Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

"You are no longer under law but grace; therefore, sin shall not have dominion over you" "The grace of God has appeared teaching men to say no to sin"

Our Righteousness is Nothing But Filthy Rags - and the False Teaching of Imputed Righteousness

Our Righteousness are Filthy Rags is a False TeachingIs the infamous our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags teaching a false doctrine? I have heard nearly every radio preacher offer this scripture as an example that we can never be righteous in our thoughts and deeds. They say that we will sin until we go to the grave. Is this what the scripture really teaches? Are we condemned to sin for the rest of our Christian lives? This teaching lead to the "imputed righteousness" doctrine which states that since we can't be without sin; God will have to look down from heaven and see the Christ in us, and see us as righteous through Him. In short, imputed righteousness is a teaching that is derived from a false view of the atonement viz. the Penal Substitution view. Yet as we will see, Paul teaches just the opposite; in that in Romans 6 we are told that we are dead to sin, and 1 John was written that "you do not sin", and Jesus said He came to set us free from the the bondage of sin. Why then do all the preachers teach the opposite? Let me ask you the reader a question: Have you truly struggled against sin to the point of shedding blood as Paul asked in Hebrews? Didn't Paul tell us in Romans to become slaves to righteousness and not sin? I think most theologians and pastors are not walking nor standing in the grace of God; because the bible teaches that true grace is the power to live above sin; not to live in the pig pen until we die! This scripture in Isaiah 64 has been grossly lifted out of context. All Isaiah was saying is the Jews were so backslidden that their righteous deeds (sacrifices) were unclean to the Lord. This is similar to the bible telling us that "the prayers of the wicked are an abomination". Isaiah here was not making a universal statement regarding the sinful condition of mankind but he was rebuking the Jews and exhorting them to repent. If you go back and read the scriptures around this one you will see the context and meaning of this verse in Isaiah 64:6.

God expects righteous living from us and in the New Testament age we have no excuses for our sins, especially as Christians. We see that in the Old Testament God referred to many men as righteous; He describes Job as a righteous man who eschewed evil. Job went through a living hell without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and sinned not. God spoke of Noah as a preacher of righteousness; Jesus said “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. Joseph was called a righteous man, Paul said in Romans that “the righteous shall live by faith”, James says that the “prayers of a righteous man avails much”. 

1 John 2:29 “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is righteous”. Additionally Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:16 and 22 "Because it is written Be holy for I am holy", and verse 22 "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit..." Here Peter is assuming as Paul often assumes that we have the righteous of Christ because we have the power to be holy through the Holy Spirit - not by some "imputed righteousness". 1 John 3:3 "And everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as He is pure"; this doesn't sound like imputed righteousness does it? To digress for a moment, one of the errors encountered in reading the bible is reading Paul; he often writes assuming that his readers are walking in obedience and therefore in the Spirit. Yet Christians will claim these promises of hope and salvation and neglect the prerequisite of living a holy life that is Christ centered. 

Secondly Paul teaches us in Romans 6:2 “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” In Romans 6:11 “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. In Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you for you are no longer under law but grace” and Paul said in Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men (it’s available to all men not just the elect) parentheses mine, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly and righteously and godly in the present age."

How about 2 Peter 1 where Peter exhorts us to live righteously because this righteous living that comes through self-control is our entry into the eternal kingdom?

2 Peter 1-11: 1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Well as we can see God does expect Christians to live righteously and play our role in salvation; it’s the pastors of this false grace that don’t expect righteous living. Today Christians with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit have absolutely NO excuse for not living righteous lives. God will ask each of us at our final judgment "Who put the gun to your head to make you sin?" The bible clearly tells us to workout our salvation with fear and trembling; yet most of us fear the local Sheriff more than God!

Let us read the entire scripture that these “grace preachers” partially quote in Isaiah 64:5-6 “Thou dost meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers Thee in Thy ways. Behold, Thou was angry, for we sinned, we continued in them a long time, and shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment”.

First off, is this a scripture that can be universally applied to all men? No, this scripture is talking about the Jews when they were horribly backsliding and continued in their sin; then they would attend the temple service to perform their deeds of righteousness by making their sacrifices and offerings. If you read all of chapter 64 this is talking about the spiritual decay and fall from grace of these Jews; God said that even their sacrifices viz. righteousness were filthy rags. God said in Isaiah 1:14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me, so when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you.”

This was very common for God to rebuke the Jews in a backslidden condition and declare that even their prayers were an abomination. Proverbs 28:9-10 “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination”.

So are we to following the same reasoning of the"grace preachers" in Isaiah 64 and lift these scriptures out of context as well? Should we declare that our prayers are an abomination to God?

God demands His children live righteously; salvation is not a condemnation to a life of sin as most teach today. If God only saved us from the consequences of sin (hell) he could have kept the law and sacrifices and spared His Only Begotten Son. But Jesus saves us from sin AND the penalty of sin.

What is taught today is false grace, read about the true biblical grace of God that saves and gives righteous men boldness. Proverbs 28:1 says "the righteous are as bold as a lion"  -- But I thought there were no righteous, I thought all our righteousness were filthy rags? I suppose this is why we have so many sinful cowardly Christians preaching ear-tickling messages from the pulpit to fill their churches instead of instructing sinners in the way of righteousness. The bible teaches that Abraham was saved apart from the works of the law but this was the ceremonial law as it goes on in Romans to discuss his righteousness being apart from circumcision and NOT the moral law of God.

Unfortunately too many who will read this article have cut their teeth on the false dichotomy of works vs grace; even Luther didn't understand the role man has in his salvation and wanted the book of James removed from the canon of scripture. To say that true saving faith is an obedient faith is similar to Calvin's teaching on the perseverance of the saints. They will claim that after someone is saved if they fall from grace and die they were never saved; however, if one gets saved and perseveres until the end - he was a true believer. This unfortunately is an ad hoc doctrine and tautological at best.


  1. So are you saying that one who is truly saved and truly one of the elect never sins again? Or that one truly saved and truly elect has the potential not to sin in every situation?
    Do you sin?
    Jesus' definition of sin seemed to include many thoughts and mind-sets, as opposed to specific actions.
    Do you believe that people can lose their salvation because they sin after being saved?

    1. Let's not digress too far from the article. If you read the context of Isaiah you will clearly see that my interpretation is correct. This scripture is not intended to describe the universal condition of mankind or even every Christian. Secondly I do believe in sinless perfection and if God intended for you to remain a slave to sin after your salvation, then He wasted the blood of His Son and should have stayed with the sacrificial system. I believe I gave ample scriptures for my position, Even 1st John says "Children I am writing this that you sin not". I find it odd when a Christian argues with me to defend sin in his life; I once had this discussion with a pastor and half way through he just shut up. He realized he was fighting for the devil while I was fighting for God. If you live in sin Bill it is out of your own free will and laziness. For no temptation will confront you that is not common to all men and God is faithful to always provide a way of escape. You just have to be willing to obey God and follow Him instead of the Piper. One final note on "Elect" this word means "Object of divine favor" so anyone who freely accepts Christ becomes an object of God's divine favor and becomes one of the elect. If we restrict the use of the word to your Calvinist views then Jesus who was called the Elect must have been chosen from among His spiritual brothers to be the savior.

      Thanks for the comments