Treatise on Righteousness (Sabbath)

Treatise on Righteousness

“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. 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. (Isaiah 48:17-18)

You can only imagine . . .

Death RowImagine for a moment a situation in which you choose to take a place of an individual on a death row. Suppose your son or your daughter has committed a string of crimes that landed them in that unenviable position. (God forbid, of course, and may it never happen to you in real life!) Your child seems to have recognized his/her “mistakes” and feels sorry for all the trespasses he has done. Suppose also, that the supreme Law of the Land allows for a substitutionary execution by making a provision that if a loving and innocent person takes the place of a criminal, his innocence and good character will be “imputed” to the sinner and open the prison doors unto him.

So, the only way for your son/daughter to go free is for you to take their place and be executed in their stead. As a loving parent, therefore, you do the unthinkable, (or, perhaps, quite the natural), and adopt their destiny, thus allowing your offspring to enjoy a long life, lying promisingly ahead of them. Let us also imagine that upon taking their bunk on the death row, you come to hear the news about your child’s going back to their sinful ways, trampling upon the same laws that should have cost them their life in the first place! How would that make you feel? Would you be able to look bravely into the face of death at the executioner’s hands, knowing that your son/daughter has not learned their lesson but chose to use their God-given freedom and your “righteousness” to continue trampling on the Laws of the Land?

If this imaginary scenario sounds morally horrifying, the reality around us is starker still! Billions of people in this world claim to have been released from the spiritual death row by having the righteousness of the Jewish Messiah imputed (freely given) to them. Although they know full-well that it was the penalty for breaking God’s Holy Law, (thus rejecting the One Living God who gave it), that Israel’s Messiah came to pay, they freely trample upon that same Law, all the while claiming that Jesus Christ’s righteousness has been irrevocably imputed to them for life!

Trampling God's LawHere is a question: “Can the righteousness of Jesus save you if, instead of worshipping the God of the Bible, namely the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you worship a new-fangled creation of the Gentile Church, called the Trinity? Will the faith in Jesus save you if, instead of keeping God’s Holy Sabbath, as He emphatically commands, you observe the first day of the week, the pagan day of Sun worship and keep the heathen festivals of Christmas, Easter, etc in place of Biblical Feasts (See Lev. 23)?

Will God see you garbed in the righteousness of Jesus if, instead of differentiating between the clean and unclean, you consume the abomination of pork, shrimp and other forbidden foods? Do you have any imputed righteousness of Israel’s Messiah when by your presence, gifts, skills and talents you render support to the organization that presumes to have replaced the Chosen People of God and has persecuted them to death in the course of the past two millennia? How can anyone presume to have the righteousness of the Jewish Messiah, all the while trampling on the very same Law that put him on the Cross instead of them?!

Granted, our faith in God’s merciful provision of a sacrificial Lamb is a necessary starting point for our growth in the knowledge and works of our Awesome Creator. Faith in God acknowledges that he exists and, as His creatures, we are ultimately accountable to Him for every thought, word and action we enjoy in this life. However, the fact of acknowledging God’s existence alone would never qualify us for salvation!

Thus, the Bible declares: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19) – Unfortunately the spiritual walk of billions of Christians today stretches no further that the faith of demons! In other words, faith without faithfulness to God and His commandments is a situation in which we acknowledge God’s existence and yet live our lives to deny Him! How scary is that!

The scary spiritual predicament described above is due, in large measure, to the overwhelming ignorance and deliberate theological misinformation among the various members of Christendom. The topic of our righteousness in the sight of the Creator is a very important one and has been muddled up for ages by the “diligent” Christian theologians in their rush to create their own version of religion, known today as the Church. In order for us to stand on the solid salvific ground of the Bible, we are to uncover a genuine biblical definition to the notion of “righteousness” itself! This will be the major task of our today’s reflection paper. Shall we get started?

Once saved – always saved!

EvangelicalsOne of the central teachings within the Evangelical Christian camp is: “Once saved – always saved!” I have spent quite a few years of my own spiritual life as part of both Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches. According to their beliefs, our eternal salvation is granted unto us the moment we repent of our sins, and accept Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Savior. One of the well-known passages substantiating this belief is in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Romans: “ . . . that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom. 10:8-10)

At one time I heard a pastor of a sizable Charismatic Church instruct his parishioners by saying: “Do not forget that whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, - you are still righteous! Since you prayed that “sinner’s prayer,” you have received the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Whenever God looks at you now, He sees only Jesus and His righteousness!” On a different occasion, during an annual Revival Conference at our Charismatic Church, I listened, alongside thousands of other eager seekers for truth, to the message that “Regardless of how we (Christians) live our lives in this world, as long as we are in Christ and do not forget to ask for forgiveness, Life Everlasting is ours for the taking!”

That “preacher of unrighteousness” went on to explain that even when we commit a deliberate act of sin, our “imputed righteousness” remains intact. Therefore, as long as we intend to ask for forgiveness after the fact, our standing with God remains unimpeachable! I understand that this view does not represent the majority of God-fearing and sincere Christians in the world today, who do their level-best to live lives worthy of their “high calling in Christ.” The gross falsehoods of Christianity, though, stem from a distorted understanding of many crucial concepts within the Bible. The concept of “righteousness” is one of them. It behooves us, therefore, to inquire in the Scriptures as to its proper meaning!

First things first . . .

Scales of JusticeBefore we turn the scriptural spotlight onto the question of righteousness and give it a thorough treatment both from biblical and Christian perspective, we have to expose a serious misconception that has come to be taken for Gospel truth by the vast masses within Christendom. It is widely assumed that the Jewish concept of righteousness revolves around their own strict observance of God’s commandments and, therefore, entirely work-based and devoid of Christian understanding of grace and faith. Nothing can be further from the truth.

In fact the very idea that our righteousness has the Living God of Jacob for its source is a thoroughly Jewish idea found in the Hebrew Scriptures: “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which she will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’” (Jer. 33:16) – The personal pronoun “she” in this text refers to Jerusalem or Judah, of course. Interestingly enough, though, almost every Christian translation puts either “he” or, at best, “it” instead of the proper Hebrew “she.” Although I may understand some people's desperation to make every text sound applicable to the person of Jesus Christ, one should be truthful when handling the Word of truth, should not one?

On another occasion, the Holy One of Israel addresses the people of Israel in general and the dwellers of Jerusalem in particular: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD.” (Is. 54:17)

Also, in the course of our presentation, we will expose as fraudulent and baseless a popular and universally accepted Christian idea of faith without faithfulness. It stands to reason that since our righteousness has the Holy One of Jacob as its only true source, there can be no righteousness without our faithfulness to the One Who is its fountainhead! What do you think?

According to St. Paul . . .

St. PaulSo, what is righteousness according to Christianity as we know it? In harmony with what the Christendom espouses in its Churches, the righteousness means “the right standing in the sight of God.” It also implies the state of being forgiven and free from guilt before the Judge of all the Earth. The fountainhead for the Christian understanding of righteousness is derived from the teachings of the Apostle Paul, such as this one, for example: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Rom. 4:4-8)

In this particular passage, Brother Paul boldly equates the state of being forgiven by God with our righteousness in His sight. Although being forgiven by the LORD is definitely part of being righteous, the biblical concept of righteousness is a much broader phenomenon altogether. Psalm 32, from which Paul lifts up his quote, is King David’s observation concerning his own guilt with Bathsheba and his treatment of her husband Uriah. He laments that he waited too long to confess his guilt to God. He also abhors his own deceitfulness: “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)

David then proceeds to tell us that he finally acknowledged his transgressions, confessed them to God and was forgiven by Him: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (v.5) – Please, notice that the text does not say that the LORD credited David’s actions to his righteousness. All God “credited” to David at that point was forgiveness. In addition to the negative aspect of being forgiven, the Scriptural idea of righteousness includes the positive aspect of ethical conduct or “right doing.”

Furthermore, the Church teaches that through our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been set free from all the former violations of God’s Law, as well as from any future obligations to its requirements! As much as I am in favor with the former, I simply cannot understand the latter of these statements! It smacks of the Catholic invention of Indulgencies! You may recall the Papal sale of Indulgencies during Crusades and other instances of “emergencies” within the Church’s domains, when the forgiveness for all sins, both past, present and even future, was promised in exchange for money or services to the Church!

The Apostle Paul is cited again as a proof: “. . . a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:17) – This passage is among the clearest examples of St. Paul’s view on righteousness and salvation. Although he claims to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, he definitely takes the teachings of his Master to a whole new level, the level of unbridled spiritualizing!
Unfortunately, our brother Paul, (or, perhaps some later translators of the text), quotes this text from the Greek Septuagint and misses the original Hebrew meaning of the verse completely! (We have dealt with this passage in our powerful presentation “Dead Faith versus Living Faithfulness”).

HabakkukThe Prophet Habakkuk, whom the learned Apostle references here, states that “the righteous shall live by his faithfulness.” (Hab. 2:4) – Just compare this text to its “unfaithful” rendition in the New Testament and you will be astonished at the mid-boggling differences between them!

There are two absolutely crucial correlations revealed in this passage. First, our righteousness in the eyes of the Almighty is closely equated with our faithfulness to Him! Second, the text is unambiguous that the LORD views as righteous only those who live by their faithful obedience to Him! The text does not say that the “just shall live by faith,” but that “the just shall live by his faithfulness.” These two aspects of the passage alone would suffice to expose the baseless structure of Christian theology! The concrete notion of faithfulness differs from the nebulous idea of faith in that it is exemplified in our conscientious keeping of God’s Commandments! Faith without faithfulness, therefore, is an empty shell and may cost many “good” Christians their share in the World to come!

The Apostle Paul seems to have been first among Jesus’ followers to conceptualize and later articulate a sharp distinction between the righteousness that comes from obeying God and the one that stems “miraculously” from some free-floating assent of faith. Without any biblical warrant for that whatsoever, the chief contributor to the Canon of the New Testament pitted the righteousness that comes from obeying the LORD against the notion of righteousness of his own formulation! The age of Gentile Christianity, as we know it, was born!

Pseudonymous Writings

Scribe at work 1What is even more intriguing is that there are reasons to believe that much of theological distortions and bold innovations, found on the pages of the New Testament and attributed to the pen of St. Paul were, in fact, the work of Christian Church fathers who lived long after Paul was martyred. There are quite a few books within the New Testament that have long been considered to be pseudonymous, - written by someone other than their alleged author. Thus, the entire letter of Second Corinthians, for example, along with a few other “Pauline” epistles, is believed to have been composed by someone else! The Second Letter to the Corinthians goes so far as to call the Torah’s influence “the ministry that brought death”!

If you are anything like me and prefer to believe that the Apostle Paul composed all the thirteen books traditionally ascribed to his hand, you are duty bound to investigate all the glaring contradictions found within those documents. The only other inference that we could make is that many of those disturbing passages were inserted into the Greek text by later editors and Church dogmatists, who had the glories of the Church for their unyielding agenda!

Take a look at the following interesting passage: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness. . .” (II Cor. 3:7-9) – You can clearly see that according to this theologian’s views, the entire Hebrew Scriptures, including the Torah of God and His Ten Commandments, produced only “condemnation,” whereas the author’s “glorious teachings” bring about a universal righteousness! What is God’s opinion on this matter?! Let us find it out!

God Proclaims: . . .

Mount Sinai on fireThe words of the Almighty, with regard to His unchanging Torah, stand in a stark opposition to what the “Apostle Paul” seems to be propounding: “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God . . . You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 18:1-2,4-5) – The Hebrew text can be actually understood as saying: “. . . in them is life of man,” – referring to the decrees and laws of the Gracious One.

Furthermore, the Bible says: “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deut. 32:47) – How did the words of God, given to Israel to produce life, blessedness and light for the Gentiles, managed to turn completely sour and become “the ministry of death and condemnation” by the time we reached the age of the Church? Is there a serious discrepancy in the two approaches or just some age-old agenda to subvert the Jewish “monopoly” on the holy and royal priesthood in this world?

Lamenting Israel’s stubborn propensity toward polytheism of the Gentiles, the LORD speaks through His prophet Ezekiel: “I am the LORD your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” “‘But the children rebelled against me: They did not follow my decrees, they were not careful to keep my laws—although the man who obeys them will live by them—and they desecrated my Sabbaths.” (Ez. 20:19-21) – Once again you can see that the ideas of good life and keeping of God’s commandments go hand in hand in this passage! How ironic, sad and, indeed, preposterous that the Gentile Church, which emphatically denies the validity of God’s Sabbaths and eternality of His Law considers herself to be God’s instrument for salvation in the world!

Moses Affirms: . . .

Moses The Word of God testifies that “there arose no greater prophet among God’s people than Moses, whom God knew face-to-face.” (Deut. 34:10) Unless we want to believe that the Apostle Paul was a greater prophet and theologian than Moses, we would do well to listen to what God’s greatest leader has to say concerning the Torah of the Almighty. In either case, there should be no contradiction between the oracles of two genuine spokesmen for God!

Here is a passage, in which Moses refers to the LORD’s Torah as both life and a blessing to those who obey it: “. . . if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . .” –

“ . . . Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach . . . No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. . .” -

“. . . This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life. . .” (Deut. 30:10,11-16,19) – We encourage you to read this stunning-in–its-beauty-and-power passage in its entirety. Having delivered the Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s instructions to the People of Israel, Moses summarizes his speech by referring to God’s Torah in terms of life and blessedness. Disobedience to God’s Eternal law is called in the same passage as “death and curse.” What is your choice today? The Church seems to have made her choice a long time ago!

You may also want to peruse meditatively Psalm 119, - it is truly packed with praises for God’s Law (Torah): Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; . . . Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.” (Ps. 119:1-3;91-93)

Messiah Says: . . .

Jesus portraitLogically enough, the Messiah of Israel endorsed the keeping of God’s Law as well: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. “ (Matt. 5:17-18) – Since the same heavens that were spread above Jesus’ head and the same earth that he walked on are still here with us, we can safely assume that the Law of God continues to stand unchanged! Why then, instead of striving to accomplish everything that is written in the Law of Moses, our Christian friends expand so much energy trying to prove that the Law was abrogated at the Cross?

It is also funny how my dear Seventh-day Adventists friends utilize this passage in their passionate appeals to the rest of Christendom to keep the Seventh-day Sabbath! Although I heartily commend the Adventist Church for keeping the proper day of the week as holy, I cannot understand why they trample on the Holy Feasts of Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16! They apply the same perverted logic of denial to the annual feasts of Passover, Shavuot, Tabernacles and others as the rest of the Church does to the Sabbath! Christianity is truly a marvel of contradictions and textual manipulations!

Now that we have dealt at some length with the questions pertaining to God’s Torah, we are ready to discover what the Word of God teaches us concerning the idea of righteousness. As we have stated earlier, according to the Christian definition of this concept, our righteousness is a somewhat nebulous idea that conveys our “right standing before God.” It is attained only through our faith in Jesus Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb of God, whose perfect righteousness is now “imputed” to everyone that believes in him, irrespective of one actions and conduct.

Christendom is emphatic that the faith in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice has replaced our obedience to God’s Law and obviated the need for keeping any of His Commandments. This way the faith of the Church is devoid of faithfulness and her righteousness is bereft of obedience. We shall see shortly that the biblical idea of godly righteousness is tantamount to our faithfulness to God and His Law, entailing positive action in obedience to His commands!

Isaiah 64

Book of IsaiahThe Church’s views on righteousness are informed by a few misinterpreted verses. One of the most famous of them comes from Isaiah: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Is. 64:6) – This verse is cited as a proof that apart from our faith in Jesus Christ, no one can claim to be righteous in God’s sight. I fully agree that the true righteousness comes from our God and that apart from the LORD we can do no truly righteous thing! However, using this and other passages to justify our trampling on the Law of HaShem is beyond absurd, indeed!

Besides, taking into account the context of the passage we are enabled to see a different light: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. . .” (Is. 64:4-5) – Did you catch the fact that God expects us to “do righteousness”? Even in this passage we begin to see that the biblical idea of righteousness is not a nebulous notion of our assent to the idea that somebody has paid the penalty for the broken Law for me. Righteousness is the right living with God that presupposes obedience to His will and commands.

Viewed in its proper context, Isaiah’s complaint about his people’s “righteousnesses” being “like filthy rags” means that since they have abandoned the One God of Israel and disregarded His Holy Law, uncleanness and disaster filled their land and their lives: “ . . . You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. . .” (Is. 64:5-6)

In behalf of his people Israel, Isaiah confesses that they have sinned against the ways (commandments) of the LORD their God. That’s why all their subsequent “righteousnesses” became “like filthy rags.” What can be said about the collective “righteousness” of our Christian friends, who not only worship gods other than the Holy One of Jacob, (the “divine” trio of the Catholic invention, for example), but also willfully break pretty much every single commandment in the Torah?!

Romans 3:9-18

Book of RomansAnother “powerful” but twisted witness to our total depravity, as espoused by much of Christian theology, is found amidst verses penned by the Apostle Paul: “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one . . .” (Rom. 3:9-10) – As always, a New Testament author adduces a text from the Hebrew Scriptures to substantiate his own theological assumptions. What seems to be a recurring problem with this practice, especially in many Pauline writings, is that quotes are not cited faithfully. A good Study Bible will tell you in its footnotes to this passage that “Paul is paraphrasing the text of Ecclesiastes 7:20.” Let us take a look at that text!

Here is what the text of the Hebrew Bible states here: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20) – There is not a slightest notion in this passage about our total depravity and inability to “do godly righteousness” as we walk with the LORD. There is a simple statement of fact that even the most righteous and good among us make mistakes and sin once in a while! In his eagerness to replace the proper righteousness of obedience with a new “mystical” take on things, the author of the Epistle to Romans, (most likely Paul), “adjusts” the flow of biblical passages as it seems best to him! Is that an honest approach to the sacred text?!

Paul’s argument gets infinitely more intriguing as we examine the rest of his quotation in Romans 3:9-18! Hang onto your seats, beloved! In trying to prop up his doctrine of faith without faithfulness, our dear brother Paul brings on a bewildering amalgam of biblical texts, ripped out of their contexts and jumbled up together to produce what we see in Romans 3! In fact, he culls pieces of scriptural text from 6 different passages! (See Ps. 5:9; 10:7; 14:2-3; 36:1; 140:3; Is. 59:7-8)

Here is the 700-pound skeleton in this particular theological closet: all the cited references from the Word of God, - the Hebrew Scriptures, refer unanimously to the enemies of God’s People Israel! On their negative side, they all condemn those who disregard God’s Law and worship idols! On their positive side, they uphold the righteousness that comes from obedience to God’s holy commandments!

When appearing in their original setting, these quotations refute the Apostle’s reasoning and overturn his entire argumentation! Paul appears to be too eager to condemn everybody with the same sentence. His indictment rings true when applied to the Gentile idolaters and breakers of God’s Law. His diatribe ceases to make any sense when applied to the faithful remnant within Israel!

The Witness of Abraham

Abraham and IsaacThe Apostle Paul continues to develop his thesis on righteousness by faith by bringing in another powerful witness from the Sacred Tradition, namely Abraham. But first, he stuns us with a seeming contradiction in his argument: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. . . Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Rom. 3:21-22,31) – Perhaps the apostle means to say that having come to believe in God, we embrace His Law and start walking in His Commandments as well! In this case, his understanding of righteousness squares nicely with what the rest of Hebrew Scriptures proclaim! I would gladly endorse such a view!

So, what does Abraham have to teach us concerning righteousness? “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:1-3) – Once again, Brother Paul is doing his utmost to persuade the Gentile converts to his version of Christianity that both Law and our obedience to God’s commandments are no longer necessary for the citizens of God’s Kingdom!

It is absolutely true that Abraham’s righteousness stemmed from his unswerving trust in One God. His righteousness is truly biblical in nature; - it is composed of two necessary elements: the faith in God and our obedience in carrying out His Commands! By faith, Abraham chose to stand up against the prevailing idolatry and polytheism of the world around him! Through his faithful obedience to God’s commands, he became truly righteous!

The Bible declares: “And the LORD said, “ . . . Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation . . . For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Gen. 18:17-19, NKJV) – You can see that Abraham and his household were “chosen” to “keep the way of the LORD (His Commandments), to do righteousness and justice.” The NKJV translation of this passage stays very close to what the Hebrew states in the original, namely that righteousness is something to be done! It requires action on our part!

On another occasion, Abraham’s righteousness is displayed for all to see: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son . . . In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:16,18) – Did you catch why Abraham was chosen and considered to be righteous by the Sovereign of the Universe? It was “because he has obeyed God’s voice!”

Another apostle of Jesus Christ employs Abraham’s faithfulness to YHWH to exemplify connection between our faith and righteous actions. His argument lays to rest the cherished idea of Christendom that faith without faithfulness to God’s Law suffices to save the one who professes it: You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:20-24) – Unless we assume that James’s writings flat-out contradict Paul’s assertions, we must conclude that both of them speak of our faith in conjunction with our faithful carrying out of the LORD’s Commandments!

That was the core of Abraham’s righteousness, according to the Bible! His righteousness consisted of both (1) his faith in God as the catalyst behind every action that he made; and (2) his faithful obedience to the LORD’s commands! Take away either of these two components of the biblical righteousness and you are left with nothing! But that is the state of Christian Union today, unfortunately!

Biblical Definition . . .

Scribe at work 2Simply put, therefore, righteousness is “doing right by God.” Although faith in the Almighty is a necessary prerequisite for our actions, (for how can one obey someone whom he does not even know?), the core of righteousness is made up of our faithful obedience to God’s life-giving commandments!

During her long, arduous and mostly unsuccessful odyssey to replace the Chosen People of Israel, the Church has invented an unpleasant label for anyone who would even try to suggest that keeping of God’s Commandments is still a requirement for the citizenship among the People of God. That label says “Legalist.” A popular slogan chanted to counteract the “legalists” in the ranks of Christianity is that there are only two commandments that matter in our dispensation of grace!

It is true that the entirety of God’s Law and Prophets can be summed up with “Love your God and love your neighbor.” Our love for both entities, however, is expressed through our conduct toward them! I am sure you would agree with me that we cannot profess any amount of love for our neighbor all the while stealing his goods, defaming his name with libels, killing his relatives or fornicating with his wife! (See the Ten Commandments). By the same token our profession of love for God is given the lie when we erect a theological idol of Trinity in place of One God of Israel, trample on His Word by replacing His Sabbath and Festivals with our own day of worship and pagan feast days, disregard his laws of clean versus unclean and do a host of other pretty arrogant things!

In Conclusion:

At this point of our discussion we will adduce the witness of a few representative texts on righteousness from the Hebrew Bible. As we have seen earlier, our father Abraham was chosen by God to “do righteousness and justice.” Therefore, we will omit that passage from the list of our current witnesses. The Hebrew word for righteousness is pronounced “tzedakah,” and, as we have discovered in the course of this article, denotes both the absence of guilt in the sight of the LORD and the ethical conduct in obeying His Commandments.

# 1) Our first testator is the text in Genesis, describing Jacob’s dealings with his unscrupulous uncle Laban. As you may recall, they struck a bargain that every speckled, spotted and striped among the flock would go to Jacob, with the rest of the sheep and goats belonging to his uncle by right. Jacob pledges: “Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.” (Gen. 30:32-33) – Clearly, in the context of this passage, Jacob’s righteousness is understood to mean his faithful and honest dealings with his uncle Laban, or, simply put, Jacob’s actions.

Hebrew Bible# 2) Our next witness sweeps the Law-intolerant and Commandment-despising attitudes of Christianity aside with a single fell swoop: “And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.’” (Deut. 6:24-25) – Amazingly, the Bible teaches that the righteousness of God’s people come from obeying and carrying out His Commandments!

The roots of our righteousness are grounded in our faith in God; the rest of its “tree,” however, is composed of our faithful obedience to His voice! The righteousness of Christendom therefore is like a withered tree or like a dead stump that has no trunk, branches, leaves, flowers or fruits! St. James testifies to this in his own words: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? . . . Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17) – Are you part of an organization that espouses dead faith? Run from it! “Come out of her my people,” says the LORD in Rev. 18:4.

# 3) Quite often the concept of righteousness in the Word of God is paired with those of justice and faithfulness. It is because all three of them have natural connotation of the right action and ethical behavior! (a) King David proclaims: “May the LORD repay every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness . . .” (I Sam. 26:23) (b) Queen of Sheba says concerning Solomon: “Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (I Kings 10:9) (c) Job exclaims: “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe and a turban.” (Job 29:14), etc.

# 4) Over and over again, the Bible exhorts God’s people to do or work righteousness: (a) Wisdom declares: To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3) (b) Isaiah urges: “Thus says the LORD: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” (Is. 56:1-2)

Obviously, keeping God’s seventh-day Sabbath is put by the LORD in the same category as doing justice and righteousness. How much righteousness does the Trinity-worshipping, Sunday observing, pork-consuming, Christmas-celebrating, falsehood-believing Christianity posses? (c) Psalmist recites: “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. . .” (Ps. 15:1-2) (d) Even the Book of Acts corroborates the same notion: “34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

#5) One of the most powerful witnesses from within the corpus of the Hebrew Scriptures ties our righteousness in the sight of the Almighty directly to our keeping of His Commandments: “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. 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.” (Isaiah 48:17-18) – How would you like to have your righteousness compared to the waves of the vast sea?

The list of witnesses can be multiplied tenfold. The point that we are trying to make, however, is crystal clear: the concept of righteousness defined by the Word of God differs markedly from the one espoused and promulgated by the Church. The biblical idea of righteousness has our faith in God for its starting point. Without a joyful obedience to the LORD’s Commandments, however, both our faith and the righteousness that proceeds from it are dead and void!

Essence of RighteousnessLet us summarize what we have covered in our today’s reflection in a few succinct points:

1. The spiritual attitude of Christendom is akin to a murderer, who, having been forgiven and released from the death row, engages in the same activities that landed him there in the first place;

2. According to Christianity, our righteousness is given to us in perpetuity in exchange for our assent to believe in Jesus. We are declared to have been set free from the penalty for our sins in the past. We are also proclaimed to be exempt from any punishment for the willful breaking of God’s Law in the future! How convenient! This theology, by the way, is called Indulgencies!

3. In his famous Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 1:17), the Apostle Paul misquotes the text of Habakkuk 2:4. According to the Bible, the righteous of God are to live by their faithfulness to Him and not by some nebulous, ill-defined idea of generic faith!

4. The Apostle Paul appears to have been among the first followers of the new religion that attempted to demonize God’s Eternal Torah. Disregarding Jesus’ own teachings concerning God’s Law and Commandments, and in a clear contradistinction to the Bible itself, Paul was the first to give a theological articulation to the Torah’s obsolescence, calling it the “ministry that brought death.”

5. Studied without prejudice and in its entirety, the Law of the LORD (The Torah) is revealed as a life-giving source of wisdom and righteousness!

6. In Romans 3:9-18, the Apostle Paul concocts a bewildering cocktail of biblical passages in order to support his argument for the total depravity of all the living, both the Jews, who keep God’s Commandments, and the Gentiles who trample on His Law! His compilation, however, testifies against his own theology! All the texts are ripped out of their proper contexts and, in fact, condemn only the wicked and the breakers of God’s Law!

7. Abraham was declared righteous by the LORD Himself precisely because he obeyed God and followed in His ways, instead of living in the prevailing mode among the idolaters of the day! Abraham’s faith in One God was but a prerequisite to his faithfulness to HaShem!

8. The biblical definition of righteousness is: “doing right by God.” Although faith serves as a starting point for our righteousness before God, our faithful obedience to His Commandments constitutes its true body!

9. The following truth cannot be stressed strongly enough: all of our righteousness, from first to last, comes directly from the LORD God of Israel! The saving faith and ability to walk in obedience to HaShem are his gifts bestowed on His children!

We have not even mentioned circumcision! It seems to be an insurmountable impediment for many male Gentiles in their strivings toward citizenship among God’s people Israel. Other potential candidates for the royal priesthood and holy nationhood are deterred by their fear of and fleshly resistance toward keeping of God’s holy commandments! Where do you belong today?

Eagle Wings
Thank you for reflecting with us on these momentous issues! May the Holy One of Jacob bless you and keep you! Happy Sabbath! Shalom!