Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Gift of Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Stained glass, Holy Family Church, Teconnaught, September 2010 crop.jpg
Righteousness -- The Gif of God Who Exalts a Nation
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14: 34)

If men and women are troubled by what they see in this country, then they need to consider that the answer is not found in electing the right people, but rather returning to righteousness.

Now the troubles really begin, because for many people, righteousness is still defined by what people do, how they think, or how they operate, rather than resting in what Jesus Christ has done at the Cross for us, and the gift which he ministers to us as our High Priest forever.

The United States of America needs to return to righteousness, indeed. Two men marrying, killing children before they are born because of inconvenience for the loose and irresponsible parents, taking from one group of people to another, discriminating against others because of skin color, or ethnic status, or how much they have (or do not have) is all a manifestation of sin, of death.

Nations which rested, received, and proclaimed the truth of the Gospel thrived. With the growing prominence of the Gospel of grace preached in China, in Singapore, and in India, it is no surprise to see that these nations are thriving even while other countries are struggling, and churches are closing.

This sad account now includes the United States.

A couple of things we need to keep in mind when we read the above passage.

Righteousness as understood in the Bible, as understood to the Jews before the coming of Christ, and even in Solomon's day, was never established in what one did.

It was a gift, one wrought for the Israelites every day through the sacrifices of the priests, and ultimately in their acceptance before God through the High Priest.

Italian Rendering of the Biblical High Priest
This gift of righteousness comes from God through His Son, who was prophesied as one who would bring everlasting righteousness:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." (Daniel 9: 24)

Everlasting righteousness cannot come from us, but can only be given to us.

Consider also the prophesies of Isaiah:

"For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee." (Isaiah 54: 9)

When we know and believe in this love, that because of Jesus' work at the Cross, God will never be angry with us again, then we can rest in this truth:

"14In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee." (Isaiah 54: 14)

In righteousness we are established - that in itself should bear witness of this fact: it is not our righteousness, since it establishes us.

Then Isaiah continues:

"17No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 54: 17)

Most preachers love to shout: "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." But why?

Because our righteousness is from Him. We have a perfect standing against every accusation, against every wile and attack of the Enemy.

"1And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? 3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 5And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by." (Zechariah 3: 1-5)

Notice that the Angel of the Lord gives the robe of righteousness. We do not make it for ourselves.

This figures perfectly with the type developed in the beginning:

"21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." (Genesis 3: 21)

So, how do we receive this righteousness? As a gift, and one which God keeps giving, and the basis for this gift is from Jesus, our righteousness.

Jesus was prophesied as the "Lord our righteousness" long ago, even among the writings of the weeping prophet Jeremiah:


"In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jeremiah 23: 6)

and then

"In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness." (Jeremiah 33: 16)


"The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God." (Jeremiah 51: 10)

This is fulfilled in Christ Jesus today:

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:" (1 Corinthians 1:30)

and then

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

From this verse, we can better understand sin.

In the Bible, from the beginning until Jesus' death on the Cross, sin was a noun, a status of being, not an action.

In effect, it is worse than what many religious people are inclined to accept. We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.

Throughout the book of Romans, sin is presented almost every time as a noun, a state of being. Not what we do, but who we are, or what defines us because of Adam.

Even when Paul writes:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3: 23)

He prefaced this stinging statement with this passage from the Psalms:

"9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3: 9-10, from Psalm 14: 1; 53: 1; 143: 2)
Notice that he writes under sin -- noun.

We need a new identity, we need a new standing, we need to be lifted out of Adam and brought into Christ:

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Romans 5: 12)

and then

"15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 15-17)

And in this passage, we find that sin is a noun, yet the gift of righteousness  -- a noun and something that we receive, not something we earn, or do -- manifests. Looking more closely at verse seventeen, we find the recognition that righteousness is a gift which we keep on receiving.

The Youngs Literal Translation brings out this wonderful, powerful promise:

"for if by the offence of the one the death did reign through the one, much more those, who the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of the righteousness are receiving, in life shall reign through the one -- Jesus Christ."

The gift of righteousness is needed today -- and this gift is not dependent our flesh, our feelings, or our knowledge of certain facts.

Righteousness is a gift, one which we cannot earn, because the price is an eternal price, Christ's blood shed on the Cross.

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