Love Is Shown by Righteousness, Part 2

Love is shown by righteousness. A person who is living in God’s truth is a righteous person. “Goodness” is a very broad term in Scripture that means showing kindness, being helpful, and being faithful by acting for the wellbeing of one another. “Righteousness” is a much more specific term that means living out God’s Law. God’s righteousness is revealed in the Law, the summary of which is the Ten Commandments. A righteous person is a person who lives their life according to that revealed standard.

Before going any further, I want to make clear what I am going to be talking about and what I am not going to be talking about. I know that the Bible says we are not righteous. In Romans 3:10 Paul quotes Psalm 14:3 and asserts there is no one righteous, not even one. I not only know the Bible teaches that, I believe it. I don’t have to look any further than myself to know this is true.

Paul says ten verses later in Romans 3:20, therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. The righteousness I am talking about is not a righteousness that God expects from us that earns even one cent towards the price of redemption. Despite our sin, God still expects His people to be righteous. Jesus even said, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48, NIV). So much of what Paul talks about in his letters address this very issue: that grace does not absolve us from obeying the Law—being righteous—but rather frees us to be obedient to it.

Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 (NIV) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Romans 6:13 (NIV)  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.

Romans 6:15 (NIV) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

Being righteous is never optional! As John Calvin said, we are saved by grace alone but the grace that saves is never alone. The proof that we have been forgiven, that we possess the righteousness of Christ is that we are righteous in how we conduct ourselves.

Throughout Scripture righteousness is given as a clear characteristic of God’s people.

Psalm 14:5 (NIV) God is present in the company of the righteous.

Psalm 146:8 (NIV) the LORD loves the righteous.

Ps 140:13 (NIV) Surely the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.

Ephesians 5:8-10 (NIV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth).

1 Peter 3:12 (NIV) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

Perhaps the place in Scripture where this is most plainly stated is in Psalm 15:1-2, Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous. Righteousness is a characteristic of God that He wants to see emulated in His disciples. If we are truly disciples of Christ, then we will not be content to claim His righteousness as our own, but we will be learning to conduct ourselves accordingly. We show ourselves to be Christians by being righteous.

What is the righteousness that God requires of His people? God gives us a picture of what He means in Ezekiel 18:6-9 (NIV)

He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD.

The righteousness God requires can be broken down into integrity and justice.

Righteousness in conducting ourselves towards others means that we conduct ourselves with integrity. David says in 1 Chronicles 29:17 (NIV) I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. Integrity means consistent adherence to moral principles. God expects us to be honest, honorable, and above reproach in how we conduct ourselves. When the Bible says that a person is upright or blameless as it does of Noah, David, and Job, what is meant is that they were people of integrity.

Righteousness when expressed in relationship is justice. Justice is being righteous in respect to the rights of others. God is concerned that we are just in our business with people, so He says in Leviticus 19:26 (NLT) Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry goods or liquids must be accurate. God wants us to be just in maintaining the law. He says through the prophet Amos in 5:15 (NIV) Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Most importantly, justice is to be given everyone, not just to certain groups, classes, or to people who can afford it. We are to give everyone their due. Proverbs 29:7 (NIV) says, The righteous care about justice for the poor. God says in Isaiah 1:17 (NIV) Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. God says in Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV),

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord”

If we know the Lord, we will delight in Him because He is kind, just, and righteous. And if we know the Lord, that delight will bubble over into the desire to emulate those same characteristics in ourselves. Righteousness is living according to God’s revealed standard of behavior. We live it by being people of integrity: being honest and above reproach in our personal life. We live it by being just: by respecting the rights of others and by working to make sure that we see that all people are treated justly.

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