What is Alien Righteousness?
1977 was a spectacular year for motion pictures. Star Wars was released in May followed in November by Spielberg’s classic, Close Encounters. The movie had an impressive score by John Williams and introduced a slew of groundbreaking special effects. Also, aliens; lots and lots of space aliens.
As fascinating as being abducted by tiny, music loving aliens would be, truth turns out to be stranger than fiction. You are saved by a righteousness that is apart from you. It is not your own. The God who justifies the ungodly counts sinners as righteous by means of a foreign justice and merit. It is a salvation that is extra nos—meaning outside us.
The good news of the gospel is that if you trust in Jesus alone, you are given a righteousness that originates outside you. It is literally out of this world, altogether independent of our material universe, beyond all established physical laws. God grants you the perfect righteousness and obedience that belongs to Jesus. Martin Luther called this justitium alienum—a Latin phrase that means alien righteousness.
Christianity is objective, not subjective. It is not based on merit. It is not a self-help or self-improvement seminar. Nor is the gospel a morality tale to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. It will have its effects. But the gospel is an announcement. It is news. The gospel is about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and what he accomplished for us.
For our sake God made Jesus to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Corinthians 5:21
So, as we scan the night skies—the work of his fingers—let us remember it is an alien righteousness, the perfect holiness of Jesus, that makes us right with God. May we ever fix our eyes on him, the author and perfecter of our faith.