Posts Tagged With: righteousness

The Baptism of Our Lord: To Fulfill All Righteousness

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:13–17; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).

The baptism of Jesus. Image by Ananth Subray, published under a Creative Commons 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today, the Church commemorates the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan River. For some time, John the Baptist had been “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). People came and confessed their sins to him (Matthew 3:6). They did not merely admit that they were sinners: “Nobody’s perfect” is not a confession. The confessed specific sins, and John gave explicit instructions about changes they should make (Luke 3:10-14). In many cases, those sins were common activities: Roman soldiers normally used their power to coerce, manipulate, and rob people; tax collectors used their authority to demand more money from people than the government required. We still excuse our sins by saying “Everybody’s doing it,” but that pretense did not satisfy John the Baptist or God.

Amid John’s ministry, Jesus came for baptism. John immediately recognized Him as the Messiah and realized, “I have need to be baptized by You.” John admitted that he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ shoe (Matthew 3:11), but Jesus was here asking to be baptized. Why? “In this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The Contemporary English Version phrases it this way: “we must do all that God wants us to do.”

Why would Jesus need baptism for repentance? He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Perhaps this verse points to an answer:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Jordan River. Photo by Jean Housen, published under a Creative Commons 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Many think that Jesus fulfilled His entire ministry of atonement on the cross. However, His entire life was a sacrifice for our sins. As John the Baptist immersed people in the Jordan River, they could imagine their sins being washed, like dirt from their bodies, into the water. Now, here came Jesus: He did not have the dirt of sin on Him. As He went into the water, He began to symbolically take the sins upon Himself. I can imagine Him confessing the sins of all the people present, knowing that He would die for those sins three years later.

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:1–7).

He was baptized as one of us. He identified with us, accepted our human nature, and joined us in the waters or repentance in baptism. Now, we join Him in a baptism of repentance, forgiveness, and resurrection. His baptism in the water began a ministry that culminated in His baptism in death upon a cross. When we come to Him in faith, we receive baptism into His death and resurrection. We accept His death upon ourselves, receive His forgiveness and the life-giving power of His Holy Spirit, and live a new life in resurrection power as we continue to walk with Him.

2020 was a challenging year for all of us, and the insanity did not end with the beginning of a new year. We will continue to face challenges and tests. Are we willing to be fully immersed in the life of Christ as we face the uncertain times that lie ahead? While our world remains uncertain, Jesus’ life-giving power remains trustworthy and certain.

How are you experiencing baptism into the life of Christ on a daily basis? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. V: The Birth and Life of Christ

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
‘The LORD our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5–6; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from needpix.com, published under a Creative Commons license.

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the justice and righteousness of God. They were key elements of the Jewish people’s Messianic hopes and essential to Jesus’ reasons for coming into the world. (Take some time to read Mary’s song of praise, traditionally known as The Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55, and you will see her hope of God’s judgment and mercy.)

The Jewish people suffered oppression throughout their history. The nation of Israel had grown as slaves in Egypt before Moses led them forth. By the time Jeremiah prophesied, the northern tribes of Israel had been overthrown by Assyria and taken into exile, and the southern kingdom of Judah was beginning to experience the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah proclaimed God’s promise that, someday, the Jews would receive deliverance. They would return to their homeland. Eventually, God would send a great King, a descendant of David that would reign in God’s righteousness. Anticipation of this coming King, the Messiah, comforted and inspired the Jews throughout the centuries that followed.

Even after returning from Babylonian exile, the Jewish people would experience more oppression: the Medo-Persian empire, then the Greeks, and later the Romans. When Jesus was born, Judea was a province of the Roman Empire, ruled by Roman governors or puppet kings.

Jesus’ birth brought the promised “Lord our righteousness” to Earth. The fullness of God dwelled within Him (Colossians 2:9). Jeremiah, recalling Isaiah 11:1, called Jesus “a righteous Branch” of David; the name of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, is derived from the Hebrews word netzer, which means “branch.” The Branch of David, the Messiah, grew up in the town of the branch.

When He came that time, Jesus brought spiritual salvation, not only to the Jewish people, but to all humanity. The Bible repeatedly tells us that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). The fullness of God’s righteousness will appear when Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end,” as the Nicene Creed says.

Christmas reminds us that God sent His Son to be our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). He has brought God’s righteousness to us. We can and should trust in no savior except Jesus Christ, who is The Lord our Righteousness. No religious or political leader can bring God’s righteousness and justice to us. Nobody else is worthy of our praise.

Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, Holidays | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. IV: Righteous Men—Noah

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:8–9; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Noah’s Ark Mosaic Iconography.” Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay.

One can grow discouraged contemplating God’s righteousness and justice if we have a wrong perspective. We see words like “righteous” and “blameless” and conclude we cannot measure up to those standards. After all, most of us cannot claim that our official slogan is “I’ve made it,” “I’ve got it all together,” or “I never make any mistakes.” For most of us, our slogan is probably the title of a Britney Spears song: “Oops, I Did It Again.”

I thank God that His Word does not hide the failures of His people. We read that Noah was “righteous” and “blameless.” We hear about how Abraham is the father of our faith. Moses is depicted as one of the greatest men of all time. Scripture honors the great heroes of the faith, but it also broadcasts their sins and shortcomings as loudly as their accomplishments.

The Bible introduces Noah shortly after summarizing the spiritual condition of mankind:

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

The world was filled with violence (Gen. 6:11), wickedness, selfishness, and greed. It was so bad that Jesus compared the apostasy of the end times with the days of Noah:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37–39).

In a world that ignored God, where everybody sought pleasure, Noah “walked with God.” Therefore, he found favor (a few translations, including the King James Version, say he found “grace”) with God, Who called him to build an ark and preserve a remnant of living things while God judged the world’s sin.

Depiction of Genesis 9:20-27 in York Minster East Window. Photo by Jules and Jenny from Lincoln, UK,under a Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.

However, Noah was not perfect. Genesis 9:20–27 tells us that he planted a vineyard after the flood and got drunk on some wine he made afterward. While drunk, he lay naked in his tent and was seen by his son Ham. In response, Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth, slipped in with their backs turned so they could cover their father without seeing him. It is not completely clear what the great shame and secret are here. It was not the wine: Shem and Japheth covered their father’s nakedness; they did not snatch his stash of home-brewed booze. Perhaps the Bible is politely not describing something that would have been obvious to ancient readers. Maybe Noah was doing something inappropriate in his drunken stupor. Maybe Ham did something with his father. Sometimes the Bible leaves out some details so that we can focus on our situation rather than critique the choices of the patriarchs. Noah was drunk, and whatever he did at that time would have humiliated the family if they still had any neighbors.

Whatever it was, Noah’s righteousness was not perfection. Great men of God often made big mistakes. Abraham “believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). However, Abraham would go on to lie about his wife, saying she was his sister, risking to have her taken in marriage by another man. Moses committed murder and later made excuses why he could not lead the Israelites. King David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) and ancestor of Jesus, committed adultery, conspiracy to murder, and other sins and crimes. None were perfect, but all would come to repentance as they grew in faith toward God.

A righteous person is not perfect. It is someone who comes to faith in God through Jesus Christ and desires to walk with Him. We might stumble. We might struggle. We might lose our focus at times. But, we can always return to Him in faith and receive forgiveness and renewal. No matter how you have sinned, simply confess your mistakes to God, repent, receive His forgiveness, and continue to walk with Him. Do not give up.

“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

May we all grow in faith, love, hope, and knowledge of Christ Jesus.

How do you think God wants to reveal more of His righteousness through you? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. III: Practicing Righteousness

“If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Christians should be imitators of our heavenly Father, imitating His righteousness.

The Bible frequently calls Christians “children of God.” He is our Father. We are His sons and daughters. Children resemble their parents. Thus, children of God should be similar to their heavenly Father. One way in which we should do that is by bearing His righteousness.

1 John 2:29 tells us that God is righteous. In its comments about this verse, The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988) says, “God is righteous, meaning that He not only opposes what is evil but is the source of what is right.” The Old Testament even uses it as one of the names of God, when Jeremiah 23:6 calls Him “Jehovah-Tsidkenu,” meaning “the Lord our righteousness.” Many Christians like to quote another of John’s descriptions of the Lord, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16), but God’s righteousness is just as essential as His love. We cannot ignore it. We cannot think that God’s love is somehow divorced or detached from His holiness and righteousness.

Image from needpix.com, published under a Creative Commons license.

Likewise, we cannot assume that we are true Christians without resembling some of His attributes. We will not be as holy, loving, righteous, or just as He is, and we will always fall short of Jesus’ standard during our earthly lives. We will not be perfect on Earth. However, if we do not bear some of God’s righteousness and justice, we cannot claim to have His Holy Spirit within us. If we are not practicing righteousness—as defined by Scripture, not by the secular media and pop culture—we cannot claim to be children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a season of anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Jesus becoming human; it is also the first day of a new year on the church calendar. The world will wait until January 1 to make its New Year’s resolutions, which most people will give up within three weeks. Last year, on the first Sunday of Advent, I challenged readers to pursue a “One Year, One Thing” challenge, inspired by a quote from Thomas a’ Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ: “If every year we rooted out one vice, we would soon become perfect men.” Take some time over the next few days to look at your life: Is there an area of unrighteousness in your life? Is there an aspect of God’s righteousness that you are lacking? Aim to grow in one attribute, turning from one form of unrighteousness, in the coming year. You can read more about this challenge here.

May the coming year be a time of greater righteousness and justice in your life.

How do you think God wants to reveal more of His righteousness through you? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

God’s Righteousness and Justice. I: How To Identify Righteousness and Justice

“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

I intended this post to begin a new series on God’s justice. However, as I studied, I realized we might benefit by using two English terms interchangeably: justice and righteousness. They are almost synonyms in the Bible.

Mishpat” is the Hebrew word that is most frequently translated as “justice,” providing the root for the word “just” in the above verse; Scripture often uses it in legal settings or when God executes His judgment on people, sins, or nations. Another word, “tsaddiq,” is translated “righteous” above and is usually translated that way in the New American Standard Bible. It is also translated as “righteous person,” “righteously,” “right,” “one who is in the right,” “just,” “blameless,” and “innocent.”

The equivalent New Testament word is the Greek “dikaios” and various terms related to it. It is translated as “righteous,” “just,” “justice,” “right,” or “innocent.”

Nelson’s Three-in-One Bible Reference Companion defines justice as “administration of what is right.” Righteousness is an attribute of one’s character; justice is that righteousness in action. Since the terms are so closely related in Scripture, throughout this series I will use them interchangeably. While there are slight differences in emphasis, the meanings of the words are similar enough to justify this usage.

Now, let us consider a few difficult questions: What do righteousness and justice look like? How do we know an action, behavior, or decision is righteous or just?

While we often think of justice in legal terms, we cannot always trust man’s laws to be just or righteous. Before 1865, slavery was legal in much of the United States. It was banned after the Civil War, but legalized racial segregation remained on the books in southern states for about 100 years after that. It might have been legal, but it was not righteous or just. The Nazi holocaust that killed six million Jews was legal—the government authorized it—but it was not righteous or just.

People and societies lose their way when they have no objective standard for justice. Humans can agree that we want justice in our culture, but we may disagree about how to bring it about or which activities are righteous or just. In recent years, a branch of America’s Democrat Party (including far-left liberals like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has referred to itself as “justice Democrats.” They claim to promote justice with their emphasis on environmentalism, racial equality, women’s rights, etc. However, they often do so at the expense of biblical truth and the traditional Judaeo-Christian values that provide the basis for our nation’s legal system.

I will add that many Republicans err as well. They may support values that are more consistent with Scripture in some regards (e.g., opposition to abortion, support for traditional marriage). However, some of them might ignore Scripture’s teachings about defending the poor and showing no partiality to the rich and powerful. Political party platforms are not a valid objective basis for defining justice.

True justice is an attribute of God. The prophet Jeremiah referred to Him as “Yahweh tsidkenu”—The Lord our righteousness. Any concept of righteousness or justice that ignores or contradicts God’s nature or Word is not true justice. Equitable enforcement of godless legislation is not justice. God’s Word is the foundation of all justice. Psalm 119, the Bible’s epic hymn of praise to God’s law, says:

“Righteous are You, O Lord,
And upright are Your judgments…
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth” (Psalms 119:137, 142).

Elsewhere, God’s Word says:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward” (Psalms 19:7-11).

We should continue to fight for justice. Christians should be on the front lines of the battle against injustice, corruption, and oppression in society. However, we must not follow a political platform or cultural norms. Instead, we must continue to live by and declare God’s Word. When our favorite politician deviates from Scripture, we must remain steadfast in our obedience to the Lord. God has called us to be His ambassadors.

How do you see justice and righteousness? How would you like to see it manifested today? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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