Christianity 201

September 15, 2012

How to “Earn” Righteousness

J. B. Phillips Romans 1:17  I see in it [the gospel] God’s plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says: ‘The just shall live by faith’.

NIV Romans 1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

NIV Romans 4:2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

In the course of your pilgrimage as a Christ-follower, you will meet up with other people along the path who will fall into two very distinct camps.

For the first group, everything is grace. They remind you that you don’t know and I don’t know who is in and who is out; and that God is at work with many people in different ways and they respond in different ways.  For them, the thief on the cross is held up as a prime example of the great gap that exists between faith and works.

The second group of people understand fully that good works do not equate with salvation; they know that it is only through placing their hope and trust in the effect of Christ’s saving work on the cross that they are welcomed into the family of God. However, in a post-conversion time frame, they find themselves occupied with the ‘busy-ness’ of doing things for the sake of the Kingdom.

I worry sometimes that the first group of people are taking it a bit too easy, and that the second group need to take some time off.  The first group, having experienced all of God’s grace, need to respond somehow, develop a thirst for learning and a heart for expressing the grace they’ve received by spreading it to others.

The second group needs to “choose the better part” (ref.) and realize that in their activity, they run the risk of forgetting the essence of the grace they’ve received and lapse into a works-based mentality. Some Christians use the word backsliding to suggest falling into sin, but you can backslide into a mentality that God is keeping a “What have done for Me lately?” scoreboard.

Gal 3:2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

MSG Gal 3: 2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

But again, the balance:

NIV James 2 : 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

I believe that the character of Christ will evidence itself in the life of the believer through an overflowing of the fruit of the Spirit and good works. But we need to find the place of balance between simply resting in the grace He provides, or falling back into performance based religion.  

~PW (C201 Post # 900)

4 Comments »

  1. I THINK ON ANY SUBJECT WE CAN REFER TO SCRIPTURE!

    Isaiah 32:17 (KJV)
    And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

    Proverbs 10:2 (KJV)
    Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.

    Psalm 119:142 (KJV)
    Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

    Proverbs 21:21 (KJV)
    He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

    Isaiah 5:23 (KJV)
    Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

    Galatians 5:5 (KJV)

    Comment by truthofgods — September 15, 2012 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

    • I think we’re all capable of using an online concordance to extract other verses containing the key word of the day. What we’re really looking for in the “comments” section is “comments.” I feel you’re missing the whole point of blog community, which is different people interacting with the material and sharing their own reflections on the scripture passage at hand. Also, for the record, when you’re online, capital letters are the equivalent of yelling at someone and future comments containing shouting will be deleted.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 15, 2012 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

      • Sir I would like to apologize if what I have said or done was offensive, I believe their might be a bit of misunderstanding or maybe just the lack of brotherly love, but in any case I believe that anyone that is discussing biblical matters should have scripture reference. Now if that is wrong I stand corrected, May God bless you and your family Sir.

        Comment by truthofgods — September 15, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

      • I’m a strong believer in connecting to related passages. When I’m in church and the pastor only refers to the initial text, I feel that something is missing. It all seems rather one-dimensional.

        And I’ve noticed you use multiple translations, which I also like. (Today was KJV, of which I’m not a huge fan…) But I know that if that was the substance of the comments that I leave on other blogs, the blog owners would not necessarily appreciate it.

        I think the key is your phrase, “discussing biblical matters.” By all means mention a related scripture, but “discussion” should be part of the comments you leave. How have you found this passage to be instructional in your life? Did you feel the article was balanced? Does doctrine “X” have a bearing on what we believe about doctrine “Y”? Have you read another Christian author who discusses this same subject? These are all things people like to engage.

        I don’t get easily offended; I’m just trying to encourage you as you write comments on blogs to go beyond copy-and-paste scripture verses.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — September 15, 2012 @ 7:55 pm


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