Love Is Shown by Righteousness, Part 1

Discipleship in Jesus’ day was very different than we think of it now. To be a disciple at that time meant leaving home and business to live with your Rabbi. In so doing, you were committing to going wherever he went, to accept his authority, his interpretation of Scripture, and to emulate him in all areas of life. You learned and adopted his habits, his, attitudes, his likes and dislikes….everything.

This was how Jesus taught His disciples. They left their boats and nets and tax collection booths and followed Him around and lived with Him for three years.

When you were old enough to be a disciple to a Rabbi, you already had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, so the focus of the discipleship was on living one’s life to God and how that looked in practice. By seeing how your Rabbi lived out and applied the commandments of the Mosaic Law, you learned what grace and truth looked like in everyday life.

The Pharisees and Jesus disagreed on a lot, but they did agree on this: learning how to live a godly life was just as much caught as it was taught. They both knew that book learning only got you so far. Knowing Scripture was important. Having good theology was important. But there are realties about learning to live out God’s grace and truth that can only be learned by seeing it lived out in another person. There is an indispensable component of learning to be godly that can only take place in relationship.

So when Jesus said, love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34), they knew what He was talking about. They had all experienced it—day in and day out—for years. It was familiar to them. That is why Jesus did not explain it any further than He did. He didn’t need to. He had been living it in front of them.

We do not have the benefit of having Jesus Christ physically walking with us as He did the first disciples. It was for this very reason that the Holy Spirit directed them to write the gospels so that the Church in all times and in all places would have an eye witness, divinely inspired account of the life of Christ with His disciples so that we could see how Jesus expressed His love to His disciples.

You can take Jesus’ actions in the Gospels and break them down into two groups. How He responded to people, and how He conducted Himself towards people. John expressed this for us in John 1:14 saying that His glory was in living a life full of grace and truth. When Jesus responded to people it was with grace. When Jesus conducted Himself towards people it was with truth.

To be living a life that is full of God’s truth means that we will be conducting ourselves as God has directed us to. For my next three posts we are going to look at one of the core characteristics of a life that is full of truth; and that is righteousness.

Before I get to that, let me go back and say something more about discipleship. What was true back then—that some aspects of living a life of love, a life that is full of grace and truth are caught more than taught—is still true today. Lots of things have changed since Jesus ascended into heaven. We have incredible tools for teaching. Books are everywhere. We have easy access to libraries, the internet, audio and video teaching…there is no shortage of information out there for understanding Scripture, learning theology, and on living the Christian life.

But head knowledge only takes you so far. Coming to church is great. But if you are not putting into practice what you are learning here, all this learning is not going to do you any good. Jesus said go and make disciples. He meant disciple as He understood it. That means you need to be in relationships with people who can help you overcome the challenges and obstacles you are facing as you are learning to love others as Jesus loves you. You need to be in relationships with people who can be learning from you.

Ok. Enough on that. The passage I have been thinking about on this topic is Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

In this passage, Paul tells us that one of the fruits of love is righteousness. This righteousness is not from ourselves, it comes from Jesus Christ. Christ’s righteousness is what God looks at when He looks at us. We have His righteousness. It is our own. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

In this passage Paul tells us that Christ’s righteousness is not passive, but active. It produces fruit. Christ’s righteousness is active in that it is not content to be inert in our lives. His righteousness is not simply applied to us, as if it were only like a set of clothes. It begins to change us into people who, through the power of the Spirit, begin to produce in us the fruit of righteousness. We are not simply counted righteous but we are told by Paul in this passage that we are to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Paul says we should be filled with the fruit of righteousness. That is to say people should not be saying of us “It’s a good thing that Christian has Christ’s righteousness, because he doesn’t have any of his own!” Rather people should be saying of us, “I know that person is saved because they have the fruits of Christ’s righteousness in their life.”

More tomorrow…


  1. What seems to be one of the most often over looked parts of one of the most quoted and well known scriptures has given me a new outlook on discipleship. Most Church folk are more than familiar with the KJV passage of scripture Matthew 11: 28-30. Among other parts, what jumps of the scripture page at me in blessed revelation is the first 9 words of verse 29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…” The message translation eloquently illuminates this passage saying “Come to me, get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace…”

    The Holy Spirit inspired men to give us the account of Jesus’ ministry. As John says, if each of Jesus’ works were to have been written, there would be too numerous accounts for the world itself to contain the books. However we have enough given by the anointed inspiration of God’s Spirit to provide sufficient discipleship of Jesus Christ himself. I also believe that the apostles sought to build the body of Christ, developing disciples, not of themselves, as seems to be the intent of many historical theologians, but of Christ Himself. He alone is the way the truth and the life. He alone by the Holy Spirit both sends us on His mission even as God the Father sent Him, he also showed us how to faithfully access the very creative power God provides in His kingdom.

    The kingdom power of God is made available to us through faith, not in ourselves, and not in the virtue of faith itself, but faith in the truth of God’s character and our loving Father who not only is able to make all grace abound toward us so that we always, having all sufficiency in all things abound to every good [kingdom] work, but that is exactly what God wants to do, because that love is who God is. Jesus Christ is the very embodiment and seed of God’s love for us. We shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free, if the Son therefore shall make us free, we shall be free indeed!


    1. Thank you for your comments. I also like the Message paraphrase of Matthew 11:29. And you are right, we are supposed to be making disciples of Christ, not ourselves. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we are being transformed into His image.


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