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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

righteousness in the scriptures


The righteous shall live by faith is an expression found in the Tanakh, or what Christians call, the Old Testament, and the New Testament in the following: Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.


Briefly, the Habakkuk reference was in the time of Israel’s ongoing assault by her enemies; a time of lawlessness and chaos. The apostle Paul introduces the expression in Romans in order that the saints in Christ might understand that the righteousness which is pleasing to God spans from faith to faith. The Galatians reference is to address the conflict troubling the saints by some who mistakenly wanted to impose on them the law of Moses as a means of righteousness. Lastly, the Hebrews expression is of the saints in Christ who were encouraged to persevere in that righteousness to which they had attained. Is there something about this expression which the saints in Christ misunderstand with respect to other seekers who do not a share similar understanding of scripture?


righteousness from faith to faith


I believe the single, key passage in the above verses is Paul’s words in Romans 1:17. The context of chapter one spans the history of man and man’s response to the evidence in nature which attest to the Divine, Transcendent Creator God. The expression testifies to the fact and reality that the righteousness of God is from faith, as in Abraham or before Abraham (think of Enoch, Genesis 5:24, Noah; Genesis 6)  to faith as in Israel, and now, the saints in Christ. What is this faith which God recognized and esteemed highly in men? Is the righteousness that is according to God and pleasing to God what some saints have enumerated and listed as a key must-do checklist of points?


Although there is precious little said about about Enoch the scripture notes that he, walked with God. The same testimony is given of Noah. (Genesis 6:9) It is also attested of Noah that he was an heir and preacher of righteousness. (Hebrews 11:5, II Peter 2:5) What Noah inherited was what he learned from Enoch, namely, walking with God. Righteousness is what Noah himself preached in the days leading up to the destruction of the flood. Somehow it seems highly improbable that teaching righteousness, teaching others to walk with God or calling men to righteousness is accomplished through anything less than the outpouring of the one teaching. It is most definitely not accomplished through a must-do checklist.


teaching


Could this possibly mean that righteousness and teaching are related? I believe the teaching of righteousness was a part of what Enoch passed on to his descendants including Noah. Similarly, Yahweh was confident of Abraham's faithfulness to command, that is, to teach his children to do righteousness:


For I have chosen him, 
that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,
so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.Genesis 18:19

A similar relatedness between righteousness and teaching was made by Jesus when he admonished the disciples to a righteousness which exceeded that of the Pharisees. (Matthew 5:20) The context of the chapter concerns the commandments of God and keeping and teaching others to do so.


It is with this in mind that the apostle Paul’s words ring powerfully and wonderfully loud for the wonder and awe of the saints as to what God has done.


For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


What do the references we persuade, (II Cor 5:11) the word of reconciliation (II Cor 5:19) allude to if not teaching? What is striking about what Paul states is what Jesus was made and what we have become.


Jesus might not have looked or felt anymore like sin than we look or feel like righteousness,
but that is what he was made and that is what we have become.


We are, that is, we have become, the walking embodiment of the righteousness, the teaching, of the will of God. This reality does not change or vary because of ourselves. Let us not diffuse or diminish the significance of these words with words of our own, "nobody is perfect." The notion of perfection as sinlessness is as foreign to the scriptures as is the doctrine of original sin. This reality of us as righteousness is in spite of ourselves and our fleshly tendencies. It is through the Holy Spirit who indwells us and it is what the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus are called to teach.


a desert scenario
There’s a familiar, age-old query with which the saving message of the gospel is subjected. It is the scenario about the man in the middle of the desert who dies believing in God, but who was never baptized. What’s more, he never knew the God of the Tanakh, the God of the New Testament, the God of the Bible. He never knew the Jesus of the scriptures. This represents a frantic frustration for the saints in Christ. The response from the saints often reveals that despite preaching God’s love and grace for mankind some saints do not see the love and grace of God for those who never heard the gospel.

This gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but Paul makes it clear it was preached long before to Abraham. (Galatians 3:3) I find it powerful that Paul states, The SCRIPTURE, foreseeing . . . preached the good news. (CAPS, gt) The idea that such a man in the desert might never have been baptized or worse never heard of Jesus could be among the righteous who live by faith is more than some saints can bear and it troubles them. It’s not that it takes anything from their own faith or salvation, but that they find themselves at a loss to preach the gospel message of the love and grace of God without apology and with confidence. This scenario is reflects the uneasiness of some saints concerning their teaching. It also reflects the (self) justification of others to take their stance against anything they regard as a work in favor of a claim of faith. However, this is mistaken.


conclusion


The reason it is mistaken is because the righteous who live by faith do not dismiss the will of God because they have believed in God, or even more, because God has reckoned their faith as righteousness. Rather, they submit themselves to fulfill the commandment of God. Jesus submitted to the baptism of John in order to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15) Abraham did not dismiss circumcision on the basis of his belief in God when God commanded it of Abraham. He did not dismiss God’s command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice because he believed God. Moses and Israel never dismissed circumcision because they had come to the knowledge of I AM, THAT I AM.


What Abraham, Moses and Israel never did concerning circumcision or animal sacrifices as works, - some believers are quick to do concerning baptism as a work. The proverbial man in the desert upon learning the will of God for him whether it were circumcision, baptism or something other would be no quicker than Abraham to do as God commanded because of their belief in God. Furthermore, WERE HE TO DIE after having lived by faith and never known either circumcision,.baptism or something other, he is a child of the kingdom. He will be received by the Father. Yes, this truth may be as hard and as disdainful for some saints as it was for the Jews to hear Jesus declare Zacchaeus a son of Abraham. However, it is according to the love and mercy God has extended to those who seek and love him. They are the righteous who live by faith. We, the saints in Christ, are similarly called to live by faith, not in spite of our faith and trust in Jesus, but because of it.

Peace to all.

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