Scriptures and Thoughts on “Righteousness”

What is righteousness?
Just like the word sounds, it indicates behavior that is morally justifiable or right. Comes from the English word “rightwise,” meaning in the right way.

Hebrew
tsedeq/tsedaqah – honesty, justice, merits, right, righteousness, righteous acts/deeds, vindication.  It is a diving attribute and one that humans should strive to develop.

Greek
dikaiosune – used to describe conduct in relation to others, especially in business or legal matters. Frequently used as an indication that one is innocent of a crime of which they have been accused. Contrasted with wickedness.

The same word is also translated as “justification,” showing that the two English words, righteousness and justification, refer to two sides of the same idea and are very closely related.

How does righteousness differ from holiness?
The meaning of holiness is associated with being separated or called out. We are called out to be a righteous people, so the words overlap in meaning, but differ in emphasis.

What are “faith-based” and “works-based” righteousness, and what is up with the big discussion surrounding them?
It is important to understand that we could never be righteous on our own:

(Ecclesiastes 7:20) “There is not a righteous man on earth.”
(Psalm 14:2-3) “No one does good, not even one.”
(Romans 3:10) “No one is righteous.”
(James 2:10) if you stumble in one point, you are guilty of breaking the whole law.

Our righteousness is a gift from God:

(Romans 3:21-23) “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

(Romans 3:24) we are “justified by His grace, as a gift.”

(Romans 5:1) “We have been justified by faith.”
(Romans 5:17) “the gift of righteousness…”

(Ephesians 2:8-9) of salvation… “It is the gift of God, not a result of works, that no one may boast.”

(2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made Him who knew no sin… that we might become…”

(Titus 3:5-7) “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

(Genesis 15:6) “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Trying to earn our salvation by works is pointless, or worse:

(Galatians 5:4) “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

So how do we reconcile this with verses on the importance of righteous actions on our part?
(Romans 8:13) “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.”

(Sermon on the mount) “know them by their fruits… he who does the will of My Father in heaven will enter… he who hears my words and acts on them/does not act on them”

(James 2:17) “Faith without works is dead.”
(1 John 3:9) “No one who is born of God practices sin/will keep on sinning.”
(Hebrews 10:26) “If we keep on sinning deliberately/willfully, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…”

(1 Peter 3:12) “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” The righteous and “those who do evil” are separate groups of people. It appears that you cannot be both.

Why are these verses in the Bible? What do they tell us?
(2 Timothy 2:22) “pursue righteousness…”

(1 Corinthians 9:27) “I discipline my body… so that I myself will not be disqualified.”

An important verse to consider:
(1 John 2:29) “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.”

(Philippians 1:11) “Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

What does this verse mean?
(Matthew 5:20) “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Can I be kept out of heaven for being unrighteous, even if I am a baptized believer?
(Revelation 2:5) “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

(Revelation 2:16) “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
(Revelation 2:22) “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”

In other words, they need to make things right with God by changing their actions, or else.

What is it that they need to repent of, and how will they know when they have repented? What punishment follows if they do not?

(1 Corinthians 6:9) a whole list of people who do certain actions will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 What are the main components of day-to-day righteous living?
It is a practice:
(1 John 3:7) “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.”

We live by principles set up ahead of time:
(Genesis 39:6-10) Joseph did the right thing despite consequences.

(1 Peter 3:14) “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”

“Do right by” those in your life:
(Isaiah 33:15-16) “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil.”

(Psalm 106:3) “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

 (Ezekiel 18:5-9) “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not… lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel… does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.”

What are some common but meaningful examples of doing the right thing?
Giving back too much change… etc.

What is “righteous indignation” and should I have it?
(Psalm 7:11) “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” An anger which is right to have.

It may sometimes be appropriate. See thoughts and scriptures on “wrath”

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Do Christians Have Blind Faith?

A Biblical definition of faith is given in Hebrews 1:11, “now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

It is certainly true that Christians feel sure of many things, even though they have not yet come to pass, and that we are convicted of many things that we cannot currently see. Take Christ’s resurrection from the dead for instance. We have not physically seen this event, but we are sure that it happened. For that matter, consider the very existence of God. John 1:18 says plainly enough of humanity, “no one has seen God at any time.” And yet we believe.

So does this mean that Christians have blind faith? After all, you would have to be pretty stupid to believe something without any evidence, right?

Not so fast. There is a big difference between not being able to see something, and not having any evidence for it at all. Did you see George Washington in person? Yet we believe he existed based on historical evidence. Can you see gravity? Yet we believe in gravity because we can see its effects all around us.

Very well, someone might say, but we can prove those things and you cannot prove that there is a God.

Do you believe that other minds exist outside of your own? There is actually no way to prove it. Do you believe that the past actually occurred? It is impossible to prove that the entire universe, including the memories in our brains, did not pop into existence one second ago.

Faith is the conviction of things not seen. But it is also a conviction that is based on reasonable evidence.

Romans 1:20 states, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” We may not be able to physically see God, but we can see all of the signs that are pointing in His direction. Signs pointing to God are all over our world, in nature, human history, science, philosophy, art, psychology, personal experiences, and the Bible.

Of course, if you do not want a God telling you what to do, there is always a way to convince yourself that He either does not exist, or does not care what you do. John 3:19-20 puts it this way, “this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

When you point out that the universe is fine-tuned for human life, atheists theorize that there are actually an infinite number of universes, so one of them was bound to be just like ours without a creator making it that way.

When you point out that life could not have arisen from non-life without a creator, they suggest that aliens may have put life on earth, but certainly not God.

When you point out that objective morality is evidence for God’s existence, many admit that they believe murder and rape are not actually objectively wrong, they are merely unpleasant and unhelpful.

When you point out that consciousness is not explainable by physical phenomena, they insist that consciousness is really just an illusion.

Yes, there is always a way to get out of believing in God if you want to. But you will have to be an Olympic level mental gymnast to jump through the necessary hoops. In the meantime, the God who is love patiently offers you His hand.

The Word of Power

In Luke 8, Jesus gives an extended parable in which He compares the Word of God to seeds that are scattered on various soils.

In this parable, some of the seed result in the growth of healthy plants and in other cases the seed is unsuccessful.  Interestingly, there is nothing wrong with any of the seed that results in these unsuccessful instances.  Rather, the condition of a particular soil, and its ability to receive the seed, is the determining factor in its ultimate success.

One underlying principle that we can draw from this parable is the concept that the seed itself is perfect, and capable of producing life for any who can receive it.  Thus, the power to bring about belief is invested in God’s word itself.

Romans 10:17 reiterates this when it states that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Here the word itself is portrayed as resulting in faith.  Indeed, in the first chapter and sixteenth verse of Romans, Paul states that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  Once again, the word is invested with the power.

Perhaps this is why he could say in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”  Paul knew that the power to save was not in his own wisdom, but in the Word of God.

Indeed, at the the beginning of the second chapter of the same book these words of his are recorded: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.  For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  Paul understood that his job was not to impress with worldly knowledge or intellectualism, but to preach the word of power.

Hebrews 3:15 admonishes readers, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

That voice, which we can encounter any time we open the Bible, is a powerful voice.  Will you be receptive?
Lighting, the power of God

An Outline of the Book of Romans

Colosseum in Rome
The following is an overview of Romans based on our weekly Sunday Morning Bible Study at Mankato Church of Christ from June-July, 2015.

Introduction.
Paul addresses himself to the Romans and expresses a desire to come see them. (1:1-17)

 No one is justified by works.
The world is a dark place, spiraling downward into sin. (1:18-32)
Even “good, moral people” fall short. (2:1-29)
Being a Jew does have some advantages, but NO ONE has the ability to justify himself to God based on his own merits. (3:1-20)

We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus.
Salvation is made available to us through Jesus Christ. (3:21-5:21)
It is a gracious salvation, it is not deserved. (3:21-5:21)
We access it by faith. (3:21-5:21)
Faith is a trust in God despite discouraging circumstances, and is completed and evidenced by obedience. (4:18-25, James 2:14-26)

We are not only justified, but also sanctified.
This salvation is not merely forgiveness, so that we may continue in sin that grace may abound. It is also comprised of a transformation, as we die to sin and are set free from our slavery to it. (6:1-23)

How and why the Old Law has been done away with.
How can Jews simply lay aside the Old Covenant law code? Because they died to it when they died with Christ, that the law of the Spirit might replace it. (7:1-6)
Are we saying that the law is bad? Not at all, but that sin has used it to ruin us. We are in desperate need of Jesus Christ, not merely the law, to solve this problem. (7:7-25)

Sanctification by the power of the Spirit.
It must remain amply clear that living according to the flesh still leads to death, even under this new covenant. (8:1-13)
Walking not according to the flesh but in righteousness is achieved by following, setting the mind on, and being indwelled by God’s Spirit. It is a matter not merely or rule keeping, but of inward change. (8:1-8:27)

What a glorious plan God has made, that He should justify us to Himself, that Christ Himself would not condemn, that having given us His Son, God would also give us all that we need. (8:26-39)

God is not breaking any promises to Israel.
God always knew that not all Hebrews would be saved, and that the Gentiles would come in, and has spoken accordingly through the prophets. (9:1-33)
The invitation is certainly open to all Jews, since Christ is the fulfillment of Judaism. (10:1-11:6)
Gentiles ought not to be arrogant about this, for though God may use them to make the Jews jealous, He can just as easily remove them from the plan if they display unbelief. (Romans 11:7-36)

Therefore, give your life to God.
In light of this doctrine, your service and your sacrifice to God is to give your life to Him. (12:1-2)

Your relationships with fellow Christians should be mutually edifying. (12:3-13)
You should treat your enemies with kindness rather than revenge. (12:14-21)
You should be in subjection to your government. (13:1-7)
All of your relationships are to be governed by the law: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (13:8-14)

Do not judge your fellow Christians over matters of personal opinion. (14:1-12)
Avoid causing a brother to stumble by your actions, even if those actions are not inherently sinful. (14:13-23) 

Closing thoughts and reminders
Accept and edify each other. (15:1-12)
Paul’s expression of personal joy at the success of the congregation and the salvation of the gentiles (15:13-21) and reaffirmation that Paul wants to visit. (15:22-33)
Warning about those who cause divisions. (16:17-20)

Greetings to many diverse Christian brethren. (16:1-16, 21-24) 

All glory to God through Jesus Christ. (16:25-27)

Living Life to the Fullest

Henry David Thoreau, the American philosopher born 1817, spent two years living simply by himself in the woods. In a well know passage from his work, Walden, he explains why he decided to do this:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau voices a concern that many of us sometimes face: the feeling that we are not living life to the fullest. There seem to be many forces working against us in our desire for fulfilling lives.

Daily routines make life seem mundane.
Modern jobs are often so specialized that they involve repeated tedious tasks.
Countless responsibilities such as taxes, utility bills, and insurance policies drain our hard earned income.
Physical ailments may provide unrelenting discomfort.
Modern individualism eats away at a sense of community.
Mindless entertainment is constantly available in limitless quantity to absorb our free time.
But Jesus Christ says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

He frees us from the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:15)
He frees us from guilt and shame. (Hebrews 9:13)
He gives us a Spirit which lives in us and encourages us. (Romans 8:14-17)

He invites us on a journey too rich and full to be described in a small bulletin article. It is a journey full of words like justification, sanctification, faith, hope, love, peace, fellowship, etc. It can be so easy for these words to become meaningless to us over time, but may we hear Jesus loud and clear as he invites us to live life to the fullest. That is a work that He is starting in us now, which will be completed when He comes again (Romans 8:18-25).

Life to the Fullest