Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Shocking News: Righteousness the Key

Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 22:51
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The Shocking News: Righteousness the Key

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He is all my righteousness.

I stand complete in Him

and worship Him–

(Repeat)

He is all my righteousness.

I stand complete in Him and worship Christ the Lord–

Worship Him, worship Christ the Lord.

-A chorus-

Author unknown

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Declaration of Christ’s Righteousness before He Appeared

The sons of Korah (infamous for his part in an uprising against Moses), [1] are associated with Psalm 85, a remarkable hymn whereby God’s covenant “love” and “faithfulness” join hands –where “righteousness and peace kiss each other”; where “faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness looks down from the sky.”  They affirmed that “righteousness will go before [the LORD] and make his footsteps a way.”  To be sure, the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai exalted God’s righteous judgment against sinners (including their father Korah) who lacked appropriate fear of the Almighty.  Rebellious men provoked God’s wrath by their unbelief and presumption in the face of God’s holiness.  But the sons of Korah spoke of a day when the righteousness of God would transcend the judgment that struck terror into the hearts of Israel.  These faithful sons affirmed that “salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.” [2]

Declaration of Universal Human Moral Bankruptcy after He Appeared

Leaping ahead a millennium or so, we read the apostle Paul’s candid description of the natural human condition, no different from our own in the 21st century A.D.  Whether we are Jewish or non-Jewish, the verdict is the same:

What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteousness, no not one;

no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they

have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.” [3]

The problem, beginning with Adam’s historic Fall, [4] is universal depravity whereby all are incriminated.  Since the Apostle Paul regarded righteousness as the key issue, and testified that all humans are totally bereft of it, there is no natural hope for us.  We mortals cannot excuse ourselves by pointing the finger at our forefather Adam, for even the apostle Paul acknowledged that, apart from God’s grace, his own instinctive desires, even as a Christian, testified to his own culpability. [5]  By reason of God’s infinite wrath against sin, and our being without excuse, we  well deserve an unimaginable, dreadful separation from the presence of God that follows natural death.

Declaration of the Reign of Grace through Christ’s Righteousness

The mysterious remedy of the gospel, nevertheless, is described by the same apostle Paul in Romans 5:20-21:

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But what kind of righteousness is that which could effectively bring about the reign of grace?  Do we contribute to it?  Absolutely not!  Otherwise grace would not be grace.  It is totallyfrom beginning to endthe result of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  From the cross Christ Himself declared, “It is finished![6]  There is nothing we can add to the finished work of Christ accomplished “once for all” on a Roman cross!  If someone would presume to make it more difficult for the sinner, the New Testament will not allow it!  For that is the absolute truth of the gospel–pure and simple!  You cannot alter or diminish it one whit! [7]

The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews contrasts the ministry of the Jewish priesthood of Paul’s day with the finished work of Christ as follows:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. [8]

The reference to “every priest” in the above passage must be taken in context.  It refers to the priests commissioned under the limited terms of the Old Testament Law of Moses–the testament that was superceded by, or subordinated to, the New Testament once for all established by Jesus Christ.  Our high priest, Jesus Christ, unlike the Old Testament priests, was not of the tribe of Levi but of Judah.  His priesthood was associated with the ministry of Melchizedek  [9] who ministered to Abraham before the Law was given.  The high-priestly ministry of Jesus Christ, upstaged  the provisional [10]  Old Testament Levitical priesthood. [11]  Since Christ’s death constituted a once-for-all sacrifice never to be repeated, it rendered the provisional Levitical priesthood obsolete.  Indeed the Levitical priesthood need never be reintroduced for Christ’s high-priestly work is a finished work on the sinner’s behalf. [12]  From a New Testament perspective, baptized Christian believers constitute “a holy priesthood,”[[13] another designation for the church whose members’ calling is to be gratefully committed–that is, to offer the “sacrifice of praise,” [14] and to present their own bodies (whether male or female) [15] as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” [16]

Atonement for our Sins through Christ our Substitute

From a prophetic perspective, in the eighth century B.C., Isaiah spoke of the promised Messiah as though the Messiah’s appointed work were already an accomplished fact when as yet it awaited Jesus of Nazareth for its accomplishment!:

He was wounded for our transgressions;

and he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned–every one–to his own way;

yet the LORD has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. [17]

God has provided only one remedy for sin–one way for sinners to escape His coming wrath, and that is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel.  Peter, speaking to his Jewish compatriots, stated in Acts 4:11-12, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved!”

Sources

Scriptures quoted are taken from the English Standard Version. Classic Reference Bible. Crossway Bibles; Wheaton, Illinois.

Endnotes

[1]. Numbers 16; 26:9-11

[2]. Psalm 85 (ESV)

[3]. Romans 3:9-12

[4]. Romans 5:12-21

[5]. Romans 7:9-24

[6]. John 19:30

[7]. This is not to suggest that some have not tried.  The Judaizers of Paul’s day made life difficult for him insisting that Gentile Christians be circumcised like the Jews. If the apostle Peter himself lapsed into this error on one occasion, we should not be surprised when we encounter those in this present age who insist upon “add-ons.”   (Galatians 1:6–2:21)

[8]. Hebrews 10:11-14  Note: The Epistle to the Hebrews was received by the church into the New Testament canon on the basis that it was bound with other writings of Paul and assumed to be his epistle.  See F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? Inter-Varsity Press. 1943. Reprinted in 1992. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.  Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[9]. Hebrews 7:1-28 Note: The name Melchizedek literally means “king of righteousness.”

[10]. Compare Paul’s parallel argument in Galatians 3:23-4:10.

[11]. Whereas Christ, having completed his work, sat down at God’s right hand, it is of contrasting significance that the furnishings of the provisional Old Testament tabernacle did not include a chair inasmuch as the work of that  provisional priesthood would never be finished under the old covenant.

[12]. Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:10; 1 Pet. 3:18

[13]. 1 Peter 2:4-5

[14]. Hebrews 13:15

[15]. Gal. 3:27-28

[16]. Romans 12:1  This is not to overlook the specific New Testament gifts for the church’s upbuilding and order to which Paul refers in Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Peter refers in 1 Peter 5:1-4.  See also Luke’s mention of these gifts within their historic functional context in Acts 13:1-3; 14:23;15:1-2; 22-27;16:4; 20:17.  Some have argued that the more miraculous sign gifts were limited to their unique, specific, first-century foundational purpose and context as per Hebrews 1:3-4.  Others have allowed for their re-introduction according to God’s sovereign purpose and pleasure throughout the history of the church–but always for His glory and building up the church.  The unique foundational role of Christ, the first-century New Testament apostles, the Old Testament prophets, and their writings which constitute the Holy Scriptures, however, cannot be overstated.  For the church in every age is called to be subject to “what is written.” Isaiah 8:16-20; Luke 24:44-48; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:14-16; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19

[17]. Isaiah 53:5-6

About the Writer

David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona. He and his wife reside in Ohio. They have four grown children and seven grandchildren. With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing. One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

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