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)
Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told this parable to certain ones who trusted themselves to be righteous and who despised everyone else:
“Two men went up into the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like everybody else – extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I tithe everything I get.
“And the tax collector stood far off. He didn’t even want to raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, have mercy upon me, the sinner.’
“I tell you, this one went down to his house from there having been made righteous, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:18-27 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me ‘good’? No one is good except God. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.
But he said, “I have kept all these since my youth.”
Jesus listened and said, “You lack one thing. Sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Come and follow me.”
But hearing this, he became sad, because he was exceedingly wealthy.
When he saw that he was sad, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who were listening said, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus said, “Things that are impossible for people are possible for God.”
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
Jesus is speaking:
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus:
Ephesians 2:8 For you have been saved by grace through faith, and this process is not from you, but the gift of God – not from works, lest any boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God prepared, so that we might walk in them.
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
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
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
St. John’s United Methodist Church,
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
Traditional worship services are held Sundays at 8:15 and
11:00 a.m. in the sanctuary. Casual worship services are held Sundays at
9:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center.
are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John’s feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program
Storm Dragon SoftwareTM
Get a free demo of our computer adventure game, full of hidden-object puzzles, tiling and jigsaw puzzles, cycling puzzles, and more.
Age Games: Animal ReaderTM
Computer games that children can play all by themselves
Ducks in a Row, Inc., developers of
Home Safe SoftwareTM.
Keep It SafeTM - Home inventory software so easy anybody can