In Acts 17:30-31 we read “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” An honest heart will read those words and will feel dread. To be judged by a Holy God based off my righteousness doesn’t leave me much hope. I know what I’ve done; and it’s not good. Not even on my best day. I don’t consider myself a really bad person. Perhaps you are even better than me in doing good. Regardless of how good we think we are we still have fallen far short of the righteousness of God. In Isaiah 64:6 we find that “all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags.” On our own, the very best we can produce is a dirty, stinking, filthy rag. Something that is not even fit to be cleaned; just thrown away. We are to be judged by our own righteousness. Scary thought!
But there is hope!
I can be judged not of my righteousness but based on the righteousness that God is willing to grant me. Romans 4:6-8 describes the blessed state of a person that knows the forgiveness of sins; a person to whom God has imputed righteousness. That gives me and you hope! This imputed righteousness isn’t just pulled out of thin air. It comes from Christ’s righteousness. The perfect life he lived. His life sacrificed. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read of the offer God has made to all of mankind: “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.” God is willing to take all the vile things I’ve done and place them on Jesus Christ on the cross. And in place of my sin, God is willing to take the perfect life Christ lived and place it on me. This offer isn’t based off how much good I’ve done or how many times I’ve failed. It’s 100% Christ. That’s why Romans 10:4 declares “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.”
Christ is the answer and our only hope!
So how does one get this righteousness? Does one have to do a certain amount of good deeds or maintain a certain level of morality in order for God to offer them this deal? Certainly not. This is all about Christ’s perfect life. Romans 3:20-22 tells us the only way to access this is by faith. Note especially verse 22: “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” The answer is faith! A complete trust in the promises of God. A trust that when I submit to the gospel of Christ, God will keep His promise to impute Christ’s righteousness to me. I don’t have to depend on my ability (or lack of); just my willingness to surrender to a Holy God’s plan by placing total trust in Him and His power.
Now imagine standing before God on that day when he will judge the world in righteousness.
But this time you are not standing there being judged based on your righteousness but based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Standing there in that position there is no dread; only joy and peace. Philippians 3:9 declares “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” You can trust God’s promise. You can have hope. God’s righteousness is available to you. All you have to do is surrender to God by faith.
Mark introduces his narrative by saying, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God” (Mark 1:1). The word translated Gospel simply means “good news”. So, when we read about the Gospel of Christ, it means that we are literally reading “the good news about Jesus.” Mark promptly tells us about the nature of this gospel: “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3). By citing this prophecy, Mark indicates this “gospel” is not something unexpected; on the contrary, it has been in the works centuries ago. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3-5. While this prophecy is dense with significance, in short, Isaiah is speaking about Israel’s return from exile and reunification with God. When we read the good news about Jesus, we should have in mind the background Mark gives us: God is redeeming His people.
In Israel, God’s chosen people, we see God’s intention to work through the patriarch Abraham to reconcile all nations to Him (see Genesis 12:1-3). This raises the question: why did God want to bless the nations? Why did God need Abraham? To answer the first, we read in Genesis 1, 2 that God made everything in the world (e.g., plants, animals, humans) and that He made it good. However, in Genesis 3, we read that Adam and Eve chose to disobey and through their choice sin entered the world. As we read on in Genesis, we find that all people are as sinful as Adam and Eve. In Romans 5:12, Paul summarizes this: “Therefore, just as by one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” It is from this rampant wickedness that we see what God had in mind by using the family of Abraham to bless the nations. God knew it was “not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Simply put we are lost in sin without a way out on our own; God’s intervention was necessary. Paul reflects on this promise given to Abraham, in Galatians 3:16, pointing to a single descendant “…which is Christ”. Jesus would be exactly the pinnacle of God’s program of redemption inaugurated through Abraham.
Mark stated that he would tell the “Good News” about Jesus and that Jesus is the culmination of God’s mission to redeem the world from sin. We are left to ask: how will God bring this about? Mark records that Jesus said He “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In this, we see that God would redeem the world not by coming to the world and ruling physically, but that He would redeem the world by giving the life of His Son. Paul summarizes this concept as well: “the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (I Cor. 15:1-4). This is the good news about Jesus: God sent His Son into the world to die as a ransom for us, to be buried, and to be resurrected from the dead.