Righteousness and Redemption –

Righteousness is required

Genesis 18:16-33; Genesis 19:1, 12-13
Leviticus 19:11-19
Psalms 18:20-27; Proverbs 10:2, 11:4, 11:19, 15:9
Isaiah 5:1-7; 59:1-17
Jeremiah 22:1-13a
Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:21-23
Matthew 5:21-48
1 Timothy 6:11-19
2 Timothy 2:22-26
1 John 2:28 – 3:12

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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: 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.

Sin cannot 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.: 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)

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!
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)

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 righteousness.

More on Righteousness and Redemption
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

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