Righteous, Righteousness, Justify, Make Righteous in the New Testament, Part 1
A STUDY ON THE MEANING OF THE THREE GREEK WORDS THAT ARE MOST OFTEN TRANSLATED “RIGHTEOUS,” “RIGHTEOUSNESS,” AND “JUSTIFY” IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. February, 2018. Karl Kemp
All quotations were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless otherwise noted. Sometimes I make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. I am using straight quotation marks (“), hyphens (-) instead of dashes, no footnotes, and a few other things like this because some of the internet sites where I post these articles require it. Cf., e.g., means “compare, for example.”
1. SOME INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS AND EXCERPTS…… page 2
A SUMMARIZING STATEMENT…… 3
2. A RATHER BRIEF SELECTION OF QUOTATIONS FROM CHRISTIAN COMMENTATORS THAT DEAL WITH THE MEANING OF “RIGHTEOUS,” “RIGHTEOUSNESS,” AND “JUSTIFY” IN KEY NEW-COVENANT-SALVATION CONTEXTS TO ILLUSTRATE THE WIDESPREAD PROBLEM (SERIOUS ERROR FROM MY POINT OF VIEW)…… 14
3. A STUDY THAT LISTS ALL OF THE USES OF DIKAIOS, DIKAIOSUNE, AND DIKAIOO IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, THAT QUOTES MANY OF THESE VERSES, AND THAT DISCUSSES THE MEANING OF THE VERSES THAT ARE DIRECTLY RELEVANT TO THE TOPIC OF THIS PAPER, AND SOME OTHER VERSES TOO…… 21
4. I’LL START WITH THE GREEK ADJECTIVE DIKAIOS…… 24
5. THE GREEK NOUN DIKAIOSUNE…… 28
6. LASTLY, WE WILL DISCUSS THE GREEK VERB DIKAIOO, WHICH IS CLOSELY RELATED TO THE TWO WORDS WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING…… 57
7. BRIEF CONCLUSION FOR THIS PAPER…… 79
1. SOME INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS AND EXCERPTS. Dikaios, a Greek adjective, is most often translated “righteous”; dikaiosune, a Greek noun, is most often translated “righteousness”; and dikaioo, a Greek verb, is most often translated “justify” in some form. This paper was originally going to be part of my paper on Isaiah chapter 53 (Isa. 52:13-53:12), which is a super-important passage that deals with the all-important atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, and the resultant very full new-covenant salvation, but as the scope and size of this present paper kept growing it seemed better to make this study a separate paper. It would be better to read my paper on Isaiah chapter 53 before reading this paper, but this present paper can stand by itself. For one thing, in the paper on Isaiah chapter 53 I did a serious study of four Hebrew words that are comparable in meaning with the three Greek words we are studying in this present paper. All four Hebrew words have the same three-consonant root (ts d q, where ts represents one consonant in Hebrew), even as the three Greek words we are studying in this present paper have the same root (dikai).
One primary thing that I am doing in this study is looking for all the places in the New Testament where these three Greek words are used with the greatly limited meaning that we are forgiven and declared righteous in a strictly legal, positional righteousness sense (or that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us in a strictly legal, positional righteousness sense) that has nothing to do with our being transformed and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God through new-covenant salvation. I am listing all 210 uses of these three Greek words in the New Testament in this paper, quoting many of the verses, and discussing all of the verses that are directly relevant to the topic of this paper, and some other verses too. I repeat several key points in this paper. These things are super-important, and I want the reader to be solidly confronted with these key points.
Large numbers of Christians (I’m especially interested in evangelicals) believe that to be “righteous,” have “righteousness,” or be “justified” (or other translations of these Greek words) are often used in relevant new-covenant-salvation contexts with the greatly limited meaning that I mentioned in the last paragraph. MY PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR THIS STUDY IS (to try) TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THIS GREATLY LIMITED MEANING, THOUGH VERY WIDELY ACCEPTED BY LARGE NUMBERS OF CHRISTIANS SINCE THE REFORMATION, IS AN ERROR THAT SERIOUSLY DISTORTS THE GOSPEL. I CONSIDER THIS PAPER TO BE OF FOUNDATIONAL IMPORTANCE!
This is a serious study. I am not trying to win an argument. I am trying to be honest before God and my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to know the truth before God and to teach the truth. (I understand that I have to answer to God for what I teach, and I understand that any errors I teach will hurt the Body of Christ.) Based on quite a bit of study that I have done in the past, I started this present study with the firm conviction that the greatly limited meaning fits OK in Romans chapter 4 and in a far lesser sense in Gal. 3:6, which quotes from Gen. 15:6 as does Rom. 4:3, but hardly anywhere else, if anywhere else, in the New Testament. As we will discuss in this paper, Romans chapter 4 is a very special chapter because of what the apostle Paul was doing in that chapter. Many have seen how Paul used these words in Romans chapter 4 and assumed that same meaning will apply in many other verses. I believe that turns out to be a very bad assumption that seriously distorts God’s intended meaning in many super-important verses that speak of new-covenant salvation in Christ.
I am especially interested in how these three Greek words are used in new-covenant-salvation contexts in the New Testament in this paper. But it is also quite relevant to the topic of this paper how these words are used in non-new-covenant-salvation contexts: I am looking for any verses where these three words are used of people being called righteous, having righteousness, being justified, etc. because they have been forgiven that has nothing to do with how they live, what they do, their works, etc. in contexts that don’t deal with people becoming Christians.
A SUMMARIZING STATEMENT. While doing this study I didn’t find any other places (see the paragraph before the last one) in the New Testament where these three Greek words were used in new-covenant-salvation contexts with the greatly limited meaning that does not include being transformed by the grace of God in Christ. How about verses in non-new-covenant-salvation contexts where these words are used with a greatly limited meaning that have nothing to do with how they live, what they do, their works, etc. because they have been forgiven? It could be argued that the use of dikaioo in Luke 18:14 fits the greatly limited meaning, but I doubt that Jesus intended that meaning in that parable. Luke 18:14 in its context is discussed near the end of this paper, under the study of dikaioo. I didn’t find any other verses that fit the greatly limited meaning for these three Greek words in non-new-covenant-salvation contexts. ASSUMING I AM RIGHT, OR EVEN MOSTLY RIGHT, THIS IS VERY SIGNIFICANT!
We are forgiven through Christ and His atoning death, by grace through faith, but we are also (supposed to be; called and enabled to be) set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons through Christ, and born again and made righteous and holy through His atoning death and resurrection, and by the outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life, by grace through faith. This much fuller meaning is almost always included in verses that speak of new-covenant salvation. The way many Christians often define “righteous,” “righteousness,” and “justify” there is nothing to take hold of by faith to be transformed. The glorious truth that we are called, enabled, required, and privileged to walk in the imparted righteousness of God, by grace through faith, is diluted or denied. We need to understand that God has called us, and enables us, to walk in the His righteousness with the victory over sin; in the ideal, victory over all sin. WHAT WE BELIEVE IS OF CRUCIAL SIGNIFICANCE TO HOW WE THINK AND LIVE!
THE THING I AM TRYING TO EMPHASIZE THE MOST IN THIS PAPER IS THE GOOD NEWS THAT THE LAMB HAS BEEN SLAIN, BEARING OUR SINS WITH THE GUILT, SO WE COULD BE FORGIVEN, AND WITH THE PENALTIES, INCLUDING THE MAJOR PENALTIES OF SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS, IN ORDER TO SET US FREE FROM SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS, AND THAT THE RIGHTEOUS, HOLY SPIRIT OF LIFE HAS BEEN POURED OUT AND DWELLS IN EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN – GOD’S LIFE-GIVING, TRANSFORMING, MAKING RIGHTEOUS, SANCTIFYING GRACE IS HERE FOR US TO APPROPRIATE AND COOPERATE WITH NOW BY FAITH! I believe this is extremely important for an adequate understanding of the gospel of new-covenant salvation, and is VERY GOOD NEWS! GOD WANTS TO TRANSFORM US, NOT CONDEMN US!
It has seemed clear to me for a very long time that putting most of the emphasis on being forgiven and having a right standing with God in a strictly legal (positional) sense, while minimizing God’s call and the enabling grace for us TO WALK IN HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, is one of the most serious problems that we need to deal with in the Body of Christ in our day. And the problem is intensified by the widespread abuse of the doctrine of once saved, always saved. I don’t believe that doctrine is true, but it won’t do much damage if it isn’t abused. It won’t be abused much, if at all, by Christians who are making it top priority to live in the righteousness of God, by grace through faith, and who take the warnings in the Bible seriously. However, large numbers of Christians don’t take the warnings seriously: What Jesus said in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, for example, about repenting or losing salvation couldn’t apply to us; don’t you know that we cannot lose our salvation? And I believe it is clear that He was speaking to born-again Christians. See my paper Once Saved, Always Saved? on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching). THERE ARE REASONS FOR ALL OF THE SIN TAKING PLACE AMONG CHRISTIANS IN OUR DAY, AND IN SOME CIRCLES THE PROBLEM IS GROWING. The topic of this paper gives one primary reason for all the sin taking place among many Christians in our day.
It is important for me to point out that some Christians who, from my point of view, misunderstand the meaning of the words we are studying in this paper in the new-covenant-salvation verses that are of key importance to understand the gospel, do nevertheless believe and teach that Christians are called to walk by the Spirit of God with the victory over sin. For one thing, there are other words used in the New Testament that teach victory over sin. The word group that includes holy, make holy, holiness, saint, sanctify, etc. is a prime example. (These words all have the same root in the Greek: hagios, hagiosune, hagiasmos, and hagiazo; the second Greek word listed and the last Greek word listed were derived from the first Greek word listed, and the third word was derived from the last word.) However, large numbers of Christians (the majority) also interpret these words in a way that doesn’t call Christians to live in an abiding state of holiness with the victory over sin either. Anyway, some of the most important New Testament words, if not the most important words, that teach that Christians are called to walk by the Spirit with the victory over sin are the words we are studying in this paper. THAT MAKES THIS STUDY VERY IMPORTANT
As I mentioned, I included a rather thorough study on the meaning of the four most often used Hebrew words that are most often translated righteous, righteousness, and justify in the Old Testament in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53. (For one thing, as that paper shows, it is extremely important for us to rightly understand the meaning of the Hebrew verb that is most often translated “justify” in Isa. 53:11. It makes a GIGANTIC DIFFERENCE in what that super-important verse teaches.) It is clear, as this present paper will show, that the Hebrew words discussed in that paper are comparable in meaning (I didn’t say equivalent in meaning) with the Greek words discussed in this present paper. Tsaddiq, a Hebrew adjective, is most often translated “righteous”; tsadeq and tsadeqah, nouns, are most often translated “righteousness”; and the verb tsadoq or tsadeq (scholars typically don’t discuss the difference between these two forms of this verb) is most often translated “justify” in some form. As I discussed in the paper on Isaiah chapter 53, I didn’t even find one use of those Hebrew words, words that were used hundreds of times in the Old Testament, where they were used to speak of a believer being righteous, having righteousness, or being justified, or the equivalent, because they had been forgiven, whether through sacrificial offerings, or not. It took more than forgiveness, as important as forgiveness is, to make a person “righteous.” It is important to understand that the full righteousness that is available through new-covenant salvation was not available in the Old Testament.
It is quite significant that these Old Testament Hebrew words influenced the meaning of the New Testament Greek words that we are studying in this paper. For one thing, these Greek words were often used to translate these Hebrew words in the Septuagint, which is the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek. The Septuagint was widely used by Christians who knew Greek (Greek was widely understood to some extent by large numbers of people throughout the extensive Roman Empire, like English is in our world today) but didn’t know Hebrew. (Large number of Jews in New Testament days, the days of the Lord Jesus and the apostles for example, didn’t know Hebrew either. They spoke Aramaic in Israel, not Hebrew at that time.) It is significant that the Septuagint helped prepare many Greek words to communicate the gospel of new-covenant salvation throughout the Roman world!
The new covenant was built on the foundation of the Old Testament, including, for example, God’s teaching on righteousness, holiness, and sin, blessings and judgment (very much including the judgment at the end of this age), the clean and the unclean, what God requires of His people, sacrificial offerings (which laid a foundation for us to understand the Sacrifice of Christ), the world to come, and, significantly, all of the prophecies about the Messiah and new-covenant salvation. The Old Testament prepared the way for the new covenant. Quite often when the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament they quoted from the Septuagint (Greek), not from the Hebrew Old Testament.
I’ll quote a little from chapter 3 titled “Later Judaism: the Septuagint,” in The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Enquiry by J. A. Zeisler (Cambridge University Press, 1972). This chapter covers pages 52-69. He gets into a lot of details. I’ll quote his first sentence: “As the LXX [the Septuagint] was the OT Greek version which the Church made peculiarly its own, it has relevance in a study of Paul’s use of Greek” (page 52). And I’ll quote much of what he said near the end of this chapter under the heading “Summary of the Enquiry into LXX.” “1. The range of meaning of the two word-groups [the words for righteous, righteousness, justify, etc. in the Hebrew and in the Greek] is substantially the same. 2. This is supported not only by the places where overlap occurs [overlap in meaning for the Hebrew and Greek words], but by an examination of the places where it does not occur. …. 3. (This #3 is not relevant to this paper.) Especially in Proverbs, and less so in Job, some special factor causes a relatively high use of dikai- words. 4. The meaning of the Greek words seems to be dominated by the Hebrew words they render [in the Septuagint]…. [In other words, the meaning of the Greek words was influenced by and shaped by being used in the Septuagint to take the gospel to the world in the Greek language, which was the most commonly understood language used throughout the Roman Empire.] …” (page 67). On page 18, Zeisler mentions that based on his count “there are 504 cases of some form of ts-d-q [in the Hebrew Old Testament (Zeisler used the Hebrew consonants; “ts” represents one Hebrew consonant)]; of these only about 50, i.e. 10 percent, are not rendered in the LXX by dikaios or a cognate [by “cognate” Zeisler meant the other Greek dikai- words].
I’ll quote one last sentence from this chapter by Zeisler, an important sentence: “In LXX as in the Masoretic [Hebrew] Text, a sharp distinction between ethical [which deals with how we think and live] and forensic [which deals with a legal setting, suitable for a law court, very much including God’s law court] is not possible, and the implication of ‘declare in the right’ is ‘because really so [my underlining for emphasis],’ [not declare in the right because they are forgiven; and we must understand that “righteousness” in the Old Testament was not the full righteousness that only became available with new-covenant salvation in the blood of Christ and the outpoured Righteous, Holy Spirit of life; and we must understand that although people were not called “righteous” because they were forgiven (I didn’t find one example of that in the Old Testament use of the words we discussed in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53), it was understood that believers sometimes needed to be forgiven. The point is that righteousness dealt with what was in the heart, especially toward God, and manifested in the life. I dealt with these things in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53].” We do not find these Hebrew words used of righteous, righteousness, justify, or make righteous in the full new-covenant righteousness sense in the Old Testament except for the verses that prophesy of new-covenant salvation. As I showed in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53, quite a few such prophecies are found in Isaiah, very much including the super-important verb in Isa. 53:11.
I highly recommend reading both of my relevant books, Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second book is easier to read. For one thing, it was taken from radio broadcasts, but the first book has more information. I recommend that most people read the second book first. The longest chapter (70 pages) of the first book is especially relevant for this paper: “A Study on the Meaning of Justify/Justification as These Words Are Used in the New Testament.” I’ll quote several paragraphs from that chapter (on pages 82-84) under the heading “Several Quotations on the Meaning of Justify”:
I’ll quote several sentences from W. T. Dayton, “Romans,” in the Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vol. 5 (Hendrickson, 1986 reprint), pages 29, 30 (The notes in brackets are mine):
“The rest of chapter 3 [he is starting at Rom. 3:21] is devoted to the introduction of the remedy for man’s sin in the righteousness of God imparted to man in response to faith. Though justification is a forensic term [that is, it is suitable for a court of law], applied properly to a declaration of righteousness, Paul uses it in its broader context of all that God does to deliver man from the power and dominion of sin and to restore him to right relationship with God.”
On page 30, under Rom. 3:24, he says (in part): “It [the verb “justify”] should now be understood in the broader context that includes both the declaration of righteousness and the accompanying change in nature or character. Indeed, for the passage to refer to an isolated declaration would be to make God declare an untruth. He will not declare one righteous without making him so.” Amen!
I’ll also include two excerpts from Peter Toon (that are included in my book, Holiness and Victory Over Sin), Justification and Sanctification (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1983).
The first quotation is part of a paragraph on page 29 in chapter 2 of his book. The chapter is titled “Righteousness According to Paul.” He is commenting on Rom. 6:19. “This verse or section does not endorse the idea that a person is first justified/declared righteous and then (later or gradually) sanctified. Rather, the idea is that being in right relationship with God as judge and heavenly Father, the believer is thereby consecrated to the service of the Lord. Justification and consecration belong together. Not a little harm has been done by those preachers who have rigidly imposed upon Paul’s teaching a division between justification (understood as what God declares in Heaven) and sanctification (understood as what God does in us here on earth). It is not quite so simple, for as we will see in Chapter 4 of this book, justification and sanctification are two complementary ways of describing the gracious activity of God.”
I’ll also quote his last paragraph of chapter 5 on page 54. The chapter is titled “Augustine and Aquinas.” “After the time of Aquinas [Thomas Aquinas (about AD1225-1274)] the doctrine of justification continued to be discussed in the different schools of medieval theology – e.g., Dominican and Franciscan. While differences of approach and method may certainly be detected, it is clear that the discussion remains within the general principle that ‘to justify is to make righteous.’ As yet the idea that to justify is to declare or pronounce righteous has not appeared and will not appear until Luther. Thus the search for forerunners of the Reformers – that is, men (heretic or orthodox) who actually taught the Reformation doctrine of justification – has produced none and seems incapable of producing any.” This super-important point will be confirmed as we continue with this study.
Lastly, I’ll quote part of a paragraph from the book titled Righteousness in the New Testament. (The book was published in 1982 by Fortress Press and Paulist Press.) The subtitle is ” ‘Justification’ in the United States Lutheran – Roman Catholic Dialogue.” The author is John Reumann, a Lutheran scholar, and there are responses by two Roman Catholic scholars. I don’t agree with every viewpoint presented in this book, but I believe it contains much helpful information on the meaning of the words “righteousness” and “justification” as they are used in the New Testament.
This quotation is from J. A. Fitzmyer, a Roman Catholic scholar, section 382, page 208. He is discussing the meaning of dikaioo. (He uses the infinitive form dikaioun instead of dikaioo, but he is speaking of the same Greek verb.) “I agree, dikaioun has to be understood in a juridical or forensic sense. … Yet the issue is whether or not one can leave dikaioun solely with the declarative denotation. Is God’s word, spoken in a verdict of acquittal [It is much more than a “verdict of acquittal”: When God declares us righteous, He is declaring that we are set free from the guilt of sin and from the penalties of sin, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons that started with the fall of Adam (Rom. 5:12-21). I’ll speak more about these super-important things as we continue.], efficacious or not, i.e., does it terminate or not in a real change in the human beings so addressed? Or, to put it in terms of Kasemann’s thinking, is the ‘power’ (Macht) of the righteous God effective in his declaration? … Since patristic times [referring to the early Christian Fathers] dikaioun has been understood by Greek interpreters of Paul to mean ‘make righteous.’ [Fitzmyer is including transformation with the words “make righteous.”] Indeed, this even seems to be suggested by Rom. 5:19 itself…. [I believe it is more than “seems to be suggested.” It seems clear to me and to many others, probably including Fitzmyer.] Here one may recall the OT notion of God’s word as effective (Isa. 55:10-11). Yet it is not merely that God’s creative power ‘makes’ the sinner anew (that would be to confuse the images again!), but rather that God’s declarative justifying power even makes the sinner righteous.”
I’ll include several excerpts from The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Enquiry by J. A. Zeisler (Cambridge at University Press, 1972; There is a 2004 paperback edition of this book). I don’t always agree with Zeisler; for one thing, he wouldn’t be classified as a conservative evangelical, but he has a lot of helpful information in this 255 page book.
I’ll quote a paragraph from his Introduction: “The heart of the present study is the contention that the verb ‘justify’ [dikaioo] is used relationally, often with the forensic meaning ‘acquit’; but that the noun [dikaiosune], and the adjective dikaios, have behavioural meanings [what you have in your heart and what you do, not just being acquitted (forgiven) and having a strictly legal, right standing before God, or having Christ’s righteousness put down to your account in a strictly legal sense], and that in Paul’s thought Christians are both justified by faith (i.e. restored to fellowship, acquitted), and also righteous by faith (i.e. leading a new life in Christ). [[Zeisler argues that, in general, the words dikaios and dikaiosune deal with our actually being righteous by faith in Christ. As I have mentioned, my primary purpose in writing this paper is to demonstrate the super-important point that in new-covenant salvation contexts the Greek words dikaios, dikaiosune, and the verb dikaioo typically include the transformation to actually being righteous in our hearts and lives by grace through faith. Zeisler agrees regarding dikaios and dikaiosune, but he disagrees for the most part regarding the verb. From my point of view his study is helpful regarding the meaning of the Greek adjective and noun, which is so important.]] These two [the relational, forensic meaning and the transformed life meaning] are not identical [they are very far from being identical], yet they are complementary and inseparable. [[Becoming a Christian certainly includes being forgiven, and it is certainly proper to include God, the Judge, declaring us righteous. HOWEVER, WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN GOD DECLARES US RIGHTEOUS, HE IS, AT THE SAME TIME, WITH THE SAME WORDS, DECLARING THE OVERTHROW OF SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS BECAUSE JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD, DID NOT JUST BEAR THE GUILT OF OUR SIN SO WE COULD BE FORGIVEN – HE ALSO BORE THE PENALTIES FOR OUR SINS BACK TO ADAM INCLUDING THE MAJOR PENALTIES OF SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS. THIS IS SUPER-IMPORTANT, BUT NOT WIDELY RECOGNIZED! (Now back to quoting Zeisler)]] This view, which will be amplified and supported with evidence in what follows, is at odds with the usual Protestant understanding, and was certainly not foreseen when the study [by Zeisler] was begun. [He means that what he discovered about the transformed life meaning for dikaios and dikaiosune “is at odds with the usual Protestant understanding” and that he was surprised by what he learned.] Nevertheless, it appears demanded by the linguistic and exegetical data which will be presented” (page 1).
I’ll quote a little from what Zeisler says under “The meaning of dikaioo [the Greek verb].” (I should mention that I am just quoting a small part of what he said here, and I’m not including every footnote.) “The traditional Roman Catholic view is that of the Council of Trent [AD1545-63], that justification is both an acquittal and a making righteous in the full ethical sense, thus embracing both relational and behavioural renewal. … …justification is the communication of new life in Christ, the radical putting away of the life of sin, and the inner transformation of the believer [However, this typically doesn’t mean to Roman Catholics that Christians will live with the victory over sin, but I am sure that they are right regarding “the communication of new life in Christ, the radical putting away of the life of sin, and the inner transformation of the believer.”], understood to include God’s forgiveness. It is forensic [suitable for a court of law], but not merely forensic, and has to do with ‘real’ rather than ‘imputed’ righteousness” (page 2). Zeisler goes on to mention that some Protestants and Anglicans agree that a transformed life is included in what justification means. I have been convinced of that viewpoint for a long time, and I believe it includes, in the ideal, and it is not presented in the New Testament as an unrealistic ideal, Christians living in the righteousness of God throughout their Christian lives, with the victory over all sin, by GOD’S SUFFICIENT GRACE through faith. We need to aim at that target! (It is also clear that we will continue to grow in Christ, but in the ideal we won’t be growing out of sin, because we will be walking with the victory over everything that God considers to be sin.) Many agree with me on this super-important point, but clearly not the majority. The view that matters is God’s view, and I believe He makes Himself clear in the New Testament. WHAT I’M SHARING IS GOOD NEWS! WHAT GOD CALLS US TO DO HE ENABLES US TO DO! But we must understand that the world, the flesh (the old man that wants to continue to live in sin), and the devil, evil angels, and demons are waging war against us. But God’s enabling grace is greater and sufficient for those who appropriate it and cooperate with it by faith, persistent faith!
I’ll quote a small part of what Zeisler says under “The Meaning of dikaiosune.” “The usual Protestant position however has been that righteousness as imputed in justification is real righteousness, which comes from God to man, but for forensic purposes only. Man is not righteous, but he is treated by God as if he were, because he stands clothed in the righteousness of Christ” (page 8). Why not emphasize, as I’m sure God intended, that we are called and enabled to walk in His imparted righteousness. I agree, of course, that when true Christians sincerely repent we receive forgiveness and have a right relationship with God, but I don’t believe it is reasonable (Biblical) to speak of having “righteousness” or being called “righteous” while sinning. In the following paragraph, Zeisler quotes the words that Martin Luther made famous, in Latin “simul iustus et peccator,” which means that we are simultaneously righteous and a sinner. I’m sure that’s not what God intended, nor what the New Testament teaches, when He sacrificed His Son and poured out His Righteous, Holy Spirit to indwell us.
I’ll quote the last paragraph of Zeisler’s Introduction on page 16, “Finally, in what follows no attempt has been made to give a complete coverage of all the problems involved in this word group. The concentration is on the question of whether any given occurrence is behavioural, or relational, or some combination of the two.” This is the primary detail that I am interested in this (my) paper.
I’ll quote two sentences from his chapter 2, page 51: “Greek Usage of Dikaios and Cognates.” “What is abundantly clear is that neither noun nor adjective is used in a purely forensic way, i.e. to refer to a status alone [that is, without a transformation to righteousness].” “If Paul did use the words primarily for one’s standing before God, we must seriously doubt whether any of his readers, and especially his Gentile readers, would understand him at all.” I believe it would probably have been even more difficult for his Jewish readers.
Zeisler has done a serious study to determine the meanings of dikaios, dikaiosune, and dikaioo: “All the literature which ls likely to have a bearing on Pauline [the apostle Paul’s] usage has been examined, and a study has been made of Hebrew equivalents, notably the root ts d q [Zeisler had the three Hebrew consonants; “ts” represents one Hebrew consonant], in the Old Testament and elsewhere. As far as possible the analysis has been exhaustive, all cases being examined, but in one or two instances this has proved impracticable: [He goes on to mention the Rabbinic writings because of the sheer volume of the material and in Josephus]” (page 14).
I am not quoting hardly anything from Zeisler’s detailed comments on New Testament verses; I agree with a lot that he says, but I have substantial disagreement too. I’ll quote an important sentence from his page 164: “The three main places where the righteousness in Christ idea is found (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; and Phil. 3:9) have it in common that ‘righteousness’ is best taken ethically, that it is God’s, and that in Christ it becomes ours.” I agree, but not with the detail that these are “the three main places where the righteousness in Christ idea is found.”
I’ll quote the last sentence Ziesler has in chapter 11, under Rom. 1:17, “What matters is that God’s saving righteousness does two things for men and does them inseparably: it restores their relationship with God, and it makes them new (ethical, righteous) beings” (page 169). I agree.
And I’ll quote three paragraphs from my book (on pages 78-79), Holiness and Victory Over Sin, where I quoted from Ziesler’s commentary on Romans, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Trinity Press Int’l, 1989), pages 67-73. “First I’ll quote what he says regarding ‘the power of God’ as these words are used in Rom. 1:16: ‘It is crucial that this [“the power of God”] should be mentioned in the transitional summary [Rom. 1:16-17, which is the theme for Romans], for a major part of the human problem, as Paul sees it, is that men and women are not free. It is not just that they need forgiveness, though they do, but even more they are under alien power, especially that of sin…. To release them, they need superior power, and a large part of the argument will be that they can be transferred from the power-sphere of sin and death to that of the divine Spirit, which brings life as the people of God. See 1:18-3:0; 6:1-23; 8:1-11.’ ” Yes!
“Next I’ll quote part of what he says under ‘the righteousness of God,’ as these words are used in Rom. 1:17: ‘As in the somewhat similarly worded 3:22, it is possible that here God’s righteousness is something into which believers are drawn, so that in their own selves and their own lives, that righteousness which is essentially God’s becomes a reality. In other words, they begin to live in his power, and his righteousness is effective in their lives. Some have thought that God’s righteousness becomes ours in the sense that a right standing/status is freely granted by God. No doubt this is so, but it is not just that. God’s righteousness is how he acts, and when human beings are drawn into its power, they begin to act as they should, as his covenant people.’ We become righteous with God’s righteousness through the outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life.” Yes! By grace through faith!
“Lastly, I’ll quote what he says on ‘is revealed’ as these words are used in Rom. 1:17: ‘The reference to power shows that this is not mere depiction, as of something static, but is effective. The present tense [of the Greek verb] indicates that it is now in progress.’ ” Romans 1:16-17 are extremely important, being the theme of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. I discuss Romans 1:17 below in this paper under dikaiosune, and these verses are discussed in some detail in both of my holiness books. I would translate [God’s righteousness] “is manifested [manifested in our hearts and lives]” not “is revealed.”
Although many agree with what Zeisler says about Romans 7 on his page 203, that “We take it as describing man’s Christian experience,” I have to strongly disagree! That viewpoint will strongly negatively influence (and has on a large scale for a long time strongly negatively influenced) our understanding of the heart of the Christian gospel. On Romans 7 see my two books on holiness and my paper on the interpretation of Romans 7 on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching). It is very significant that there is widespread agreement among those have studied the early Christian interpretations of Rom. 7:14-25 that the interpretation that the apostle Paul was saying that he, or other Christians, were sinning did not arise until after AD 400. After AD 400 some began to interpret Rom. 7:14-25 that way. I believe that was a serious mistake! For one thing, it directly contradicts what the apostle Paul said in Romans chapters 6 and 8! For many Christians their misinterpretations of Rom. 7:14-25 and 1 John 1:8 suffice to demonstrate once for all that Christians cannot walk with the victory over sin in this life. Case closed!
An Important Point Made by Alister E. McGrath in His Two Book Series: Iustitia Dei [Latin for “Justice or Righteousness of God”]: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification; The Beginnings to the Reformation and A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification; From 1500 to the Present Day (both published by Cambridge University Press, 1986). In the last chapter of the first book (chapter 5) and the first chapter of the second book (chapter 6), MCGRATH MAKES THE VERY IMPORTANT POINT THAT THE WIDELY HELD PROTESTANT IDEA THAT JUSTIFICATION IS TO BE DEFINED AS A FORENSIC DECLARATION THAT THE BELIEVER IS RIGHTEOUS THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE BEING TRANSFORMED WAS A NEW IDEA IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY. He discusses Martin Luther and his views extensively in chapter 6 of the second book.
Part 2 of this paper will start with “A Rather Brief Selection of Quotations from Christian Commentators that Deal with the Meaning of ‘Righteous,’ ‘Righteousness,’ and ‘Justify’ in Key New-Covenant-Salvation Contexts to Illustrate the Widespread Problem (Serious Error from My Point of View).”
Copyright © by Karl Kemp
The last few years I have done a lot of writing. I have written four books ("Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ"; an e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," which serves as a good introduction for the paperback book; "The Mid-Week Rapture: A Verse-by-Verse Study of Key Prophetic Passages"; and "Introduction to The Mid-Week Rapture." The e-books are easier to read and should be read first, but the paperback books contain a lot of information not contained in the e-books. All the books are available at amazon.com.
I have written a large number of papers, most of them dealing with foundational Christian issues. Most of them are available at karlkempteachingministries.com. I also have been doing some radio broadcasts the past 5 years.