Three Steps Toward Righteousness


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Gaining the correct Definition of righteous or righteousness is crucial to living a godly life. The reason for our unfamiliarity with righteousness is not because the Bible hasn't commonly used the word. The Bible uses the word righteous or righteousness more than times! Then where is the confusion? The word 'righteous' is not used because its meaning is not popular. A quick list of synonyms such as virtuous, pure, moral, chaste, ethical and pious reveal that there is not much affinity toward the concept of righteousness in our generation.

Peter , an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens , scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1 Peter 1: How many times do we meet up with these words in our newspapers and magazines?

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Even more revealing is to hear how many time one hears this word come up among Christians. Is it possible we don't speak it because we don't think it? Israel was seeking righteousness and striving hard to attain it, but she had failed. The Gentiles, neither seeking nor striving for it, did attain righteousness.

In terms of the gospel, Israel was failing where many more Gentiles were succeeding. In Romans 9 Paul answers from the divine perspective: Those whom God chose not to save, He would nevertheless use to demonstrate His power and His glory.

Israelites were lost in unbelief not only because God had not chosen them chapter 9 but also because they had not chosen God. While Israel failed in regard to salvation, Paul has not failed in his hopes and prayers for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Being religious is not the same as being righteous. Although Israel might be commended for her religious zeal, she would be condemned for her lack of righteousness.

Paul knew this from his own experience. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh Philippians 3: Israel had first-hand experience with God and with His righteousness. Israel had the Law, which was the revelation of His righteousness.

And most recently Israel had witnessed the righteousness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. No people had more revelation concerning the righteousness of God. How could they possibly be ignorant of His righteousness? Paul provides the explanation: Israel wanted to establish her own righteousness. She did not want to receive righteousness as a gift of grace, but she wanted to earn it as the wages of her own good works.

In seeking to establish her own righteousness, Israel refused to submit to the righteousness of God as revealed and offered in Jesus Christ. Like Israel, those who wish to stand on their own merits will not submit themselves to the righteousness God provides.

Isaiah 61:1-12

Israel did not want charity. The offer of righteousness was not overlooked as much as it was resisted and rejected. All Christians do not agree on what Paul means by these words. Some understand them to say that the Law has been put aside for all time, cast away as an ancient relic with no value at all to Christians. The Law was given by God as a revelation of His righteousness and as His standard for righteousness.

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By means of His Law, men are shown to be sinners 3: The Law bears witness to the righteousness of God in the person of Jesus Christ 3: The Law was given to define sin so that men might recognize it as such, something they would not have been able to do without the Law 7: The Christian loves that which the Law requires and desires to do what the Law says 7: Our failure to live up to the standards of the Law demonstrates the weakness of our own flesh and the evil of sin 7: Those who love one another fulfill the Law The Law is hardly annulled by the coming of Christ.

He is the goal to which the Law pointed. His is the righteousness to which the Law bears testimony. The same righteousness which the Law defined, Jesus demonstrated. The same righteousness which the Law demanded, Jesus offers to sinful men; He produces His righteousness in those who believe in Him. Not only did the Law provide a standard and make demands, it pronounced a curse on all those who are unrighteous. The death penalty pronounced on sinners by the Law is done away with in Christ for every believer. Christ bore the curse of the Law. All those who have believed in Him have died, in Him, to the curse of the Law.

The Law no longer pronounces a curse against us. While the standard of the Law remains, the curse of the Law has been done away with once for all, in Christ, for all who believe. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. His method is another matter. Because of the difficulty of this text, let us come to it in the reverse of our normal approach. The Jews failed to attain righteousness Paul has already informed us, not because they did not try but because they did try.

The Gentiles attained righteousness without trying. What is the difference? The difference is between faith and works. The Jews tried to earn righteousness by law-keeping; the Gentiles attained righteousness as a gift, by faith in Jesus as the Messiah. The first illustration comes from a statement found initially in Leviticus In verse 5, Paul refers to what Moses has written, but there is no direct quote given as indicated by the editors of the NASB.

In fact, Paul significantly modifies or restates the words of this passage. Before looking at these Old Testament passages as Paul has used them in Romans 10, let us look at these passages in their context in the Old Testament.


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I view this preliminary step as especially important because of the modification Paul makes in citing these texts. It is also important because I wish to underscore that the Old Testament writers never conceived of the keeping of the Law as a means of attaining righteousness. In studying this passage in Romans, I was distressed to see several commentators speak of two different ways of salvation: This is simply not true.

No Old Testament writer conceived of anyone being saved by their works. Salvation in the Old Testament, as in the New, was always by faith. This is what Paul underscored in Romans 4 when he showed that Abraham was saved by faith, apart from works. While the Bible emphatically does not teach two ways of salvation, fallen man has always sought to be saved by his works. When men strive to be saved by their own works, they do so in disobedience to the Word of God—not in obedience to it.

Reviewing the context of these two Old Testament statements Paul refers to in our text will help us see how they were originally meant to be understood. From early on in her history, Israel had been involved in idol worship. Rachel stole the household gods from her father, Laban Genesis In Egypt, Israel was involved with the gods of that place, and they brought some of those gods with them, worshipping them in the wilderness Ezekiel While Moses was on Mt.

Sinai, receiving the Law from God, the people persuaded Aaron to help them make an idol which they then worshipped Exodus God had promised to lead this nation into the land of promise. There was a very practical problem, however: God made several provisions for His people to enable Him to dwell in their midst—in a way that would not result in their death due to His holiness and their sin.

First, God provided the Law. If they lived in accordance with His Law, they would not offend Him, and they would live.


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  • If they failed to keep His Law, they would die. Second, God provided the people with a sacrificial system. When there was sin, there was also death. The sacrificial system assumed the people would sin and that some provision for their sins must be made. The annual Day of Atonement assumed that this system of daily sacrifices would not be sufficient and that some sins would either be unrecognized or there would be no atonement for them. Thus, annually a general atonement was made for the people, putting off the payment of sins for a later time—that time when the Messiah would come and die once for all for the sins of His people.

    Third, God provided the people with the tabernacle, a provision whereby a holy God could dwell in the midst of a sinful people without putting them to death for their sins. The tabernacle was a kind of corporate veil, shielding the holy God from a sinful nation. Were they to approach Him too closely, they would die. God dwelt within that tabernacle, and the high priest alone was allowed to enter into the holy of holies.

    The Old Testament gave every indication that law-keeping was not going to justify anyone. Law-keeping was never a second way of salvation. It was something self-righteous men sought to do, in defiance of God, and in rejection of His provision of righteousness through faith. Deuteronomy 30 is the second text to which Paul refers in Romans These words are addressed to the second generation of Israelites, the children of those who were led out of Egypt by Moses.

    Their parents all died in the wilderness because of their unbelief and rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea Numbers 13 and Now, after the 40 years of wilderness wandering in which the first generation died, this generation was about to enter the land of promise. Moses restated the Law in Deuteronomy 5. The people promised to obey, but God knew otherwise as He said to Moses:.

    They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! In a much larger and more extensive passage They would be cursed, and they would ultimately be sent into captivity see Not until God changes the hearts of His people will they be able to keep His law. In the second text verse 29 , Moses calls Israel to give heed to what God has revealed in His law, rather than to seek to learn that which God has concealed.

    In chapter 30, Moses begins to speak of the restoration of Israel. The prophets will pick up on this promise and speak of it in greater detail see, for example, Jeremiah It is after all this, in the sequence of Deuteronomy , that the words to which Paul refers are recorded in Deuteronomy In context, I believe Moses is picking up on his statement in Deuteronomy He is warning the Israelites not to concentrate on that which is unknown, unrevealed and speculative, and exhorting them to focus on that which has been clearly communicated through the law.

    No one has to search out this truth. No one needs to work to obtain the message from God. He has not hidden His truth; He has revealed Himself clearly in the law He is giving. They do not need to strive to obtain it, either by going into heaven for God has spoken from heaven or by going across the sea.


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    They need but to receive it and believe it, as He has revealed it in His law. With regard to the statement found in Leviticus It was speaking not of Christ but of the commandment Moses was giving to this people. These two Old Testament references are not, in their context or in the sense of their original meaning, a declaration of two ways of attaining righteousness. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. It takes forever to find a way out. Chapter Two I walk down the same street. I fall in again. It still takes a long time to get out. Chapter Three I walk down the same street.

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    I see it there. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately. Chapter Four I walk down the same street.

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    I walk around it.

    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness
    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness
    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness
    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness
    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness
    Three Steps Toward Righteousness Three Steps Toward Righteousness

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