A Righteousness Not Our Own (Hodge)

Charles Hodge’s 1841 publication called The Way of Life is a helpful resource on some of the major teachings of Scripture: sin, faith, repentance, justification, etc. Speaking of justification, here’s a helpful section from that chapter:

In scriptural language condemnation is a sentence of death pronounced upon sin; justification is a sentence of life pronounced upon righteousness. As this righteousness is not our own, as we are sinners, ungodly, without works, it must be the righteousness of another, even of him who is our righteousness. Hence we find so constantly the distinction between our own righteousness and that which God gives. The Jews, the apostle says, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, would not submit themselves unto the righteousness of God (Rom 10:3). This was the rock on which they split. They knew that justification required a righteousness; they insisted on urging their own, imperfect as it was, and would not accept of that which God had provided in the merits of his Son, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.

The same idea is presented in Rom. 9:30, 32, where Paul sums up the case of the rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of believers. The Gentiles have attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel hath not attained it. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. The Jews would not receive and confide in the righteousness which God had provided, but endeavoured, by works, to prepare a righteousness of their own. This was the cause of their ruin.

In direct contrast to the course pursued by the majority of his kinsmen, we find Paul renouncing all dependence upon his own righteousness, and thankfully receiving that which God had provided. Though he had every advantage and every temptation to trust in himself, that any man could have; for he was one of the favoured people of God, circumcised on the eighth day, and touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless, yet all these things he counted but loss, that he might win Christ, and be found in him, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil. 3:9).

Here the two righteousnesses are brought distinctly into view. The one was his own, consisting in obedience to the law; this Paul rejects as inadequate, and unworthy of acceptance. The other is of God and received by faith; this Paul accepts and glories in as all sufficient and as alone sufficient. This is the righteousness which the apostle says God imputes to those without works. Hence it is called a gift, a free gift, a gift by grace, and believers are described as those who receive this gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17). Hence we are never said to be justified by any thing done by us or wrought in us, but by what Christ has done for us. We are justified through the redemption that is in him (Rom. 3:14). We are justified by his blood (Rom. 5:9). We are justified by his obedience (Rom. 5:19). We are justified by him from all things (Acts 13:39). He is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). We are made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). We are justified in his name (1 Cor. 6:11). There is no condemnation to those who are in him (Rom. 89:1) Justification is, therefore, by faith in Christ, because faith is receiving and trusting to him as our Savior, as having done all that is required to secure our acceptance before God.

Charles Hodge, The Way of Life, p. 178.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015