Appendix 1: Study Group TipsRelated Media
In leading a small group using the Bible Teacher’s Guide it can be done in various ways. One format for leading a small group is the “study group” model where each member prepares and shares in the teaching. This appendix will cover tips for facilitating a weekly study group.
- Each week the members of the study group will read through a select chapter of the guide, answer the reflection questions (see Appendix 2), and come prepared to share in the group.
- Prior to each meeting, a different member can be selected to lead the group, and share question 1 of the reflection questions, which is to give a short summary of the chapter read. This section of the gathering could last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. This way, each member can develop their gift of teaching. It also will make them study harder during the week. Or the other option is that each week the same person could share the summary.
- After the summary has been given, the leader for that week will facilitate discussions through the rest of the reflection questions and also ask select application questions from the chapter.
- After discussion, the group will share prayer requests and pray for one another.
The strength of the study group is the fact that the members will be required to prepare their responses before the meeting, which will allow for easier discussion. In addition, each member will be given the opportunity to teach which will further equip their ministry skills. The study group model has distinct advantages.
Appendix 2: Reflection QuestionsRelated Media
Writing is one of the best ways to learn. In class, we take notes and write papers and all these methods are used to help us learn and retain the material. It’s the same thing with the Word of God. Obviously, all of the authors of Scripture were writers. This helped them better learn the Scriptures and also enabled them to more effectively teach it. In studying God’s word with the Bible Teacher’s Guide, take time to write so you can similarly grow both in your learning and teaching.
- How would you summarize the main points of the text/chapter? Write a brief summary.
- What stood out to you most in the reading? Did any of the contents trigger any memories or experiences? If so, please share them.
- What follow-up questions did you have about the reading? What parts did you not fully agree with?
- What applications did you take from the reading and how do you plan to implement them into your life?
- Write several commitment statements: As a result of my time studying God’s Word, I will…
- What are some practical ways you can pray as a result of studying the text? Spend some time ministering to the Lord through prayer.
Lesson 62: The Teacher’s Tears (John 11:28-37)Related Media
July 20, 2014
Several years ago a young couple that visited our church wanted to talk with me after the service. They had moved here from out of state because the wife had landed a good job. But after a short time on the job, she was terminated, from her perspective, without cause. She was angry and bitter towards God because they thought that they had followed Him in moving here. Now they were without work and without funds to move back home.
I shared with them that the Lord was in control of their difficult situation and that He had many lessons to teach them if they would trust Him. The husband had a good attitude and seemed teachable, but the wife wouldn’t listen. She kept insisting that God had let them down. Later the husband came for further counsel because she angrily left him to return to their former location.
That woman was a sad example of how we as Christians should not respond when sudden trials come into our lives. The Bible gives us another option: Rather than growing angry and withdrawing from the Lord, we can draw near to Him in submission to His sovereign hand, knowing that He cares for us. It’s okay to draw near to Him with tears of grief and confusion. The main thing is to draw near with a submissive heart, trusting in His sovereign love and care for you.
Mary, the sister of Martha, did that when Jesus came to Bethany after the death of their brother, Lazarus. Martha first went to the Lord as He came into their village, but Mary stayed in the house. Then after her interview with Jesus, Martha came and whispered to Mary (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” Mary did not say, “I’m too angry right now even to talk to Him!” Rather, she did what we should do in our times of trouble: She got up quickly and went to Jesus (11:29). She fell at His feet weeping and repeated what Martha had said (11:32), “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
The significant thing is that Jesus did not rebuke her for her tears or her lack of faith. Rather, we read in the shortest verse in the English Bible (11:35), “Jesus wept.” While commentators differ in interpreting Jesus’ emotions here, as I’ll explain, I believe that John wants us to see Christ’s compassion for these sisters in their loss. This story pictures what Hebrews 4:15-16 declares,
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Our text teaches us that …
The call and compassion of the Teacher should cause us to draw near to Him in our trials.
In difficult times, John wants us personally to apply Martha’s words (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
1. Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials.
A. We learn the most in the school of Christ when we draw near to Him in our trials.
Martha did not say, as she easily could have, “Jesus is here and is calling for you.” Rather, she calls Him, “The Teacher.” Jesus is the Teacher par excellence and His most effective lessons are often when we’re hurting the most. We all tend to be rather self-sufficient. Many years ago there was a TV commercial (I can’t remember what it was advertising) where mother was trying to give advice to her young adult daughter and the daughter would reply in frustration, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” We’re often like that with the Lord—we think that we can do it by ourselves, without His help.
But then trials hit and we realize the truth of Jesus’ words (John 15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.” It’s at these overwhelming times that we can learn the most about Christ’s all-sufficiency, if we draw near to Him.
Dr. William Coltman, the pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Michigan from 1914-1956, wrote (source unknown):
Until I learned to trust, I never learned to pray;
And I did not learn to fully trust ’til sorrows came my way.
Until I felt my weakness, His strength I never knew;
Nor dreamed ’til I was stricken that He could see me through.
Who deepest drinks of sorrow, drinks deepest, too, of grace;
He sends the storm so He Himself can be our hiding place.
His heart that seeks our highest good, knows well when things annoy;
We would not long for heaven if earth held only joy.
And so, in a time of trials or grief, realize that you’re enrolled in the school of Christ and He has just given you a great opportunity to learn more about His all-sufficiency.
B. Christ tailors His lessons for each student according to the student’s needs.
Martha was the take-charge, get things done, sister. She was the one (Luke 10:38-42) who was busy getting the meal prepared when Jesus visited their home, while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. She scolded the Lord on that occasion because He didn’t tell Mary to get up and help her. But the Lord gently rebuked Martha for being worried and bothered about so many things, while Mary had chosen the better part.
In John 11, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up and went to Him. Jesus dealt with her on a doctrinal level, claiming to be the resurrection and the life, and then challenging her (11:26), “Do you believe this?” He knew that she needed this doctrinal foundation so that she would glorify Him in this trial.
But when Mary fell at Jesus’ feet in tears, He sympathized with her and wept, without any discussion of biblical truth. He knew that she needed to feel His compassion and that she later would glorify Him because He entered into her sorrow.
Two applications: First, recognize that the Lord always deals with you according to your personality to teach you what you need to grow in every trial. All parents who have more than one child know that each child is different. You can’t deal with them in exactly the same way because they are wired differently and they learn differently. The Teacher does that with His children. He tutors you individually, in a way that you can best learn the lessons. But you need to try to understand, through prayer and the Word, “What does the Teacher want me to learn through this trial?”
Second, we should be sensitive to the unique personalities of others when we try to comfort or help them in difficult situations. Some may need a word of encouragement, whereas others don’t need any words, but just for you to be with them and cry with them. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to helping others in their time of need. So pray for sensitivity and wisdom as you try to help.
But for us to trust Jesus as our Teacher in times of trial, we have to know Him. The more we know who He is, the easier it is to trust Him. Thus John shows us that…
2. The Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials.
This chapter shows us both Jesus’ humanity and His deity. We see His humanity very plainly in 11:34-35, where Jesus asks the location of the tomb and then He weeps. But we see His deity earlier in the chapter, when He knows that Lazarus is dead and that He is going to raise him from the dead (11:11, 14); and when He tells Martha that He is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in Him will live even if he dies and will never die (11:25-26). Many years ago, I read this paragraph by Alfred Edersheim, (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans] 1:198), and I’ve always remembered it as I read the gospels:
It has been observed, that by the side of every humiliation connected with the Humanity of the Messiah, the glory of His Divinity was also made to shine forth. The coincidences are manifestly undesigned on the part of the Evangelic writers, and hence all the more striking. Thus, if he was born of the humble Maiden of Nazareth, an Angel announced His birth; if the Infant-Saviour was cradled in a manger, the shining host of heaven hymned His Advent. And so afterwards—if He hungered and was tempted in the wilderness, Angels ministered to Him, even as an Angel strengthened Him in the agony of the garden. If He submitted to baptism, the Voice and vision from heaven attested His Sonship; if enemies threatened, He could miraculously pass through them; if the Jews assailed, there was the Voice of God to glorify Him; if He was nailed to the cross, the sun craped his brightness, and earth quaked; if He was laid in the tomb, Angels kept its watches, and heralded His rising.
The fact that Jesus is fully man means that He can identify and sympathize with our problems. The fact that He is fully God means that He is sovereign over and can help with them. (Of course, the God who made us completely understands us and is full of compassion towards us; Ps. 103:13-14. But Jesus’ humanity especially qualifies Him to sympathize with us; Heb. 4:15.) Three aspects of Jesus’ humanity shine from our text (I’m drawing these headings from James Boice, John [Zondervan], one-vol. ed., pp. 749-753, who seems to be following C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 35:338-346):
A. Jesus experienced grief and deep feelings, just as we do.
Isaiah (53:3) prophesied that Jesus would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The fact that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus shows that whatever our grief may be, Jesus knows it and He enters into it with us.
But at this point, we encounter some difficult interpretive matters. The world translated “deeply moved” (11:33 & 38, NASB, ESV, NIV; “groaned, NJKV) is difficult to understand. It’s only used three other times in the New Testament and in those places it has a meaning that does not seem to fit here. In Matthew 9:30 & Mark 1:43, it means, “strictly charged” or “sternly warned.” In Mark 14:5, it refers to the scolding of the woman (Mary) who anointed Christ with expensive ointment. The parallel (Matt. 26:8) uses a different word to say that they were indignant with her. In the LXX, the word refers to anger or being indignant (Dan. 11:30; noun in Lam. 2:6). Thus many commentators think that in John 11:33 & 38, Jesus was angry or indignant (The New Living Translation). Some think that He was indignant with the unbelief expressed by Mary and the others (11:32, 37); or He was angry with the death that God decreed because of man’s fall into sin.
But S. Lewis Johnson (sermon on this text, online at sljinstitute.net) mentions a Professor Black from the University of St. Andrews who studied this word thoroughly and concluded that it does not have the nuance of anger. And since anger does not seem to fit the context here, some argue that the word can refer to being deeply moved (as the NASB, ESV, & NIV translate it). The word was used in extra-biblical Greek to refer to the snorting of a horse preparing for battle. Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 442) views it as Jesus gearing up for the conflict as our champion in the battle against sin and death.
One other suggestion is worth considering. F. Godet (Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan], 2:184) questions why Jesus didn’t feel the same emotion towards death at the other two resurrections that He performed. He says that here Jesus realizes that raising Lazarus will precipitate the hostility of His enemies that will lead to His own death on the cross. The accompanying verb (11:33, “troubled Himself”) is also used as Jesus contemplates His impending death in John 12:27 & 13:21. Thus perhaps Jesus is deeply moved both by the sisters’ grief and by what He knows will happen after He raises Lazarus. R. H. Lightfoot (cited by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 557, n. 69) commented, “The expression used here implies that He now voluntarily and deliberately accepts and makes His own the emotion and the experience from which it is His purpose to deliver men.”
So while we cannot be certain of the exact meaning of John’s word, we can know that our Savior was not a Stoic. Even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus, it didn’t prevent Him from entering into the sisters’ grief. He experienced deep feelings and grief, just as we do. And even though He knows that one day He will wipe away all of our tears (Rev. 21:4) He still sympathizes with us in all of our sorrows.
B. Jesus was not ashamed to display human emotions.
Jesus could have restrained His tears. After all, He knew that He would soon raise Lazarus. Besides, His tears could be misinterpreted as weakness or frustration on His part, as some of the Jews surmised (11:37). But Jesus did not worry about that. He was completely human (without a sin nature) and His tears show that it’s not wrong to express our feelings as long as our hearts are submissive to God. The NT states three times that Jesus wept (here; Luke 19:41, over Jerusalem’s unbelief; and Heb. 5:7, in the Garden of Gethsemane), but never that He laughed (but, see Luke 10:21).
It’s worth noting that John uses a different word (11:33) for weeping to describe the loud wailing of Mary and the mourners than the word in 11:35, which could be translated, “Jesus burst into tears.” Jesus wept, but He was not wailing in despair. In the words of Paul (1 Thess. 4:13), believers are to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. It’s interesting, also, that while the shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Greek NT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always!” Those verses are not contradictory! As Paul put it (Rom. 12:15), “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus entered into the sorrow of these sisters. As we become more like our Savior, we should not become more stoical, but rather people who express godly emotions.
C. Jesus’ love underlies all His actions.
In 11:36 we read in response to Jesus’ weeping, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!” And they were right, because John has previously underscored Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:3, 5). In fact, Jesus’ love for these dear friends was the reason He stayed two days longer where He was, allowing Lazarus to die (11:6). Love always seeks the highest good for the one loved, and the highest good for anyone is that he or she gets a greater vision of God’s glory and thus grows in faith. Both of these aims were behind Jesus’ delay in going to Bethany (11:4, 15, 40).
But some of the Jews questioned both Jesus’ love and His power when they said (11:37), “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” They couldn’t reconcile Jesus’ love and power with Lazarus’ death. And in a time of severe trials, the enemy may whisper to you, “God must not love you or He isn’t able to prevent trials like you’re going through. You shouldn’t trust Him!”
But at such times, never interpret God’s love by your difficult circumstances, but rather interpret your circumstances by His love (modified from, C. H. Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Writings [Loizeaux Brothers], vol. 6, “Bethany,” pp. 17-18). He could have prevented your trial. But as H. E. Hayhoe wrote (“Sentence Sermons,” exact source unknown), “He will never allow a trial in your life without a needs be on your part and a purpose of love on His part.”
Thus, Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials. And, the Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials. Finally,
3. In your trials, come to the Teacher just as you are, quickly and submissively.
Martha’s words to Mary (11:28) are the Lord’s words for us when we’re hurting: “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
A. Jesus is always present and is waiting for you to come to Him in your trials.
Jesus was there, but Mary had to get up and go to Him. And even though you may not feel His presence, He is always present and available to give grace if you go to Him in your trials.
B. Come to Jesus just as you are and share your feelings with Him.
Mary went immediately when she heard that the Teacher was there and calling for her. She didn’t say, “I’ve been crying for four days. My mascara is streaked, my eyes are red and swollen. I can’t go to Jesus like this! I need to go and make myself presentable!”
But we often do that with the Lord. We’re in the midst of a trial or problem and we think, “I can’t go to the Lord until I get myself more together. I’ll wait until I’m calmer and more in control of my emotions.” But grace is for the undeserving, not for the deserving. Go to Jesus with your tears and He will weep with you.
If you’ve never come to Christ for salvation, the only way that you can come is just as you are. If you try to clean up your life or make yourself more presentable to Him, you don’t understand His grace. As the old hymn (by Charlotte Elliott) goes,
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come.!
C. Come to Jesus quickly.
Mary “got up quickly and was coming to Him” (11:29). She had friends at her side who were consoling her. She could have thought, “What will they think if I leave them and go to Jesus?” Or, she could have thought that their consolations were enough. But as comforting as our friends may be, they are no substitute for the Teacher who calls us to Himself. Don’t delay: Go to Jesus quickly! The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll experience His comfort and compassion.
D. Come to Jesus’ feet.
Mary went and fell at Jesus’ feet (11:32). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10:39, she was “seated at The Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” In our text, she pours out her grief at Jesus’ feet. In John 12:3, she anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive ointment and dried them with her hair, as she prepared Him for His burial. In this, she is an example for us: First, learn God’s word about Jesus. Then you’ll know Him so that you can take your sorrows to Him in a time of grief. That will lead you to worship Him as the one who died for your sins.
A mission executive from the United States was visiting a school in Kenya where he was listening as teenage girls shared how they had been blessed by hearing the Bible in their own language. One girl testified that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Another said that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” She said that when she wept in the night, she knew that Jesus was weeping with her.
The mission executive wondered why these two girls were mourning and weeping. He thought that maybe they had chosen these verses to share because they were short and easy to remember. But the school’s teacher leaned over and whispered to him that both of these girls had lost their parents to AIDS. Jesus’ compassion comforted them in their losses. In the same way, the Teacher calls you to come to Him with your tears. He cares for you and He will cry with you. Come to Him!
- Which trials has God used to teach you the most? What lessons have you learned through them?
- Most men find it difficult to cry. How can we grow in tenderness and godly sympathy?
- The Psalms show us that there is a right way to complain to the Lord. What is it? Was Mary sinning here with her complaint (in 11:32)? Why/why not?
- Are emotions neutral or are they sometimes sinful? Support your answer with Scripture.
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:15
Paul’s words to Timothy still apply to us today. There is a need to raise up teachers who clearly and fearlessly teach the Word of God. It is with this hope in mind that the Bible Teacher’s Guide (BTG) series has been created. The series includes both expositional book studies and topical studies. This guide will be useful for teachers who are preparing to lead small groups, give sermons or simply for an individual’s devotional study.
Each lesson is based around the hermeneutical principle that the original authors wrote in a similar manner as we do today—with the intention of being understood. Each paragraph and chapter of Scripture is centered around one main thought often called the Big Idea. After finding the Big Idea for each passage studied, the Big Question was created which will lead the small group through the entire gamut of the text. Alongside the Big Question, hermeneutical questions such as Observation Questions, Interpretation Questions, and Application Questions have been added. Observation questions point out pivotal aspects of the text. Interpretation questions lead us into understanding what the text means through looking at the context or other Scripture. Application questions lead us to life principles coming out of the text. It was never the intent for all these questions to be used, but they have been given to help guide the teacher in the preparation of his own lesson.
The purpose of this guide is to make the preparation of the teacher easier, as many commentaries and sermons have been used in the development of each lesson. At the end of each lesson, there will be a notes page for the reader to place his or her own ideas, thoughts, revelations, or questions. This will help in one’s meditation and preparation to teach.
After meditation and preparation is completed, the small group leader can follow the suggested teaching outline, if preferred. (1) The leader would introduce the text and present the big question in the beginning of the study. (2) He would allow several minutes for the members to search out answers from within the text, questions, or ways God spoke to them. (3) Then the leader would facilitate the discussion of the findings and lead the group along through observation, interpretation, and application questions provided in the guide. The leader may find teaching part or the entire lesson preferred and then giving application questions. The leader can also choose to use a “Study Group” method of facilitation, where each member prepares beforehand and shares teaching responsibility (see Appendix 1 and 2). Some leaders may find that corporately reading each main point in a study followed by a brief discussion as the most effective method.
Again, the Bible Teacher’s Guide can be used as a manual to follow in teaching, a resource to use in preparation for teaching or simply as an expositional devotional to enrich one’s own study. I pray that the Lord may bless your study, preparation, and teaching and that in all of it, you will find the fruit of the Holy Spirit abounding in your own life and the lives of those you instruct.
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.
7. 八福 (马太福音5:1-12)Related Media
也许研读八福的最佳方法是逐一从基础开始 – 定义、背景、关连与应用。假如你要在课堂中教授八福，你如果在逐一探讨它们时便讨论它们的应用，比在最后才尝试逐一提出应用，会有较理想的效果。
经文的意义 ：圣经对贫穷人的描述包括几方面：在耶稣时代的穷人，只有很少财产、常常受压迫，没有什么力量和希望。他们没有甚么资源可依赖，他们不得不依靠他人生存。以赛亚为他那时代的人带来好信息 – 他们将从捆绑中得释放。耶稣是透过传从神而来的好信息 – 福音，应验了这好信息的应许。祂并没有使他们在地上权力和财物上富裕，但他却满足了他们最大的需要。
人怎样成为灵里贫穷呢？按接下来的经文，当人听到天国的信息，并且明白天国是怎么样的和怎样进天国 – 透过悔改回转、降服于神的旨意。第一步是承认自己不能作甚么，接着是寻求神满有恩慈的供应。
意义 ：这里的焦点是神的子民哀恸时，他们将会得安慰。每个人都会在人生不同阶段经历哀伤和悲惨的损失，但那在天国得安慰的哀恸是那为以色列蒙羞与及蒙羞的原因而哀恸 – 因他们的罪，国家被强横和无情的统治者掌控。耶稣降临并宣告天国近了，祂期待人的反应是痛哭悔悟（另参以赛亚书40:1）。弥赛亚会安慰那些哀恸的人，但得安慰是因为弥赛亚将他们从那使他们哀恸的罪中拯救出来。
应用 ：这里的指引是关于哀恸的焦点，而不是哀恸本身。那得安慰的哀恸是门徒的哀恸，他们明确知道哀恸的原因，有正确的信心看透事件。当人面对生命的伤痛时刻，如他们为罪而哀伤，同样可以有盼望 – 这是信靠主的一个清晰的记号。
旧约背景 ：这「福」和诗篇37:11「受困苦的人必拥有地土」十分相似。5 假如你研读那段经文，你将会发现那也是有关弥赛亚的诗篇，那地亦必是应许之地。
意义 ：在圣经里，温柔的人是指那些有温柔的心和自制力的人，他们的心灵没有恶念，也不高傲。温柔的人也许和贫穷的人一样没有自己的资源，但其后可能有，就如摩西被称为最谦和的人。6 温柔的人不剥削和压迫他人，他们不复仇或仇杀，不使用暴力，不试图为自己的目的夺取政权。概括而言，他们学效基督，在生活上模仿祂。但这并不表示他们软弱或他们的生活不济，他们可以是柔和谦卑，但他们也可成为弱者和受压迫者的斗士。
意义 ：这福要说的比我们大多数人所想的更多，它并非单单描述那些正义的人或尝试行善的人，而是他们生命中的热诚 – 他们为此饥与渴。就如贫穷和温柔的人，他们将生命交在神的手中，希望祂帮助。
6. 「清心的人有福了，因为他们必得见 神。」
在信以外对人「心」的描述则截然不同 – 最恶劣的是时常因自私自利的行为带来痛苦（创世记6:5）。耶稣说从心里发出来的才污秽人，恶念、不纯正的欲望、毁谤等等（马太福音15:18-19）。人不可能在没有改变的情况下带来一颗纯净清洁的心，耶稣在这段经文并没有作解释，不过祂曾谈论重生，那是在改变之初所必须的。追随基督可以将一颗充满肉欲的心，转化成一颗纯净清洁的心。这并不容易，也不会迅速地改变，但进天国的人必须要有这颗新心。
这是一个凭着信在现在的、就在这里的应许 – 他们在生活的各种场合和各事件看见神，但圣经的应许比这更多。在世上看见神被我们否定了，但有一天，天堂的门被打开，祂能被我们转化了的眼睛看见。如约伯说：「我知道我的救赎主活着，末了必站立在地上。我这皮肉灭绝之后，我的肉体仍必见 神。我自己要见他，亲眼要看他，并不像外人。我的心肠在我里面消灭了。」（约伯记19:25-27）
这福是给那些在这世上忍受这样逼迫的人，他们的终局和他们现在所受的侮辱却刚好相反 – 天国是属于他们的。门徒知道甚么值得他们殉道。但这并不单是将来的实况，他们现在已经拥有这国度（这福与第一个福平衡）。
应用 ：这教导十分简单，人活在这世上应为主而活，如天国的成员过活，拥护公义与公平，彰显仁慈、保持温柔和灵里的贫穷 – 即使有受赞许的品格，但他们应该知道真正的公义会冒犯很多的人，故此，他们要预备好遇到拦阻。
Translated by: Jenny Pao 鲍婉玲译
4你可以从你手上的资源开始，或许是一本好的字典或注释书。假如你希望研经，投资小许金钱购买神学辞典，帮助明白字词和神学思想的意义，定能大有裨益。以下两套书：Colin Brown’s (editor) set for the New Testament, 和 Willem van Gemeren’s (editor) for the Old Testament.各都有数册，可在新约和旧约字义上提供帮助。在这系列的末端还有一些工具书的介绍。
5 译者注：马太福音5:5 温柔的人和诗篇37:11 受困苦的人，英文同样是 the meek
6 译者注：民数记12:3和马太福音 5:5温柔的人和谦和英文同样是 meek
7. 八 福 (馬太福音 5:1-12)Related Media
有關八福的描述中，眾多為人接納的其中一項是八福是以賽亞書61:1-3的回響，一篇以末世論 3 為重點的經文。馬太恆常地指出耶穌就是那舊約預言的應驗，在這裡也是。所以讀八福，我們也會看看以賽亞關於彌賽亞和彌賽亞國度的預言。
5:8 清心的人有福了，因為他們必得見 神。
5:11 人若因我侮辱你們、逼迫你們、揑造各樣壞話毀謗你們，你們就有福了，5:12 應當歡喜快樂，因為你們在天上的賞賜是大的。在你們以前的先知，人也是這樣逼迫他們。
也許研讀八福的最佳方法是逐一從基礎開始 – 定義、背景、關連與應用。假如你要在課堂中教授八福，你如果在逐一探討它們時便討論它們的應用，比在最後才嘗試逐一提出應用，會有較理想的效果。
經文的意義：聖經對貧窮人的描述包括幾方面：在耶穌時代的窮人，只有很少財產、常常受壓迫，沒有什麼力量和希望。他們沒有甚麼資源可依賴，他們不得不依靠他人生存。以賽亞為他那時代的人帶來好信息 – 他們將從綑綁中得釋放。耶穌是透過傳從神而來的好信息 – 福音，應驗了這好信息的應許。祂並沒有使他們在地上權力和財物上富裕，但他卻滿足了他們最大的需要。
人怎樣成為靈裡貧窮呢？按接下來的經文，當人聽到天國的信息，並且明白天國是怎麼樣的和怎樣進天國 – 透過悔改回轉、降服於神的旨意。第一步是承認自己不能作甚麼，接著是尋求神滿有恩慈的供應。
意義：這裡的焦點是神的子民哀慟時，他們將會得安慰。每個人都會在人生不同階段經歷哀傷和悲慘的損失，但那在天國得安慰的哀慟是那為以色列蒙羞與及蒙羞的原因而哀慟 – 因他們的罪，國家被強橫和無情的統治者掌控。耶穌降臨並宣告天國近了，祂期待人的反應是痛哭悔悟（另參以賽亞書40:1）。彌賽亞會安慰那些哀慟的人，但得安慰是因為彌賽亞將他們從那使他們哀慟的罪中拯救出來。
應用：這裡的指引是關於哀慟的焦點，而不是哀慟本身。那得安慰的哀慟是門徒的哀慟，他們明確知道哀慟的原因，有正確的信心看透事件。當人面對生命的傷痛時刻，如他們為罪而哀傷，同樣可以有盼望 – 這是信靠主的一個清晰的記號。
意義：這福要說的比我們大多數人所想的更多，它並非單單描述那些正義的人或嘗試行善的人，而是他們生命中的熱誠 – 他們為此飢與渴。就如貧窮和溫柔的人，他們將生命交在神的手中，希望祂幫助。
6. 「清心的人有福了，因為他們必得見 神。」
在信以外對人「心」的描述則截然不同 – 最惡劣的是時常因自私自利的行為帶來痛苦（創世記6:5）。耶穌說從心裡發出來的才污穢人，惡念、不純正的慾望、毀謗等等（馬太福音15:18-19）。人不可能在沒有改變的情況下帶來一顆純淨清潔的心，耶穌在這段經文並沒有作解釋，不過祂曾談論重生，那是在改變之初所必須的。追隨基督可以將一顆充滿肉慾的心，轉化成一顆純淨清潔的心。這並不容易，也不會迅速地改變，但進天國的人必須要有這顆新心。
這是一個憑著信在現在的、就在這裡的應許 – 他們在生活的各種場合和各事件看見神，但聖經的應許比這更多。在世上看見神被我們否定了，但有一天，天堂的門被打開，祂能被我們轉化了的眼睛看見。如約伯說：「我知道我的救贖主活着，末了必站立在地上。我這皮肉滅絕之後，我的肉體仍必見 神。我自己要見他，親眼要看他，並不像外人。我的心腸在我裏面消滅了。」（約伯記19:25-27）
這福是給那些在這世上忍受這樣逼迫的人，他們的終局和他們現在所受的侮辱卻剛好相反 – 天國是屬於他們的。門徒知道甚麼值得他們殉道。但這並不單是將來的實況，他們現在已經擁有這國度（這福與第一個福平衡）。
應用：這教導十分簡單，人活在這世上應為主而活，如天國的成員過活，擁護公義與公平，彰顯仁慈、保持溫柔和靈裡的貧窮 – 即使有受讚許的品格，但他們應該知道真正的公義會冒犯很多的人，故此，他們要預備好遇到攔阻。
Translated by: Jenny Pao 鮑婉玲譯
4你可以從你手上的資源開始，或許是一本好的字典或註釋書。假如你希望研經，投資小許金錢購買神學辭典，幫助明白字詞和神學思想的意義，定能大有裨益。以下兩套書：Colin Brown’s (editor) set for the New Testament, 和 Willem van Gemeren’s (editor) for the Old Testament. 各都有數冊，可在新約和舊約字義上提供幫助。在這系列的末端還有一些工具書的介紹。
5 譯者註：馬太福音5:5 溫柔的人和詩篇37:11 受困苦的人，英文同樣是 the meek
6 譯者註：民數記12:3和馬太福音 5:5溫柔的人和謙和英文同樣是 meek
4. Quanta Insatisfação! - A História de Jacó e RaquelRelated Media
Quando vimos Jacó pela última vez, ele estava a caminho de Berseba, fugindo para se salvar da vingança de seu irmão, Esaú. Ele não tinha ido muito longe, quando descobriu que Deus ia com ele. A mensagem veio na forma de um sonho, onde uma escada se estendia do céu até a terra. O Senhor estava acima da escada e disse a Jacó: “Eis que eu estou contigo, e te guardarei por onde quer que fores, e te farei voltar a esta terra, porque te não desampararei, até cumprir eu aquilo que te hei referido” (Gn. 28:15). Jacó deu ao lugar o nome de Betel, que significa “casa de Deus”
Armado com a preciosa promessa da presença de Deus, Jacó se dirigiu para Harã, a terra da família de sua mãe. Foi uma jornada longa e solitária. Quando chegou aos arredores da cidade, ele estava exausto, com os pés doloridos, com saudades de casa e sem saber exatamente aonde ir. Ele viu um poço e parou para descansar. Havia alguns pastores sentados por ali e ele começou a conversar com eles: “Meus irmãos, donde sois? Responderam: Somos de Harã”. Jacó provavelmente soltou um suspiro de alívio. O Senhor o levara em segurança ao seu destino. Ele continuou: “Conheceis a Labão, filho de Naor? Responderam: Conhecemos. Ele está bom? Perguntou ainda Jacó. Responderam: Está bom. Raquel, sua filha, vem vindo aí com as ovelhas” (Gn. 29:4-6).
Jacó virou a cabeça e deu um olhar fatal; sem dúvida, foi amor à primeira vista. Ela era linda, “formosa de porte e de semblante” (Gn. 29:17). E seus olhos — como eram deslumbrantes! Se comparados aos da irmã mais velha, Lia, que não tinham brilho ou luz, eles devem ter sido pretos e brilhantes, de uma beleza cativante.
Jacó ficou muito impressionado — talvez, até demais. A ideia que temos é que ele ficou tão fascinado pela beleza de Raquel, e tão encantado com seu charme, que nem viu seus defeitos ou considerou a vontade de Deus em relação a ela. E, sendo um manipulador sagaz como era, na mesma hora começou a tratar do assunto. Ele lembrou aos pastores que ainda era hora de apascentar as ovelhas, e eles deveriam dar de beber aos rebanhos e levá-los de volta ao pasto enquanto era dia, provavelmente uma manobra para se livrar deles e poder conversar com Raquel a sós. Os pastores, no entanto, tinham algum tipo de acordo de não rolar a pedra de volta à boca do poço enquanto todos os rebanhos não estivessem reunidos (Gn. 29:7-8).
“Falava-lhes ainda, quando chegou Raquel com as ovelhas de seu pai; porque era pastora. Tendo visto Jacó a Raquel, filha de Labão, irmão de sua mãe, e as ovelhas de Labão, chegou-se, removeu a pedra da boca do poço e deu de beber ao rebanho de Labão, irmão de sua mãe” (Gn. 29:9-10). Jacó pode ter sido um homem caseiro, mas não era um fracote. Ele moveu uma pedra que, normalmente, precisaria de vários homens para ser movida; e deu água às ovelhas de Rebeca. Será que ele estava se exibindo um pouquinho?
Continuando a leitura: “Feito isso, Jacó beijou a Raquel e, erguendo a voz, chorou” (Gn. 29:11). A emoção daquele momento tomou conta dele. A direção e o cuidado milagroso de Deus, a empolgação do encontro com sua bela prima, a perspectiva do que lhe reservava o futuro — tudo isso encheu tanto seu coração, que ele chorou de alegria. Em nossa cultura, é estranho ver um homem expressar suas emoções dessa forma, mas a expressão sincera dos sentimentos de uma pessoa pode melhorar a saúde emocional e dar mais estabilidade conjugal.
Parece que o romance ia ter um início ardente. A bela da vizinhança e o garotão novo na cidade tinham se encontrado. No entanto, este início nos faz ficar com a pulga atrás da orelha sobre essa união. Sabemos que um relacionamento baseado originalmente na atração física está em terreno instável. Hollywood tem nos dado boas evidências para essa tese. E os infortúnios de um notório jogador de futebol americano e a volta pra casa de uma rainha também dão base para isso1. Esses casais podem fazer o casamento dar certo, mas exigirá um pouco mais de esforço, e eles precisarão trabalhar sua relação para além do magnetismo físico que deu início a ela.
Contudo, quando um homem está enamorado de uma mulher, não quer ouvir esse tipo de coisa. Ele vai tê-la e nada mais importa. Só um mês depois de Jacó ter chegado a Harã, Labão vai ter com ele para ver se poderiam chegar a um acordo salarial mutuamente aceitável. A Escritura diz que Jacó amava Raquel e se ofereceu para servir Labão durante sete anos, a fim de receber a mão dela em casamento (Gn. 29:18). Ele não tinha nada a oferecer a Labão, por isso, prometeu seu trabalho no lugar do dote. Agora, ficamos ainda mais encasquetados. Um mês não é tempo suficiente para chegarmos a conhecer alguém o bastante para fazer um compromisso para toda vida e, com certeza, não é tempo suficiente para saber se amamos ou não a pessoa. O verdadeiro amor exige conhecimento profundo. Dizer que amamos alguém a quem não conhecemos intimamente é simplesmente dizer que amamos a nossa imagem mental dessa pessoa. E, se ele ou ela não corresponderem a essa imagem, então, o dito “amor” vira desilusão e ressentimento e, às vezes, até aversão.
Jacó, entretanto, achou que estava apaixonado. Quando Raquel estava por perto, seu coração batia mais rápido e um sentimento maravilhoso tomava conta dele. Ela era a criatura mais linda em que seus olhos tinham pousado e ele achava que a vida sem ela não valia a pena. Para ele, isso era suficiente. “Assim, por amor a Raquel, serviu Jacó sete anos; e estes lhe pareceram como poucos dias, pelo muito que a amava” (Gn. 29:20). Na verdade, essas palavras são as mais belas que já foram escritas sobre o sentimento de um homem por uma mulher. Sete anos é um longo tempo de espera, e eu acho que o amor de Jacó por Raquel cresceu muito durante esses anos. A atração física ainda estava presente, mas não era possível ele viver tão próximo a ela durante tanto tempo e não ter aprendido muitas coisas a seu respeito, tanto boas como ruins. Esse casamento ia passar por momentos difíceis, mas não fosse o longo compromisso e o amor profundo e maduro de Jacó, provavelmente não teria sobrevivido.
Muitas pessoas se casam rápido demais e depois se arrependem. Sete anos de compromisso talvez seja um pouco exagerado, mas é preciso tempo para conhecer as qualidades desejáveis e indesejáveis de uma pessoa, a fim de decidir se podemos nos dar de forma abnegada pelo bem do outro, apesar de suas características desagradáveis. Por isso, um bom teste para o verdadeiro amor é a capacidade de esperar. A paixão normalmente tem pressa porque é egoísta. Ela diz: “Eu me sinto bem quando estou ao seu lado, por isso, vamos nos casar logo antes que eu lhe perca e a esse sentimento tão bom”. O amor diz: “Meu maior desejo é a sua felicidade e estou disposto a esperar, se for preciso, para ter certeza de que isso é o melhor para você”. E, se for verdade, ele vai passar pelo teste do tempo. Jacó esperou, e seu amor à primeira vista se tornou uma ligação profunda e um compromisso completo da alma.
Há um antigo ditado que diz: “O verdadeiro amor nunca se desgasta”. Foi assim com Jacó e Raquel. Vamos dar uma olhada nesse amor sob grande stress. Tio Labão foi alguém que tentou entornar o caldo. Astuto, velhaco e malandro como era, ele substituiu Raquel por Lia na noite do casamento de Jacó. Usando um pesado véu e roupas longas e esvoaçantes para encobrir o corpo, Lia conseguiu passar a cerimônia toda sem ser detectada. Na tenda escura, ela passou a noite falando aos sussurros. Dá para imaginar o tremendo choque de Jacó quando a luz da manhã revelou a tramoia de Labão? Ele deve ter ficado furioso com a família inteira por causa dessa armação traiçoeira.
Esta não foi a melhor maneira de Lia começar sua vida de casada, não é? Suspeito que ela amasse Jacó desde o princípio e queria ser correspondida. De bom grado ela ajudou o pai a colocar seu plano em prática, mas encontrou pouquíssima satisfação no marido que conseguiu por meio de trapaça. Enganar alguém para se casar é um negócio muito arriscado, mas ainda é feito hoje em dia. Algumas mulheres tentam comprar um marido com sexo ou prendê-lo com um bebê ou, ainda, apelando para a fortuna da família. Um homem também pode prender uma mulher prometendo-lhe riquezas ou enganá-la fingindo ser o que não é, mascarando seus defeitos até o dia do casamento. Às vezes, mal termina a lua de mel e a esposa descobre que se casou com um monstro que não conhecia. As consequências da farsa geralmente são dolorosas e angustiantes.
O “generoso” Labão dispôs-se a lhe dar também Raquel, se Jacó trabalhasse para ele por mais sete anos. “Decorrida a semana desta, dar-te-emos também a outra, pelo trabalho de mais sete anos que ainda me servirás” (Gn. 29:27). Esta semana se refere à semana das festividades de casamento. Jacó não teve de esperar outros sete anos para ter Raquel, só uma semana. Mas ele teve de trabalhar mais sete anos sem pagamento depois de se casar com ela. “Mas Jacó amava mais a Raquel do que a Lia; e continuou servindo a Labão por outros sete anos” (Gn. 29:30).
E, assim, temos o primeiro patriarca temente a Deus entrando em um relacionamento bígamo. Não era essa a vontade perfeita de Deus. Deus fez uma mulher para cada homem (Gn. 2:24, cf. também Lv. 18:18, 1 Tm. 3:2). Embora Jacó tenha sido enganado, havia outras opções. Alguns comentaristas dizem que ele deveria ter rejeitado Lia, uma vez que não a teve por vontade própria. Gostaria de sugerir outra possibilidade: ele poderia ter aceitado seu casamento com Lia como sendo da vontade de Deus e aprendido a amar só a ela. Isaque aceitou as consequências da farsa de Jacó quando este se passou pelo irmão, Esaú, e roubou a bênção da família; e Isaque foi elogiado por isso no Novo Testamento. Talvez Jacó também fosse elogiado por aceitar as consequências da vontade soberana de Deus se tivesse galgado esse degrau da fé. E, gostaria de lembrar, ainda, que foi Lia, não Raquel, a mãe de Judá, por meio de quem viria o Salvador (Gn. 29:35). Mas Jacó não estava disposto a acreditar no controle de Deus sobre a situação. Ele ia ter o que queria, embora esta não fosse a vontade de Deus. E os acontecimentos seguintes devem ser evidência suficiente de que bigamia nunca foi parte do plano de Deus para a raça humana.
Sob a pressão desse relacionamento bígamo, a verdadeira personalidade de Raquel veio à tona. Quando percebeu que Lia dava filhos a Jacó, e ela não, ela ficou com muito ciúme da irmã e disse a Jacó: “Dá-me filhos, senão morrerei” (Gn. 30:1). Essencialmente, ela estava dizendo: “se as coisas não podem ser do meu jeito, prefiro morrer”. Eis uma mulher que tinha quase tudo na vida — grande beleza física, todo tipo de coisas materiais e a devoção profunda de um marido apaixonado. Será que o amor de Jacó não valia mais que uma porção de filhos? Não, não valia, pelo menos não para Raquel. Ela tinha de ter tudo que queria ou a vida não valeria a pena. Ela estava cheia de inveja, egoísmo, irritação, impaciência, infelicidade e exigência. E Jacó acabou perdendo a paciência, “Acaso, estou eu em lugar de Deus que ao teu ventre impediu frutificar?” (Gn. 30:2).
A raiva dele não tinha razão de ser aos olhos de Deus, mas sua avaliação da situação estava totalmente certa. O milagre da concepção está no poder de Deus.
A insatisfação tem arruinado incontáveis relacionamentos desde a época de Jacó. Alguns casais ficam zangados por Deus não lhes dar filhos, enquanto outros não veem a hora dos filhos crescerem e saírem de casa para que tenham paz e sossego. Donas de casa querem trabalhar fora, e mulheres que trabalham fora querem ficar em casa em tempo integral. Há cristãos descontentes com o lugar onde vivem, com o emprego, com o dinheiro que possuem e com a casa onde moram. Para eles, há sempre algo mais que parece melhor. Algumas esposas estão descontentes com o marido. Elas se queixam e reclamam porque eles não lhes dão atenção suficiente, não passam muito tempo com os filhos, não querem consertar as coisas em casa, ficam fora até tarde ou pensam mais no trabalho, no carro, no lazer, na televisão e nos esportes do que nelas. Alguns maridos estão descontentes com a esposa. Eles as criticam pelo jeito como se vestem, como arrumam o cabelo, como cozinham, como arrumam a casa ou como cuidam dos filhos. Ficam irritados porque elas dormem até tarde, porque comem demais, porque perdem muito tempo ou porque gastam muito dinheiro. Não importa o quanto elas tentem, elas nunca conseguem agradar o marido.
Algumas dessas coisas são importantes e precisam ser discutidas. Não estou sugerindo que sejam totalmente ignoradas e soframos em silêncio. No entanto, o espírito de insatisfação que nos faz discutir, implicar, bater-boca, brigar e reclamar é um grande empecilho para um relacionamento conjugal feliz. Deus quer que estejamos contentes com o que temos. “De fato, grande fonte de lucro é a piedade com o contentamento” (1 Tm. 6:6). Paulo podia dizer: “Porque aprendi a viver contente em toda e qualquer situação” (Fp. 4:11). Quando somos capazes de reconhecer a presença da insatisfação na nossa vida e vê-la como pecado, podemos buscar a graça de Deus para superá-la e encontrar novas alegrias.
O descontentamento de Raquel a levou ao mesmo tipo de estratagema carnal tentado por Sara. Ela deu sua serva Bila a Jacó, para que ele tivesse um filho com ela, e fez isso duas vezes (30:3-8). Tecnicamente, na cultura daquela época, os filhos dessa união seriam filhos de Raquel. No entanto, temos outro vislumbre da sua natureza egoísta quando nasceu o segundo filho de Bila. Raquel disse: “Com grandes lutas tenho competido com minha irmã e logrei prevalecer” (Gn. 30:8). Ela chamou a criança de Naftali, que significa “luta”. Ela via a si mesma em disputa com a irmã pelo primeiro lugar na opinião de Jacó.
Pouco tempo depois, sua insatisfação ciumenta foi vista novamente. O pequeno Rubem, primogênito de Lia, que devia ter uns quatro anos na época, foi ao campo atrás dos ceifeiros e pegou umas plantas chamadas mandrágoras, ou maçãs do amor, como fazia qualquer garotinho naquele tempo. Quando ele as trouxe para casa e as deu à sua mãe, Raquel as viu e disse que também queria. Ela parecia sempre querer algo que era dos outros. Por isso, ela deu os favores de Jacó a Lia naquela noite em troca de algumas dessas maçãs do amor (Gn. 30:14-15).
Mas o espírito de insatisfação apareceu novamente na vida de Raquel. Deus finalmente lhe deu o seu próprio filho, por isso, era de se esperar que ela ficasse satisfeita. No entanto, ela lhe deu o nome de José, que significa “possa ele dar mais”. E disse: “Dê-me o SENHOR ainda outro filho” (Gn. 30:24). Mais, mais, mais! Raquel nunca estava satisfeita com o que tinha.
Mas ainda não acabou. Deus disse a Jacó que era hora de deixar o tio Labão e voltar para casa, em Canaã. Jacó havia prosperado tanto que Labão não era mais favorável a ele. Por isso, ele reuniu suas esposas, seus filhos e seus pertences e saiu de fininho enquanto Labão tosquiava as ovelhas. Mas Raquel pegou alguma que não era de nenhum deles; ela pegou os ídolos de seu pai, uns ídolos do lar chamados terafins (Gn. 31:19). Quem possuísse essas imagens era aceito como o principal herdeiro da família, mesmo sendo o genro.
Mais uma vez, a ganância de Raquel estava se revelando. Ela queria que seu marido, não seus irmãos, tivesse a maior parte da herança da família, para que também pudesse se beneficiar dela. Quando Labão, finalmente, os alcançou e procurou entre os pertences deles por seus terafins, Raquel mentiu para ele e o enganou para que ele não os encontrasse (Gn. 31:33-35). A adorável Raquelzinha parece ter sido uma megera!
Mas sabem de uma coisa? Exceto pela vez em que Jacó se zangou com ela por tê-lo culpado pela falta de filhos, não há nenhuma indicação de que ele a tenha amado menos por causa dos seus defeitos. Na verdade, há indícios de que ele manteve sua devoção até o final da vida dela. Por exemplo, ela a colocou numa posição privilegiada, em último lugar do grupo, quando eles foram ao encontro de Esaú e suas vidas poderiam estar em perigo (Gn. 33:2). Jacó estava longe de ser perfeito, mas ele é um exemplo para nós de como um marido deve tratar a esposa quando ela não é tudo o que deveria ser.
Alguns maridos dizem: “Eu gostaria mais dela se ela fosse mais amável”. Amor que só funciona quando a esposa é amável não é realmente amor. Deus quer que as esposas sintam a intensidade do amor do marido por elas até quando estão agindo como idiotas (Ef. 5:25). E a maioria de nós tem momentos assim. Talvez os homens, de vez em quando, devessem se perguntar, principalmente quando houvesse algum desentendimento: “Minha esposa tem consciência do meu amor por ela neste momento? Ela está sentindo amor ou está sentindo raiva, hostilidade e rejeição?” Deus fez a mulher com necessidade de ter a segurança do amor do marido por ela durante todo o tempo. E isso vai depender muito da atitude dele nas menores coisas, tais como a expressão do seu rosto ou o tom da sua voz, especialmente quando ela estiver mal-humorada ou chateada.
Já vimos o amor de Jacó à primeira vista e também seu amor sob grande stress. Finalmente, vamos ver seu amor em meio à profunda tristeza. Deus permitiu a Raquel ter um último pedido atendido. Ela gerou outro filho. Seu parto foi muito difícil e logo ficou evidente que ela ia morrer quando a criança nascesse. Quando a parteira lhe disse que ela dera à luz, ela balbuciou o nome da criança com um último suspiro — Benoni, que significa “filho da minha tristeza”. Mais tarde, Jacó mudou-o para Benjamim, que quer dizer “filho da minha destra”. Mas isso não é ironia? Um dia, anos antes, ela gritou: “Dá-me filhos, senão morrerei”. E ela morreu dando a luz ao segundo filho. A criança sobreviveu. Raquel, no entanto, foi sepultada ao lado do caminho que liga Belém a Jerusalém. Ainda podemos visitar seu túmulo, um monumento permanente ao desastre da insatisfação.
Jacó nunca se esqueceu de Raquel. Aos 147 anos de idade, ao reunir todos os filhos no Egito para abençoá-los, ele ainda pensava nela. “Vindo, pois, eu de Padã, me morreu, com pesar meu, Raquel na terra de Canaã, no caminho, havendo ainda pequena distância para chegar a Efrata; sepultei-a ali no caminho de Efrata, que é Belém” (Gn. 48:7). Ele a amou até o fim da vida. Mas, que bem fez isso a ela? Ela não conseguiu aproveitar totalmente esse amor. A insatisfação que a corroia impediu-a de desfrutar plenamente qualquer coisa, e impediu outras pessoas de gostarem dela. Isso a isolou num mundo amargo de solidão. Então, ela morreu, deixando Jacó para a irmã que ela tanto invejou em vida. E, mesmo na morte, ela continuou sozinha. A pedido de Jacó, ele foi sepultado ao lado de Lia na caverna de Macpela, em Hebrom, junto de Abraão, Sara, Isaque e Rebeca (Gn. 49:29-31; 50:13). Raquel jaz sozinha.
Será que a nossa solidão ou os conflitos nos nossos relacionamentos são consequências de um espírito interior de insatisfação? Isso não vai mudar enquanto pensarmos que podemos encontrar satisfação em coisas materiais ou circunstâncias melhores. Raquel é prova disso. A verdadeira satisfação só pode ser encontrada no Senhor. Ele é o único que satisfaz a sede da alma e sacia sua fome com coisas boas (Sl. 107:9). Ele nos diz para nos contentarmos com aquilo que temos, pois, embora as circunstâncias da vida mudem todos os dias, Ele é imutável e está sempre conosco (Hb. 13:5). Conforme aumentar o nosso conhecimento, pelo estudo da Palavra de Deus e pela oração em Sua Presença, encontraremos mais paz e maior satisfação dentro de nós. E, então, seremos capazes de receber, com gratidão, aquilo que Ele nos dá e, ao mesmo tempo, agradecer por aquilo que Ele não nos dá, confiantes de que os Seus caminhos são perfeitos. E seremos capazes de mudar aquilo que pode ser mudado, enquanto aceitamos alegremente aquilo que não pode ser mudado, tendo a certeza de que é parte do Seu plano perfeito para nos levar à maturidade em Cristo.
Vamos Conversar Sobre isso
- Discuta a validade de um conhecimento maior e mais profundo antes do casamento. Como casais que se uniram sem esse conhecimento podem compensá-lo agora?
- O que Raquel poderia ter feito para controlar sua insatisfação e seu ciúme? O que Jacó poderia ter feito para ajudá-la?
- Quais coisas na sua vida você consideraria de maior valor?
- Termine a frase como teria feito antes de ler este capítulo: “Eu poderia ser feliz se ao menos…”
- Se você completou a frase com algum tipo de situação melhor ou de bem material, como poderia terminá-la sendo mais coerente com os princípios da Palavra de Deus?
- Quais características do seu cônjuge lhe dão mais satisfação? Quais o incomodam mais? Se sentir que certas coisas devem ser mudadas, o que fará?
- Você tem ciúmes de outra pessoa? Como Deus quer que você lide com esse sentimento?
- Para os maridos: Sua esposa sempre sente seu amor por ela? Talvez você descubra perguntando a ela. Como você pode demonstrar o seu amor mesmo quando ela está “atacada”?
1 O. J. Simpson e Grace Kelly
Righteousness Language In The Old TestamentRelated Media
A lot of confusion and guesswork and mere impressions have dominated discussions about the righteousness of God. Is it imputed? (Yes). Is it imparted? (Yes). When does it mean vindication? Justice? Holiness? Declared not guilty? Putting things right?
Let’s discover what this word means, together.
In the OT righteousness is founded on God’s character and his law. It is true that man is righteous and right in relationship to God (DNTTA, p. 143), but how does God reveal what righteous living is? How does one act when one is in right relationship with God?
God is righteous, and so is his law, which expresses his righteousness to humans. There is an inseparable connection between his character and decrees, but his character comes first. It is not as though righteousness can exist independent of him and he has to conform to this impersonal quality or force. God decrees what is righteous or unrighteous.
His law also binds humans to its demands.
That God posits law, and that He is bound to it as a just God, is a fundamental tenet in the OT knowledge of faith in all its variations. The element of unity in the faith of all the righteous in Israel, whether prophets, priests, lawgivers, or men of a less distinctive sociological type, is the acknowledgment of God’s law ordering alike both great and small and forming a basis for hope. (TDNT, vol. 2, 176)
God is the righteous ruler, and his righteousness applies not only to Israel, but extends to all nations.
It is a basic tenet in the OT that God posits law and is bound to it. Recognition of this is a unifying factor in Israel’s faith. All law comes from God, and hence God’s authority extends to all Israel’s historical relationships. God’s law is an order of life that cannot be changed or challenged. It is righteous because he is righteous. His ways are right; they thus give us life and security. He is a righteous ruler and judge, as shown already in the victory celebrated in Judg. 5:11. His righteousness extends to other nations, so that order is seen in the world. The righteous can thus appeal to him with confidence when they are the victims of hostility and oppression (Ps. 5:8). (ibid.)
The Theological Wordbook of the OT also says the Hebrew words are connected to norms.
This root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard. It is claimed by Snaith (N. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the ot, Schocken, 1964, p. 73) “the original significance of the root ṣdq to have been ‘to be straight.’ ” But he adds that it stands for a “norm.” Perhaps the origin of the word is not so clear or even significant. Words having a secular origin often are baptized into special meanings and a word originally meaning straight may develop easily into a moral term just so canon “rod,” “measuring rule” becomes a standardized list of sacred books. ṣedeq, then, refers to an ethical, moral standard and of course in the ot that standard is the nature and will of God. “The Lord is righteous (ṣaddı̂q) in all his ways and holy in all his works” (Ps 145:17). (TWOT 752)
But how does an ancient Israelite know he is righteous? He is faithful to the covenant God established at the foot Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:1-8). But how does he know he is being faithful? He follows the Mosaic Law that God thundered down on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:9-20:21). So faithfulness, righteousness, and the law go together in the OT. As we shall see, Paul reinterprets all of this.
For the Hebrew Bible we look at the verb tsadaq (to be righteous, justify, judge rightly, acquit) and the nouns tsěděq (righteousness) and tsadaqah (righteousness). We do not have time to keep track of the adjective tsaddiq. All words in this study come from the same root: ts-d-q.
Justify Or Declare Righteous (tsadaq)
1. Sometimes a human judge acquits (pronounces righteous, innocent or not-guilty) or declares someone guilty.
6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. (Exod. 23:6-8)
1 When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. (Deut. 25:1)
15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. (2 Sam. 8:15, NASB; 1 Chron. 18:14)
15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both. (Prov. 17:15)
22 Woe to those … 23who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. (Is. 5:22-23).
God the Judge
1. In the first sample verse, God will not acquit the guilty, when humans fail. (Acquit means to declare not guilty.)
7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exod. 23:7, emphasis added)
2. In the following verse, Solomon prays the Lord will judge, condemning the guilty and declaring the innocent “not guilty.”
23 Then [LORD] hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence. (1 Kings 8:32; cf. 2 Chron. 6:23)
In that case the Lord, after declaring someone not guilty, gives [nathan] him the not-guilty verdict according to his innocence, so translates the NASB. Young’s literal translation says: “to declare righteous the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.” The context is the heavenly tribunal, and the innocent getting his vindication and his reputation back intact.
Paul’s later revelation tells us that before the infinitely holy God, as Judge in his tribunal, no one is completely righteous, so we must not take 1 Kings 8:32 too far. The main point is that the Lord is a judge who declares a verdict.
3. King David says God is his judge who is proved right and justified.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Ps. 51:4)
4. God will rescue and deliver the needy, and this rescue and deliverance add up to salvation.
1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 82:1-4)
5. Vindication is tied to righteous judgment.
8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! (Is. 50:8)
18 Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated. (Job. 13:18)
Righteousness (tsadaqah, tsĕdĕq)
1. Righteousness is an attribute of God, though in the biblical text it is active and relational.
3 “I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. (Job 36:3, NASB)
17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (Ps. 7:17)
28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:28)
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. (Ps. 36:6)
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. (Ps. 51:14)
19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. (Ps. 71:19)
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. (Ps. 111:3, cf. v. 9)
142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. (Ps. 119:142)
2. God credited righteousness to childless Abraham because he believed God’s promise of a child.
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:5-6)
3. Righteousness and salvation go together.
1 In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. (Ps. 31:1)
2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. (Ps. 71:2)
8 You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it. (Is. 45:8)
27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:27-28)
5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior (Ps. 65:5)
1 O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. 2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. (Ps. 143:1-2)
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. (Ps. 143:11)
2 Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death. (Prov. 10:2)
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed. (Prov. 11:4-6, NASB)
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward. 19 He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. (Prov. 11:18-19, NASB)
5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. … 6 But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. (Is. 51:5-6)
1 This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” (Is. 56:1)
15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is. 59:15-17)
3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zeph. 2:3)
4. Righteousness is God’s standard in judgment and justice.
6 Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless. (Job 31:6)
8 Let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. (Ps. 7:8)
8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Ps. 9:8)
6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. 7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. (Ps. 50:6-7; cf. Ps. 97:6)
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. … 8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Ps. 9:4, Ps. 9:8)
4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. … 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness. (Ps. 45:4, Ps. 45:7)
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. (Ps. 89:14)
14 For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. 15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it. (Ps. 94:14-15)
13 … He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth. (Ps. 96:13)
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. 2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. (Ps. 97:1-2)
9 He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. (Ps. 98:9)
16 But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness. (Is. 5:16)
19 “I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a waste place’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, declaring things that are upright.” (Is. 45:19, NASB)
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. 23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. (Is. 45:22-24, NASB)
1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God. … 8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Is. 58:1-2, 8, NASB)
23 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)
5. God drove out the nations, not because of the righteousness of the Israel, but the wickedness of the nations.
4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 9:4-5)
6. Kings and judges should judge with righteousness and nations establish it.
15 Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Lev. 19:15)
16 And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. (Deut. 1:16)
18 Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. … 20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:18, Dt. 16:20)
15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. (2 Sam. 8:15, NASB; cf. 1 Chron. 18:14)
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it. (Ps. 22:29-31)
9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. 10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. (Ps. 40:9-10)
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. (Ps. 51:14)
1 Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2 He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. (Ps. 72:1-2)
15 By me [Wisdom] kings reign and rulers make laws that are just … (Prov. 8:15)
34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Prov. 14:34)
12 Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness. 13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth. (Prov. 16:12-13)
5 Remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. (Prov. 25:5)
9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:9)
9 My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. 10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord. (Is. 26:9-10)
1 See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. (Is. 32:1)
2 Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service? (Is. 41:2)
1 “If you will return, O Israel,” declares the Lord, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver, 2 And you will swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.” (Jer. 4:1-2)
1 Thus says the Lord, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word 2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. 3 ‘Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”’” (Jer. 22:1-3, NASB)
15 “Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. (Jer. 22:15, NASB)
9 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, O princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 10 You are to use accurate scales’” … (Ezek. 45:9-10)
27 ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’ (Dan. 4:27, NASB)
7. God uses righteousness to vindicate.
26 He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. (Job 33:26)
3 My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. 4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. 5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. (Ps. 9:3-5)
1 Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2 May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. (Ps. 17:1-2)
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. (Ps. 24:5; cf. Is. 50:8; Ps. 9:8; Ps. 18:20, Ps. 18:24; Ps. 37:6)
27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” (Ps. 35:27)
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. … 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:24, Ps. 35:28)
27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” (Ps. 35:27)
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Ps. 37:6)
17 No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. (Is. 54:17)
20 But, O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. (Jer. 11:20)
10 The Lord has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the Lord our God has done. (Jer. 51:10)
23 So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the Lord your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before. (Joel 2:23)
8. Righteousness, which has its source and cause in God, is a gift.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Ps. 24:5, NASB)
10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. (Ps. 36:10)
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Ps. 37:5-6)
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Is. 61:11)
24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)
9. Righteousness can be put on like clothes.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. (Job 29:14)
5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Is. 11:5)
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. (Is. 59:17)
10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Is. 61:10)
9 May your priests be clothed with righteousness … (Ps. 132:9)
Zechariah 3 talks about Joshua the High Priest having his filthy garments being taken off of him, and “pure” vestments put on him, though the word “righteousness” as such does not occur.
10. Humans must conduct themselves in righteousness, particularly by obeying the law.
19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. (Gen. 18:19)
36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. (Lev. 19:36; cf. Deut. 25:15; Ezek. 45:10)
25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness [Hebrew tsdaqah; LXX oddly translates it as eleêmosunê “mercy”] (Deut. 6:25, NASB).
12 If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. 13 Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act [tsdakah] in the sight of the Lord your God. (Deut. 24:12-13)
23 The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. (1 Sam. 26:23; cf. 1 Sam. 26:25; cf. Ps. 18:20, Ps. 18:24)
21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. (2 Sam 22:21, 2 Sam. 22:25; Ps. 18:20, Ps. 28:24)
6 Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You (1 Kings 3:6, NASB)
6 I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:6)
8 Let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. (Ps. 7:8)
2 [The man] who walks with integrity, and works righteousness … (Ps. 15:2, NASB)
3 He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Ps. 23:3)
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Ps. 103:17-18)
3 How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times! (Ps. 106:3, NASB)
7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. (Ps. 119:7)
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. (Ps. 119:62)
75 I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Ps. 119:75)
144 Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live. (Ps. 119:144)
172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. (Ps. 119:172)
2 To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity. (Prov. 1:2-3, NASB)
5 The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. (Prov. 11:5-6)
9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness. (Prov. 15:9)
8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. (Prov. 16:8)
31 A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness. (Prov. 16:31, NASB)
3 To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice. (Prov. 21:3, NASB)
21 He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor. (Prov. 21:21, NASB)
21 It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. (Is. 42:21)
7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law; so not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. 8 “For the moth will eat them like a garment, and the grub will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation to all generations.” (Is. 51:7-8, NASB)
1 This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” (Is. 56:1)
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Is. 58:7-8)
20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” (Ezek. 3:20-21)
5 “But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, 6 and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period— 7 if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 8 if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, 9 if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully—he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 18:5-9, NASB)
20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited [lit. will be] to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be [lit. will be] charged against him. 21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. (Ezek. 18:20-22’ cf. Ezek. 18:27)
12 “Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ 13 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. 14 And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right— 15 if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. 16 None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live. (Ezek. 33:12-16)
11. Humans must offer righteous sacrifices.
19 They [the tribe of Zebulun] will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness (Deut. 33:19)
5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. (Ps. 4:5)
18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Ps. 51:18-19)
12. Righteousness shall be restored to Zion or Israel.
26 I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness. (Is. 1:26-27)
16 “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. 17 I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; (Is. 28:16-17)
16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. 17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. (Is. 32:16-18)
5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. 6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. (Is. 33:5-6)
17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Is. 48:17-18)
14 In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. 15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Is. 54:14-15)
16 … Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. 17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. 18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. 19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. 21 Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. (Is. 60:16-21)
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Is. 62:1-3)
23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I restore their fortunes, ‘The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!’ (Jer. 31:23, NASB)
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (Dan. 9:24)
19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. (Hos. 2:19)
12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. (Hos. 10:12)
9 Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (Mic. 7:9)
8 And I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.’ (Zech. 8:8, NASB)
13. Righteousness is the foundation of the throne of the Messiah, the Branch of David, the Lord Our Righteousness.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Is. 9:7)
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. … 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Is. 11:1-4, 5)
5 In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it— one from the house of David— one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness. (Is. 16:5)
6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Is. 42:6-7)
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Is. 61:1-3)
5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” (Jer. 23:5-6)
15 “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord Our Righteousness.’” (Jer. 33:15-16)
The only king who can be called “Our Righteousness” is King Jesus. 1 Cor. 1:30 and 2 Cor. 5:21 say Christ has become our righteousness.
2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Mal. 4:2)
The Hebrew words all have the same root: ts-d-q.
In the big picture, Israel was a fully developed nation, the chosen people. Kings of Israel had to establish and follow righteousness. The Law of Moses was the standard by which an Israelite knew he was righteous or not. The nation of Israel was judged by this standard, and over a long history, Israel fell short.
But God would one day vindicate his chosen people, for they had been attacked by other nations because of God’s judgment on them due to their unrighteousness – not keeping the law. Sometimes an individual like David or Job was vindicated before his accusers or enemies.
The Old Covenant predicted the Messiah, who would establish righteousness, presumably based on the law of Moses. The Messiah will be the vindicator of national Israel. Zion and Israel will one day be reestablished in righteousness. Other nations will one day come within the orbit of God’s righteousness.
In the context of righteousness, pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) was not a developed doctrine in the Old Covenant (but see Ps. 51:11, 14, 19). In the context of righteousness, grace, administered by the Spirit, was undeveloped (but see Is. 26:9-10). In the context of righteousness, faith or belief was not fully developed.
Abraham’s faith that was credited as righteousness is an exception, but OT writes never zeroed in Abraham; instead they focused on the standards of righteousness, as measured against the law of Moses. A key verse: “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deut. 6:25, NASB, see no. 10, above, under Righteousness). The Hebrew for righteousness is tsdaqah, which the LXX oddly translates as eleêmosunê (“mercy”). But that verse clearly spells out that law keeping is righteousness.
In any case, in the OT to justify or declare righteous has a legal context in many instances. Sometimes humans acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty; other times God does. God judges according to righteousness, and so should humans. God also justifies or puts to rights on behalf of the widows and orphans and the helpless. Finally, both God and humans can put on righteousness like clothes.
See the companion piece The Righteousness Language in Paul’s Writings.
Please cite this work, especially in print media, as follows:
James M. Arlandson. “Righteousness Language in the Old Testament.” Bible.org. 2014.
Righteousness Language In Paul’s WritingsRelated Media
I’m a radical believer in God’s radical grace. So I’ve got to deal with righteousness because a lot of confusion and guesswork and mere impressions have dominated discussions about the righteousness of God.
Is it imputed? (Yes). Is it imparted? (Yes). Can it mean vindication? (Yes). Justice? (Yes). Holiness? (Yes). Declared not guilty in a forensic or courtroom setting? (Yes). Putting things right in a covenant context? (Yes).
The same word righteousness and its cognates mean all those things, depending on the context.
Together let’s discover what they mean in this study.
English has to deal with “righteousness” and “justice” as if they come from two different stems in Greek, but they do not. Both righteousness and justice come from the dik- stem in Greek.
In fact, here are the other related words that also share the dik- stem. “Righteousness” or “justice” is dikaiosynê; “justification” is dikaiôsis; “to justify” or “pronounce righteous” is dikaioô; righteous deed or regulation is dikaiôma; also, dikaiokrisis is “righteous judgment”; endikos is “just”; and “punishment” or “penalty” is dikê. Antonyms: adikia “unrighteousness”; adikos “unrighteous.”
In this article, however, we look at the verb dikaioô (to justify, declare righteous in Paul) and the noun dikaiosunê (righteousness) and dikaiôsis (justification). We don’t have the time to include the adjective dikaios (righteous).
See the companion article Righteousness Language in the OT.
Justified Or Declared Righteous (dikaioô)
This section uses the ESV.
1. To be justified is to be vindicated in the face of accusations from enemies.
4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.” (Rom. 3:4; Ps. 51:4)
33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Rom. 8:33)
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Cor. 4:3-5)
16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. (1 Tim. 3:16)
2. Paul speaks about the standards of God and implies from the rest of Romans that humans can’t meet them.
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. … 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:12-13, Rom. 2:16)
3. God justifies us apart from the law (our law keeping).
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:19-20)
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:28)
11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Gal. 3:11)
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. (Gal. 5:2-4)
4. God justifies us apart from our works and works of the law.
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:26-28)
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom. 4:1-5)
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! (Gal. 2:15-17)
5. God justifies us freely by grace and faith.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift. (Rom. 3:23-24)
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. … 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Rom. 3:26, Rom. 3:29-31)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:1)
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (Gal. 3:24)
7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Ti. 3:7)
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:21-24)
6. The Spirit Himself justifies us.
11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:11)
7. God justifies us by Christ’s sacrificial blood.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Rom. 3:23-25)
9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Rom. 5:9)
8. We are freed and acquitted from sin (sin accusing us).
7 For one who has died has been set free [ESV notes: has been justified] from sin. (Rom. 6:7)
9. God calls us to be justified and then he has glorified us.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom. 8:30)
Righteousness (dikaiosunê) And Justification (dikaiôsis)
Paul surely has these all of the main OT ideas in his mind when he writes about the righteousness of God. But now all their OT meanings are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore his theology is much more personal and Spirit-based. He is writing to Spirit-filled, small communities. It should be noted that the Reformers distinguished between God’s own righteousness, and his free gift of righteousness that he provides to all who believe in Christ. It is this latter meaning that is intended by “God’s righteousness” (see the list that follows).
1. God’s righteousness implies that no one is righteous by his absolute standards.
5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? … 10 There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:5, 10, citing Pss. 14:1-3; 53:13)
2. God’s righteousness is apart from the law and comes through faith in Christ and saves us.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Rom. 3:21-22)
25 God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25-26)
23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom. 4:23-25)
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” (Rom. 9:30-32)
3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. … 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:3-4, Rom. 10:8-13)
In that long passage in Rom. 10:3-4, Rom. 10:8-13 God saves or rescues us through our faith energized by the gospel.
9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious [law of Moses], how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness [ the gospel of Christ]! (2 Cor. 3:9)
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:21)
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22)
4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:4-5)
9 … not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Php. 3:9)
3. God’s righteousness is built into the gospel, from faith to faith.
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)
4. Abraham shows God’s righteousness can be credited or imputed to our account.
1 We say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works … 10 We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. (Rom. 4:1-6, 10, emphasis added)
That long passage clarifies that when we work, we earn money. The employer owes it to us. When we don’t work, but get money anyway, that’s a gift. It has been freely credited to our account.
23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Rom. 4:23-24)
6 Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Gal. 3:6-9)
5. God’s righteousness is therefore a gift by grace.
17 … How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17)
5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Ti. 3:5)
6. God’s righteousness means grace reigns and brings eternal life through Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Rom. 5:18)
21 … Grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:21)
7. God’s righteousness means that Christ is our righteousness.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
The context of these verses helps us distinguish between the two meanings of justification and imparted righteousness or sanctification.
Now that we have received the gift of righteousness, the Spirit can work it out in our lives. This process is known as sanctification or growing up in Christ. Righteousness is imputed. That’s our legal standing. And righteousness is imparted. That’s what we apply in our living. Righteousness affects our conduct. Both imputation and impartation can happen at the same time. In fact they should happen at the same time.
1. Righteousness means we can offer our body, our whole person, as instruments or even slaves of righteousness.
13 and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom. 6:13-14)
16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)
18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Rom. 6:18-19)
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Rom. 8:10)
24 And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. (Eph. 5:8-10)
2. Pursue righteousness.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim. 6:11)
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)
3. Righteousness can become our weapons and armor.
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: … 7 with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left … (2 Cor. 6:4, 7)
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place (Eph. 6:14)
4. Righteousness is not compatible with wickedness.
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:8-11)
5. Righteousness can lead to a harvest of righteousness or good deeds.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Cor. 9:10)
9 And this is my prayer: that [you may be] 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Php. 1:9, 11)
6. The kingdom of God is righteousness, as we serve others.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Rom. 14:17-18)
7. A crown of righteousness awaits us.
5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:5)
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
Putting things right in a covenant context and declared righteous or acquitted in a forensic (law court) setting do not need to conflict. When God declares you not-guilty or acquits you and yes, puts a robe of righteousness on you, you are put right in the New Covenant.
After (or at the same time) you are acquitted in the divine court of law, God expects you to walk like a free person, declared not guilty. He expects you to behave yourself, to walk in righteousness. That’s called sanctification. Since all analogies are weak, the human judge cannot send his spirit into you to sanctify you. But God is the heavenly judge. He can and does send his Spirit into you. He is called the Holy Spirit. He leads you towards holiness.
After that big-picture overview, now let’s turn to a summary of the biblical data.
People are declared righteous or just, not because of their good behavior, but because of their faith in Jesus Christ. So God sees the bad behavior of the sinner. But God notes that he has turned in repentance and faith in Christ who forgives the sinner. Christ pays his debt. Then God declares the sinner righteous and not guilty. The sinner is no longer a debtor because his debt of sin has been paid in full, by Christ.
Now we can study Paul’s doctrine of righteousness and justification. His epistles are much, much shorter than the OT. But he packs a lot of theology into them. He takes over some themes from the OT, but clearly goes in new directions. After all, the Messiah had come and the Spirit was given. They account for some huge differences between the two covenants.
Justified, Righteousness, and Justification
All three words have the same Greek stem dik-.
In the big picture, The Messiah came. Paul met him in revelations. How does the Messiah match up with the OT standard of righteousness? Would he reestablish the law of Moses in its entirety? Partially? Paul works out sanctification after we are justified e.g. in Rom. 6-8; Rom. 12-16; Gal. 5-6; Eph. 4-6.
One more piece of the big picture: The Spirit came. Paul experienced him. So how does he work with righteousness? How does the Spirit relate to the law of Moses? Now Israel was not the only chosen people; Gentiles were chosen too.
Paul is ambiguous about the law of Moses. The law brings wrath and exposes or intensifies sin. Both Jews and Gentiles need to be rescued or saved from God’s judgment and wrath.
Righteousness and justification has to go in a different direction from law keeping.
Paul zeroes in on Abraham’s faith, who was the father of faith 400+ years before the law of Moses. Abraham was credited with righteousness before he was circumcised, even though circumcision was the sign of being in a covenant, now an old covenant. Keying off Abraham, both Jews and Gentiles can be credited with righteousness by faith. Paul teaches that faith apart from works of the law puts the legal declaration (to justify) in motion.
The Spirit and grace work in a person (even if he does not realize it). To be justified by grace is to be declared righteous apart from doing the law. This declaration has to come through the Messiah and the Spirit, not the law of Moses.
Vindication has to go in a different direction from a narrow restoration of one nation. In fact, vindication as such – and certainly not in the OT sense – is a minor theme in Paul. If anyone is vindicated, it is God, who had foretold he would establish a new covenant; and, having established it, he is not proven untrue. The Spirit vindicates Christ, which refers to Christ’s miracles and resurrection. Only after the legal declaration of righteousness (justification) can a believer be considered “vindicated.” But this is different from ancient Israel’s vindication. Israel had been attacked, defeated and exiled, and the nations of the known world had heard about it. When a remnant of Israel was restored, national vindication was accomplished.
Paul goes way beyond national vindication and is concerned with righteousness before God and his judgment. Christ’s sacrificial blood is the foundation of justification, because the demands of the law have been met. The punishment for our law breaking has been paid in full. To justify is to declare the person just or righteous, so that the ground of punishment no longer exists. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. To condemn does not make the character bad, and to justify does not make the character good. Justification is as much a legal and declarative act as condemnation is.
Law keeping does not bring righteousness. Only faith in Christ brings God’s freely given righteousness. To be declared righteous in God’s sight and to be justified are the same.
To justify is to impute righteousness. Righteousness is a free gift by grace and faith.
To impute is to reckon, calculate, consider, or regard it. The Greek logizomai – which is the verb that translates as “impute” – has the basic meaning of “thinking” or “considering.” God thinks of us as righteous because of Christ; therefore, his righteousness belongs to us. It is not a “legal fiction.” Therefore, after being justified, man can survive the judgment before an infinitely holy and righteous God.
To be justified or legally declared righteous is not an inner act, any more than a judge can make the acquitted be just or righteous on the inside. To be justified does not change the person’s character. Justification is not the same as sanctification (see next).
Justification and Imparted Righteousness or Sanctification
Justification and sanctification are inseparable, but distinct. Sanctification literally means “the process or act of making holy.” Only the Holy Spirit leads the believer to live a righteous life. From the status of declared righteousness (justification), he can live out a righteous life. Righteousness has been imputed (justification), so now it can be imparted (sanctification).
From the declared legal status of righteousness flows the activity of righteousness. We are no longer slaves of unrighteousness, but slaves of righteousness. Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Righteousness can produce a harvest of good or righteous deeds. The legally declared status of righteousness can lead us to put on the breastplate of righteousness. The legally declared status of righteousness can now lead us to take up weapons of lived-out righteousness.
We can pursue righteousness. This pursuit is the perfect illustration of the difference between justification and sanctification. Paul believes righteousness is a free gift by grace alone and faith alone – from faith to faith, apart from works of the law or our works, period. Yet we can pursue righteousness. If we’re not careful, our pursuit turns into our works. We might believe we have to earn righteousness. But why pursue something we already have as a gift in the first place? This is the confusion that comes from not understanding the difference between justification and sanctification.
Paul would tell us that we receive righteousness as a gift by a legal declaration. That’s imputed righteousness. That’s justification. Then our ethical conduct is affected. That’s imparted righteousness from the Spirit. We then pursue righteous living by following the Spirit. That’s sanctification. Then, one day, we will wear a crown of righteousness, after we die.
Though they’re unified, we need to understand the distinctions. (1) God justifies or legally declares us righteous (justification). We have a righteous standing or status before God’s tribunal. We are put right in the New Covenant. (2) That legal righteousness and being put right is worked out in our walk or growth in him by the power of the Spirit (sanctification). (3) Our day-to-day growth in righteousness comes together and is completed in heaven.
The free gift of righteousness impacts our living and behavior. We can now live righteously. We do this by walking in the Spirit.
Thus, justification and sanctification are inseparable, but distinct.
If we wrongly believe that God first has to sanctify us before he can declare us not guilty, we will never know for sure if our sanctification has progressed far enough. Are we holy enough before God can declare us righteous? Have we purged out enough sin so that God can then justify us (legally declare us righteous)? Though I’m cooperating with the Spirit in the sanctification process, is my personal cooperation and righteousness good enough?
This wrong way makes God’s legal declaration or justification too dependent on us. This backwards belief puts too much pressure on us. How is this pressure and self-dependency good news? It isn’t.
The answer: imputation and justification (legal declaration of righteousness) being put right in the New Covenant (new position in Christ) and impartation and sanctification (personal growth in righteousness in the Spirit).
See the companion article Righteousness Language in the OT.
Please cite this article, especially in print media, as follows:
James M. Arlandson. “Righteousness Language in Paul.” Bible.org. 2014.
Free Slaves For ChristRelated Media
When people think of freedom, they most commonly associate it with civil liberty. This is probably especially true for citizens of the USA. At an early age Americans become familiar with the words of the song most commonly known as “America”:
My country, ‘tis of thee,
Our father’s God, to Thee,
Freedom can also convey many other ideas. Thus Jefferson is on record as pointing out that freedom involves, “Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment.”2 More specifically, in an address to congress President Roosevelt declared those by now well-known four freedoms:
We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.… The first is freedom of speech and expression…. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way…. The third is freedom from want…. The fourth is freedom from fear.3
Not to be forgotten as well along social and cultural lines are the famous words of Martin Luther King who looked forward to that day when freedom would so ring that, “All of God’s children … will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’”4 King’s praise of God and the cause of freedom is a reminder and acknowledgement that true freedom of every dimension ultimately is found only in relation to the Lord. As Bowles once remarked, “The cause of Freedom is the cause of God!”5
In the following study we shall examine briefly the seemingly contrary notions of slavery and freedom, which nevertheless occur at times in parallel. Our study will close with several practical applications that support the theme, “Free slaves for Christ.”
Slavery in Biblical Times
Slavery was simply a normal fact of life for the people in ancient biblical times. As Rupprecht demonstrates in his extensive study of the subject, slavery consisted of, “The ownership of one man by another man so that the former was viewed in most respects as property rather than a person. It was a deeply rooted part of the economy and social structure of the ancient Near E. and of the Greco-Rom. World.”6 Wight points out that it existed even among the early Hebrews: “When the laws were given at Mt. Sinai, slavery was universal among the nations of the world. It was not practical to do away with it all at once. Rather, laws were given to prevent the worst abuses and evils of it from being present among the Jews.”7 It is not our purpose, however, in this study to portray the many aspects of slavery among God’s people in OT or NT times. Such would form a study in itself. Moreover, such detailed information is readily available in many biblical encyclopedias and dictionaries as well as in several individual articles and books.8
One interesting special aspect of slavery is seen in situations concerning Hebrew citizens serving as slaves to their fellow Hebrews. That Hebrews could become slaves to other Hebrews was indeed possible. As Merrill points out, “Extreme cases of poverty sometimes resulted in voluntary servitude in which a man or woman would come under the care of a benefactor who would provide for all of the needs of the destitute individual until either he had paid off his obligations or served for a six year period.”9 Nevertheless, the slave holder was to be concerned for the welfare of his fellow Hebrew—slave though he might be. Moreover, in the seventh year the slave would automatically be set free:
If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, In the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deut 15:12-14; NIV)10
This law is in accordance with Exodus 21:1-4 (cf. Jer. 34:14), which nonetheless also stipulated that, “If he came in with a wife when he came in, then his wife will go out with him. If his master gave him a wife, and she bore sons or daughters, the wife and the children will belong to her master, and he will go out by himself” (Exod. 12:3-4). In both laws the freeing of the slave in the seventh year demonstrates that the underlying principle of respect and concern for a fellow Hebrew is the same, even though the earlier law did allow the master to keep the wife and children, which the slave had acquired during those six years of servitude. Moses’ exposition of the law, then, draws out a deeper principle inherent in the law— “the principle of love, for God and for fellow man, which was so vital to the covenant community.”11 By his responsible actions the master was to reflect the same type of love that God had for the Hebrews when he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and provided for their needs (Deut 15:15).
Unlike non-Israelites, native Hebrews “could not be sold into permanent slavery.”12 Nevertheless, if the Hebrew slave wished to remain in servitude to his (or her) fellow Hebrew master, whether out of love, or loyalty and respect for him, or because he (or she) enjoyed life the way it was (cf. Deut 15:16), the law provided for the present situation to be maintained permanently. In such a case, the master was to “take an awl and pierce a hole through his ear to the door. Then he will become a servant permanently (this applies to your female servant as well)” (Deut 15:17). The servant now has freely accepted slave status. Having been set free, the slave willingly desires to remain in lasting slavery and be loyal and obedient to his (or her) master.
Slave (vs.) Free
Thus we see that in the Scriptures the themes of slavery and freedom can indeed be interrelated. It should not be surprising, therefore, that these common civil and social relationships could be readily applied metaphorically to a spiritual setting. This is precisely what Jesus did on one occasion when certain Jews appeared to respond favorably to his teaching (John 8:30). Accordingly, Jesus went on to tell them that their belief in him must most definitely continue and grow even more surely: “Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, ‘If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31). Here Jesus points out the relationship between knowledge, truth, and real freedom. Tenney points out that the Greek word knowledge:
usually implies knowledge gained from experience. Truth is formulated revealed reality, which is centered in the person of Christ Himself. Free means absence of constraint and restriction, opportunity to exercise the right of acting apart from external interference. These concepts imply a progress from ignorance to knowledge, from error or misinformation or uncertainty to truth, from slavery to liberty. 13
The mention of freedom was strange to Jesus’ hearers, for they were accustomed to thinking of slavery in accordance with civil and social practices. As descendants of Abraham they considered themselves totally free (John 8:32-33; cf. v. 41). As Kӧstenberger remarks, “Freedom was considered to be the birthright of every Jew. The law laid down that no Jew, however poor, should descend to the level of slave (Lev. 25:39-42).”14 As we noted above, however, provision was made for a Jew to be enslaved, but not permanently unless he chose to do so. The point of the Levitical legislation is that the master was not to treat a fellow Jew inhumanely. Rather, the master was told that he “must not rule over him harshly, but you must fear your God” (v. 42). Because of his hearers’ reaction, Jesus goes on to clarify matters for them concerning the basic concept of real freedom: “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who practices sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). Jesus’ hearers must realize that he was not talking about commonly practiced forms of slavery, but slavery to sin, a spiritual slavery that produces sinful habits, which control a person. As Jesus plainly implies, without his help they would continue to do sinful deeds and be controlled by sinful habits.
Indeed, without Christ the natural man is unable to think clearly so as to know that spiritual truth that brings true freedom to respond properly to God’s standards. As Morris observes, “The man who sins is a slave to his sin and this whether he realizes it or not. This means also that he cannot break away from his sin. For that he needs a power greater than himself.”15 Such is obtained only through accepting God’s Son, Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of one’s life. Indeed, it is really true, not just for the Jew but for all people, “If the son sets you free, you will be really free” (John 8:36).
The bringing together of slavery and freedom, then, has a meaningful purpose in Scripture. It involves not only theological truth but has a most practical end. It contrasts a sinful lifestyle and its results with an ability to live a life of true freedom. True freedom does indeed involve the ability to know the Lord through Christ so as to think God’s thoughts after him and thus to discern properly the difference between truth and error. This will result in the ability to live in accordance with God’s designed purpose for man. The believer can therefore enjoy life to its fullest for God’s glory and his own good. Genuine knowledge leads to real truth and to the God-intended freedom to conduct one’s self in godly wisdom.
Those who have received Christ have had the dominating shackles of inborn sin removed. The natural man is indeed a slave to sin. In an interesting play on words and terms, Moo remarks, “As ‘slaves to sin,’ people are ‘free’ from the power and influence of the conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even were they to hear and respect them….and therefore incapable of doing God’s will.”16 The Christian believer, however, has had that dominating influence through the work of Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Rom. 5:20-21; 6:4-7, 11). Accordingly, the believer, now freed from slavery to sin may freely live for Christ. All of this is possible because by accepting Christ, the believer is taken into a living union with him, the One who alone has the power to enable him to experience that life of true freedom (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:21-22). Such is reflected in a familiar Christian song by Koch and Craig. Having mentioned the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and victorious resurrection, the song writers declare:
And as He stands in victory,
Sins curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine,
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I stand.17
Twin Figurative uses of “Slave” and “Free”
It is of further interest to note that the metaphors “slave” and “free” frequently appear together. A metaphor may be defined simply as an “imaginative identification of two distinct objects or ideas.”18 “Slave” is used together with its antonym, “free” to depict the vast difference between being mastered by sin or righteousness.18 Thus Paul declares:
Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either in sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness. But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (Rom. 6:16-18; cf. vv.19-21)
The big difference, of course, is that although born as a slave to sin, as united to Christ the believer freely now chooses to be obedient to the Lord and be mastered by God.19 He thus is so committed and dedicated to the Lord that he desires to live according to God’s standards. The result is the assurance of eternal life with God: “Now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life” (Rom 6:22). 20 Commenting on this, Hodge remarks,
It is of God, that those who were once the servants of sin, become the servants of righteousness. …When a man is the slave of sin, he commonly thinks himself free; and when most degraded, is often the most proud. When truly free, he feels himself most strongly bound to God; and when most elevated, is most humble.21
What a blessing, then, believers now enjoy. For now they may freely commit themselves as slaves to do God’s will and so with confidence look forward to the assured hope to an everlasting life with the eternal Lord of glory: “For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23; see NLT note). As an interesting aside, because the word “gift” is used in parallel to “payoff” (or “wages”), some suggest that Paul was “thinking of the Latin word donativum or largess given to each soldier by the emperor or imperial heir on his accession, introduction to public life or other extraordinary occasion.” 22 Despite attempts to make this relation, however, the Greek word rendered “gift” commonly refers to a gift “freely and graciously given.”23 Thus Paul closes this chapter of his work “by reminding us that, though our sin merits the sentence of death, eternal life must always be understood as a sheer gift of God’s grace….So we must never rely on the quality of our moral life itself to save us—that will always be insufficient; but genuine, saving faith in Christ will change the quality of our moral life.”24
James, the brother of Jesus and a leading member in the early church, who also reckoned himself a “slave of God” (James 1:1), declares that true faith is one that is evidenced in an active life for God. Citing Abraham’s full commitment to God even to the point of sacrificing his son as proof of genuine faith, he says:
You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by his works. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:22-24)
James is not suggesting that the justification that the believer receives at conversion, which is a judicial act whereby God pardons the believer of all his sins and accepts him as righteous (cf. Rom. 3:23-24) is by works, not faith. Rather James is declaring that a person’s salvation is demonstrated by his Christian works and walk. As Osborne remarks,
Paul [in Romans] is concerned with the issue of regeneration, James with the issue of sanctification; Paul with how a person is saved, James with how a person lives out that salvation. For Paul justification refers to that moment when God declares a person right with him, while for James it refers to God vindicating a person’s faith and showing it to be right with him, leading to the final vindication at the Last Judgment…. Putting Paul and James together, works cannot bring about justification, but works must result from justification.” 25
That Paul and James were not in disagreement as to true faith and its outworking can be seen in his challenging message to the Ephesians that true faith is one that is active, a faith that serves God and does good things for others:
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so that we may do them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
Still further, as “slaves of righteousness” believers have the privilege of sharing the gospel message with others. Thus Paul declares that as free he willingly made himself “a slave to all in order to gain even more people” (1 Cor: 9:19). This included both Jew and gentile (vv. 20-22). He goes on to say, “I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it” (v. 23). What a privilege indeed it is to so live as to be a willing, dedicated messenger of the good news of God’s free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus! For Paul, this meant the full commitment of his whole self, soul and body, not only in dedicated, faithful service, but as living in such a way as to represent Christ in a righteous manner: “I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified” (v. 27). As I have written elsewhere, in this context Paul goes on to compare himself to a dedicated athlete who is so completely dedicated not only to participation in an athletic competition and to winning, but doing so in accordance with the rules:
If athletes can strive to fulfill their fixed goals, how much more should he in his spiritual ministry…. Paul thus declares his willing self denial in order to achieve his high calling in Christ Jesus. No selfish desires, plans or ambitions would be allowed to distract him. He was totally dedicated and committed to the task for which he had been called by the Lord. He expresses another pressing concern: having shown others the way of true Christian faith and conduct, Paul is anxious that he himself would not do anything that would compromise his continuing in the ministry. 26
An interesting contrast may be seen in a comparison of Paul and Onesimus. On the one hand, Paul formerly lived as a free, yet committed Jewish Pharisee. So committed to his religious beliefs was he, that he persecuted harshly the early Christians (Acts 22:2-4; 26:4-11). Now, however, he was truly free--spiritually free-- through genuine faith in Christ Jesus and had become an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He now considered himself a slave to all in order that he might help in spreading the gospel message. On the other hand, Omnesimus had formerly lived as a slave. He then had escaped from his master and had fled to Rome, where he met Paul and was led to faith in Christ. Now as spiritually free, Paul was sending him back to his master, Philemon. As he did so, Paul urged Philemon to regard Onesimus not just as his slave, “but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord. Therefore, if you regard me as a partner, accept him as you would me.” (Philemon, vv. 16-17).
Paul’s sending Onesimus back to his master may seem strange to modern ears, but was in keeping with his own earlier teaching on the basis of current social standards.27 Thus Paul told the Corinthians:
Let each on remain in the situation in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Don’t worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity. For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave…. In whatever situation someone was called, let him remain in it with God. (1 Cor. 7:20-22, 24).
As Baker observes,
In 7:22 Paul reminds the Corinthians of an important theological truth. Even if they are slaves currently (and had been when they became Christians) and their prospects for release were distant or questionable, they should take heart because they were already free in the most important sense of the word. That is, they are free from slavery to sin and the world because God paid the ransom price with the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. They have become slaves of Christ now, as are all believers, a status that supersedes their economic slavery. 28
Paul goes on to say, “You were bought with a price! Do not become slaves of men.” Although social practices and theological truth are in view in verse 23, there also is moral and spiritual application. One such application is that believers should not allow themselves to become so enslaved to their fellow man that they live as men pleasers and pursue their sinful practices and habits.
Similarly, Paul tells the people in his letter to the Ephesians (6: 6-9) that both slaves and their masters should treat each other with respect and kindness. Slaves were to remember that they were to serve and obey their masters as “slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart …because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good, this will be rewarded by the Lord” (vv.6-8). Indeed,
Believing slaves should be motivated to serve their human masters well because ultimately their indenturing is to Christ alone, that is, they are ‘slaves of Christ.’ … They belong to someone who has far greater authority and far more honor than any human slave owner or even the emperor himself.29
Masters were instructed and encouraged to “treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (v.9). Truly, “The principle of v.8 obtains for masters too; those who do well will receive the Lord’s reward—whether they are slave or free.” 30 Not only in ancient times but today as well, whatever their social status may be, believers should find their primary sense of duty in living so as to be pleasing to God, serving as the Lord’s representative so well that others see Christ in them. As Pollard expresses it,
Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!31
These same principles are well illustrated in Paul’s words to the Roman Christians (Rom. 8: 12-15). He reminds the believers there that they no longer need to be enslaved by human passions and standards (vv. 12-13). In a forensic sense, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (vv. 14-15). The NLT is certainly correct in gendering the word “spirit” in two ways. The spirit of slavery to sin contrasts the natural man with the Spirit (Holy Spirit) as, “The agent through whom the believer’s sonship is both bestowed and confirmed.”32 Therefore, not only does the believer have access to the Father, but God the Father is so honored and treasured by the believer that he can cry out through the leading of the Holy Spirit with a term of endearment and respect: “Abba.”
Jesus’ use of “Abba, Father” in his prayer in Gethsemane, just before his arrest and crucifixion, gives credence to his legitimate family relationship and to his intimacy with God the Father (Mark 14:36). Thus France point out that Jesus’ use of the term, “Abba,” “Conveys the respectful intimacy of a son in a patriarchal family. And in that sense Jesus’ use of this form of address to God is striking and unparalleled , until it was taken over by his followers.”33 Mohrlang adds, “The Spirit does more than simply give us new power for living. Deep within, moving us to address God as ‘Abba, Father…, the Spirit of God assures us that we are indeed children of God, part of God’s own dearly loved family—and that we can therefore boldly lay claim to children’s privileges.”34 Having been taken into union with Christ, today’s believers may also have such a sense of a family relationship and deep intimacy with God that they honor him, stay in communion with him, and do their best to reflect his will and standards in their lives.
Paul goes on to point out that adoption carries with it the further promise that we believers, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). Truly, as believers in Christ led by the Holy Spirit, not only was this true for the Roman Christians but even now believers do not belong to Satan, they are not his slaves, but are free citizens. Even more, they have been adopted— formally become members of God’s family. As spiritually the “new birth” pictures believers’ being born into the family of God (John 3:5-7), adoption portrays them as being granted the privileged and responsible position of children of God (Gal. 3:23-29) as well as the living and assured hope of the eventual redemption of our bodies.
At the outset of our study we suggested that the word freedom is thought of by most people as civil liberty. This is particularly the case in the United States. As we have noted, such freedom is embedded in many of our patriotic songs and hymns. It is true even in our national anthem, especially in the last verse, which unfortunately is largely overlooked by many Americans and seldom sung. This verse intertwines the grounds of America’s liberty with a firm belief in God:
O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Our national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key during America’s conflict with Britain on the night of September 13, 1814. Few Americans probably realize that Key was a dedicated Christian, who was very involved in the early activity of establishing Sunday schools. 35 Freedom is related to more than civil or social matters as also is slavery. Freedom, however, can also be illusionary:
It isn’t always others who enslave us. Sometimes we let circumstances enslave us; sometimes we let routines enslave us; sometimes we let things enslave us; sometimes, with weak wills, we enslave ourselves. … No man is free if he is running away from reality. And no man is free if he is running away from himself.36
Even more basically, true freedom has a spiritual foundation. As Scherer describes it, “We find freedom when we find God; we lose it when we lose Him.”37
Longenecker appropriately points to three areas of liberty found in the Apostle Paul’s writings: (1) the believer’s relationship to God or (“forensic”) freedom; the believer’s ordering of his own personal life; and the believer’s relationship to others (i.e., social freedom). 38 Even more broadly, we have noted that the words freedom and slavery are used in the Scriptures in dealing with civil or social affairs, but are most meaningfully utilized as contrasting metaphors dealing with one’s moral and spiritual life: intellectually, emotionally, or volitionally. Thus although Peter warned his readers: “Whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19), as we noted above, Jesus proclaimed that he is the true source of freedom, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Under the direction of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the wise believer will use his freedom wisely. As Paul told the Galatian believers, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. …But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:13, 16).
Thus as believers we are not to be self-centered, but committed to the Lord and his standards. Too often personal desires overtake us, such as the love of money, and even greed (cf. Heb. 1:5). As Paul told the Philippian Christians, “Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in true humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:3). Paul reminds Timothy that this is to be exemplary in a Christian leader, for he should be “temperate, self controlled, hospitable, an able teacher, not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money” (1Tim 3:2-3). If our leaders are to set such an example, should it not be followed by all Christians? We all can be leaders in the sense of taking proper control of our lives. We can do this by freely submitting to the Lord as Christ’s “slaves.” That is, we should be totally dedicated to the Lord and be concerned for the needs of others, not ourselves. Jesus once told his disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Such should be true for today’s followers of Christ. As the song writer reminds us,
He said, “Freely, freely, you have received—
Freely, freely, give;
Go in my name, and because you believe,
Others will know that I live.”39
On another occasion Jesus taught in one of his many parables that the wise and faithful servant is mindful of his master -- even while he is away—for when his master returns, he will reward the servant in accordance to what he deserves (Luke 12: 41-48). May we be faithful servants eagerly awaiting the coming of our master the Lord Jesus Christ! As Lila Morris, writes,
Faithful and true would He find us here
If He should come today?
Watching in gladness and not in fear,
If He should come today?
Signs of His coming multiply,
Morning light breaks in eastern sky;
Watch, for time is drawing nigh—
What if it were today?40
Free slaves for Christ—yes, but even more than that, we are members of God’s earthly family through faith in Christ. Far greater than the opportunity of the freed slave in OT times to remain a slave to his master, we have the blessed privilege and joy of living in daily communion with The Lord. Still further, having been taken into union with Christ, we can be conscious of his presence and have the confident hope of living in God’s presence eternally.
Are we free?—Yes!-- free from sin’s enslavement through faith in Christ’s provision of salvation for all. Are we slaves? Yes!—those who willingly commit ourselves to the Lord’s service. As we await the joy of an everlasting life in the presence of our master, let us conduct ourselves as good and faithful free slaves for Christ.
Some day life’s journey will be o’er,
And I shall reach that distant shore:
I’ll sing while ent’ring heaven’s door,
“Jesus led me all the way.”41
1 Samuel F. Smith, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
2 Thomas Jefferson, “First Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1801.
3 Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message to Congress,” January 6, 1941.
4 Martin Luther King, Jr., “Speech in Detroit,” June 23, 1963.
5 William Lisle Bowles, “The Right Honorable Edmund Burke,” 1791.
6 A. Rupprecht, “Slave, Slavery,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney and Steven Barabas, 5 vols. (Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5: 453.
7 Fred H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody, 1953), 291. See further, Rupprecht, ibid. 454-58.
8 In addition to Rupprecht’s already cited article, see, for example, see S. S. Bartchy, “Slavery,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, eds. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, et al., 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, rev. ed. 1988) 4:539-46; I. Mendelsohn, “Slavery in the OT,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, eds. George Arthur Buttrick, et al., 4 vols. (New York: Abingdon, 1962) 4:383-91. See also the data for the OT and NT in the supplementary volume by W. Zimmerli “Slavery in the OT,” and W. G. Rollins, “Slavery in the NT,” eds. Keith Crum et al. (1976, 829-32). Especially helpful are the observations in “Slave, Slavery,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, eds. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, amd Tremper Longman III (Downers Grove: 1998), 797-99.
9 Eugene H. Merrill, Deuteronomy, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 245.
10 Unless, as here, otherwise noted, all scriptural citations will be taken from the NET.
11 Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976.
12 John H. Walton, Victor H. Mathews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 186.
13 Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand rapids: Eerdmans, reprint edition, 1989), 147.
14 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 262. Kӧstenbeger goes on to point out proper Jewish attitude standards with regard to the status of their fellow Jewish citizens as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud.
15 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1971), 458.
16 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 406.
17 Donald A. Koch and Andrew Shawn Craig, “In Christ Alone,” (vv. 6, 8; punctuation, mine).
18 Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and Richard d. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 677.
19 Even were we to think of “slaves to righteousness” as being dominated by God, this would be a vast difference between serving an overbearing, even wicked, master like Satan and being controlled by a gracious master like God who desires our best!
20 For the extensive use of metaphors by the apostle Paul, see David J. Williams, Paul’s Metaphors (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999.)
21 Charles Hodge, Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 213. Moo, Romans, 405, strongly, points out that the imperative in verse 19b means that, “We can, and must, serve righteousness because God has freed us from sin and made us slaves of righteousness.”
22 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary, eds. J. A. Emerton and C.E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2 vols., 1975) 1:330.
23 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Cambridge, University Press, 1957), 887. See also Paul’s use of this term already in Romans 5:16.
24 Roger Mohrlang, “Romans,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2007) 14:110.
25 Grant R. Osborne, “James,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House. 2011) 18: 65.
26 Richard D. Patterson, “Christians as Athletes,” Biblical Studies Press. 2013, 4.
27 For details as to those social conditions, see David W. J. Gill, “1 Corinthians,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, [New testament] ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2002- 3:139.
28 William Baker, “1 Corinthians,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort, 18 vols. (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2009), 15: 109.
29 Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 423.
30 William W. Klein, “Ephesians,” The Expositor’s Biblical Commentary , eds. Tremper Longman II and David E. Garland, 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 12:160.
31 Adelaide A. Pollard, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”
32 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 502.
33 R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, The new International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 2002), 584.
34 Mohrlang, “Romans,” 130.
35 For details, see E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, The One Year Book of Christian History (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2003), 428.
36 “Good Reading,” as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 145.
37 Paul Scherer, as cited in Lloyd Cory, Quotable Quotations, 356.
38 Richard N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964), 170-80.
39 Carl Owens, “Freely, Freely.”
40 Lila Morris, “What If It Were Today?”
41 John W. Peterson, “Jesus Led Me All The Way.”
Related Topics: Christian Life