Righteous, Righteousness, Justify, Make Righteous in the New Testament, Part 3
4. I’LL START WITH THE GREEK ADJECTIVE DIKAIOS. I’ll list the different ways that the NASB and NIV translate dikaios in the New Testament. NASB: innocent (1), just (6), justice (1), right (7), righteous (48), righteous man (8), righteous man’s (1), righteous men (1), righteous one (4), righteous person (1), righteous persons (1), for a total of 79 uses. NIV: righteous (53), right (11), just (8), upright (3), innocent (2), honest (1), righteousness (1), for a total of 79 uses.
I’ll list all seventy-nine verses here and quote quite a few of them (using the NASB) to demonstrate several uses of this Greek adjective in the New Testament, but especially the verses that are directly relevant to the topic of this paper, and I’ll comment on the verses that are directly relevant to the topic of this paper. Having considered all seventy-nine uses of dikaios in the New Testament, I don’t believe there is even one verse where Christians are called “righteous” based only on their having been forgiven or given a strictly legal, right standing with God that has nothing to do with their having been transformed through new-covenant salvation. And I didn’t find any verses where people in a non-new-covenant-salvation setting were called “righteous” based only on the fact that they had been forgiven.
We were all forgiven when we became Christians, and we have been forgiven if we sinned after we became Christians when we repented, but it Is clear, I believe, that our being called “righteous” involves a lot more than our being forgiven or having a strictly legal, right standing with God. (As I mention on occasion, it is necessary to see that we are not going to maintain much of a right standing or relationship with God if we continue in sin.) This is like the Old Testament use of the Hebrew adjective tsaddiq that is very often translated “righteous” that we discussed in my paper on Isaiah 53. As I pointed out, I didn’t find even one verse in the Old Testament where a person was called “righteous” because they had been forgiven, whether through a sacrificial offering, or without one, but they were forgiven on occasion.
Matthew 1:19 (And Joseph [the earthly father of Jesus]…being a righteous man….; the words “righteous man” here, and often in these listings, do not refer to the higher level of righteousness that is available only to born-again Christians, but it is a real righteousness that is based on what they have in their hearts and how they live; being called righteous involved a lot more than that he had been forgiven. All of these “righteous” people still needed new-covenant salvation.); Matthew 5:45 (…and He sends rain [which is a blessing] on the righteous and the unrighteous.); Matthew 9:13 (Jesus used the words the righteous in this verse of those like the Pharisees who thought they were righteous.); 10:41 (used three times); 13:17, 43, 49; 20:4 (And to those He said, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you….”); Matt. 23:28 (So you [scribes and Pharisees], too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.), 29, 35 (used twice); Matthew 25:37, 46 (These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.); Matt. 27:19 (While he [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous [“innocent” NIV] Man….”); Mark 2:17 (see Matt. 9:13); 6:20a (for Herod was afraid of John [the Baptist], knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe [for a while].); Luke 1:6 (They [the parents of John the Baptist] were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord [These last words, starting with “walking blamelessly” help define what “righteous” means.]. This does not mean that they would have a place in heaven apart from the all-important atoning death (and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus.), Luke 1:17; 2:25; 5:32 (see Matt. 9:13); 12:57 (And do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right?); Luke 14:14 (This verse speaks of the resurrection of the righteous.); 15:7 (I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Repentance is always required where sin exists. And being in sin and being “righteous” at the same time stretches the meaning of the word dikaios too far. Also, we cannot get very far with forgiveness without repentance.); 18:9 (Here Jesus spoke of some people who [wrongly] trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt); 20:20 (So they watched Him [Jesus], and sent spies who pretended to be righteous [“honest” NIV], in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.); Luke 23:47, 50; John 5:30 (I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear I judge; and My judgment is just [righteous], because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.); John 7:24 (Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.; 17:25 (O righteous Father…. [Jesus is speaking]); Acts 3:14 (You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.); Acts 4:19; 7:52; 10:22 (…Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God fearing man…. Acts 11:14 shows that the angel was sent to Cornelius to speak words to him [about calling for the apostle Peter to come to them and share the gospel with them] that he and his household might be saved.); 22:14; 24:15; Rom. 1:17 ((I’ll quote the relevant words from the end of the verse: as it is written [quoting from Hab. 2:4], “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” I believe Paul intended But he who is righteous by faith will live, which is given in the margin of the NASB. He who is righteous by faith has been forgiven, but the word “righteous” here includes a lot more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right relationship with God based on what Christ has done that doesn’t deal with the believer actually becoming righteous in the heart and life (being transformed), by grace through faith, through new-covenant salvation. RATHER, THE EMPHASIS HERE IN THE APOSTLE’S NEW-COVENANT SALVATION CONTEXT IS ON BEING MADE RIGHTEOUS THROUGH THE PROMISED, OUTPOURED, IMPARTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD THROUGH NEW-COVENANT SALVATION. Romans 1:17, a super-important verse, will be further discussed below since it also uses the Greek noun dikaiosune. Romans 1:16-17 are discussed in both of my holiness books: Holiness and Victory Over Sin and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin.)); Rom. 2:13 (for it is not the hearers of the Law who are [better, who will be; we have to supply the verb in the English here, since it is not included in the Greek] just [righteous] before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified [“The doers of the Law” will be found righteous and declared righteous; the only way to become a doer of the Law in a full sense is through new-covenant salvation].); Rom. 3:10, 26; 5:7; 5:19 (For as through the one man’s disobedience [Adam’s transgression] the many were made sinners [We all became spiritually dead and in bondage to sin and demons through Adam’s rebellion.], even so through the obedience of the One [referring especially to the voluntary all-important atoning death of the Lamb of God] the many [all believers] will be made righteous. Through His atoning death and resurrection, we have been set free from spiritual death and born again, and we have been set free from bondage to sin and demons and made righteous with the imparted righteousness of God by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life. Romans chapter 5 is discussed to some extent in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53, and it is discussed verse-by-verse in my book Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin.); Rom. 7:12; Gal. 3:11 ((Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident [For one primary thing, as the apostle Paul frequently mentions, no one could fully keep the Law (especially referring to the moral law) apart from the saving, life-giving, sanctifying grace of God in Christ.]; for “The righteous man shall live by faith.” As in Rom. 1:17, I believe the apostle Paul intended the translation given in the margin of the NASB, But he who is righteous by faith shall live. We become righteous through new-covenant salvation, which includes the new birth by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life. In Gal. 3:21 Paul shows that we need the imparted spiritual life of God (to be born again) in order to have the full new-covenant righteousness of God. This is very important!)); Ephesians 6:1; Philippians 1:7; 4:8; Colossians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6; 1 Timothy 1:9; 2 Timothy 4:8 (…the Lord, the righteous Judge….); Titus 1:8 (This is one of many verses where the NASB translated dikaios “just.” I typically prefer “righteous.”); Hebrews 10:38 (But [or, And] My righteous one shall live [which includes living eternally in glory.] by faith [He will not shrink back through unbelief to destruction (see Heb. 10:39). The writer of Hebrews, which wasn’t the apostle Paul, didn’t use Hab. 2:4 with the same emphasis of the apostle Paul in Rom. 1:17 and Gal. 3:11, but he did teach that we become righteous by faith.]; And [or, But] if he shrinks back [instead of pressing on by faith], My soul has no pleasure in him. Hebrews chapters 8-10, which are extremely important, are discussed in my paper on these chapters on my internet site [Google to Karl Kemp Teaching].); Hebrews 11:4; 12:23 (This verse mentions the spirits of the righteous made perfect. The writer of Hebrews is speaking of the righteous people (the believers) from the Old Testament days, like those mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. They are called “spirits” because they have died and have not received their resurrection bodies yet. They have been “made perfect” in that new-covenant salvation has now become available to them. They are in heaven and clearly living in a state of holiness.); James 5:6, 16; 1 Peter 3:12, 18 (the just, referring to Christ [I prefer the righteous with the NIV]); 1 Peter 4:18 (And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will be the outcome of the godless man and the sinner?); 2 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 2:7, 8 (used twice); 1 John 1:9; 2:1, 29 (If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness [or better, who is doing righteousness] is born of Him [of God the Father].); 1 John 3:7 (Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness [or better, the one who is doing righteousness] is righteous, just as He [more literally “that One,” referring to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God] is righteous. That is total righteousness!); 1 John 3:12 (not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil and his brother’s were righteous.); Revelation 15:3; 16:5, 7; 19:2 (These four verses from the book of Revelation speak of God, or His ways, or judgments being righteous.); and the last verse of the seventy-nine verses that use the Greek adjective dikaios in the New Testament: Revelation 22:11 (Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is righteous, still practice [do] righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.)
It is significant for this study that none of these seventy-nine uses of dikaios in the New Testament, not even one, support the idea that we Christians are called “righteous” based only on being forgiven and declared righteous in a strictly legal sense because Christ died for us. From this greatly limited point of view, which I’m sure is wrong, Christians would continue to be “righteous” while living in sin, because being righteous would not have anything to do with how we live or what we do. Of course we will be forgiven if we sin when we repent, but being “righteous” has very much to do with how we live, our works, being enabled by the grace of God in Christ, for the glory of God. Our understanding of the meaning of these words that we are studying makes a GIGANTIC DIFFERENCE in how we view new-covenant salvation.
I was pleasantly surprised when I read what the well-respected Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, BAGD (University of Chicago Press, third edition 2000, the third and last edition was edited by F. W. Danker; all of the editors of this Lexicon were Lutheran) said under dikaios, a, on (giving the masculine, feminine, and neuter endings; I don’t include the feminine and neuter endings in this paper when I mention dikaios). This Lexicon doesn’t include any examples where dikaios is used for Christians (or anybody else) being righteous because they have been forgiven and have a right standing with God that has nothing to do with how they live.
This Lexicon does include quite a few verses where the verb dikaioo is used with that greatly limited meaning in the New Testament, which I will discuss under dikaioo below. I don’t agree with the Lexicon on any of the verses they listed in that category under dikaioo except for the two verses included in Romans chapter 4, Rom. 4:2 and 5. As I discuss in this paper, Romans chapter 4 is a very special chapter since it was important for Paul to use Abraham (and to a lesser extent a few verses from Psalm 32) to demonstrate that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works of the Law or merit, but – and this is very important – HE COULD NOT USE ABRAHAM AS AN EXAMPLE OF A PERSON WHO HAD BEEN BORN AGAIN AND WAS ABLE TO WALK IN THE IMPARTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD THROUGH NEW-COVENANT SALVATION, since Abraham lived on the earth before new-covenant salvation became available through the incarnation, atoning death, and resurrection of the Son of God.
I won’t comment on what this Lexicon says under dikaiosune in this paper (we will discuss dikaiosune next) except for what little I’ll say here: What this Lexicon says under 2 (on page 247) and all of the verses listed there isn’t nearly adequate in my opinion, but it rightly leaves some room for transformation in a least some or the verses listed there. I’ll quote one sentence, a helpful sentence, from this rather lengthy section: “On the one hand God’s dikaiosune is pardoning action, and on the other [hand] a way of sharing God’s character with believers, who then exhibit righteousness in the moral sense.” The Lexicon doesn’t give a firm opinion on many of the verses they list in this section. It’s far better to not offer a firm opinion than to pass on things that are wrong.
5. THE GREEK NOUN DIKAIOSUNE. (See the last paragraph.) This Greek noun was derived from the adjective dikaios. I’ll list the different ways that the NASB and NIV translate dikaiosune in the New Testament: NASB: right (1), righteousness (90) for a total of 91. NIV: righteousness (74), justice (5), what is right (5), right (2), left untranslated [They are referring to Rom. 10:3, where one of the uses of dikaiosune was left untranslated; the NASB concordance did not list this use; some of the Greek manuscripts did not include this other use of dikaiosune; this explains why NASB had a total of 91 and NIV of 92] (1), acts of righteousness (1), it (which is a substitute translation) (1), justified (1), righteous (1), righteous life (1) for a total of 92.
I’ll list all of the ninety-two verses listed in the Greek English Concordance to the New Testament with the NIV (Zondervan, 1997) and quote quite a few of them, using the NASB, to demonstrate several uses of this Greek noun in the New Testament, and especially all of the verses that are directly relevant to the topic of this paper, and I’ll comment on the verses that are directly relevant for this study, and on several other verses. Most of the directly relevant uses clearly use dikaiosune of something that is done that is right, right in accordance with God’s will. Some of these verses are used in contexts where the “righteousness” being spoken of is not the full “righteousness” that is only available under the new covenant, but they are clearly speaking of a real “righteousness” (not limited to being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing before God). One primary thing I am looking for throughout this study is uses of “righteousness” that fit the widespread, but I am sure is wrong, idea that the word “righteousness” is greatly limited to the idea of Christians being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God through Christ, a righteousness that has nothing to do with Christians being transformed by the powerful saving grace of God in Christ.
I’ll mention up front that, having considered all ninety-two verses that use dikaiosune in the New Testament, the only verses that I have found that use this Greek noun in the New Testament with the greatly limited meaning that we are discussing in this paper are the verses in Romans chapter 4 and in a lesser sense the use in Gal. 3:6, where the apostle Paul also quotes from Gen. 15:6, as he did in Rom. 4:3. The things that the apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 4 were true of course, but they were written in a very special context that did not (could not) incorporate having received the Righteous, Holy Spirit of life, which is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about, because Paul was using Abraham (and two verses from Psalm 32) to demonstrate the super-important facts that we are saved by faith, not by merit, or by our works. Paul could not use “righteousness” with the full new-covenant salvation meaning for Abraham or David because new-covenant righteousness wasn’t available to them. They lived on the earth before the Lord Jesus Christ had overcome spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons through His all-important atoning death and resurrection.
Abraham and David both understood that “righteousness” was based on putting God first place in their hearts, believing Him, and living in line with His will. It involved a lot more than just being forgiven or being considered righteous by God that had nothing to do with how they lived, what they did, their works. Believers certainly understood forgiveness in the Old Testament, and people in the Old Testament needed to be forgiven on occasion (including Abraham and David), but as I demonstrated in my paper on Isaiah chapter 53, the Hebrew words with a “ts” “d” “q” root for “righteousness,” “righteous,” “justify,” etc. were not used, apparently not even one time, of something a person could attain through being forgiven, whether through animal sacrifices, or without them. As this present study shows, the same thing is almost always true in the New Testament for the three dikai root Greek words that we are studying in this paper. I don’t believe this should come as a surprise!
Matthew 3:15 (But Jesus answering said to him [to John the Baptist], “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he [John the Baptist] permitted Him [to be baptized by him].); Matthew 5:6 (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.); Matthew 5:10 (Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.); Matthew 5:20 (For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of God.); Matthew 6:1 (Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.); Matthew 6:33 (But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.); 21:32 (For John [the Baptist] came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.); Luke 1:75 (I’ll quote LUKE 1:74-75: To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies [in the full sense that includes our enemies in the spiritual dimension], Might serve Him without fear. (75) In holiness and righteousness before Him all of our days.); John 16:8 (And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes [when He comes in the full new-covenant sense], will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.); John 16:10; Acts 10:35 (but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The apostle Peter was speaking in that context to “righteous” Gentiles who needed to, and who were ready to, submit to new-covenant salvation and the righteousness of God in Christ. God’s people need to fear Him: They need to have a healthy fear of sinning against Him.); Acts 17:31 (because He [God the Father] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man [the God-man] whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.); Acts 24:25; Romans 1:17 ((Romans 1:16-17 are briefly discussed under Isa. 32:15-18 in section 8 of my paper on Isaiah chapter 53. I’ll quote ROMANS 1:16-18 (These are super-important verses; they are discussed in more detail in both of my holiness books: Holiness and Victory Over Sin and Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin): For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God [The power of God that is manifested through the gospel of new-covenant salvation overthrows spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons and enables Christians to be born again and to walk in the imparted righteousness of God with the victory over sin and demons. Many prophecies in the Old Testament spoke of God’s manifesting His righteousness in the hearts and lives of believers through the all-important atoning death of His Son (this atoning death is not mentioned in most of those prophecies, but we eventually learn of its FOUNDATIONAL IMPORTANCE) and by the all-powerful Righteous, Holy Spirit of life who indwells all true Christians through new-covenant salvation. See, for example, Isa. 32:15-18; 45:8; 46:12-13; 56:1; 60:21; 61:1-3, 10-11; 53:11 (much of my paper on Isaiah chapter 53 deals with the meaning of Isa. 53:11); Jer. 31:31-34; and Ezek. 36:25-27.] for [or, “unto,” or, “resulting in”] salvation [new-covenant salvation; salvation from being in spiritual death and in bondage to sin and demons, and salvation from the wrath of God that will come at the end of this age against those who are committed to sin and the kingdom of darkness. Salvation from the limited wrath of God that is manifested now, during this present age, is also included (Rom. 1:18).] to everyone who believes, to the Jew first [speaking of the Jews who submit to the gospel in faith and become Christians] and also to the Greek [speaking of the Gentiles who become Christians)]. (17) For in it [by it (by the gospel)] the righteousness of God is revealed [is manifested, is actually manifested in the hearts and lives of Christians through/by faith now. Romans 1:18 serves to confirm this interpretation in that it speaks of the wrath of God being revealed (manifested) from heaven now “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” The only way to avoid the wrath that is being manifested against sin now to a limited extent, and will be fully manifested at the end of this age, is to appropriate and walk in the righteousness of God that is manifested now in new-covenant salvation, by grace through faith.] from faith [I would translate by faith; the NASB has “by faith” in the margin. These two Greek words, ek pisteos (ek is a Greek preposition), are often translated “by faith” in the New Testament. I’ll give three examples: At the end of this verse, the NASB translates these same Greek words “by faith,” and see Romans 5:1 and 9:30.] to faith [or, “unto faith”; the “righteousness of God” comes to/unto those who have faith in God, His Son, and the gospel of new-covenant salvation]; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS ONE SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” [As I mentioned above under this verse when we were discussing the Greek adjective dikaios, I believe that the translation given in the margin of the NASB conveys the apostle’s intended meaning: But he who is righteous by faith shall live. We appropriate and walk in the imparted righteousness of God by faith. Being forgiven is an important part of the gospel, and it is probably reasonable to include forgiveness in what the righteousness of God being manifested means here in Rom. 1:17, but the emphasis is clearly on His imparting His righteousness to us and making us righteous.] (18) For the wrath of God is revealed [manifested (manifested in His present judgments)] from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness….)); Romans 3:5, 21, 22 ((I’ll quote and discuss ROMANS 3:21-23. These verses cover the same basic truths covered in Rom. 1:17. These verses are discussed in their contexts in more detail in both of my holiness books. But now apart from the Law [The Law, the Mosaic Law, though it was from God and was/is good, was not given to solve the spiritual death, bondage to sin and demons problem. The full new-covenant righteousness that Paul is speaking about here could not come through the Mosaic Law and the old covenant. For one primary thing, the all-important Sacrifice of the Lamb of God was required to overthrow the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons that came to mankind through Adam’s transgression, and to make us righteous with the imparted righteousness of God (see Rom. 5:12-21, for example).] the righteousness of God has been manifested [manifested in the hearts and lives of Christians, according to prophecy, as in Rom. 1:17], being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets. [The old covenant of the Old Testament (which contained “the [Mosaic] Law and the Prophets”) could not manifest “the righteousness of God” in a full, adequate sense, but it frequently bore witness (in prophecy) to the fact that the righteousness of God would be manifested in new-covenant salvation (see above under Rom. 1:17).] (22) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ [which is the equivalent of the righteousness of God being manifested by faith of Rom. 1:17] for all those who believe [I would translate to [or, unto] all those who believe. [These words are the equivalent of the words “to [or, unto] faith” of Rom. 1:17. The same Greek preposition eis is used in both verses, and having faith in God, Christ, and the gospel is the equivalent of believing in God, Christ, and the gospel. The Greek noun for faith is pistis; the Greek verb for believe is pisteuo; the verb was derived from the noun.]; for there is no distinction [That is, there is no distinction between people in that, as the next verse (and many other verses) shows, all people need new-covenant salvation because all are spiritually dead sinners; the only way to become fully righteous is through the righteousness provided in new-covenant salvation; and the day of judgment is fast approaching.] (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This verse shows why all people need new-covenant salvation which provides forgiveness and the imparted righteousness of God. Paul didn’t say anything in this verse about Christians continuing to sin after they become Christians. Some Christians are desperate to try to find verses that supposedly prove that Christians cannot walk with the victory over sin during this age. I believe the New Testament demonstrates that God has called us, and enables us by His sufficient grace, to walk with the victory over sin, all sin. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! The New Testament also makes is clear that God forgives Christians when they repent through the shed blood of the Lamb of God if they should sin, but we must aim at the target of not sinning. AGAIN, THIS IS GOOD NEWS! THIS IS FREEDOM, BY GRACE! This is what all true Christians want in their hearts!)); Romans 3:25-26 ((I’ll quote both of these verses; both of them use dikaiosune: whom [referring to the sacrificed and resurrected Lamb of God] God displayed publically as a propitiation [“Or, a propitiatory sacrifice” (margin of NASB)] in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed. Once we understand God’s predetermined new-covenant plan of salvation, we can understand why He was often somewhat lenient in judging sin in the years before new-covenant salvation became available. I’ll quote Acts 17:30, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance [my emphasis], God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent [“but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (NIV)].” The next verse, Rom. 3:26, shows His righteousness (that He was righteous, even though He was often somewhat lenient in judging sin in earlier days; He had a reason to be lenient; the old covenant wasn’t His last word; before the world was created He had already planned to sacrifice His Son) has now been demonstrated through new-covenant salvation. God’s salvation plans always extended far beyond the old covenant.] (26) for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just [righteous, dikaios] and the justifier [the One forgiving and making righteous with His imparted righteousness, Greek participle of dikaioo] the one who has faith in Jesus.)); Romans 4:3 ((It is necessary to understand that the apostle Paul was not able to use the noun dikaiosune (or the verb dikaioo) in the full (glorious) new-covenant salvation sense in Romans chapter 4, because it was important for him to use Abraham (and to a lesser extent, some words of David in Psalm 32) to help confirm the super-important points that NEW-COVENANT BELIEVERS ARE SAVED BY GRACE, BY FAITH; THEY ARE NOT MERITING OR EARNING SALVATION BY WORKS, AND IT WAS TOTALLY NECESSARY TO KNOW THAT NEW-COVENANT BELIEVERS (ESPECIALLY GENTILES) WERE NOT REQUIRED TO KEEP THE CEREMONIAL LAWS OF THE OLD COVENANT. The Judaizers were insisting that Gentile Christians must keep the ceremonial laws of the old covenant, especially circumcision, to be saved. Christians are required to do the righteous works (have a righteous lifestyle in accordance with the will of God, His moral law) that the grace of God enables us to do, but we are not meriting or earning salvation by those works. We are enabled to do those works through new-covenant salvation in the blood of Christ and by the power of God through the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of God. We must make sure that God gets all the glory for our lives of righteousness, for our righteous works. In a very real sense the righteous works of Christians are the works of God (cf. Eph. 2:10).
I’ll quote Rom. 4:3, For what does the Scripture [Gen. 15:6] say? “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Since Abraham was so respected by the Jews (and Christians), it was important for Paul to show that Abraham got right with God (in a preliminary, limited sense) through faith, not works; by grace, not merit (not what is earned, or owed). As I continue to list and quote verses from Romans chapter 4 that use dikaiosune, we can see that the apostle applied this same truth to Christians in this chapter: faith, not works; grace, not merit. These were necessary and important points for Paul to make, but it has led to considerable confusion for large numbers of Christians regarding the meaning of the word dikaiosune and the two other closely related Greek words that we are studying in this paper; however, if we understand what Paul was doing here it eliminates the confusion.
Because the apostle Paul was using Abraham to illustrate that we are saved by grace, by faith, and not by works or merit, he was not able to use the word “righteousness” in its full new-covenant salvation sense that includes walking with the victory over all sin as born-again, Spirit-indwelled Christians through the all-important atoning death and resurrection of the Lamb of God who bore all of our sins, very much including Adam’s, with the guilt and the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons. Abraham was not born again when he lived on the earth. He was still under spiritual death. He clearly did not partake of new-covenant salvation. Because of this, Paul could not use the word “righteousness” in the full new-covenant-salvation sense in Romans chapter 4. He used the word in the greatly limited, strictly legal sense of being forgiven and having a right relationship with God. Very much damage has be done to the Body of Christ through Christians going to Romans chapter 4 to learn what the word “righteousness” (or “justify” or “righteous”) means for the apostle Paul. It is not being used in the full new-covenant salvation sense in Romans chapter 4; far from it; it is being used in a very special, pre-new-covenant-salvation sense in Romans chapter 4.
I’ll quote a relevant sentence from J. A. Zeisler in The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul (quoted above in this paper): “More commonly today, the language of imputation is avoided [Many still speak of righteousness being imputed to Christians, and according to a typical use of the word imputed, it does not have anything to do with Christians being transformed; it deals only with being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God based on the work of Christ.], partly because of the difficulties to which it has led, and partly BECAUSE ITS USE IN ROM. 4 AND GAL. 3 [3:6] SEEMS VERY MUCH DUE TO THE EXIGENCIES [pressing needs] OF POLEMIC [my emphasis]” (page 8). Polemic refers to disputes, controversies, warfare. The apostle Paul found it necessary to refute the false ideas being promoted by some that Gentile Christians must submit to the Mosaic Law and do the work of being circumcised, for example. In that polemic context, Paul strongly emphasized that we are saved by grace through faith, not works or merit. In other words, Paul’s teaching was different in Romans chapter 4 because he was using Abraham (and David to some extent) to refute widespread wrong ideas, but that forced him to use dikaiosune (and dikaioo) in a way that doesn’t fit the typical new-covenant-salvation meaning of these words. As this study shows, it doesn’t fit the use of the three Greek words that we are studying in this paper in non-new-covenant-salvation contexts in the New Testament either.
Controversies, especially strong, important controversies (serious warfare), often cause unusual things to be said. We must make it a top priority to find and hold the balanced truth of what the Bible says. I’m not thinking of the apostle Paul and Romans 4 here, but I have noticed that throughout the history of the Christian Church when Christians are refuting serious errors that need to be refuted, they often miss the balance and overstate the case in an attempt to overthrow the errors, but they end up introducing new errors in the opposite direction. If we aren’t very careful we can end up in the ditch on the other side of the road (of the balanced truth). WE CANNOT AFFORD TO INTRODUCE ERRORS TRYING TO WIN AN ARGUMENT, EVEN IF OUR OPPONENT IS CLEARLY WRONG. WE DESPERATELY NEED TO HOLD THE BALANCED TRUTH OF WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES. WE ARE NOT LAWYERS WHO ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN WINNING A CASE, AN ARGUMENT. As I said, we desperately need to hold the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. And we need to respect other Christians, which includes going very slow about declaring that the ones you are disagreeing with aren’t real Christians. I’m totally sure that God doesn’t appreciate our passing that judgment on those He considers to be true Christians.));
We come to Rom. 4:5 in Part 4 of this paper.
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.