MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

18. How Healthy Churches Resist The Devil (1 Peter 5:6-11)

Related Media

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11

How do healthy churches resist the devil?

It should be remembered that these congregations throughout the Roman Empire were being persecuted. There was probably division in the church, as the young men were not submitting to the elders (1 Peter 5:5). Peter in the last chapter of the letter essentially encourages them to be healthy. He speaks to the leadership and the congregations. He calls them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand during their trials.

He ends the letter with a final warning. He calls them to be alert and to resist the devil. This was very important. It should be noted that it is often in the midst of a trial that Satan attacks the hardest. It was while Jesus was at his weakest physically that Satan attacked him in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Israel was tempted to complain and turn away from God. It was when there was famine in the land that Abraham left the promise land and went to Egypt.

These scattered churches needed to be very aware of Satan and his attacks in the midst of their trials and their persecutions. No doubt, the enemy would seek to bring discord amongst the believers: try to draw many away from the faith and make many give up. It has been said God uses trials to strengthen our faith and Satan uses trials to weaken our faith. We always must be aware of his attacks, but especially during trials.

Another, aspect of a healthy church is their vigilant fight against the devil. C. S. Lewis talked about how there were two extremes in our understanding of the devil. There is the extreme of seeing Satan behind everything. He brings every sickness; he is the cause behind every sin. Satan, often, gets way too much credit in the church.

However, the other extreme, which is far more common, is that most Christians don’t recognize Satan at all. They blame their roommates, they blame the government, they blame their wives, they blame themselves and sometimes blame God, but Satan gets none of the blame. Paul said this:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

It is possible for Christians to see and blame everybody else and not recognize the spiritual war we are in. This would be particularly important for these Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. They needed to realize that Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and he is working behind the government and all aspects of society, to come against the plans of God. They needed to be alert for the devil. This would keep them from blaming God or blaming others.

Because of this sober reality, healthy churches and church members need a strong awareness of the enemy. Look at Pauls awareness of the enemy:

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us (emphasis mine).
1 Thessalonians 2:18

He saw Satan hindering the work of ministry, as Paul was trying to visit Thessalonica. Similarly, look at what Paul said to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:5,

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (emphasis mine).

Paul saw Satan active in seeking to destroy marriages. In fact, Paul was so aware of Satan that he studied his schemes in order to not be tricked by them. He said this, “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11).

Paul saw an awareness of the devil as very important for a healthy church and thus a healthy Christian life. He calls for these Christians, who are scattered throughout Asia Minor, to be self-controlled and alert because Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

As we go through this lesson, I want you to ask yourself, “Do you have a healthy awareness of the devil? and How do we properly resist the devil, as a congregation? These questions are, especially, important as we go through trials.

Big Question: How do healthy churches resist the devil according to 1 Peter 5:8-9?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Recognizing Him and His Tactics

Be self–controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter calls for this church to be alert. This means they must recognize the devil and be aware of his works. He begins to explain a little bit more about the devil in the rest of the verse. This text doesn’t give us a full systematic theology on Satan and his works, but if we look closely, there is a lot we can learn from these few verses.

Observation Question: What does 1 Peter 5:8–9 teach us about the devil, so we can recognize him and be more aware of his works?

1. He is an enemy of the church. Peter said, “Your enemy the devil.”

The word your is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to bring persecution, seek to hinder the preaching of God’s Word. This enemy works against the church of God.

We must be aware that every step that makes us closer to God or enables us to do more for the kingdom of God, will be met with opposition. The Christian must beware that when he became a follower of Christ, he also received an enemy. Jesus said that in the kingdom the devil plants false believers, tares, to choke the harvest (Matt 13:24-30). Satan is working not only from outside the church but inside the church. We must be aware that we have an enemy.

2. He is a dangerous foe.

We see this from the fact that Peter uses the metaphor of a lion in describing Satan. He is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously.

Now sometimes in certain sects of Christianity, they have lost a proper reverence for the enemy. They tend to overemphasize the fact that we have authority in Christ, and therefore, demean the enemy. Ask any person in a sporting event how a very talented team loses against a less talented team. This often happens because people don’t respect their opponent. Listen to what Jude says about this:

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:8–10

In talking about false prophets, he calls them dreamers and describes how they slander celestial beings including the devil. Jude says even the archangel Michael, an angel more powerful than us, respected the devil and called upon God to rebuke him using the authority in the Lord’s name.

Sometimes, people have forgotten that Satan is a foe who knows us better than we know ourselves. He has been studying humans for thousands of years; he understands their tendencies. He also is very powerful and ferocious, as alluded to by the metaphor of a lion.

Though some may not verbally underestimate him, they live lives that do not recognize the danger he poses. They allow their kids total freedom in what they watch, what they wear, where they go. Would you do this if a lion was outside? Satan is more dangerous than any lion.

I do believe there is an authority that comes with our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but we also must properly evaluate our enemy. He is a dangerous foe and the person who understands this will be self-controlled and alert.

How would you react if there was a lion prowling outside your apartment building? Now, how would you react if he was in your apartment building? You probably would be alert and in full control of your faculties.

3. He is an accuser.

Peter calls him the devil; the name means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This means that one of his primary assaults is accusation.

He accuses us before God. We saw this in the book of Job as Satan accused Job. Satan said to God, “Job only loves you because you bless him.” Satan also accuses God to us. We saw this with Eve. He said to Eve, “God is a liar; he doesn’t want what’s best for you. He is keeping you from being like God.” But he also attacks us. He says to us we cannot be godly, we cannot be holy—he attacks our body image, our failures, and our relationships. He is an accuser.

Listen to what Paul said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1); “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

We must know that in Christ, the enemy’s accusations have lost their power. Have you recognized his accusing thoughts? He accuses to bring discord with other believers. He accuses to bring depression. We must be aware of his accusations.

4. He often uses stealth in order to catch Christians (prowl).

Look at the definition of prowl. It means “to roam through stealthily, as in search of prey or plunder.”1

We have an enemy who is trying to catch people, but he is often sly and stealthy in the process, like any good hunter. He doesn’t show up in a red costume saying “I want to kill you.” He prowls in a stealthy manner to destroy someone who is unaware. Look what Paul said about our enemy:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 11:13—15

Paul said Satan shows himself as an angel of light in order to deceive people and devour them. His ministers show up as apostles of Christ, those sent to preach the Word. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15); they come with intentions to deceive. Many are devoured by the enemy because they are not aware of his tactics. He comes into the house by stealth through the TV, through the books one reads, through certain relationships. He comes through many ministers of the faith. He is a very cunning enemy.

Are you aware that you have an enemy who is prowling around waiting for an opportunity, a door, to snare you?

5. He often uses the tactic of fear in order to intimidate the believer (roaring lion).

It has often been said that the lion roars to paralyze his prey. In the same way, one of the tactics that Satan uses to hinder the effectiveness of believers is fear. Look at what Paul says to Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (emphasis mine), but a spirit of power, of love and of self–discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Timothy is probably struggling with fear about doing ministry, and Paul alerts him to the fact that, that spirit is not from God.

It will commonly be fear that Satan uses to keep you from doing God’s will as well. Look at the Parable of the Talents.

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 25:24–25

The man whom God had given one talent to serve, did not because he was afraid. He was afraid to lead a small group, afraid to witness, afraid to go on missions, afraid about the future and this kept him from doing God’s will.

Satan, as a roaring lion, works through fear. He paralyzes his prey with worries and anxieties about the present, the past and the future. He roars to keep people from progressing in the things of God.

Are you under the constant barrage of fears and worries? This is how Satan paralyzes people and keeps them from growing in the faith and doing God’s will. Let us remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.

6. He ultimately wants to destroy the believer (seeking whom he may devour).

Look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (emphasis mine). In this context, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of wanting to kill him. He said they were doing the will of their father, the devil. This is the reality of every believer, especially a believer who is living passionately for God.

The devil will use even, what some would call, harmless sins to ultimately destroy the believer. He is a murderer, and we must be aware of that with every temptation. We often see the male drinking on TV and laughing while surrounded by a bunch of females, but we don’t see the drunk, drowning in his vomit, who has lost job and career. Satan wants to destroy, and if he can’t kill you, he wants to destroy your witness and to shame you in such a way that you will be too scared to allow God to use you. He is a destroyer.

When you really understand this concept, you cease to give Satan any doors. You don’t listen to him through the music or TV shows because you know his ultimate plan. He is a murderer. He wants to devour not only individuals, but families and churches. His pathway is full of destruction.

We must flee from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22) for our enemy desires to devour, not just tempt.

The believer, however, can take confidence that God holds the temperature gauge on every trial that he allows the enemy to bring against us and that he always provides a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

7. He attacks in a widespread manner (your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings).

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:9).

Because Satan is the god of this age and the prince of this world, he has created a system that works against God and those who follow him. We should not be surprised when we are passed over for promotion because of a lifestyle that is righteous. We should not be surprised when we are mocked for our values and belief systems.

In this context, Christians were being burned in the gardens of Nero just to give light to his plants and flowers. We should not be surprised at this, for Satan is at work behind the world system. He works in the hearts of those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2), leading them even into ridiculous atrocities. The enemy’s attacks are widespread.

8. He is a liar (brothers undergoing same kind of sufferings).

Probably an implication of Peter telling this church that the brothers throughout the world were enduring the same suffering is that Satan is a liar.

Believers are often tempted to believe that they are the only one’s going through their situation. They are tempted to think no one else understands them. Satan often isolates the believer from the church or other healthy relationships with this lie. He does this by making them feel like nobody else is going through this or nobody understands. The person struggling with pornography, the woman with an eating disorder, or the man with homosexual thoughts hide in shame, thinking no one else has the same struggles. Satan condemns and shames them in order to isolate and destroy them. We see this truth throughout the Scripture; Jesus calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44).

Peter assures them that their temptations are common to the brothers. The believer must be aware of this lie often used by the devil. “No one else understands, no one else has been through what I have been through.” This keeps the believer from sharing with others and often keeps them bound in sin. Listen to what Paul said:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 10:13

Are you alert and aware of your enemy the devil?

He opposes everything good you seek to do for God. He seeks to encourage fear in you. He seeks to encourage you to isolate yourself. He feeds you lies. He accuses you; he accuses God; he accuses your friends. Are you alert to the works of the devil? He ultimately wants to destroy every believer. He wants to destroy their testimony and ultimately kill them.

Are you aware of your enemy the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Being Sober and Self-Controlled

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter says believers must protect themselves from the devil by being self-controlled. What does it mean to be self-controlled?

Interpretation Question: In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter calls believers to be self-controlled in resisting the devil. It can also be translated “sober.” What does it mean to be self-controlled and sober in resisting the devil? Why is this important?

The word that Peter uses for self-controlled here has several meanings. It also can be translated to “be sober.”

1. To be sober means to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical. We will look at both separately.

a.) Spiritual Intoxication

A spiritual intoxicant is anything that creates apathy in your spiritual life and draws you away from God. It includes loving the things of this world and pursuing them, it includes addictions to sin that keep you from properly viewing people and the things of God.

We get a good picture of spiritual intoxication in the prodigal son (Luke 15). He leaves his father’s house in order to pursue wasteful living. He pursued the things of this world, the prostitutes and drunkenness. This ultimately led to his poverty. The prodigal son could not properly evaluate the beauty of the father’s love. Finally, Scripture says he came to “his senses” (v. 17). He sobered up and went home.

How many Christians has Satan destroyed because of spiritual drunkenness? They enjoy an ungodly relationship more than obedience to God. They enjoy the pursuit of materialism more than the joy of seeing the nations come to Christ. They are intoxicated and cannot properly steer the wheel of their lives.

Another good example of spiritual intoxication is the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau is the eldest son of Isaac. The inheritance of his father is his. However, one day he comes back from hunting in the field and has caught nothing. Therefore, he is starving. When he enters the house, Jacob has just made a wonderful dinner. Esau was so hungry that he bartered away his father’s inheritance, all the livestock, and wealth that had been stored up for generations, for one meal.

This may seem ridiculous, but it is not ridiculous in comparison to how many Christians live. They often choose to live their short 70 years on this earth enjoying the pleasures of this world, instead of enjoying their father’s love and preparing for their inheritance in heaven. Instead of living for God and storing their wealth in heaven, they store it on this earth, only to leave it behind at death. This is spiritual intoxication with the things of this world. They cannot properly evaluate the father’s love and blessing, in comparison to the fleeting pleasures of sin and the temporary things of this world. They are like Esau, spiritually intoxicated. Look at what John says:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:15-17

Satan works hard to deceive Christians and draw them away from the things of God. He seeks to intoxicate them. This is why Paul says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (emphasis mine), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

We must change our thinking. We must have a sober mind so we will not be tricked by the evil one.

b.) Physical Intoxication

But being sober does not just refer to spiritual intoxication, it also refers to physical intoxication. This is a call to be free of addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc. Scripture consistently calls Christians to live a sober life. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Satan is content to control your life through a physical intoxicant, as long as you are not controlled by God. You can only have one master. You cannot have two or three. You will love one and hate the other (Matt 6:24). The person who is addicted to a drug, essentially gives the worship and dependence that only God is worthy of, to that drug. This is something that Satan is happy about, and will use to draw a person farther and farther away from God and his plans for their lives.

Also, I think the original audience would have read this command a little different than the contemporary audience. Certainly, it referred to being free from drugs. But drugs in that society were an essential part of pagan worship and witchcraft. It should be noted that the word magic or sorcery in the Bible (Rev. 18:23) comes from the word pharmakea, where we get the word pharmacy.

Typically, people who were worshiping other gods or demons would use drugs in order to enhance their worship. Witches, specifically, would use drugs in order to open themselves up to the spirit world or demon spirits. No doubt, this was in Peter’s mind when he called the Christians to be sober. The use of these drugs opened the door for Satan and Peter probably commanded them to be sober in order to protect them from demonic influence.

Does this still happen today? Is it any surprise that in the majority of heinous crimes drugs or alcohol is involved? One statistic said for sexual assaults, 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both had been drinking.2 I have no doubt that the enemy commonly uses people who cannot control themselves because of submission to a drug, in order to rule over them and commit many heinous acts. Ephesians 2:2 describes Satan as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” It is no doubt easier for Satan to “work in” someone who has relinquished their self-control to some drug.

2. To be sober also means to be disciplined, as it can be translated “self-controlled.”

One of the ways a Christian lives a sober life and protects themselves from the enemy is by being self-controlled. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV),

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (emphasis mine).

He compares the Christian to an athlete and says the Christian must be disciplined in all things. This includes their eating, their drinking, their sleeping, and their media. The Olympic athlete does this for an Olympic crown, but we do it for an imperishable one in heaven. How much more should a Christian be disciplined in all things when we will be rewarded by God, not an Olympic committee?

Listen, many Christians fail in this aspect of Paul’s command just by the time they go to bed at night. They don’t get good sleep, which affects their ability to get up and spend time with God. They are not living self-controlled lives. They live career-controlled lives, socially controlled lives, or media-controlled lives and this opens the door for the enemy to draw them away from God.

Satan has won in many Christians’ lives just because they are not disciplined. He won the battle in church the night before when the student chose to stay out all night hanging with his friends. In church, he is “bobbing and weaving.” He wins in the battle of the mind because the Christian lets any thought come into their mind—discouraging thoughts, depressing thoughts, lustful thoughts. In Hebrew, the word for simple has the connotation of an “open door” (Psalm 19:7). Many Christians just let their mind think anything. There is no self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit. This is the Christian who is not living a sober life, a self-controlled life, and therefore, is losing to the devil.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Are you living a self-controlled life? Are you living a sober life?

How do we apply this call to be self-controlled to the church? For many churches, the world is in the church and Satan has drugged it. In 1 Corinthians 5, when the man was having sex with his father’s wife, the church was boasting in their liberality (v. 6). They were a “tolerant” church. Many churches are like that today. They accept sexual immorality and homosexuality. The church is seeking to be accepted by the world and is becoming drugged by its philosophies and worldviews. Many churches are no longer sober but are already drinking the alcohol of this world, and they have opened the door for the evil one in the church.

Many churches have accepted the wisdom of this world, instead of the foolishness of God (1 Cor 1:25). They no longer accept a Biblical creation story; they no longer accept a God who does miracles. They no longer accept the inerrant and holy Word of God. Much of the church has lost its soberness, and therefore, opened the door for Satan.

Are you a sober Christian? Are you a self-controlled Christian? Or are you a Christian that has opened the door for the devil? Christians must resist by living sober and self-controlled lifestyles.

Application Question: What ways do you see a lack of soberness in the church today, which has opened the door for the evil one? What ways is God calling you to be more sober and self-controlled so you can better resist the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Standing Firm in the Faith

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8–9

Peter says healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith. Resist the devil is a defensive posture. It is what we do when the enemy attacks. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Interpretation Question: According to 1 Peter 5:9, how do we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith? What does it mean to “stand firm in the faith?”

In order to resist the devil, the Christian must put his entire trust in God. That is why Peter says “stand firm in the faith.” The only ground we can stand on when attacked by the devil is our faith—it’s not medicine, it’s not worldly philosophy.

This is one of the reasons biblical counseling is so important because the secular world does not accept the reality of Satan and his demons. Satan is too great of a foe for us to defeat on our own or in our own power.

Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal or secular but mighty in God for casting down strongholds (2 Cor 10:4). It must be done by putting our trust totally in God and his resources. Listen to what Paul said in the context of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (emphasis mine). If we are to resist the devil, it must be through the Lord’s power and resources.

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to stand firm in the faith? How can we stand firm in order to resist the devil?

1. Standing firm in the faith means to resist the devil through Scripture.

When Christ resisted the devil in the wilderness, he used the Word of God. He quotes Scripture with every attack that Satan brings. Look at what Christ said:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 4:8–10

Christ always replies to the devil, “It is written.” If a Christian doesn’t know the Word of God, he will be open to many attacks from the devil. When Satan attacks a person’s body image and that person is tempted to feel discouraged, the believer must have Scripture to reply with. When the believer is attacked with lust or anxieties, he must have Scripture to reply with.

2. Standing firm in the faith means to practice a holy life.

We see this in looking at the armor of God. The majority of the armor of God is simply a holy life. By living a holy life, a Christian puts on the armor of God and protects him or herself against attacks from the enemy. To put on the breastplate of righteousness means to live a righteous life. A righteous life protects you from much of the enemy’s advances. To put on the belt of truth means to believe the truth and not accept any lies. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Eph 6:14)

When a believer instead chooses to rebel against God’s will in areas of sex, unforgiveness, cheating, etc., he opens the door for Satan. The believer must stand firm in the faith by practicing a holy life.

3. Standing firm in the faith means to live in an atmosphere of prayer

Jesus told the disciples to “pray lest they enter into temptation.” Prayer would have protected them from temptation to sin, and therefore, the devil. He called them to pray for an hour and they all failed. Consequently, they all denied him, in his time of need.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

Similarly, after Paul commands believers to put on the armor of God, he commands them to pray. Prayer is one of the ways we resist the devil. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Also, Jesus taught that praying for protection from the evil one should be a regular part of the believer’s prayer life. Listen to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (emphasis mine). We should pray for this for ourselves, for our families but especially for our church, whom the enemy is always attacking.

Another aspect of prayer probably includes rebuking the devil or commanding him to leave at times when it is clear that he is at work. We see this in many different parts of Scripture. In the book of Zechariah, Satan is accusing the high priest, Joshua, before God, and the Angel of the Lord rebukes Satan. Look at what he says:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire” (emphasis mine)?
Zechariah 3:1–2

We see the Angel of the Lord, whom most scholars believe is a reference to Christ, rebuking Satan by using the name of the Lord. Essentially, God rebukes the devil by using his own name. We also see this with Michael, the archangel, in Jude 1:9. He rebukes Satan by using the Lord’s name. We, similarly, see the Apostles commanding demons to leave in the name of the Lord (Acts 16:18). There may be times where you stand firm in the faith by commanding demonic anxieties, lies of the devil, or other demonic works to cease in Jesus name.

James, like Peter, commands believers to resist the devil. He says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Sometimes, we resist the devil by rebuking him in Christ’s name. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).

4. Standing firm in the faith means living a life of worship.

We see that David ministered to Saul, who had a tormenting spirit, through worship (1 Sam 16:23). When David, the psalmist of Israel, would play the harp, the demon would flee. Worship is a powerful weapon in resisting the devil. However, the person who lives in complaining and worry often opens the door for the enemy in their lives. It is through worship and thanksgiving that many of Satan’s arrows are extinguished.

We choose to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our lives” (1 Thess 5:18). When Job gave God thanks in the midst of his trial, he essentially thwarted the attack of the devil, who was trying to make him curse God. Worrying or complaining is not far from cursing God. It says, “God, you are not all wise” or “God, you do not care.”

Are you a thankful, worshipful Christian? Or are you a worrier and a complainer? Complaining brought the judgment of God on Israel while in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:10). Complaining is also contagious, as it tends to open the door for Satan to work in other people’s lives. Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Phil 2:14). Stand firm in your trust for God by worshiping him and giving him thanks.

5. Standing firm in the faith means to live a life of fellowship.

Finally, a believer resists the devil by walking in right relationship with the church. They pray for one another, encourage one another, and pick one another up. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).

The Christian who walks alone is the Christian who will come under great attack. In fact, it is discord, specifically unforgiveness, that seems to open the door for Satan into many believers’ lives. Listen to what Christ said to the disciples about unforgiveness:

Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (emphasis mine).
Matthew 18:32–35

Christ says the person who does not forgive will be handed over to the torturers. Who are the torturers in this passage? It is the devil and his demons. Saul was handed over to a demon that tormented him (1 Sam 16). The Christian living in immorality in 1 Corinthians 5 was handed over to Satan for discipline.

God promises that when we don’t forgive others, we are handed over to the torturers. I believe there are many Christians who are going through trials simply because they have unforgivness in their hearts and are out of fellowship with the church or other Christians. The enemy torments them by bringing sickness; he torments them by bringing discord; he torments them by financial lack. If we are going to resist the devil, we must be walking in fellowship with the church, the body of Christ.

Are you standing firm in the faith?

It is the only way to resist the devil. Many Christians have begun to fall away from their firm stance in the faith. They fall away from reading and studying the Bible; they fall away from a consistent prayer life; they fall away from faithful attendance and fellowship with the church, and therefore, open the door for the enemy to attack them.

We see this all the time. When we have started to slip in practicing our faith: anxieties show up, anger shows up, and discord shows up. When we are not filled with God and living in faith, we find the enemies work everywhere in our lives.

This is particularly important for churches that have turned away from the firm stance in the faith. They do not preach the Word; they do not worship God in spirit and truth; they do not practice righteous living; they do not live in unity. It is in those contexts, you can be sure that you will find disorder and every work of the devil (Jas 3:14–16). The church must stand firm in the faith, or it will fall to the attacks of the evil one.

Application Question: How do you practice a lifestyle of standing firm in the faith in order to resist the devil? What ways does he commonly attack you?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Persevering through Hope in God’s Grace

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:10-11

What is the final way we should resist the devil?

Christians should resist the devil by persevering through hope in Gods grace. We should not bail or quit in the midst of Satan’s attack because the one who is with us, is the God of all grace. He is the God who gives unmerited favor and blessing to those who persevere. Look at how Peter encourages these saints in their suffering. He says, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

There is a measure of grace available to suffering saints. However, this grace only comes to those who persevere. Peter says “after you have suffered a little while.” A lot of Christians bail on the church when Satan attacks. They get mad at God. They get mad at the pastor and members. Many Christians are virtually “church hoppers.” They leave the church every time the enemy comes. Some pastors are like that.

Look at what Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it (emphasis mine).
John 10:11-12

Sadly, many of our leaders won’t stand, won’t persevere when Satan attacks. Like the hireling, the one who is only there for pay, they flee the church. However, the good shepherd stands when the wolf comes. This is how all Christians should respond to Satan’s attacks. These attacks may come through the moral failure of a leader, it may come through a spirit of division, it may come through false teaching or a cult. Either way, we must together resist and persevere.

We should persevere because God gives grace to those who do so. He blesses congregants who persevere together against the roaring lion.

Observation Question: Why should believers persevere through trials that the devil brings and what are the benefits of this perseverance according to 1 Peter 5:10-11?

1. The trial will only last a little while.

Peter says the trial will only last a little while. Trials are temporary. They are probably temporary in time, but they are certainly temporary in comparison to eternity. Soon the King is coming, or we will leave this earth to go to the King shortly. Therefore, we should not lose our confidence. Peter comforts these Christians with the brevity of trials.

2. The trial will develop our character and mature us.

Peter says through the trial we will be restored. The word translated restore can also be translated “mending nets” or “preparing their nets” in Matthew 4:21: “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.”

In the context, James and John are preparing their nets to cast into the lake to catch fish. They are fixing holes and tears in order to be more effective fisherman. Similarly, God uses trials to mend us and make us more effective. The trial exposes sin or character flaws so he can fix them. The trial is used to strengthen existing virtues in his ministers such as patience, joy and peace. Through the trial, he prepares his ministers. He mends us as a fisherman does his nets, so we can better serve him and others.

Don’t quit in the trial because God’s plan is to mend you through it so you can be more useful in ministry (2 Cor 1:3–6).

3. The trial will make you strong to stand in other trials but also in order to help others.

Peter said that after we had persevered, God would make us strong. Trials are like lifting weights. They build strength so we can persevere through other difficulties in life. God, also, makes people strong through trials so they can, in the future, carry others. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak (emphasis mine) and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom 15:1–2).

The strong are given a ministry of caring for those who are weak. Where weaker Christians in the faith often isolate themselves during trials and become very self–focused, the strong serve others even amidst their own difficulties. This is a grace that God gives; he not only gives strength but makes strength a characteristic of this person.

Has God made you strong?

4. The trial will make you firm.

Young Christians are often up and down in their spiritual life; they go from spiritual high to spiritual low. In fact, Paul describes spiritual infants as those tossed to and fro like a wave by false teaching and other evils.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

But the Christian who has persevered through suffering becomes firm. They start to have a steady consistent walk with the Lord. God makes us firm through our trials if we persevere through them. The mature are no longer tossed to and fro; they have become firm.

5. The trial will make you steadfast.

The word steadfast actually means to “lay a foundation.” When you lay a foundation, you are preparing not only to stand in storms but to build more. Your trial is just the platform in your life for God to build you up more into the image of Christ and a vessel that is useful for him. This trial is a necessary component of that process. A house without a foundation will not stand (Matt 7:24–27).

There are some specific trials that have happened in my life that are foundational for my current ministry. My struggle with depression for a year and half during college and the military was foundational for my current ministry. I minister daily from that reservoir. It was there God gave me a love for his Word; it was there I studied the Word the hardest I have in my life (including seminary). It was there he removed much of the dross (excess) from my life and left him alone. It was there God gave me a heart for others who were hurting and the empathy to really minister to them. My sufferings are the foundations of my ministry.

In our trials, we must persevere individually and as a community because it is in the trial that God mends us and prepare us for further ministry. He makes us strong to bear others up. He makes us steady instead of up and down. He makes us steadfast, laying a foundation for future growth and ministry.

Let us resist the devil by persevering through our trials. God has promised us his abundant grace.

Conclusion

How do healthy churches and church members resist the Devil?

  1. Healthy churches resist the devil by recognizing him and his tactics
  2. Healthy churches resist the devil by being sober and self-controlled
  3. Healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith
  4. Healthy churches resist the devil by persevering through hope in God’s grace

Chapter Notes

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

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.


1 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+prowl

2 Fisher, Bonnie S., Cullen, Franscis T., and Turner, Michael T (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Satanology

Appendix 1: Study Group Tips

Related 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Questions

Related 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 Teachers Guide, take time to write so you can similarly grow both in your learning and teaching.

  1. How would you summarize the main points of the text/chapter? Write a brief summary.
  2. What stood out to you most in the reading? Did any of the contents trigger any memories or experiences? If so, please share them.
  3. What follow-up questions did you have about the reading? What parts did you not fully agree with?
  4. What applications did you take from the reading and how do you plan to implement them into your life?
  5. Write several commitment statements: As a result of my time studying Gods Word, I will…
  6. 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.

Conclusion

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!

Application Questions

  1. Which trials has God used to teach you the most? What lessons have you learned through them?
  2. Most men find it difficult to cry. How can we grow in tenderness and godly sympathy?
  3. 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?
  4. 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

Related Topics: Character of God, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

Preface

Related Media

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 Teachers 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.

八福(马太福音5:1-12)

Related Media

「八福」是福音书中最为人喜爱的篇章之一,它记录在马太福音5-7,这是「登山宝训」的开始部份。这篇章可能是耶稣较后期才宣讲的道,但马太却将它放在耶稣世上事工的开端,使它成了天国的隆重宣告。它是马太福音所包含的五个主要宣讲的第一个。

在耶稣受试探和八福之间,马太记述因天国近了,耶稣呼唤人悔改(4:12-17)。为了要接触更多的听众,耶稣从拿撒勒前往加利利海沿岸的城市迦百农,到这里来更重要的原因是这里是交通要道。祂在呼唤悔改后,才宣告八福将要来临。

在耶稣受试探和登山宝训之间,马太记述了耶稣呼召渔夫西门彼得和他的弟兄安得烈作门徒(4:18-20),因祂开始建立祂的国度,祂承诺他们要得人如得鱼。接着祂呼召那正在船上补网,同样是渔夫的雅各和约翰(4:21-22)。这些事件充份描绘了那呼召人跟随祂的,有君王的权柄。

马太接着报告了耶稣初期事工的成功和祂的名声传扬(4:23-25)。祂走遍了那地区,宣讲天国的信息,并透过医治人来证明祂的宣告。响应祂的事工的人远至耶路撒冷。

这将我们带到登山宝训的课题。耶稣看到许多的人,祂就上了山坐下来,那是拉比惯常的姿势。传统认为这「山」是迦百农和近岸渔村一带的小丘。门徒到祂跟前来,祂就开始教导他们。接着的经文就是耶稣的教导。1

这是福音书里最早有关耶稣教导的信息、也是最长的一篇。耶稣宣告天国已来临,祂呼召人悔改。耶稣在祂的天国宣言中,揭示了天国子民的基础和特质。在这里,祂教导在祂国度里的伦理指引,也有关于天国的公义素质的指引;现时这些只是局部实践, 但将来要完全对现。2

这段说话的对象是以色列,就是那来到耶稣那里的群众,但耶稣的门徒一听,便明白耶稣以祂的门徒是「真以色列」(属灵的以色列),他们已在祂的国度里,并且已开始了生命。祂也以那在祂面前的群众是将来的「以色列」,期待他们悔改并追随他们的君王。换句话说,耶稣的对象是那按神旨意成为神子民的人,告诉他们,假如他们悔改进入祂的国度,他们需要展示的义,那也是门徒们已经开始实践的。故此,整篇登山宝训,也是给所有人。登山宝训的主题是义,这也是天国的标准。

故此这宣讲中述说了进入天国的人当有的义、也述说了天国子民过着义的生活时,那生命会是怎样的;但却没有怎样达到这义的细节。

登山宝训以八福来开始。这些品格描绘了神真正子民的特质,也提供了在天国有份的人可以期盼的福份。将它们合起来,可以得出一幅承继应许完美基督徒的图画。耶稣在这里并不是告诉人怎样达到这情况,那是祂接下来的教导。

有关八福的描述中,众多为人接纳的其中一项是八福是以赛亚书61:1-3的回响,一篇以末世论3为重点的经文。马太恒常地指出耶稣就是那旧约预言的应验,在这里也是。所以读八福,我们也会看看以赛亚关于弥赛亚和弥赛亚国度的预言。

研读八福和一般经文的研读方法并不相同,每一个福都像箴言智慧语般那么晦涩难懂、精确和意义丰富。每一福都包含一个主题,组成圣经的重要教导。故此,若你愿意,每一福都值得花上许许多多的时间。但在这里,我们只作简洁略述,稍后再作进深研读。

經文

5:1 当耶稣看见这许多的人,就上了山1,既已坐下,门徒到他跟前来。 2 他就开口教训他们说:

5:3 「灵里贫穷2的人有福3了,因为天国是属于4他们的。

5:4哀恸的人有福了,因为他们必得安慰5

5:5温柔的人有福了,因为他们必承受地土。

5:6饥渴慕义6的人有福了,因为他们必得饱足。

5:7怜恤人的人有福了,因为他们必蒙怜恤。

5:8清心的人有福了,因为他们必得见 神。

5:9使人和睦的人有福了,因为他们必称为 神的儿子7

5:10为义受逼迫的人有福了,因为天国是属于他们的。

5:11人若因我侮辱你们、逼迫你们、揑造各样坏话毁谤你们,你们就有福了,5:12应当欢喜快乐,因为你们在天上的赏赐是大的。在你们以前的先知,人也是这样逼迫他们。

经文观察

在这里我们没有叙事,只有一系列的宣告。至于5:1-2的叙事只是这讲章的引子,讲章从宣告开始。八福中的每一个福都是宣言,但却是含蓄的、勉励性的,呼召人作出响应。

研读八福和别的经文有少许分别。然而我们仍需要注意上下文和第一世纪犹太人的文化和信仰背景,也须留意八福所处的登山宝训所宣告的天国性质。这里会处理在这样背景下的字义,特别是文化背景,因为从文化背景更能了解这些希伯来文和亚兰文。好的工具书、经文汇编或圣经字典对处理字义,例如:「温柔」、「贫穷」等字,都有帮助。4

当我们掌握字义后,我们便要处理句子之间的关系,「福」和应许之间的关联。要明白耶稣的这些话,我们必须从新旧约和天国相关的教导入手。在这里,我们看到耶稣第一次降临标志着国度已经开始,信徒在这国度里;但我们在基督再来时将会看到这国度的完全实现。故此,这些经文都必须符合天国度的这两方面的观念。

大部份有关这段经文的注释都说是八福,但如果你加以留意,其实「福」出现了九次。最后一次「福」的出现,所用的格式和前面并不相同,它并不是以「有福了」的形式出现,却好像是为前面的第八个「福」加以解释和向门徒展示可以怎样作具体应用。

也许在开始部份我们先简略地介绍「福」这个字,这对我们理解这段经文会有帮助。现代偏向将原文的这个字译作「快乐」,但这却未能完全捕捉文本所包含的所有含意。主要原因是现代「快乐」这词的用法低贬了它的价值;这词在这经文中含有因与神有正确合宜的关系,而有的内在喜乐与和平。故此,「快乐」可以是其中的一部份,但它是超乎在我们身边发生的事情。这「快乐」因蒙神悦纳而来到我们的心灵,因此就是面对严峻的逼迫,仍呼召人要喜乐。主那些「福」的宣告,是给有内在属灵品格的人奖赏承诺;从另一个角度来说,是主对与神有合宜关系的人的属灵品格和状况的描述。

与耶稣在马太福音第五章所述的「福」相对的,是马太福音第23章对文士和法利赛人宣告的「有祸了」。那是神审判那些背道、拒绝承认和遵行神的全部旨意的人。这些「祸」中,也描述了那些人邪恶和假冒为善的品格。这些祸是神誓言给那些继续行恶的人的审判。

所以当耶稣说「有福了」的时候,并不是单单指那些在神看为正的人充满了内在的喜乐与平安,而是因他们的品格给予赞赏,并承诺赏赐他们。

一篇有趣又和这经文相关的旧约经文是箴言6:16-19,那里列出神所憎厌的七件事。那被认为和那些因行义而从神得福的人对立。第一样是「高傲的眼」或高傲,这绝对和灵里贫穷相反;最后一样是「在弟兄中布散分争的人」却和使人和睦相背。在这两者之间还包括了撒谎的舌,流无辜人血的手,图谋恶计的心,飞跑行恶的脚,吐谎言的假见证,这些都和神所喜爱的属灵品格有着显著的差异。

八福的进一步分析

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。

1. 「灵里贫穷2的人有福3了,因为天国是属于4他们的。

背景 :要理解八福的其中一个方法是从旧约背景入手,查考有关弥赛亚国度和进入这国度的人。这些经文中,我曾提及以赛亚书61:1-3,在那篇经文中,弥赛亚被膏「传福音给贫穷的人」(在路加福音第四章,耶稣读这经文并说这已经应验在他们耳中了。)那篇经文对我们理解「贫穷」有少许帮助。我们会倾向将「贫穷」朝财务和财产的方向来理解,这可以是其中的一部份,但还可以从属灵方面去看。以赛亚用它来描述那些被掳的人,他们的土地和财产被剥夺,固然贫穷,但他们也受折磨和压迫,无力对抗、也没有希望,他们是绝望的,他们灵里的贫穷,使他们的困境加剧。

文的意 :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。

「灵里贫穷」的人在神前谦卑下来。他们明白到他们此生没有甚么贡献可以拿来换取天国。他们在灵里痛心疾首,意即他们虚己,并深深地悔悟;他们以无助无望的罪人身份来到王前,没有骄傲、没有自义、也不自满。他们从伪装得释放,故此他们有空间让神进入他们的生命。每一个希望进天国的人都必须「灵里贫穷」,因从神而来的救恩是一份礼物。

这就是给这世上真正被压迫的和穷人的好信息。穷人并不因为他们贫穷而被排拒,富人亦不会因他们的财富被接纳。不论富或贫,都必须在主面前谦卑下来,才可成为天国的成员。低下阶层往往比有财势的人更容易进天国。

耶稣宣告的福是「天国是他们的」,这当然并不表示所有贫穷的人都是天国的一员,就如「浪子」的贫穷是自己弄成的。因为重点不在于物质上的贫穷,而是灵里的质量,那些灵里贫穷而谦卑自己,倚靠神的人,他们拥有天国。事实上,每一个在天国里的人,都必须灵里贫穷。他们都以一颗破碎的心和痛悔的灵去寻找救主。

应用 :这里有一个清晰的教导:如果要进天国,就必须灵里贫穷。天国的信息是呼唤人悔改,人必须在神前谦卑下来,并承认他们的权势、财富或面子不能替他赢得进入天国。那些真正谦卑下来的和表达需要主的,他们于天国有份,并且得到天国的恩泽。

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。

第二个应用,是将这态度建立成天国成员的品格。他们并不是虚己进入天国,跟着成为自足(虽然有些人尝试这样做),而是完完全全倚靠神供应他们所需。这开展了其他研读的主题,例如:谦逊、信心、祷告和顺服。

2. 哀恸的人有福了,因为他们必得安慰5。」

现在我们有一个略为不同的福。上一个福给灵里贫穷的人应许天国是他们的,原文用的是现在式;而这一个给哀恸的人必得安慰的应许,原文用的是未来式,是一个在将来才会成就的应许。

约背景 :以赛亚亦说弥赛亚医治心碎的人,并宣告在何时哀恸的人得安慰、华冠代替灰尘、喜乐油代替悲哀(以赛亚书61:1-3)。哀恸显示哀痛、优伤和因失去至爱而灵里焦虑,也可以是失去有价值的生命而哀恸,就如被掳的以色列人;也可以因失去财物、身份地位或健康而引发哀恸。人也会为天灾人祸而哀恸,当哀恸时,他们寻找希望,但大多数情况,世上只有极微的希望。

: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。

故此这里所指的是「因着信」的哀恸,这哀恸并不单纯为生命中的苦楚与伤痛,而是为了那引致这境况的罪而哀伤。他们明白他们的忧伤愁叹是为了那失落败坏的世界,那里看不见神和祂的旨意。在哀恸中,耶稣的门徒向主打开他们沉重的心,因他们知道他们虽在哀伤中,但并非没有盼望!他们知道他们的哭泣和哀痛只会维持一段时间,他们知道死亡不会得到终极的胜利,因为在基督里死亡的,必会复活成不朽坏的,他们知道弥赛亚终有一日会把这些挪除,给他们带来安慰。

故此这应许是他们必得安慰。当神擦去他们的眼泪时,他们就得安慰;不再有死亡、不再忧伤或苦难(以赛亚书25:8,启示录21:4)。这是天国子民所能期待的。

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。

3. 「溫柔的人有福了,因为他们必承受地土。」

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。

: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。

这里的应许是他们拥有地土。是甚么地土呢?很可能是指应许之地。整本圣经都提及神给以色列人应许,赐他们应许之地。拥有土地,并非单指财物,而是含有更大的意义,那不单是一块地,而是从神而来的产业,包含保障。但那地却常受到袭击,而人民被掳和被分散,在新约仍应许重新招聚到那地,那些应许现在看来要等到弥赛亚第二次降临,出现新天新地时才会实现。这应许是给所有在新约之下的人,而应许的应验会比任何人所能想象到的更荣美。新的创造不会被暴君或充满阴谋的团体所操纵,而是属于那温柔的人。

应用 :人怎能成为温柔的人呢?如果一个人的本性并不温柔又怎么样呢?答案可以在描述属灵生活怎样运作的经文找到。温柔和良善都是圣灵的果子,是圣灵在信徒中所结的果子。要培养在灵里的温柔,便是在圣灵的指引下而活,或将生命交给神的灵管辖,以致基督的特质能在信徒中长成。单是这指引便需要好些研习,但它是圣经对温柔的发展所作的描绘。

4. 「饥渴慕义6的人有福了,因为他们必得饱足。」

约背景 :饥与渴被比拟为追求公义的动力,追求公义是我们深层和恒常之需要(参诗篇42:3和63:1)。饥与渴是人类的基本动力,恒常要求被满足。这比喻用来描绘渴慕行神旨意是那么恒常与强烈。

: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。

我们在这系列前面的文章已经思考过在圣经里义的意义,那就是行神的旨意。在这里,义这个字可能有两个意思:其一肯定是在个人生活中,强烈地渴望蒙神喜悦,按神的旨意去行,将神的旨意在生活中行出来;这生出希望在地上有公义,在一个不公义、欠缺公平的世界渴望社会公义出现。个人公义的渴望与所处的世界的公义是不能分割的。

正因这是一个合理的渴望,它是会成就的;或许不是即时成就,但肯定在将来当王以公义管治时应验。但王的应许是渴望公义的必得饱足。从神学角度来说,它分为几个阶段:最基本的渴望是与神有合宜的关系,这要透过神的恩典,那公义的礼物使我们因信称义,在天堂的法庭被宣告为义。接着,作为主的门徒,我们渴望作正义的事,并由圣灵加给能力来完成,我们称这阶段为生活的成圣,我们会愈来愈像基督。将来,当主再来时,祂会建立宇宙性的公义,我们将被改变,我们称这为得荣耀,我们会脱变成荣美的状态。

应用 :在这里我们同样会问这渴望是怎样形成的。大部份的信徒都追求公义,但这渴望是怎样变得那么热切的呢?这也是从属灵生命的成长而来。保罗教导一个属灵的人会将身体各部份交出来作义的工具。故此,这从委身遵行神的旨意开始,接着是由圣灵带领走属灵的路,祂带领信徒走义路。当一个人愈亲近主,他或她对不义和世界不公平的事就愈敏锐,一个真正属灵的人就会开始渴慕公义。

5. 「怜恤人的人有福了,因为他们必蒙怜恤。」

:和灵里贫穷、温柔和饥渴慕义的人的共同点是他们的生命都不是自足的,都需要外来的帮助。因他们自知有所缺乏、需倚靠别人、软弱和不完全,他们明白甚么是怜恤。当他们从主得到满有恩慈的礼物,他们亦知道应仁慈地对待他人。对别人表达仁慈包括宽恕有罪的人和怜悯那些受苦和需要帮助的人。

他们被称为有福的,因为他们会以仁慈对待他人,优先于自己的权益;对有需要的人,他们不会含敌意,却会和蔼亲切地对待他们,并医治他们。仁慈并非他们的本性,只因他们被仁慈地对待,他们并且恒常地倚靠主而活。

因为他们懂得怜悯和怜恤他人,故此神说他们必蒙怜恤。最终这要等待王的到来和审判的日子,他们会得到王的怜悯、通过审判和进入天国。他们得到怜恤并非因为他们做了足够的善行,而是因为他们知道走天路时怜恤的重要性,他们进入恩典中,并渴望与他人分享。他们学会了原谅别人,因为他们不断地被原谅;他们学会怜恤别人,因为他们每天都在蒙怜恤。

应用 :这里的怜恤行为来自真正灵命历程。那些得到神愈多恩典的,愈是怜恤他人。因此,在自己的生命中能好好地体会神的恩典是十分重要的。这体会是从经历认罪和感谢神的赦免而来。但这两方面却常常被信徒忽视,甚而有些基督徒竟然认为那恩典是他们应得的,以致他们变得那么不宽容别人,甚至论断他人。我们自己的属灵状况和神的供应是绝不能忘记的。

6. 「清心的人有福了,因为他们必得见 神。」

:这福从旧约取材加以运用,在天国应验。它同时描述了内在纯净和意念专一。「心」在圣经里表达人的志向与选择。故此清心指一个人所作的决定、心中的渴望、思想和意图都没有被罪沾染,所作的意愿,以讨神喜悦为依据。出自纯净清洁的心只有好东西,从纯净清洁的心而出的行为是爱与仁慈、渴慕公义与公平;从纯净清洁的心所作出的决定蒙神喜悦。

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。

圣经说从来没有人见过神(出埃及记33:18-23;提摩太前书6:16)。给他们的应许是他们必得见神,这是何等令人惊讶的声明!虽然有人曾见过主以不同的形态显现:摩西在西乃山见到神的背影(出埃及记33章),以色列的长老与神一起吃喝,看到神以某种形态显现(出埃及记24章)、以赛亚见过一次(以赛亚书6章)、约翰也曾见过基督显现(启示录1章)。

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)

:一个人如何能得到一颗纯净清洁的心呢?当神给我们一颗「新心」的时候,它就开始转化,当我们追随基督,透过属灵成长,它会继续转化。行在光明中,意指学习按神的话语而活,这会改变我们的心思意念,我们的心就会愈来愈纯净。但同时神话语的亮光会将人内心的污秽显露出来,我们必须要处理和作出改变。

7. 「使人和睦的人有福了,因为他们必称为 神的儿子7。」

:神是和平之君,祂整个拯救计划是使那些以前和祂分隔的人与祂和平共处,最终给全地带来和平(以赛亚书9:6-7)。这是弥赛亚的工作目标。

不过人类当中充满纷争和冲突,和平与团结的希望极其渺茫。神带来的和平并不是消除敌意、容忍或退让;世上真正的和平需要性质上完完全全的改变,而只有神才能赐下这和平,这和平是世人所不明白的(约翰福音14:27)。它的起始点是与神和好,然后延伸至与人和好。

使人和睦的人是那些首先明白什么是真正和平的人。他们努力建立的和平是一个拥抱从神而来的和平,因他们与神和好,以至人与人之间能和谐共处。换句话说,真正缔造和睦的人传扬神的国度,他们的生命是为了宣扬神的国、与仇敌和好、平息仇恨、使分隔的人重新联系、促进真正的了解和属灵的爱。他们这样做是因为他们知道什么是真正的和平。因此,这里所描述的品格不是纯粹政治性追求和平,而是属灵的和平。

给他们的应许是他们必称为神的儿子。这意味着他们是神真正的儿子。在天国的生活除了拥有土地、仍然饥渴、看见神,而现在更有儿子的名分。当人们因信进入天国,这一切就开始了,当神的国最终临到时,就会完全应验。

在旧约,「神的儿子」是用来描述天使,而不是用于救恩。但在新约里,儿子的名份是救恩大有能力的表达,它的意思是指信徒从圣灵而生,成为神家的成员,透过神的儿子耶稣基督同为后嗣,和父神有了个人关系。这并未完全落实,但却是确实的、肯定的承诺,所以信徒可以说:「我们被称为神的儿女」。(参约翰福音1:12,13和约翰壹书3:1)

应用 :因此,耶稣的门徒应该促进和平。他们透过传和平的福音给全世界,并促进属灵的家和好。简而言之,他们应该做的就如弥赛亚的工作。

8. 「为义受逼迫的人有福了,因为天国是属于他们的。」

:在这堕落的世界,当人企图推广和平、拥护公义或过一个柔和谦卑的生活时,他们会被敌挡。或许有人想,这样的生活能吸引人归向主;但事实上,它不会自然地发生。这便告诉我们这世界不单与神隔绝,并且叛逆神。他们或许希望按自己的方式去寻求公义,他们宁可得到权力、尊荣和财富。就如施洗约翰呼召人悔改归向义,他因而早死;耶稣传扬正确的美德,因祂呼召人进入祂的国度,祂的信息却被敌挡。如果连他们都遇到逼迫,世人岂不也会逼迫门徒呢?

这福并不是给那单纯受逼迫的人。神是地上的公义审判官,祂也会处理这些。这福是给基督的追随者,那因义而受逼迫的人;接着的那节经文,澄清了受逼迫的人,指的是那为基督的原故而受苦的门徒。凭着信,他们被确定与王同在,他们披戴祂的名,他们传扬福音,传扬那属灵的、永恒的国度,一个公义的、和平的国度;然而他们会遇到阻拦。尽管如此,他们应该欢呼,他们在天国要得到大大的赏赐,神给他们的补偿会更多。

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。

最后的两节暗暗地宣告耶稣的神性。旧约的先知都因为他们忠于神而受逼迫。现在,耶稣说门徒因为他们忠于祂,也会受到迫害。祂是神。

Translated by: Jenny Pao 鲍婉玲译


1如果你读大量有关这经文的书,你会发现当中的观点与诠释可以有很大差异。持怀疑态度非常激进的观点,我们不必花太多的时间在这里讨论,这可以等待更适合的时间才讨论。但你应该知道一群混淆视听的教师和作家,他们教导福音中没有什么是真实的,耶稣丝毫没有做这些事情,并说只有极少部份是耶稣说的。对于他们来说,马太并没有写马太福音,这书是在较后的时期按教会教导而成的作品,其中大部分内容若非凭空捏造,便是修饰的产物,这观点指不管你如何看待它,这几章的经文是经过编辑。这并不是一个新的立场,只因现代有的媒体发达,就在现代出版。

一个还在几个层次上有些问题但不太反感的看法,是登山宝训是耶稣的教导,但不是从一篇讲章而来;而是将耶稣在不同地方的讲道搬到这里结合成这讲章。这观点最少承认记载在马太福音5-7章的经文是耶稣自己的教导。简单来说,马太将这些材料集合在这里,从而组成了有关天国的一个主要讲话。在理论上,如果能证明马太确实曾经这样做,可以接受这观点的一部份,但要证明却极为困难。

传统的观点是这信息是耶稣亲自宣告的,只要平实地阅读文本便能得到支持。这经文的开始说耶稣教训他们说......接着的教导,主题也和天国相关,然后马太说祂说完了。对于那些相信圣经历史真实性的人,他们肯定马太或别的圣经作者的著作,如果经文明言教导的地点或时间,那里就是宣讲信息的地方;若没有着明,那材料就可能是编辑而成。若说耶稣在山上宣讲这信息,这并不代表耶稣宣讲时就是用这些字,马太将耶稣的讲章翻译成希腊文,他极可能将部份内容浓缩,并用自己的措词写出来,又或许为部份内容加上一些澄清性的数据。若和路加福音或福音书中的其他教导相比较,这情况是会出现的。但我们也可以肯定耶稣很可能在加利利传道时,很频繁地宣讲这些主题,所以他们的记忆会反映这些再三重复的主题。总括来说,要研读耶稣的宣讲和教导,是相当复杂和难以确定的。我们将在这系列的末端,当总结读这卷书的各种问题时,再返回这话题(历史评鉴)。现在,我会说我相信读者应该有信心这些确实是耶稣的教导,当出现「耶稣说」,不论是一模一样或是一个总结(如马太福音4:17的处理),马太记录登山宝训,是在圣灵的引导下写成。故此,这几章经文所写的是真实的,也确实是耶稣宣讲时的教导。

2有大量关于登山宝训的文献,你可按你的时间开始阅读,但必须留意不要过度简化了登山宝训的意义和性质。这篇文章只是简略的诠释。

3 「末世论」是关于末后的事,这部份教义会处理那将要来的事,例如基督的再来、审判和永恒状态。它主要和弥赛亚的事情相关,那就是耶稣将要承就的所有事情。

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

八 福 (馬太福音 5:1-12)

Related Media

「八福」是福音書中最為人喜愛的篇章之一,它記錄在馬太福音5-7,這是「登山寶訓」的開始部份。這篇章可能是耶穌較後期才宣講的道,但馬太卻將它放在耶穌世上事工的開端,使它成了天國的隆重宣告。它是馬太福音所包含的五個主要宣講的第一個。

在耶穌受試探和八福之間,馬太記述因天國近了,耶穌呼喚人悔改(4:12-17)。為了要接觸更多的聽眾,耶穌從拿撒勒前往加利利海沿岸的城市迦百農,到這裡來更重要的原因是這裡是交通要道。祂在呼喚悔改後,才宣告八福將要來臨。

在耶穌受試探和登山寶訓之間,馬太記述了耶穌呼召漁夫西門彼得和他的弟兄安得烈作門徒(4:18-20),因祂開始建立祂的國度,祂承諾他們要得人如得魚。接著祂呼召那正在船上補網,同樣是漁夫的雅各和約翰(4:21-22)。這些事件充份描繪了那呼召人跟隨祂的,有君王的權柄。

馬太接著報告了耶穌初期事工的成功和祂的名聲傳揚(4:23-25)。祂走遍了那地區,宣講天國的信息,並透過醫治人來證明祂的宣告。回應祂的事工的人遠至耶路撒冷。

這將我們帶到登山寶訓的課題。耶穌看到許多的人,祂就上了山坐下來,那是拉比慣常的姿勢。傳統認為這「山」是迦百農和近岸漁村一帶的小丘。門徒到祂跟前來,祂就開始教導他們。接著的經文就是耶穌的教導。1

這是福音書裡最早有關耶穌教導的信息、也是最長的一篇。耶穌宣告天國已來臨,祂呼召人悔改。耶穌在祂的天國宣言中,揭示了天國子民的基礎和特質。在這裡,祂教導在祂國度裡的倫理指引,也有關於天國的公義素質的指引;現時這些只是局部實踐, 但將來要完全對現2

這段說話的對象是以色列,就是那來到耶穌那裡的群眾,但耶穌的門徒一聽,便明白耶穌以祂的門徒是「真以色列」(屬靈的以色列),他們已在祂的國度裡,並且已開始了生命。祂也以那在祂面前的群眾是將來的「以色列」,期待他們悔改並追隨他們的君王。換句話說,耶穌的對象是那按神旨意成為神子民的人,告訴他們,假如他們悔改進入祂的國度,他們需要展示的義,那也是門徒們已經開始實踐的。故此,整篇登山寶訓,也是給所有人的。登山寶訓的主題是義,這也是天國的標準。

故此這宣講中述說了進入天國的人當有的義、也述說了天國子民過著義的生活時,那生命會是怎樣的;但卻沒有怎樣達到這義的細節。

登山寶訓以八福來開始。這些品格描繪了神真正子民的特質,也提供了在天國有份的人可以期盼的福份。將它們合起來,可以得出一幅承繼應許完美基督徒的圖畫。耶穌在這裡並不是告訴人怎樣達到這情況,那是祂接下來的教導。

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。

研讀八福和一般經文的研讀方法並不相同,每一個福都像箴言智慧語般那麼晦澀難懂、精確和意義豐富。每一福都包含一個主題,組成聖經的重要教導。故此,若你願意,每一福都值得花上許許多多的時間。但在這裡,我們只作簡潔略述,稍後再作進深研讀。

經文

5:1 當耶穌看見這許多的人,就上了山1,既已坐下,門徒到他跟前來。5:2 他就開口教訓他們說:

5:3 「靈裏貧窮2的人有福3了,因為天國是屬於4他們的。

5:4 哀慟的人有福了,因為他們必得安慰5

5:5 溫柔的人有福了,因為他們必承受地土。

5:6 飢渴慕義6的人有福了,因為他們必得飽足。

5:7 憐恤人的人有福了,因為他們必蒙憐恤。

5:8 清心的人有福了,因為他們必得見 神。

5:9 使人和睦的人有福了,因為他們必稱為 神的兒子7

5:10 為義受逼迫的人有福了,因為天國是屬於他們的。

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。

經文觀察

在這裡我們沒有敘事,只有一系列的宣告。至於5:1-2的敘事只是這講章的引子,講章從宣告開始。八福中的每一個福都是宣言,但卻是含蓄的、勉勵性的,呼召人作出回應。

研讀八福和別的經文有少許分別。然而我們仍需要注意上下文和第一世紀猶太人的文化和信仰背景,也須留意八福所處的登山寶訓所宣告的天國性質。這裡會處理在這樣背景下的字義,特別是文化背景,因為從文化背景更能瞭解這些希伯來文和亞蘭文。好的工具書、經文彙編或聖經字典對處理字義,例如:「溫柔」、「貧窮」等字,都有幫助。4

當我們掌握字義後,我們便要處理句子之間的關系,「福」和應許之間的關聯。要明白耶穌的這些話,我們必須從新舊約和天國相關的教導入手。在這裡,我們看到耶穌第一次降臨標誌著國度已經開始,信徒在這國度裡;但我們在基督再來時將會看到這國度的完全實現。故此,這些經文都必須符合天國的這兩方面的觀念。

大部份有關這段經文的註釋都說是八福,但如果你加以留意,其實「福」出現了九次。最後一次「福」的出現,所用的格式和前面並不相同,它並不是以「有福了」的形式出現,卻好像是為前面的第八個「福」加以解釋和向門徒展示可以怎樣作具體應用。

也許在開始部份我們先簡略地介紹「福」這個字,這對我們理解這段經文會有幫助。現代偏向將原文的這個字譯作「快樂」,但這卻未能完全捕捉文本所包含的所有含意。主要原因是現代「快樂」這詞的用法低貶了它的價值;這詞在這經文中含有因與神有正確合宜的關係,而有的內在喜樂與和平。故此,「快樂」可以是其中的一部份,但它是超乎在我們身邊發生的事情。這「快樂」因蒙神悅納而來到我們的心靈,因此就是面對嚴峻的逼迫,仍呼召人要喜樂。主那些「福」的宣告,是給有內在屬靈品格的人獎賞承諾;從另一個角度來說,是主對與神有合宜關係的人的屬靈品格和狀況的描述。

與耶穌在馬太福音第五章所述的「福」相對的,是馬太福音第23章對文士和法利賽人宣告的「有禍了」。那是神審判那些背道、拒絕承認和遵行神的全部旨意的人。這些「禍」中,也描述了那些人邪惡和假冒為善的品格。這些禍是神誓言給那些繼續行惡的人的審判。

所以當耶穌說「有福了」的時候,並不是單單指那些在神看為正的人充滿了內在的喜樂與平安,而是因他們的品格給予讚賞,並承諾賞賜他們。

一篇有趣又和這經文相關的舊約經文是箴言6:16-19,那裡列出神所憎厭的七件事。那被認為和那些因行義而從神得福的人對立。第一樣是「高傲的眼」或高傲,這絕對和靈裏貧窮相反;最後一樣是「在弟兄中布散分爭的人」卻和使人和睦相背。在這兩者之間還包括了撒謊的舌,流無辜人血的手,圖謀惡計的心,飛跑行惡的腳,吐謊言的假見證,這些都和神所喜愛的屬靈品格有著顯著的差異。

八福的進一步分析

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。

1. 「靈裏貧窮2的人有福3了,因為天國是屬於4他們的。」

舊約背景:要理解八福的其中一個方法是從舊約背景入手,查考有關彌賽亞國度和進入這國度的人。這些經文中,我曾提及以賽亞書61:1-3,在那篇經文中,彌賽亞被膏「傳福音給貧窮的人」(在路加福音第四章,耶穌讀這經文並說這已經應驗在他們耳中了。)那篇經文對我們理解「貧窮」有少許幫助。我們會傾向將「貧窮」朝財務和財產的方向來理解,這可以是其中的一部份,但還可以從屬靈方面去看。以賽亞用它來描述那些被擄的人,他們的土地和財產被剝奪,固然貧窮,但他們也受折磨和壓迫,無力對抗、也沒有希望,他們是絕望的,他們靈裡的貧窮,使他們的困境加劇。

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。

「靈裡貧窮」的人在神前謙卑下來。他們明白到他們此生沒有甚麼貢獻可以拿來換取天國。他們在靈裡痛心疾首,意即他們虛己,並深深地悔悟;他們以無助無望的罪人身份來到王前,沒有傲氣、沒有自義、也不自滿。他們從偽裝得釋放,故此他們有空間讓神進入他們的生命。每一個希望進天國的人都必須「靈裡貧窮」,因從神而來的救恩是一份禮物。

這就是給這世上真正被壓迫的和窮人的好信息。窮人並不因為他們貧窮而被排拒,富人亦不會因他們的財富被接納。不論富或貧,都必須在主面前謙卑下來,才可成為天國的成員。低下階層往往比有財勢的人更容易進天國。

耶穌宣告的福是「天國是他們的」,這當然並不表示所有貧窮的人都是天國的一員,就如「浪子」的貧窮是自己弄成的。因為重點不在於物質上的貧窮,而是靈裡的質量,那些靈裡貧窮而謙卑自己,倚靠神的人,他們擁有天國。事實上,每一個在天國裡的人,都必須靈裡貧窮。他們都以一顆破碎的心和痛悔的靈去尋找救主。

應用:這裡有一個清晰的教導:如果要進天國,就必須靈裡貧窮。天國的信息是呼喚人悔改,人必須在神前謙卑下來,並承認他們的權勢、財富或面子不能替他贏得進入天國。那些真正謙卑下來的和表達需要主的,他們於天國有份,並且得到天國的恩澤。

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。

第二個應用,是將這態度建立成天國成員的品格。他們並不是虛己進入天國,跟著成為自足(雖然有些人嘗試這樣做),而是完完全全倚靠神供應他們所需。這開展了其他研讀的主題,例如:謙遜、信心、禱告和順服。

2. 「哀慟的人有福了,因為他們必得安慰5。」

現在我們有一個略為不同的福。上一個福給靈裡貧窮的人應許天國是他們的,原文用的是現在式;而這一個給哀慟的人必得安慰的應許,原文用的是未來式,是一個在將來才會成就的應許。

舊約背景:以賽亞亦說彌賽亞醫治心碎的人,並宣告在何時哀慟的人得安慰、華冠代替灰塵、喜樂油代替悲哀(以賽亞書61:1-3)。哀慟顯示哀痛、優傷和因失去至愛而靈裡焦慮,也可以是失去有價值的生命而哀慟,就如被擄的以色列人;也可以因失去財物、身份地位或健康而引發哀慟。人也會為天災人禍而哀慟,當哀慟時,他們尋找希望,但大多數情況,世上只有極微的希望。

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。

故此這裡所指的是「因著信」的哀慟,這哀慟並不單純為生命中的苦楚與傷痛,而是為了那引致這境況的罪而哀傷。他們明白他們的憂傷愁歎是為了那失落敗壞的世界,那裡看不見神和祂的旨意。在哀慟中,耶穌的門徒向主打開他們沉重的心,因他們知道他們雖在哀傷中,但並非沒有盼望!他們知道他們的哭泣和哀痛只會維持一段時間,他們知道死亡不會得到終極的勝利,因為在基督裡死亡的,必會復活成不朽壞的,他們知道彌賽亞終有一日會把這些挪除,給他們帶來安慰。

故此這應許是他們必得安慰。當神擦去他們的眼淚時,他們就得安慰;不再有死亡、不再憂傷或苦難(以賽亞書25:8,啟示錄21:4)。這是天國子民所能期待的。

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。

3. 「溫柔的人有福了,因為他們必承受地土。」

舊約背景:這「福」和詩篇37:11「受困苦的人必擁有地土」十分相似。5 假如你研讀那段經文,你將會發現那也是有關彌賽亞的詩篇,那地亦必是應許之地。

意義:在聖經裡,溫柔的人是指那些有溫柔的心和自制力的人,他們的心靈沒有惡念,也不高傲。溫柔的人也許和貧窮的人一樣沒有自己的資源,但其後可能有,就如摩西被稱為最謙和的人。6 溫柔的人不剝削和壓迫他人,他們不復仇或仇殺,不使用暴力,不試圖為自己的目的奪取政權。概括而言,他們學效基督,在生活上模仿祂。但這並不表示他們軟弱或他們的生活不濟,他們可以是柔和謙卑,但他們也可成為弱者和受壓迫者的鬥士。

這裡的應許是他們擁有地土。是甚麼地土呢?很可能是指應許之地。整本聖經都提及神給以色列人應許,賜他們應許之地。擁有土地,並非單指財物,而是含有更大的意義,那不單是一塊地,而是從神而來的產業,包含保障。但那地卻常受到襲擊,而人民被擄和被分散,在新約仍應許重新招聚到那地,那些應許現在看來要等到彌賽亞第二次降臨,出現新天新地時才會實現。這應許是給所有在新約之下的人,而應許的應驗會比任何人所能想像到的更榮美。新的創造不會被暴君或充滿陰謀的團體所操縱,而是屬於那溫柔的人。

應用:人怎能成為溫柔的人呢?如果一個人的本性並不溫柔又怎麼樣呢?答案可以在描述屬靈生活怎樣運作的經文找到。溫柔和良善都是聖靈的果子,是聖靈在信徒中所結的果子。要培養在靈裡的溫柔,便是在聖靈的指引下而活,或將生命交給神的靈管轄,以致基督的特質能在信徒中長成。單是這指引便需要好些研習,但它是聖經對溫柔的發展所作的描繪。

4. 「飢渴慕義6的人有福了,因為他們必得飽足。」

舊約背景:飢與渴被比擬為追求公義的動力,追求公義是我們深層和恆常之需要(參詩篇42:3和63:1)。飢與渴是人類的基本動力,恆常要求被滿足。這比喻用來描繪渴慕行神旨意是那麼恆常與強烈。

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。

我們在這系列前面的文章已經思考過在聖經裡義的意義,那就是行神的旨意。在這裡,義這個字可能有兩個意思:其一肯定是在個人生活中,強烈地渴望蒙神喜悅,按神的旨意去行,將神的旨意在生活中行出來;這生出希望在地上有公義,在一個不公義、欠缺公平的世界渴望社會公義出現。個人公義的渴望與所處的世界的公義是不能分割的。

正因這是一個合理的渴望,它是會成就的;或許不是即時成就,但肯定在將來當王以公義管治時應驗。但王的應許是渴望公義的必得飽足。從神學角度來說,它分為幾個階段:最基本的渴望是與神有合宜的關係,這要透過神的恩典,那公義的禮物使我們因信稱義,在天堂的法庭被宣告為義。接著,作為主的門徒,我們渴望作正義的事,並由聖靈加給能力來完成,我們稱這階段為生活的成聖,我們會愈來愈像基督。將來,當主再來時,祂會建立宇宙性的公義,我們將被改變,我們稱這為得榮耀,我們會脫變成榮美的狀態。

應用:在這裡我們同樣會問這渴望是怎樣形成的。大部份的信徒都追求公義,但這渴望是怎樣變得那麼熱切的呢?這也是從屬靈生命的成長而來。保羅教導一個屬靈的人會將身體各部份交出來作義的工具。故此,這從委身遵行神的旨意開始,接著是由聖靈帶領走屬靈的路,祂帶領信徒走義路。當一個人愈親近主,他或她對不義和世界不公平的事就愈敏銳,一個真正屬靈的人就會開始渴慕公義。

5. 「憐恤人的人有福了,因為他們必蒙憐恤。」

意義:和靈裡貧窮、溫柔和飢渴慕義的人的共同點是他們的生命都不是自足的,都需要外來的幫助。因他們自知有所缺乏、需倚靠別人、軟弱和不完全,他們明白甚麼是憐恤。當他們從主得到滿有恩慈的禮物,他們亦知道應仁慈地對待他人。對別人表達仁慈包括寬恕有罪的人和憐憫那些受苦和需要幫助的人。

他們被稱為有福的,因為他們會以仁慈對待他人,優先於自己的權益;對有需要的人,他們不會含敵意,卻會和藹親切地對待他們,並醫治他們。仁慈並非他們的本性,只因他們被仁慈地對待,他們並且恆常地倚靠主而活。

因為他們懂得憐憫和憐恤他人,故此神說他們必蒙憐恤。最終這要等待王的到來和審判的日子,他們會得到王的憐憫、通過審判和進入天國。他們得到憐恤並非因為他們做了足夠的善行,而是因為他們知道走天路時憐恤的重要性,他們進入恩典中,並渴望與他人分享。他們學會了原諒別人,因為他們不斷地被原諒;他們學會憐恤別人,因為他們每天都在蒙憐恤。

應用:這裡的憐恤行為來自真正靈命歷程。那些得到神愈多恩典的,愈是憐恤他人。因此,在自己的生命中能好好地體會神的恩典是十分重要的。這體會是從經歷認罪和感謝神的赦免而來。但這兩方面卻常常被信徒忽視,甚而有些基督徒竟然認為那恩典是他們應得的,以致他們變得那麼不寬容別人,甚至論斷他人。我們自己的屬靈狀況和神的供應是絕不能忘記的。

6. 「清心的人有福了,因為他們必得見 神。」

意義:這福從舊約取材加以運用,在天國應驗。它同時描述了內在純淨和意念專一。「心」在聖經裡表達人的志向與選擇。故此清心指一個人所作的決定、心中的渴望、思想和意圖都沒有被罪沾染,所作的意願,以討神喜悅為依據。出自純淨清潔的心只有好東西,從純淨清潔的心而出的行為是愛與仁慈、渴慕公義與公平;從純淨清潔的心所作出的決定蒙神喜悅。

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。

聖經說從來沒有人見過神(出埃及記33:18-23;提摩太前書6:16)。給他們的應許是他們必得見神,這是何等令人驚訝的聲明!雖然有人曾見過主以不同的形態顯現:摩西在西乃山見到神的背影(出埃及記33章),以色列的長老與神一起吃喝,看到神以某種形態顯現(出埃及記24章)、以賽亞見過一次(以賽亞書6章)、約翰也曾見過基督顯現(啟示錄1章)。

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)

應用:一個人如何能得到一顆純淨清潔的心呢?當神給我們一顆「新心」的時候,它就開始轉化,當我們追隨基督,透過屬靈成長,它會繼續轉化。行在光明中,意指學習按神的話語而活,這會改變我們的心思意念,我們的心就會愈來愈純淨。但同時神話語的亮光會將人內心的污穢顯露出來,我們必須要處理和作出改變。

7. 「使人和睦的人有福了,因為他們必稱為 神的兒子7。」

意義:神是和平之君,祂整個拯救計劃是使那些以前和祂分隔的人與祂和平共處,最終給全地帶來和平(以賽亞書 9:6-7)。這是彌賽亞的工作目標。

不過人類當中充滿紛爭和衝突,和平與團結的希望極其渺茫。神帶來的和平並不是消除敵意、容忍或退讓;世上真正的和平需要性質上完完全全的改變,而只有神才能賜下這和平,這和平是世人所不明白的(約翰福音14:27)。它的起始點是與神和好,然後延伸至與人和好。

使人和睦的人是那些首先明白什麼是真正和平的人。他們努力建立的和平是一個擁抱從神而來的和平,因他們與神和好,以至人與人之間能和諧共處。換句話說,真正締造和睦的人傳揚神的國度,他們的生命是為了宣揚神的國、與仇敵和好、平息仇恨、使分隔的人重新聯繫、促進真正的瞭解和屬靈的愛。他們這樣做是因為他們知道什麼是真正的和平。因此,這裡所描述的品格不是純粹政治性追求和平,而是屬靈的和平。

給他們的應許是他們必稱為神的兒子。這意味著他們是神真正的兒子。在天國的生活除了擁有土地、仍然飢渴、看見神,而現在更有兒子的名分。當人們因信進入天國,這一切就開始了,當神的國最終臨到時,就會完全應驗。

在舊約,「神的兒子」是用來描述天使,而不是用於救恩。但在新約裡,兒子的名份是救恩大有能力的表達,它的意思是指信徒從聖靈而生,成為神家的成員,透過神的兒子耶穌基督同為後嗣,和父神有了個人關係。這並未完全落實,但卻是確實的、肯定的承諾,所以信徒可以說:「我們被稱為神的兒女」。(參約翰福音1:12,13和約翰壹書3:1)

應用:因此,耶穌的門徒應該促進和平。他們透過傳和平的福音給全世界,並促進屬靈的家和好。簡而言之,他們應該做的就如彌賽亞的工作。

8. 「為義受逼迫的人有福了,因為天國是屬於他們的。」

意義:在這墮落的世界,當人企圖推廣和平、擁護公義或過一個柔和謙卑的生活時,他們會被敵擋。或許有人想,這樣的生活能吸引人歸向主;但事實上,它不會自然地發生。這便告訴我們這世界不單與神隔絕,並且叛逆神。他們或許希望按自己的方式去尋求公義,他們寧可得到權力、尊榮和財富。就如施洗約翰呼召人悔改歸向義,他因而早死;耶穌傳揚正確的美德,因祂呼召人進入祂的國度,祂的信息卻被敵擋。如果連他們都遇到逼迫,世人豈不也會逼迫門徒呢?

這福並不是給那單純受逼迫的人。神是地上的公義審判官,祂也會處理這些。這福是給基督的追隨者,那因義而受逼迫的人;接著的那節經文,澄清了受逼迫的人,指的是那為基督的原故而受苦的門徒。憑著信,他們被確定與王同在,他們披戴祂的名,他們傳揚福音,傳揚那屬靈的、永恆的國度,一個公義的、和平的國度;然而他們會遇到阻攔。儘管如此,他們應該歡呼,他們在天國要得到大大的賞賜,神給他們的補償會更多。

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。

最後的兩節暗暗地宣告耶穌的神性。舊約的先知都因為他們忠於神而受逼迫。現在,耶穌說門徒因為他們忠於祂,也會受到迫害。祂是神。

Translated by: Jenny Pao 鮑婉玲譯


1如果你讀大量有關這經文的書,你會發現當中的觀點與詮釋可以有很大差異。持懷疑態度非常激進的觀點,我們不必花太多的時間在這裡討論,這可以等待更適合的時間才討論。但你應該知道一群混淆視聽的教師和作家,他們教導福音中沒有什麼是真實的,耶穌絲毫沒有做這些事情,並說只有極少部份是耶穌說的。對於他們來說,馬太並沒有寫馬太福音,這書是在較後的時期按教會教導而成的作品,其中大部分內容若非憑空捏造,便是修飾的產物,這觀點指不管你如何看待它,這幾章的經文是經過編輯。這並不是一個新的立場,只因現代有的媒體發達,就在現代出版。

一個還在幾個層次上有些問題但不太反感的看法,是登山寶訓是耶穌的教導,但不是從一篇講章而來;而是將耶穌在不同地方的講道搬到這裡結合成這講章。這觀點最少承認記載在馬太福音5-7章的經文是耶穌自己的教導。簡單來說,馬太將這些材料集合在這裡,從而組成了有關天國的一個主要講話。在理論上,如果能證明馬太確實曾經這樣做,可以接受這觀點的一部份,但要證明卻極為困難。

傳統的觀點是這信息是耶穌親自宣告的,只要平實地閱讀文本便能得到支持。這經文的開始說耶穌教訓他們說……接著的教導,主題也和天國相關,然後馬太說祂說完了。對於那些相信聖經歷史真實性的人,他們肯定馬太或別的聖經作者的著作,如果經文明言教導的地點或時間,那裡就是宣講信息的地方;若沒有著明,那材料就可能是編輯而成。若說耶穌在山上宣講這信息,這並不代表耶穌宣講時就是用這些字,馬太將耶穌的講章翻譯成希臘文,他極可能將部份內容濃縮,並用自己的措詞寫出來,又或許為部份內容加上一些澄清性的資料。若和路加福音或福音書中的其他教導相比較,這情況是會出現的。但我們也可以肯定耶穌很可能在加利利傳道時,很頻繁地宣講這些主題,所以他們的記憶會反映這些再三重複的主題。總括來說,要研讀耶穌的宣講和教導,是相當複雜和難以確定的。我們將在這系列的末端,當總結讀這卷書的各種問題時,再返回這話題(歷史評鑑)。現在,我會說我相信讀者應該有信心這些確實是耶穌的教導,當出現「耶穌說」,不論是一模一樣或是一個總結(如馬太福音4:17的處理),馬太記錄登山寶訓,是在聖靈的引導下寫成。故此,這幾章經文所寫的是真實的,也確實是耶穌宣講時的教導。

2 有大量關於登山寶訓的文獻,你可按你的時間開始閱讀,但必須留意不要過度簡化了登山寶訓的意義和性質。這篇文章只是簡略的詮釋。

3 「末世論」是關於末後的事,這部份教義會處理那將要來的事,例如基督的再來、審判和永恆狀態。它主要和彌賽亞的事情相關,那就是耶穌將要承就的所有事情。

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 Raquel

Related 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

  1. 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?
  2. O que Raquel poderia ter feito para controlar sua insatisfação e seu ciúme? O que Jacó poderia ter feito para ajudá-la?
  3. Quais coisas na sua vida você consideraria de maior valor?
  4. Termine a frase como teria feito antes de ler este capítulo: “Eu poderia ser feliz se ao menos…”
  5. 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?
  6. Quais características do seu cônjuge lhe dão mais satisfação? Quais o incomodam mais? Se sentir que certas coisas devem ser mudadas, o que fará?
  7. Você tem ciúmes de outra pessoa? Como Deus quer que você lide com esse sentimento?
  8. 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

Related Topics: Christian Home, Marriage

Righteousness Language In The Old Testament

Related 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.

If you would like to see the verses in various translations, you may go to Lumina.Bible.org and type in the references.

Justify Or Declare Righteous (tsadaq)

Human Judges

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)

Summary

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 Writings

Related 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).

If you would like to see the verses in various translations, you may go to Lumina.Bible.org and type in the references.

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)

Imparted Righteousness

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)

Summary

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.

Pages