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Righteousness With God

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The righteousness that comes by faith, like that which was credited to Abraham, was not credited to Israel.  For Israel saw that which God did for them when He delivered them from Egypt, and they heard His voice when they heard Him speak from the mountain in Sinai.  As such, the righteousness that comes by faith is not the righteousness that Israel could have had at all.  For faith is being certain of what you do not see… and they had seen.  Instead, their righteousness was to come from obedience to the word of the Lord.  Unfortunately, they did not want to listen to the Lord, but instead told Moses that God should only speak to them through Moses.  It was after this rejection by the Israelites that God gave them the law.  The law was given because they rejected the direct relationship with God, and so God gave them the law by which they could never be declared righteous unless they fulfilled it.  The law is in fact a reminder of how they rejected a personal relationship with God and forced God to have to resort to speak to them through intermediaries like His prophets.

Abraham never saw God and the miracles of God at first, as Israel did, but believed what he heard and obeyed.  And so was credited to him as righteousness, so that to be an heir of Abraham, you have to be one who has never seen the miracles of God and never heard His voice, but believed and obeyed what you have heard.

When John the Baptist came baptising, he was only preaching a message that had no signs and wonders accompanying it to confirm it.  That is why when Jesus came to be baptised, Jesus said, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” [Matthew 3.13-17; Mark 1.9-11; Luke 3.21-22 The Testimony]  The righteousness that was fulfilled was the righteousness of faith, for the law does not prescribe water baptism for the remission of sins, but animal sacrifices and burnt offerings.  As such, John the Baptist was doing something not written in the law and thus could not be read for it was not written.  To do what John was saying is believing in the unseen, and that avails the righteousness that comes by faith.  So when Jesus went to John to be baptised, all righteousness was fulfilled because Jesus was also receiving the righteousness that comes by faith in what you have heard.

Like Moses before Him, Jesus began His ministry with power and the spoken word of God from Heaven for those present to hear.  As He came out of the water and stood upon it, the voice came from Heaven for John to hear, just as the voice of God came from the mountain for Israel to hear after they came out of the waters of the Red Sea.  At His baptism, Jesus restored to Israel what they had lost – the privilege of seeing miracles and hearing the voice of God.  That is why the question from the apostles later on, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” [Acts 1.6] was useless, for He had already restored Israel to a nation that heard God speak from Heaven and saw His miracles.  That is why there was no mention by Jesus about restoring Israel as the Jews knew Israel.

So the righteousness with God that the Jews sought could never be fulfilled by faith, and any changes they made to the law would only take them further from any form of righteousness with God.  And that was what they had done by the time of Jesus.  They had made so many changes to the law through their traditions that even if they observed them all like a Pharisee, it did not count in the eyes of God.  That is why Jesus told His disciples, “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5.20]  They had departed so far from true righteousness that God opened for them the door of righteousness by faith through John preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins without any signs or wonders, so that at least for them they could receive Abraham’s blessing.

However, through Jesus, that which was given through Moses was restored.  So for those who saw the miracles and heard about them, the righteousness that comes by obedience to a command or commands was restored.  Israel was restored by Jesus the moment He came out of the waters so that Jesus was free to establish the Kingdom of God.

So then understand that there are two types of righteousness with God.  The first being that which is by faith, as in the case of Abraham who went forth without a sign.  And the second is the righteousness that comes by obedience to what has been commanded because you have seen the signs and wonders, as in Israel’s case.

Abraham gave all who likewise believe that same righteousness.  And through Christ, the righteousness that comes by obedience was given.  In order to maintain it, like Abraham we have to keep believing till the end.  And for those who are in Christ, that righteousness is maintained by obeying to the end.

Hr. Ed, manager of the Holy Spirit’s Workshop

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