Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Righteousness


Oh my, how does one tackle the correct and complete meaning of this word? I guess in the same manner with which one uses to eat an elephant - one bite or piece at a time. Here goes!

Jesus made an extremely startling statement to his disciples in Matthew 5:20 when He said, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (ESV) Did you get that statement? Do you grasp its significance? " will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus didn't say "You might not, you probably won't be able, you might just make it; He said you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus told his disciples, and those in the crowd who had followed Him up the hillside that unless the disciples and those in the crowd had a righteousness that superseded, surpassed, or was greater than the righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees paraded around in they would not get into heaven. Unless their righteousness περισσευω (perisseuo) "abound" "be in abundance" or "exceed a certain number or figure" of the righteousness of the religious elite they could not be a part of or inherit the kingdom of heaven.

There are three issues at stake with this one statement. My goal is not to develop those three issues but to define righteousness. However, let me say in relationship to those issues that first of all, every pious or God-fearing Jew was waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom had been promised to them and they were awaiting a Messiah to come and usher in the Kingdom with all of its promises and blessings. To say that if they were not more righteous than the religious leaders of the day they would not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven would have shocked them severely. 

Second, the scribes and Pharisees believed that they were keeping the law perfectly, therefore they believed they had acquired or that they merited the righteousness that the law demanded in order to be acceptable and be accepted by God.  The Pharisees often "looked down their nose" at the average Jew as less pious and worthy than themselves. The Pharisees certainly thought the average Jew possessed less righteousness than they did.

Third, it addresses the question of how does one acquire or obtain this type and level of righteousness in order to be able to enter the long awaited and promised kingdom of heaven? This was a very radical and unexpected statement from the one who claimed to be the long waited Messiah.

Lest, someone present in the midst of the disciples or the crowd that gathered, or anyone reading this thinks that they have the required or requisite righteousness listen to the prophet Isaiah. "But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...." (Isaiah 64:6, KJV)

Romans 3:9-18 makes it very clear that no one, regardless of whether one is a Jew or Gentile, no human being is or possesses righteousness. Read this passage very carefully. This includes you and me. As long as one is outside of Jesus Christ, neither you nor I possess any righteousness at best, and at worst what little (by definition) righteousness we might have is regarded by God in the same manner you and I would regard a used feminine product (that is what Isaiah 64 says in the Hebrew.) So, we must ask then, "What is righteousness?"

The primary Greek word is δικαιος (dikaios) or δικαιοσυνη (dikaiosune.) Dikaiosune is the "character or quality of being right or just", and at one time it was spelled in the English as "rightwiseness." Righteousness is a complete and absolute conformity with God's law. This word refers to "right conduct before God." It is conduct that follows the will, or the purpose of God and therefore is conduct that is pleasing to God.

Since no human being is ever born with dikaiosune, or the ability to conform to the law of God and conduct oneself according to the exact and perfect will of God, how does one obtain this righteousness? If the conduct of the Pharisees did not conform to the perfect will of God and was not pleasing nor acceptable to God, how does one acquire the righteousness that will gain entrance into the Kingdom of heaven?

In opposition to the Jewish and Pharisaical thought process of merit, righteousness is plainly a gift of God which He gives to those who humble themselves by admitting they have fallen short of God's perfect standard, are unable to achieve or reach God's perfect standard, and in simple child-like faith ask God for it. Righteousness is a pure gift from God. It cannot be earned, merited, or deserved. We admit we don't have, and that we need it, and we ask in faith that God would grant it to us.

When we humble ourselves and place our faith in the work of Christ on the cross several things take place.

First, we are crucified and put to death in Christ, second, God imputes our sin to Jesus Christ, and third, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us. All by faith, by the grace of God, it is a gift. We cannot work for it, earn it, serve for it, or any otherwise have this needed righteousness conferred upon you by priest, pastor, pope, penance, ecclesiastical body, board, church, baptism, membership, or manufacture it - God gives us the necessary righteousness that first, exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, and second conforms to His will which thirdly pleases Him simply by asking Him for it.

Righteousness is forensically ascribed to the one who asks in faith and believes. Righteousness is given by God to the believer as a new quality. Righteousness is made available because the sin of the believer was judged in Christ at Calvary. Therefore, get this, don't miss it, here it comes, it does not mean "JUST AS IF I NEVER SINNED!" God pronounces or declares one to be righteous or to have righteousness because the sin that existed was properly, according to His standards dealt with. It means that the man or woman who asks in humble faith to be forgiven and to have the righteousness required by God is right before God.

The divine judge in a divine "legal" manner exercises grace and bestows upon an undeserving sinner a new status based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. This new status gives the sinner hope. Now, the sinner has the righteousness that first, exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees and second meets God's standards perfectly thereby pleasing Him.

Please forgive me for the length of this post. Let me ask you, does your righteousness, your conduct, exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? If so, how so? Has God ascribed righteousness to you based on the finished work of Christ by grace through faith? I pray so!

2010 A-Z Challenge:  R is for Ransom
2011 A-Z Challenge:  R is for Righteousness


Crystal Mary said...

Ah, your question is a good one, and I am sure, I am not as righteous as I should be..I know I am a sinner and I know I fail..One thing I dilike.. is a self righeous person,, and I call them pharasee's, they look down their noses and are so judgemental, I feel sad for them.. I would rather love a sinner than try and imagine myself perfect. God Bless your beautiful mind in sharing this wonderful thoughtful message. CM

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful R post Gregg, I could do with being more righteous, though if the truth be known so could we all.

Have a lovley day,

Seams Inspired said...

Excellent explanation of righteousness, Gregg!

Have you ever been around someone who professes to have righteousness? They look for the 'bad' and sins people around them are committing, yet fail to look upon themselves...all in the name of 'following the rules' and righteousness.

To answer your question...I am amazed daily at the gift God has given me. I will never measure up in righteousness to deserve the salvation upon which He has bestowed me.

I've really enjoyed your posts throughout this challenge. They just keep getting better and better. Happy Thursday! :o)

Persis said...

Great post, Gregg! This is why I love the doctrine of imputation.

anthony stemke said...

A great article, I have a way to go I suppose, but don't at least act like a pharisee.

Penned Pebbles said...

What a great post! in its entirety, including the photos and the heart that beats behind each word. I pray that God would remove the scales from every eye that reads here! Blessings!

Cathy M. said...

I possess an alien righteousness, for which I thank God.

Linda Fischer said...

Amazing Grace... Thanks for posting. I found you from the A to Z challenge. You might enjoy my posts. I'm choosing to write about Bible characters. :)

Robyn Campbell said...

I fall short everyday, Gregg. The closer I get to God, the more satan wants to rip everything a part. In Romans chapter seven, verse 14-16. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. That's me in a nutshell, Gregg. So I am only righteous, because of the Savior. Without him, I'd be doomed.

I truly love coming here. I missed you yesterday. Had a ton of work to do. I am querying agents. UGH.

Easter is coming. That grand third day, my friend. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Gregg! How lost we should be without Christ's righteousness to cover us!

Sharon said...

Gregg, thank you for your comments and questions on my blog. I addressed some of them, although probably not adequately in a comment response to you there. I hope you have time to go back and have a look.

I thank the Father every day for His gracious gifts through His son, Jesus Christ, who is my righteousness. (Philippians 3:9)


Brianna said...

What a thorough explanation of righteousness. Thank you for deepening my understanding.

This post didn't seem long at all because it was packed with good information.

I was raised Catholic and was taught that forgiveness came from the priest. I will raise my daughter to know that forgiveness comes only from God and you have to really want his forgiveness; you can't expect to get it just because you say the right words.

Now I want to clarify that I am not anti-Catholic in any way. It's a beautiful religion with many positive aspects. I decided I needed to tell you because after attending a Catholic school for nine years and practicing the religion for thirty years it has deeply impacted me and has shaped my beliefs. I just thought you should know where I am coming from. At the present time, I attend a Methodist Church. Not that what church we go to matters, of course I was raised thinking otherwise. Anyway, I apologize for the long post and the history lesson on Brianna! Like I said, I just wanted you to know where I am coming from.