Righteousness and Redemption –

Works righteousness is not effective for redemption

Deuteronomy 9:1-6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8
Titus 3:1-8
Luke 18:9-14, 18-27
Matthew 23:1-3, 13-33
Matthew 5:20; Ephesians 2:8-10

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Deuteronomy 9:1-6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8 (7/25/11)

Deep in my heart, I suspect that deep in our hearts we all believe in works righteousness. We believe that the good we do – however little – outweighs the bad we do – however much. We believe that the little good we do outweighs the lesser good other people do. We believe that calories don’t count if the cookie is broken.

I am sorry to tell you that deep in my head, I know that none of these things are true. God demands righteousness, and God demands good works, but true righteousness cannot be obtained by means of good works. And even if we do manage to scratch together some works righteousness, it doesn’t count toward redemption.

Titus 3:1-8 (7/26/11)

Yesterday, Amos and Micah, speaking on behalf of God, said, “Do righteousness!” Moses, also speaking on behalf of God, said, “Not that it’s going to get you anywhere! God is giving you the promised land in spite of yourselves, not as a reward for your righteousness.”

Paul says exactly the same thing when he writes to his grad student and colleague, Titus: “Tell the congregation that they must do good works! Not that it has anything to do with gaining the gift of salvation...”

Luke 18:9-14, 18-27 (7/27/11)

Aargh! Now Jesus is telling us, “Do righteousness! Keep the commandments! But it won’t save you!”

Doing righteousness is my job, but if all I do is my job, I’m sure not going to get a high-performance bonus. Most of the time I don’t even succeed in doing my job.

Fortunately Jesus adds an important footnote: what is impossible for me is possible for God.

Matthew 23:1-3, 13-33 (7/28/11)

We Christians give the Pharisees a lot of bad press, and one of the worst things we can say about each other is that we’re nothing but a bunch of Pharisees. We tend especially to say this about anyone who is more devout or hard-working than we are. In short, we tend to look down on them from our position of superior righteousness.

No, wait! The Pharisees were tremendously righteous from the human point of view – much more so than the average Christian of my acquaintance (sorry, friends). They devoted every waking hour to keeping the commandments. They fasted; they tithed; they evangelized; they studied the Bible in its original languages (oops—how did that one slip in?). In fact, Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for what they were trying to do (see vs. 2) or even for everything that they did do (see vs. 23). Jesus goes so far as to say that we Christians should try to do what the Pharisees said should be done (vs. 2, again).

Even though it was only making them fit for hell. What??

Matthew 5:20; Ephesians 2:8-10 (7/29/11)

People who know me will tell you that I work hard, and people who are around me for more than ten minutes tend to learn that I’m a Christian. Unfortunately, Jesus says that my hard-working Christianity is not enough to get me into the kingdom of heaven – not unless it exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

That’s too high a standard for me. I have other things to occupy my waking hours than keeping all the commandments; fasting gives me a headache; I’ve only ever made one convert, and that was an accident; and my Hebrew is lousy. I have to admit, finding out that all my hard-working Christianity isn’t going to get me into the kingdom of heaven is disappointing.

Maybe I need to try another path to redemption: faith.

More on Righteousness and Redemption
Righteousness is required
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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