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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Righteous Who Live by Faith

Now I don’t desire to have you unaware, brothers, that I often planned to come to you, and was hindered so far, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to Greeks and to foreigners, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15


So, as much as is in me, I am eager to preach the Good News to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jew first, and also for the Greek. 17 For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them.20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. 21 Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened. (Romans 1)


What is righteousness? Word definitions, whether from the Greek or English, may give the seeker a dictionary or textbook idea, but in the end the seeker’s understanding of righteousness remains obscure and elusive.


The antiquity of righteousness


What is the righteousness of God? Whatever it is the apostle Paul’s emphasis is not on God, who is righteous, but on man and his response and interaction with the God who is righteous. God, throughout history has observed and known men who were righteous in his eyes because they did righteousness.


This righteousness which Paul states is revealed in the gospel spans to the past, “from faith”, that is from the days of Abraham. Certainly, Abraham is one of those men of whom the scriptures testifies about his righteousness. Abraham believed God and God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness, - though he was not the first righteous man. His faith was counted as righteousness, but he was not the first righteous man in the eyes of God. It reaches farther back to Enoch who was not because God took him.


This righteousness spans forward “to faith” like the Jews, because some were of a faith like Abraham, who lived and died under the law. It spans forward to reach those who have believed and put their trust in Jesus.


Clues of righteousness


What is the righteousness that God imputed Abraham? Although we tend to think, in some part correctly so, of righteousness as being right and doing right before God we mistakenly equate that righteousness with a notion of sinlessness and flawlessness not found in the scriptures. This is not in accordance with the example of Abraham. Even then what we see of Abraham, such as when he lied to Abimelech about his wife Sarah, seems a real stretch for what we can’t quite grasp. This seems understandable if for no other reason than that the idea of a righteous man makes us uneasy and we grapple to keep him on some level with us.


As much as Paul states repeatedly that God has revealed his righteousness he drives his point, namely, that men have suppressed that truth in unrighteousness. Conversely, as much as Paul states what it was that they suppressed Paul reveals for the saints in Christ negative clues to be discerned for our understanding about this righteousness.


The unrighteous did not glorify God. They did not give thanks to God. Their result of their reasoning was that they became vain.


However, the righteous who live by faith glorify God. Their lives are characterized by their thankfulness to God. Their understanding in all that they think, see and do whether or not they understand God’s involvement is to remain steadfast in giving glory to God with thanks for his Divine Providence and provision of and for all things.


A righteousness to be exceeded


Why did Jesus exhort his disciples to a righteousness which exceeded that of the Pharisees? What was it about their righteousness that prompted Jesus to call his disciples to a greater righteousness? Although the Pharisees could perceive there was something extraordinary about Jesus they were more consumed with gaining the glory of men and receiving thanks for the deeds they did solely for the purpose of being seen by others as being better than others.


Walking and doing righteousness


What can the man who seeks glory, honor and incorruptibility expect to receive according to the righteous judgment of God? This is what every man can expect to receive: glory, honor and peace. This is the promise of God to the Jew first, but also to the Greek because there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:6-11) Abraham’s character reveals he was a man who sought the glory of God. It was a glory which he must have come to perceive he could never, would never see in the idols he worshiped up until the time the living God, I AM THAT I AM, called him. Whether it was when he deferred to Lot, his nephew, (Genesis 13) or after his defeat of the kings in Genesis 14 there is no question Abraham sought be honorable in all things. These things were evident in Abraham even before God promised him he would make him a father of many nations.


Walk in righteousness. Do righteousness. Seek to glorify God. Be thankful to God in all things even if for nothing else (as though it were a small matter) than his grace and mercy in times of dizzying struggles.


After all, Jesus was made to be sin in order that you might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:21) You, the saints in Christ who have put their faith and trust in Jesus, are the walking embodiment of the righteousness of God. You may not feel or look anymore like righteousness than Jesus felt or looked like sin, but that's what He was made and that's what you have become.

peace to all.

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