This question came to me via email. "If we have already been made the righteousness of God in Christ, then why did Paul tell Timothy to pursue righteousness"?
That's a great question. The answer will be found in the Word. Lets begin...
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV
In this passage we see the Apostle Paul admonish Timothy to pursue righteousness. Sounds lofty and spiritual. Sounds like advice we should all take. Now the legalist mindset jumps for "joy" at Scriptures like this. On the surface it appears to contradict a righteousness that is unearned or unmerited. Does the Word contradict itself? Did Paul have what the World calls a "senior" moment? Note what Paul himself said in 2 Corinthians.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Take notice what Paul wrote in Romans 5:
For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Romans 5:17 AMP
So did Paul contradict his own words? Of course not! The Word is truth. The Word of God doesn't contradict itself. For that to be true God would have to contradict Himself, and folks that "aint" happening! So what is the truth? Did God give us a free gift of righteousness or is this right standing something we are meant to be "pursuing" throughout our Christian life?
I believe the key to understand this apparent contradiction is found the first time Paul gave this same admonition!
But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV
If you study the context of these passages what is Paul referring to? It is quite obvious if one reads with an open and understanding heart. Paul is referring to MATURITY.
One key element in our Christian walk is growth! We were meant to grow up in Him! What specifically are we to grow up into?
but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
We are to mature in Christ! The Bible specifically tells us what areas we need to grow in;
2 Peter 3:18 says grow in grace
2 Thessalonians 1:3 says we grow in faith
Galatians 5:22 says love is a fruit. Fruit can grow!
We grow in all these things to be a more mature person in Christ. How do you grow in grace? By applying His unearned favor and love to every aspect of life. How do you grow in faith? By continually hearing God's Word, especially when you speak the Word aloud to yourself! How do you let love grow? By choosing to let that love you already have deposited within you rise up and be the decision maker.
Nowhere does the Word say grow in righteousness! Why? Because He already gave us the free gift! There is growth in knowing how much in right standing you are in Christ. Righteousness is not something we achieve or work we earn. It is a position in Him!
So why did Paul admonish to pursue righteousness? Paul stated in both epistles of Timothy to pursue righteousness along with faith and other things. The Apostle is admonishing us to mature in Christ. To pursue righteousness is to allow who we already are inside to produce an outward change!
We who are sanctified or set apart by being cleansed by the blood have been made perfect forever within. Our spirit is the dwelling abode of the Spirit of God. When we pursue righteousness we are letting that inward man dominate over the outward man. Understand I am not referring to perfection outwardly. Perfection is overrated! I am simply referring to allowing who we are already in Him to be the deciding "vote" in our thoughts our words and any actions we take.
I believe this simply answer clears up any apparent contradiction of God's Word. If you have more questions feel free to write them in the comments section. I pray this post has blessed you. Leave some feedback and share with your friends. Thanks again for stopping by.