ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

Psalm 116:5

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”

Psalm 71:19

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. … Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

Daniel 9: 7, 14

The righteousness of God is one of the most frequently referenced attributes found in Scripture.  It is tied closely to God’s justice, and the word “just” is sometimes used where other translations will say “righteous” in reference to God’s character.  When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right.  We know that God is holy, and righteousness is His holiness in action.

צְדָקָה

The transliteration of this Hebrew word is tsedaqah and its pronunciation is tsed·ä·kä’. This Hebrew word is translated as justice or righteousness.  Strong’s concordance says this in its definition:

  1. righteousness (in government), such as a judge, ruler or king, of the law, and of the Davidic king Messiah
  2. righteousness (of God’s attribute)
  3. righteousness (in a case or cause)
  4. righteousness, truthfulness
  5. righteousness (as ethically right)
  6. righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation
  7. righteous acts

δικαιοσύνη

This is the Greek word for righteousness.  The transliteration of this Greek word is dikaiosynē and its pronunciation is dē-kī-o-sü’-nā.  Strong’s concordance defines this term in the following manner:  

in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.  A) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; B) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

Now, let’s consider some of the examples and scripture passages dealing with God’s righteousness.

Consider, for example, that God deals righteously with humanity.  Abraham expressed God’s righteousness in Genesis when he was speaking with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 18:25

God expresses His righteousness when He loves the things that are good and hates the things that are evil.  This attribute leads God to do only those things that are right.  Thus, because He is righteous, He must judge evil and sin cannot come into His presence. 

Righteousness is like goodness and holiness, but this attribute differs from others because it requires works to establish it.  God is good and God is holy, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works the good as well.

This connection between works and righteousness is seen in the very first book of the Bible.  God was speaking to Abram and promising to make him a great nation, notwithstanding the fact that his wife was barren.  After delivering this promise, scripture says:

“And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” 

Genesis 15:6

A multitude of other scriptures reference the connection between our works and righteousness.  Consider these as examples:

“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

Deuteronomy 6:25

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Psalm 24:4-5

The Old Testament is not the only place where righteousness is discussed and commanded from God’s people. 

Jesus said:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33 

Then Paul wrote to the Romans and said:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 14:17

The connection between righteousness and action was expressed by James like this:

 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness“–and he was called a friend of God. …  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James 2:21-23, 26

While Christians are called righteous, we do not receive that commendation because of any ability to accomplish good works in ourselves.  Rather, we are considered righteous by our holy God because we reside in the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, Christ’s obedience is imputed to us and when we stand before God, God sees not us but the righteousness of His Son.

Paul expressed it like this:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–“

Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness.  It is an attribute of God and we are commanded to follow God’s lead in doing works of righteousness.  Not to earn our own salvation, but to praise Him for the gift of grace and mercy in the atoning work of our Savior and Lord.

Father, I praise You for Your righteousness.  Through Your Son’s sacrifice, You have imputed His righteousness to us, and have covered our sins with His atoning blood.  Thank You for Your righteousness and mercy. 

IMITATION – the way of learning the Way

We all know that children learn by imitating their caregivers, whether it be parents, grandparents, day care workers, or anyone else who provides care and input into their lives.  Indeed, they even imitate what they see and hear on television, a sobering thought to be sure!

JDD playing keyboard

When our grandson was young, he would play the keyboard as if he was playing the piano, something he had seen me do.  Then, too, he would imitate his Papa by using the computer in the home-office, keyboarding with the abandon only a young child can muster!

At the office (C)

But, children need to be discriminating in selecting who they imitate. I recall my Mother’s admonition about imitating people “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?”  In short, we must learn who deserves the high honor of our imitation. 

This is as true in our Christian life as it is in our physical life. We are not to imitate someone who preaches something other than the Gospel of Christ as found in Scripture.  The Apostle John warns:

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.

3 John 1:11a ESV

So who are we to imitate?  First and foremost: Jesus. 

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

John 13:14-15 ESV.  Another time Jesus spoke of imitation related to loving each other:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12 ESV

Even Jesus’ command that the disciples were to love each other was based on imitating how Jesus had loved them.

In addition to Jesus, Paul says this to the believers in Philippi:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Philippians 3:17 ESV. 

Just think, Paul’s life was so controlled by the Spirit of God that he could safely encourage the believers in the churches to imitate himself, further telling them that they should only follow those who live by the example that he set for them. 

In urging prayer for the leaders in the church, the writer of the book of Hebrews says:

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7 ESV

Look at the life that the leader is living; look at the witness, at their honesty, at their integrity, at their fidelity to the Word of God.  Look at the entirety of their way of life and then, and only then, imitate their faith.

G. K. Beale said:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175.

Some questions to ruminate upon:

  • Are you imitating someone who is guiding and uplifting you in your Christian pilgrimage through this world?
  • Are they deserving of your imitation, and if so, are you praying that they remain strong in their faith and witness to you and to others? Are you encouraging them in their walk with the Lord?
  • What would happen if someone were to imitate you? Would they grow in their understanding of the Christian walk?
  • Can you say, like Paul, “join in imitating me”? If you cannot say this, what do you need to do to realign your life with Scripture so that you can be the witness that deserves to be imitated by those less mature in the faith?

Father, we know that children learn and imitate us even when we are unaware that they are doing so.  I pray that I would be someone whose life would lead children and adults alike into a life with the Lord Jesus and that I would be a consistent witness for Him.

THE PERFECTION OF GOD, PART 2

Oregon picture perfect mountains

In the prior post we considered the perfection of God and the reality that His perfection extends to each of His attributes.  Perfect beauty, perfect love, perfect mercy, perfect wisdom, perfect justice, perfect power, etc.   Further, God’s perfection has always existed and it will continue to exist even after the end of time.  He is perfect and nothing will change that condition.

Recall, too, that which the medieval theologians said of God:  they used a phrase which may be translated as “the most perfect being”, the Latin phrase “ens perfectissimus”.

Today, we want to consider God’s perfection as it compares to our own. 

Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, which is composed of the Father, the Son [Jesus] and the Holy Spirit.  We believe that Jesus was fully divine as part of the Godhead.  We also believe that Jesus was fully human, just as you and I are human, but He had no sin. 

Jesus, the incarnation of God, said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48 ESV.

In His human nature, He lived a perfect life because He fulfilled the law in each and every aspect of it.  Therefore, He was the sinless sacrifice that atoned for the sins that we have committed.  Because Jesus lived this perfect life as a man, He fulfilled His own commandment to us that we should be perfect as God, our heavenly Father, is perfect.  

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes our condition in which our mind and heart want to follow God and do His commandments but our flesh refuses and chooses to sin instead.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 

Romans 7:18-19 ESV

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  

Romans 7:24-25 ESV

Paul answered his gut-wrenching scream in verse 24 with his thanks as expressed in verse 25 – Jesus Christ is the One who can rescue us from this dilemma.  Clearly, because of sin we cannot even be considered a little bit good in God’s eyes, certainly not “perfect”!  

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul talked more about perfection, and said:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV. 

Paul recognized that we are not, nor can we on our own be, perfect.  Even the apostle had not attained perfection; but he pressed on toward this goal because he belonged to Jesus Christ.  Our victory over sin is through Jesus Christ who did live that perfect life which we regularly fail to accomplish.  Not only did Jesus live a sinless life, He died on the cross and was raised from the dead on the third day.  He vanquished sin and death and He has promised to do that for us, for those who believe in His name and accept Him as their Savior.   

Paul, here, was referring to Isaiah 25:8, when he told the Corinthians that perfection did not belong to us, but to the One who conquered sin and death:

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV 

The quintessence of perfection belongs to God, the Father Almighty because He is perfect:  simply put, perfection is just one of His attributes.  Indeed, it is because of His love for His people that we even get a glimpse of perfection in this fallen world.  Thank Him for giving us His Son, through whom we can be counted as righteous, or as perfect, before the holy eyes of our Almighty God.

Praise Him that He loves us so much that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life among us sinners so that we could be transported to heaven and live in His perfect righteousness there!

Father, when we consider Your attributes and realize that You are perfect, in all things, we can only bow in humble reverence that You would consider us at all.  When we remember that You sent Your Son as our Savior, the only response we rightfully can offer is one of repentant obedience, gratitude, and devotion.