Archive for April 21st, 2010

Mark Horne’s post titled “Who has kept the Law” reminded me that just as many misunderstand what it means to “keep the law” so many misunderstand the term “righteousness.”

We assume that “righteousness” is “sinless perfection.” Thus, we when we see the word “righteousness” we think “sinlessness.” Luther speaks of trembling in terror over the thought of having to stand before a “righteous” God as a sinful man. “Righteousness” was a terrifying concept to him and historically, Protestants have taken the same view. To most, God’s “righteousness” is something to be dreaded and feared.

But this attitude toward God’s righteousness is not the attitude toward God’s righteousness that we find in Scripture. Surely, the wicked ought to be in terror over the thought of standing before a righteous God. But the faithful view God’s righteousness as a great comfort and the source of great joy. Note what we read in the Bible:

God assures Isaiah that it is His righteousness that insures His deliverance of His people (Isaiah 45:21). Thus, when His righteousness draws near, His salvation is going forth (Isaiah 51:5-6). God’s salvation is founded upon His unfailing righteousness. Thus, when salvation comes it is a revelation of God’s righteousness (Isaiah 56:1).

God’s righteousness is expressed in His lovingkindness — His covenant love — indeed, the psalmist effectively equates the two (Psalm 36:10; 103:17-18). Because of this God’s righteousness is always good news to His people (Psalm 40:9-10). Proclaiming the gospel is, therefore, the revelation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 1:16-17).

God’s righteousness, therefore, is the basis for praise rather than terror (Psalm 35:28). It is the foundation for hope rather than despair (Psalm 71:14-15). This is so because His righteousness is His faithfulness to His covenant purposes. He is righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:17) and because He is righteous, the faithful will be preserved and the wicked destroyed (Psalm 145:18-20).

As His image-bearers, we are to be like Him. We are to be righteous sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, citizens and neighbors. Righteousness is expressed within covenant bonds of love and thus, it is never merely a matter of keeping to the rules, staying within the boundaries, or refusing to stray outside the lines. Righteousness is living in fidelity to God’s Word in the context of trust, loyalty, and love.

To be righteous then, is to be faithful to the God of righteousness. Job is an upright man (Job 1:1). He not only refused to rebel against God (shunning evil) but feared Him. This is righteousness. (more…)

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