright? Is it God’s greatest desire that you should have no blemish on or in you? Let's say that you succeed in becoming pure through and through. What happens next? What is the reward or the benefit of holiness?
If Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and God reconciled us to Himself while we were his enemies (Romans 5:10), what benefit is our holiness to God? Our holiness will not make God love us more. Our holiness will not make us good enough for God. God already declared our worth, even while we were sinners, by dying for us. Why should we need a perfect moral score to receive His love when we already have it? The fact is, a perfect moral score does not change our relationship with God, nor does it give anything to God. God desires our holiness for our sake because it changes our nature to reflect His own. Holiness fulfills us.
Most people think of the righteousness of God as a stagnant thing, like the perfect total of a complex math equation. But the righteousness of God, Biblically speaking, refers to an active item, meaning God keeps His word. “Righteousness” in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a legal term referring to a legal obligation God had to perform. When God covenanted with Abraham in Genesis 12-17, God bound Himself to an oath, on pains of death, to set the world
right through Abraham’s family. If God failed to fulfill His vow, He would be in a breach of contract, and the Heavenly court would rule against Him. Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, mocked Him, ridiculed Him, and tortured Him to derail His efforts to fulfill the covenant. If Satan had succeeded, Niche would be correct to say, “God is dead.” But despite himself, Satan’s attempts to derail Jesus actually helped Him accomplish His goal, which was to confront the power of evil and defeat it once and for all on the cross.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. Jesus is the promised “seed” who defeated evil
and set the world to rights. Jesus knew His purpose and destiny, so He announced the good news even before the cross: “The Kingdom of God is here.”
Jesus knew His job was to fulfill the covenant on God’s behalf. Jesus came to establish God’s just rule and reign on earth. Jesus succeeded and became “the righteousness of God.” Another way to say it is that Jesus is the means through which God kept His oath.
But the purpose of humanity, from the beginning, was that human beings would share the rule and reign of God on the earth. God designed us as vice-regents in the government of God. Adam and Eve failed in their vocation, but God called Abraham to be the father of the family through whom God would restore the human vocation to rule and reign. Therefore, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:17).
When God makes us “His righteousness,” He is not granting us a stagnant status of morality. What blessing does God derive from putting an artificial quality on human beings? No, God made us His righteousness in the sense that we are now the family of humans, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to establish God’s wise, life-giving, order-bringing, just, and merciful rule and reign on earth as it is in Heaven. When we come into Christ, or when Christ comes into us, we become the means by which God sets the world in order, first through our individual lives, then our families, our communities, and the wider world. This order-bringing mission is the purpose for which God called Abraham’s family and the promise God vowed on His life to fulfill.
When we live holy lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we become the means by which God heals and blesses the world He so loved. Righteousness is not a pious, stagnant status but an active calling to be the government of God. When we are righteous, we please God by blessing the world He loves.