ABC Extra – Righteous, Dude!

April 30, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


“Righteous!”  Whenever I see this word followed by an exclamation point, I cannot help but envision a teenage Californian with long hair, decked out in board shorts, surfboard in hand, just waiting to take on the next big wave.  And it’s not surprising that this is the portrait that comes to mind.  After all, the word “righteous” is not exactly an integral entry in our pop-culture lexicon.  And when the term is used, it describes nothing more than a big wave.  In fact, I found some of the synonyms assigned to the word “righteous” in the Urban Dictionary to be interesting:  “awesome,” “amazing,” “cool,” “exciting.”[1]  All of these can certainly apply to big waves.

Though the word “righteous” is not regularly used in a particularly thoughtful manner in our day and age, this word served as a foundation of theological thinking and speaking for the biblical writers.  For it was used to describe the very character of God: “The LORD is righteous; He has cut me free from the cords of the wicked” (Psalm 129:4).  It is interesting to note how the Psalmist connects the righteousness of God to the defeat of wickedness.  In the Bible, righteousness and wickedness are inimical.  Thus, righteousness is more than just something that is “awesome” or “cool,” it is, in a phrase, that which is wholly right while actively opposing that which is wrong.

In our text from this past weekend in worship and ABC, God expounds not only on His righteousness, but on how a person can connect to His righteousness.  God says through His prophet Habakkuk, “The righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).  “Righteousness,” God says, “is not attained by righteous living, but through faith in the God who is the very definition and embodiment of righteousness.”

Interestingly, this conception of righteousness – that it is attained through faith in God – is at odds with Habakkuk’s conception of righteousness.  When God tells Habakkuk that the Babylonians will soon sweep in to destroy Israel because of her unrighteousness, Habakkuk protests:  “Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves” (Habakkuk 1:13)?  Habakkuk carries with him a conception of righteousness that is grounded not in God, but in good works.  The more good things a person does, the more righteous he is.  Conversely, the more bad things a person does, the more wicked he is.  Habakkuk’s argument to God, then, is, “Israel may be wicked, but Babylon is wicked-er!  How can You use a nation less righteous than Israel to punish her for her unrighteousness?”

It is important to understand that Habakkuk’s objection to God and conception of righteousness is not entirely unfounded.  Righteousness can be and is defined in such a way to include the works the one does.  Indeed, the Lutheran Confessions even speak of a “righteousness of works”:  “The human will…can to a certain extent render civil righteousness or the righteousness of works; it can speak of God, offer to God a certain service by an outward work, obey magistrates, parents; in the choice of an outward work it can restrain the hands from murder, from adultery, from theft” (Ap XVIII:40).  This “righteousness of works,” however, as helpful as it might be to keep society in order and provide for its ongoing tranquility, counts for nothing in the sight of God.  Isaiah accurately estimates the value of this kind of righteousness before God when he writes, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

God’s primary concern is not how righteous we are in the world’s sight, but how righteous we are in His sight.  And righteousness in God’s sight can only be attained by faith in Christ.  As the Lutheran Confessions state: “The imputation of the righteousness of the Gospel is from the promise; therefore it is always received by faith, and it always must be regarded certain that by faith we are, for Christ’s sake, accounted righteous” (Ap IV:42-43).  Because we are accounted righteous “for Christ’s sake,” we cannot consider anyone better or worse, holier or wicked-er, in the sight of God.  For Christ’s righteousness is indiscriminately and freely applied to all who have faith.  And because Christ’s righteousness is whole and complete, everyone who receives His righteousness is also whole and complete.  There is no difference between those justified in Christ.  That is why, to obtain true righteousness, only one thing will do – faith!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] Definition 2 at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=righteous

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ABC Extra – Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People? God Does Not Speak To You In Prayer! Or Does He?

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