God's righteousness is one of the most discussed attributes throughout Scripture (especially the Old Testament) and is witnessed in carnate in the New Testament through Jesus. However, studying His righteousness alone as a counterpart attribute has proven to be a tedious task since the attributes of holiness and justice are interwoven into God's righteousness. Below we'll analyze key components of God's righteousness, how He reveals His righteousness throughout Scripture, and discuss theological and judicial definitions righteousness and justice.
Theological and Judicial Definitions of Righteousness
The theological definition of righteousness intermingles with ethics and judicial linguistic verbiage. Generally, it is ''the quality, state, and characteristic of being in the right" (Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016). The Hebrew and Greek usage for righteousness is similar.
Hebrew: tsedaqah or tsaddiq. Greek: dikaios, etc. In English, "righteousness" denotes a quality of justness or cognitive ethical choosing of objective morality. Biblically, righteousness "possesses ethical, forensic, salvific, and socioreligious connotations, depending on the context" (Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016). Therefore, adequately studying God's righteousness has to be accomplished on multiple planes.
In the Hebrew Bible, the words tsdq, tsedaqah, and tsdyq are translated as "righteous," or "just." It's been debated within Biblical scholar circles whether this translation is regarding adhering to a norm or establishing a moral relationship. For example, analyze Jeremiah 4:1-2:
“If you will return, O Israel,” says the Lord,
“Return to Me; And if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, Then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, ‘The Lord lives,’ In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him, And in Him they shall glory" (Jeremiah 4:1-2, NKJV).
Within this context, righteousness is established as performing justice and having a vow of truth. God is outside of human norms or thoughts of justice and has an objectively moral nature.
"It is probably better not to play off normatively and relational notions of righteousness against each other. This is because while it is a linguistic mistake to try to attribute to tsdq any single Grundbegriff (i.e., overarching concept), it would appear that tsdq is associated with a web of concepts related to normatively and legitimacy, yet it is social and covenantal relationships that provide the norm itself" (Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016).
Consequently, God's righteousness is an expression of His divine holiness and purity and this attribute is displayed in His treatment of creation and His opposition to sin. "Righteous" is a name and term used to describe God acting within a perfectly moral objectivity that exists within Himself.
Scriptural Revealing of God's Righteousness Through His Will and Word
God reveals His character and nature through the nation of Israel and by His commandments.
When dealing with humanity, God acts on the knowledge that He has revealed to mankind through the conscious or through His Word. The Old Testament details how God would send a prophet to a city or certain key people to detail future events to allow time for repentance. God never acts outside of His Will nor reveals His characteristics to humanity outside of their needs. We are fully equipped to live the Christian life with what God has revealed to us in the completed cannon of Scripture and through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. There are no new prophets.
Ways God Reveals His Righteousness and What Makes Him a Righteous Redeemer in the Old Testament
By fulfilling promises (Read Nehemiah 9:7-8 for a specific passage)
The Old Testament reveals God's righteousness through His interaction with humanity through external means. This testament also shows how the law reveals our guilt before Him. Without studying and understanding this, we cannot understand the New Testament or our need for a Savior.
Ways God Reveals His Righteousness in the New Testament
Contrary to popular belief among the secular audience and a growing Christian audience, the God of the Old Testament did not change in the New Testament. Rather, the emphasis of sanctification and eternal atonement was underscored and further detailed, no longer foreshadowed with the arrival of Christ on Earth. Indwelling righteousness would be made available to all who believe through sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Different attributes of God were highlighted in the new covenant. God was and still is a God of perfect wrath and love. Not one without the other. He must hate what is evil to be thoroughly perfect, righteous, and holy. To redeem our souls, He had to hate sin enough to crush it yet be loving enough to die in our place and cancel sins power.
The New Testament details how Jesus confronted the external strive for righteousness and condemned it. When we try to bear fruit of our own accord, our fallen nature is revealed and these fruits ultimately die and rot because of our imperfection. We of ourselves have nothing to abide in, nothing to give new life. Therefore, we are perishable and fit for hell without being redeemed by Christ and our souls washed in His blood of atonement.
Ways God reveals His righteousness in the New Testament:
Chastisement of the Scribes and Pharisees (Read Matthew 5:20)
Appealing to objective ethical and moral standards outside of mankind (Read Luke 16:15)
Fulfilling all righteousness (Read Matthew 3:15)
Divine election (Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
God's righteousness is eternal, intermingled with every perfect attribute that only He can balance. Mankind is incapable of bearing any righteousness or fruit aside from Christ. Our fallen nature multiplies sin and highlights our need for a savior. None have been found righteous among us and only Christ's atonement on the cross can save and spare us from our eternal punishment of hell.
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