Genesis 18:16-33; Genesis 19:1, 12-13 (7/11/11)
Today we begin a new topic, Righteousness and Redemption. In our last study, we’ve seen that sin presents us with a grave problem: commit a sin and you die. Our new study talks about how the problem of sin is solved. Pastor Craig’s sermon this morning was a perfect segue from the past study to the present study. He said:
We whine that it’s not our fault, but much of what happen to us is the direct result of our own choices and actions. What I want is to do all the right things and make all the right choices, so that I can get control over where I end up. But that is not the goal of the Christian. The goal for the Christian is to let go of the need to be in control, and to let God be God.
In Righteousness and Redemption, we’ll see that the solution to sin is to let God be God. The first thing to understand is that righteousness is required. For want of 10 righteous persons, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Leviticus 19:11-19 (7/12/11)
The problem that sin presents is that sin cannot enter into the presence of God. This is not because God wants to punish us, or that he’s self-righteous or holier-than-thou. (God is
righteous and holy
, but that’s not the reason.)
Let’s do a thought-experiment. Imagine that I want to take darkness to the sun. First I might try moving just the darkness, but everywhere the sun shines on it, it disappears. So then I say, okay, I’ll put the darkness into a spaceship that will conceal it, and I can take it to the sun that way. The problem is that when I get close to the sun, my spaceship burns up and the darkness disappears, and on top of that, I am incinerated.
enter into the presence of God. Only righteousness can enter into the presence of God. Righteousness is required of me because I can’t enter into the presence of God while I’m carrying a cargo of sin. Uh oh.
Psalms 18:20-27; Proverbs 10:2, 11:4, 11:19, 15:9 (7/13/11)
The proverbs say that righteousness delivers from death. David says that the LORD
rewards us according to our righteousness or lack thereof: the LORD
is merciful with the merciful, upright with the upright, pure with the pure, and froward with the froward. Which brings us to a question about yesterday’s scripture, sent in by a fellow-reader Nancy S.:
Obviously “respect” does not mean the same in olden times as it does now. We teach our children to respect others. What does Leviticus 19:15 mean when it says “you shall not respect the person of the poor”?
See? I keep telling you not to read the King James Version! Although the Hebrew word has a broad range of meanings, most of them show that “respect” means just about that – don’t favor a person just because he’s poor, and don’t favor a person just because he’s rich. Hold everyone to God’s standard. Psalms 18:26, where the KJV has froward,
is translated “with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous” by the English Standard Version, and for today that’s a much better representation of the Hebrew. Think about “to and fro.” The LORD heads away from people who head away from him.
Our fellow-reader also asks what the problem was with mingling breeds/seeds/cloths in Leviticus 19:19. I believe many scholars take this as a practical, daily rule that reinforces God’s direction to the Israelites to remain separate from the surrounding Canaanite peoples; however, there seems to be no consensus.
Anyway, when David wrote today’s psalm, he was still a young man, and he thought he had some righteousness. I’m old enough to know better.
Isaiah 5:1-7; 59:1-17 (7/14/11)
Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard starts out sounding like an extremely up-scale country-and-western song. “My true love betrayed me.” All the listeners are sad. Then the singer speaks directly to the listeners: “I’m going to file for a divorce, and you can be the judge. What more could I have done?” And the listeners are thinking, “Not a thing.” Then the singer says: “You! You
are the true love who betrayed me! I asked you for justice; I got injustice. I asked you for righteousness; the people cry out to me because you were unrighteous!”
In the second passage, we see why God demands righteousness: unrighteousness separates us from God and leads to death. God is so unhappy about this situation that he looks for an intercessor for us. Finding none, he dons the armor of righteousness (which he already had) and salvation (which he didn’t need) in order to do the job himself.
Jeremiah 22:1-13a (7/15/11)
I’m giving Jeremiah the last word on God’s Old Testament requirement for righteousness. This is appropriate, because Jeremiah was one of the last pre-Exilic prophets, and he continued to preach during the Exile. Lack of righteousness led to the Exile, and to the deaths of most of the people of Judah.
Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:21-23 (7/18/11)
The Old Testament standard for righteousness is straightforward: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, love your neighbor as yourself, and keep all the commandments. The New Testament standard for righteousness is much higher, as we will see this week.
The first thing to do is the most difficult, I think. We have to do the will of God the Father – and note that this scripture is directed at us, not at unbelievers. Mostly we would prefer a checklist, just like the folks we read about today. Cast out demons, check. Prophesy, check. Tithe, check. Attend church, check. Jesus says that unless we are doing the will of the Father in heaven, all those good deeds may not avail us anything.
Matthew 5:21-48 (7/19/11)
Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount:
Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Not all the ones who say to me, “Lord, Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord! Didn’t we prophesy in your name? And cast out demons in your name? And do many acts of power in your name?”
And then I will confess to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, O Workers of Lawlessness.”
I’m currently on jury duty, although so far I haven’t been selected for a jury. The court staff and the training video take great pains to express their appreciation. They emphasize that the courts can’t do their job without us. In the training I took a few years back, the trainer said that knowing there is jury present and ready to serve
is a huge factor in getting the parties to a civil or criminal lawsuit to settle. She said that when we are dismissed after waiting around all day, it’s usually because they didn’t want to bring their case before the jury.
Jesus says the same thing!
- Don’t get into a position that you are in danger of judgment.
- Don’t bring your case to God when your brother has something against you, because God may find in favor of your brother. First work out terms with your brother; then come to God.
- Don’t bring your case to court before trying to reach a compromise, because you may be in the wrong, and if so, you will have to pay the penalty.
Jesus follows up these legal examples by laying down requirements for righteousness that are much stricter than anything in the Old Testament. Anyone who thinks the New Testament is all sweetness and light hasn’t read it.
1 Timothy 6:11-19 (7/20/11)
Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount:
“You heard that it was said to people of the old days, ‘Do not murder,” because whoever murders will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that every one who is angry at his brother will be in danger of judgment, and whoever vilifies his brother will be in danger from the church council, and whoever says, ‘Fool!’ will be in danger of hell fire.
“So when you bring your gift to the altar and remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar and go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and bring your gift.
“Agree with your opponent quickly, before you get to court, lest your opponent deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the bailiff to be thrown into jail. I tell you for sure, you certainly won’t get out of there until you have paid back the last penny.
“You heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that each one who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye trips you up, pluck it out and cast it away from yourself, because it’s better for you that one part of your body should perish than to have your whole body cast into hell. And if your right hand trips you up, cut it off and cast it way from yourself, because it’s better for you that one part of your body should perish than to have your whole body go away into hell.
“And it has been said, “Whoever dismisses his wife must give her a divorce decree. But I say to you that every one who dismisses his wife except for the cause of fornication causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorcee commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to people of the old days, ‘Do not perjure yourself, but pay up on your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, don’t swear at all, neither by heaven, because it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, because it is the footstool for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of a great king. And don’t swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ ‘no’; anything else comes from evil.
“You heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye,’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you not to resist evil, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other. And to the one who wants a judgment against you for your shirt, give also your coat. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go two with him. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love you neighbor,’ and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you will become children of your father in heaven, who makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and send rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous. Because if you love the ones who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same thing? And if you greet your relatives only, what are you doing that’s special? Don’t even the gentiles do the same? You be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.”
You are saved by faith, through grace, as a gift from God. It has nothing to do with your actions. Even so, your behavior is so important that much of the Bible is devoted to telling you how to behave. Paul says, “Go after righteousness!”
2 Timothy 2:22-26 (7/21/11)
If God saves us by grace, why is righteousness required? Paul suggests a couple of reasons. For one thing, our righteousness may be instrumental in providing the example that leads someone else to repentance and salvation. For another, it tends to keep us free from the influence of the Devil, a result greatly to be desired.
1 John 2:28 – 3:12 (7/22/11)
Have you seen the sign that says something like, “God, so far today I haven’t done this, that, or the other thing, but any minute now I’m going to get out of bed”?
Righteousness is not something that can be obtained by staying at home alone and not committing any sins. It is something that requires active engagement with the world: Love God! Love your neighbor! Keep the commandments! I suppose you could love God all by your lonesome, but the rest requires you to get out of bed and do
something. John’s emphasis is not on being
righteous; it is on doing
More on Righteousness and Redemption
And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does righteousness is born of him.
See what sort of love the father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know him.
Beloved, now we are children of God, but what we will be is not yet revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself, just as he is pure.
Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness: sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away our sins, but there is no sin in him. Everyone who remains in him does not sin. Everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him.
Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you. The one who does righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does sin is from the devil, because the devil has sinned from the beginning. The son of God was manifested for this reason—to destroy the works of the devil. Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God.
The children of God and the children of the devil are shown in this way: the one who does not do righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. Because this is the message that you heard from the beginning: that we should love one another. Not like Cain, who was of the wicked one and slew his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his works were evil, and those of his brother were righteous.
Works righteousness is not effective for redemption
Faith, all by itself, can lead forgiveness
Righteousness is imputed to those who have faith
Another path to forgiveness: Repentance and Confession
Redemption = Being Ransomed by God from Sin and Death
Copyright 2011, 2013 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
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St. John’s United Methodist Church,
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