[taken from: Translating God: The Problem with Grace]
Is our salvation a declaration of our righteousness,1 a vicarious imputation of Christ’s righteousness,2 or a quality of our new nature?3
There is a work begun in each believer that is evident in a growing relationship between them and the Savior and with other believers in fellowship.4 In many ways this is a process: in our behavior,5 in our knowledge of God’s holiness,6 and in our desire toward God compared to other interests.7
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2
But what is the emphasis here of declaring us righteous?
…know that a person is not [declared or pronounced] justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be [declared or pronounced] justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be [declared or pronounced] justified. —Galatians 2:16
Righteousness is not a matter of law but a matter of grace. It is a work of grace within the believer
- to transform our thinking and
- to conform us to Christ and away from the world.
The evidence is a growing awareness that the desires of God toward each of us best represent
- who we are becoming and who we ultimately want to be,
- what makes us most happy, and
- a perspective that sees the circumstances of our life more and more as God sees them along with
- a sense that how God is leading is indeed best.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. — Romans 12:2
Though God imputed righteousness unto Abraham because of his absolute trust in and obedience to God8 the language suggests he was a righteous man, not only declared righteous. The Greek form establishes the christian doctrine that it is not a work or effort on our part that provides for this righteousness which is now part of who we are becoming in Him. It was Jesus as a sin offering that made provision for us to become like Him. “Christ in us, the hope of glory,”9
God made him who had no sin to be sin [offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 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.
3 1 John 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
4 1 John 1:3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
5 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
6 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
7 Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
8 Genesis 15:6 וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ לּ֖וֹ צְדָקָֽה (ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην) he credited it to him as righteousness.
9 Colossians 1:7 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.