Establishing One's Own Righteousness
Brothers, my heartâ€™s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to Godâ€™s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Christ alone is sufficient to save us to the uttermost. Righteousness is found in Him, and no where else. Not Christ "plus" the addition of something I contribute to the price of my redemption. Any addition to Christ is essentially an affirmation that Christ is not enough.
As Paul noted in the above quote, there are many people who do not know Christ yet are zealous to daily read their Bible, take the Eucharist and do good works, all good things in themselves, but not if they are not grounded in the gospel. They are trusting in these things to get them to where they want to go rather than in Christ alone. On Friday I encountered a very devout Roman Catholic who came into our office looking for books (not knowing the content of our books). She was extremely zealous and sincerely devoted to "Jesus" and the "Trinity" and to daily prayer. She asked what Monergism meant and became deeply upset about the implications of "Christ alone" and "Scripture alone" saying that her faith was much bigger than that. I asked, "bigger than Christ"? It was frankly gut-wrenching to stand there and explain that our differences were more than just secondary. But in the end I had to be open and tell her that while indeed Rome believes that Jesus is necessary, yet they do not believe He is sufficient, and therefore are opposed to the true gospel. The Roman Catholic Church essentially believes that Jesus takes our account to zero but then we need to complete where Christ is lacking in righteousness by adding our own merit to His. The doctrine of Purgatory attests to the fact that they do not believe Jesus Christ is enough to save them - but that they must contribute something to it. This clearly runs into the same violation that Paul warns of in Galatians: "Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?' (Gal 3:3).
Note: An interesting turn in the discussion, which I think worth mentioning, is the RCC who came by our office used the common liberal progressive argument that I was being "exclusionary" and not "inclusive" and so my heart was hardened. However, I pointed out the fact that this actually goes both ways. RCC likewise denies what I believe to be true so it is being no less inclusive. As long as I did not believe in Christianity the way she did I was being exclusive. Ironic. People forget very quickly that the Council of Trent anathematizes the gospel of Jesus Christ that we hold true. This inclusion/exclusion argument is really a form of self-deception by those who use it because it does not see itself rightly, that in the very act of speaking against exclusion, it is being exclusive.
Please pray that the many zealous people out there we meet daily (like the person in my encounter) would see they are trusting in their own righteousness and that God would graciously move by His Spirit upon them to turn their heart of stone to a heart of flesh so they would submit to Godâ€™s righteousness, found in Jesus Christ alone.