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Bible verses about Righteousness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Worldliness: "the love of beauty—that which one finds attractive, appealing, or desirable—without a corresponding love of righteousness." The product of worldliness is that, rather than "tend and keep" as he was commanded by God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), man will "use and abuse." Undoubtedly, Eden was gorgeous, the best and most magnificent environment anyone on earth has ever lived in. What did Adam and Eve do? They used and abused it until God was forced to banish them from it, placing cherubim with flaming swords to guard against their return (Genesis 3:24).

The general record of mankind is that wherever he has put his hand, man has not beautified but used and abused the earth. God is more concerned about man's spiritual beautification than He is about the physical earth, but He warns very clearly in Revelation 11:18 that He will "destroy those who destroy the earth." Man does not have the right concept of beauty. He has the wrong standards and ideals because Babylon impressed itself upon him. He uses and abuses virtually everything, and the results show everywhere on earth. This approach to life manifests Babylon's way and illustrates why God commands His people to come out of it.

God is most concerned about how we act toward other people, how we work within our relationships with our mates, our neighbors, and above all, our God. Do we use and abuse our relationships with God and other people? Do we do everything in our power to dress and keep? Do we have a love of beauty along with a love of righteousness? Although righteousness is indeed the keeping of God's commandments, God requires more of us in our lives. Unless we love the beauty of holiness, we will never become holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). The love of beauty must be encased in a love of righteousness.

The way of the world is 180 degrees removed from the love of beauty and righteousness. In I John 2, the apostle addresses this way of the world within the subject of love. Though keeping the commandments defines love, it includes a great deal more than that. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16). Jesus did not avoid suffering because suffering is an act of love. He loved beauty and righteousness so much that He was willing to follow the commands of God right to the cross. Beauty sustained Him, the beauty of holiness, the beauty of helping multitudes of sons and daughters to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Babylon would not do that. Those impressed by the way of Babylon will love beauty as much as we do, but they will not mix it with a love of righteousness. They will not "tend and keep" fellow man and God. The ever-repeating result is warfare on the field of battle, in the family, in the workplace, in society.

The reason for the state of this evil world is the lack of the love of beauty and the love of righteousness. It is simply a lack of the love of God. The love of God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not choose to love, the only alternative is selfishness—self-concern. A selfish person will abuse. That is the worldly system. Worldliness is nothing more than self-centeredness. An individual chooses to be self-centered or show outgoing love—to be worldly or godly.

Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of self-centeredness or worldliness. It is so subtle that it escapes the detection of those who should be most able to see it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Genesis 6:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first of this verse's two problems is that the KJV translates two different Hebrew words as "generations"! The first occurrence—"These are the generations"—is rendered from toledoth (Strong's #8435; note that it is plural), meaning "descent," "history," or "genealogy." The NKJV corrects this first error by using the word "genealogy"—"This is the genealogy of Noah"—although this is still a singular word. Other translations read:

» "the records of the generations" [New American Standard Bible (NASB)]

» "the account" [New International Version (NIV)]

» "the story" [Revised English Bible (REB)]

» "the descendants" [Moffatt translation (MOF)]

» "births" (Young's Literal Version)

» "the family records" [Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)]

The second occurrence of "generations"—in the phrase "perfect in his generations"—is from the Hebrew word dôr (Strong's #1755), which means "properly, a revolution of time, i.e., an age or generation." The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) adds:

Generation. By a thoroughly understandable figure, a man's lifetime beginning with the womb of earth and returning thereto (Gen 3:19) is a dôr; likewise from the conception and birth of a man to the conception and birth of his offspring is a dôr. A special use . . . is to mean simply "contemporaries," . . . cf. Gen 6:9 . . . "in his own generation and those immediately contiguous."

In Isaiah 53:8, this word, dôr, is used similarly to Genesis 6:9:

[My Servant, Jesus] was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

This is better rendered, as in the English Standard Version: ". . . and as for His generation [or, contemporaries], who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?"

Generation (dôr) simply means a period of time, in the same way we use the phrases "the life and times of Ronald Reagan" or "the Age of Napoleon." The Hebrew implies the context or milieu of a person's life, the situations and events that occurred during his lifetime, including, as TWOT shows, his "contemporaries." Thus, many modern translations have rendered in his generations as:

» "in his time" (NASB)

» "at that time" (The Living Bible)

» "of his time" (Today's English Version; REB)

» "among the people of his time" (NIV)

» "among his fellow-men (The Modern Language Bible)

» "among his contemporaries" (HCSB)

» "among the men of his day" (MOF)

The two generations in Genesis 6:9 are quite different words and should be translated to distinguish them and to rule out misunderstanding.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'


 

Genesis 18:23-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's justice is according to His righteousness, His holy character. Psalm 119:172 defines righteousness, stating "All Your commandments are righteousness." Those commandments reflect in writing the character of God.

What God does is always consistent with who and what He is, and what He has written. His righteousness is absolute purity. He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous, unjust act. For God to act unfairly, He would simply have to cease being God. It is totally impossible for Him to commit an injustice.

When Abraham uses the word "righteous" in verse 23, he is not saying, "Would You destroy the sinless with the wicked?" He means people who, through their fear of God and being conscientious, have kept themselves free from the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's concern was that there were people in the city we might consider to be really good citizens. They were not sinless, but if there was a fear of God in them, maybe they were trying with all their might to obey God, but they were caught up simply in being in the environment which God had decided He was going to destroy.

God does not always act with justice; sometimes He acts with mercy. That is what He did with Lot and his family. God acted with justice against the city because it was so corrupt, so evil, so filled with sin that it even offended God's sense of what is right and wrong. It even offended God's patience, His longsuffering. And so in justice He wiped the city off the map, but in grace and mercy He spared Lot, his wife, and two children.

Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, because injustice would violate righteousness, and God always acts according to His holy character, which is total righteousness. Therefore mercy, which manifests kindness and grace, does no violence to righteousness, and we may see non-justice in God—which is mercy—but we never see injustice in God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Job 38:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" are biblical names for angels, who express joy when events in God's plan unfold. Not only God but also angels are thrilled when a sinner repents of his worldly ways. Prayer for forgiveness brings about joyous repentance and restoration of righteousness in a person's life.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Psalm 37:37   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Righteousness produces peace with its qualities of quietness and assurance, but at the same time, peace provides the proper environment for righteousness to grow. One builds upon the other. A home without peace hinders the development of righteousness. Thus, God allows a Christian to divorce an abusive, unconverted mate (I Corinthians 7:15).

Martin G. Collins
Peace


 

Isaiah 28:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 17, the plumb line is defined as justice and righteousness. We have seen that already in our word "upright," a synonym of "vertical." What is upright is righteous, and God will judge according to that standard. He will set us up so that we can see—and He can see—how close we are adhering to godly judgment and right doing. He and we will see how much we are living by the standard.

He writes, ". . . the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place." The process of this judgment will sweep away 1) the deceptions that we have allowed ourselves to believe and 2) the hidden, secret sins that we have allowed to continue. We will not be able to hide from the lies and the sins that we have ignored for so long.

The plumb line is nothing to sneeze at. God is serious. When He holds the plumb line next to His people, He is deadly serious, "eternal life and death" serious—especially to those who are converted. We had better measure up.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Jeremiah 31:31-34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

As the process of conversion begins, God must use carrots and sticks to keep us moving in the right direction. The blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 served as carrots and sticks to encourage righteous and godly behavior in our Israelite forebears. God uses carrots and sticks in the early part of our calling—for instance, the carrot of the Place of Safety and the stick of the Tribulation—and literally drives us into a frantic study of prophecy. Carrots and sticks have motivated our educational system in the forms of gold stars, grades, praise, trophies, extra homework, and detention.

Recently, Dr. Alfie Kohn, in his book, Punished By Rewards, questions the long-term effects of external motivators, such as grades, financial incentives, gold stars, or tokens, to sustain learning behavior. He supplies some surprising evidence that carrots and sticks—reflecting the philosophy, "Do this and you'll get that"— actually become detrimental in the long run, diverting the focus away from the learning outcome onto the reward or punishment. Dr. Kohn, Dr. Jerome Bruner, and a host of other educators suggest that internal motivators, such as satisfying curiosity, imitating role models, and attaining competency, work better to motivate over the long term than do G.P.A.'s, scholarships and grants, and other external incentives.

To illustrate this, one of the supreme tragedies in the music world occurred when the government of Finland supplied composer Jean Sibelius a guaranteed pension and a large mansion in the woods near Jarvenpaa. After this huge reward, an external motivation, not one musical idea—not one note!—emanated from his pen. Likewise, our spiritual growth and maturity will become stunted if our motivation for righteous behavior is externally determined rather than internally determined.

To an individual truly endowed with God's Spirit, the laws cranked out yearly in Washington, DC, our state capitals, and our local city halls should strike us as juvenile and elementary—or as one minister would call it—knee-pants stuff. Consider the carrots and sticks used by lawmakers to control litter: up to $1,000 fine for littering, or a sign reading, "This segment of highway adopted by Yourtown Jaycees."

These examples ignore the heart and core of the problem. Until the law gets from stone-tablet pages of the Scripture, or the statute books of a local, state, or federal assembly, into our hearts and minds—unless the motivation for doing what is right comes from the inside out—we are no more converted than a donkey. On second thought, a donkey at least behaves as it is programmed to act.

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

Amos 5:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Similar to Amos 6:12, this verse connects justice and righteousness. The fruit of righteousness is justice. Justice is fair treatment, not only in the courts but in every aspect of life. This strikes at the root of a major portion of God's judgment of Israel (Isaiah 59:13-15).

Here, righteousness is pictured as a standard, flag, or banner thrown to the ground. They had "[laid] . . . to rest" or thrown aside the Torah, the law of God, the teachings of God. Instead, they were practicing what we call "situation ethics"—allowing their weak and untrained consciences to be their guide. The practical result was "anything goes." What does this mean in relation to social conditions?

Righteousness is what is right with God: "For all Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). It is the cultivation of correct moral principles within ourselves. As a nation we should cultivate morality to produce spiritual and social growth. Righteousness—morality—is therefore the foundation of justice. Justice is correct moral practice, the practical application of morality.

The Israelites were not cultivating God's commandments, the moral standards upon which any nation must operate if it is to be successful. Instead, they had developed a specious code of living which was incompatible with the Word of God. Since the right moral principles were not being cultivated, there was no justice in society and immorality reigned.

While righteousness is inward, justice is out-going, concerning even such "trivial" things as being neat and orderly. Notice how much trash litters our highways and graffiti mars our cities. Maybe no law of God specifically regulates our driving, but is it not fair and just to be considerate of others on the road? Certainly God's law has to do with being thoughtful, gracious, tactful, and discreet, all of which are founded on one of its basic principles, the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

Once these "little things" stop being cultivated, then injustice begins to appear in more serious areas, such as increased crime, divorce, abortion, suicide, and the like. Morality plunges and the people move farther and farther from godly mores and values. And when God sees no repentance in sight, His wrath is not long in coming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 5:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The people feared to protest openly the injustices in their society. Why would people be afraid of pointing the finger at somebody who is doing wrong? Because they knew that if they did, that would be the end of their advancement in society and at work. They did not want to blow the whistle on anybody else because they would get the reputation of being a troublemaker—and there went their future.

The word prudent indicates anyone who wants to succeed. "You would not want to spoil your prospects with this company would you? Just look the other way. Keep your eyes shut. Sure, we are stealing a little bit. Sure, this isn't quite legal. Sure, the government does not know about these shipments. Sure, we are getting these things into the country illegally. But what difference does it make? If you just keep your eyes shut, the company will pay you, and you will get ahead." Thus, those who wanted to succeed just kept their mouths shut. The evil went on.

On the other hand, the person who has really come in contact with God is so concerned about righteousness that he will do everything in his power to create a righteous community, whether that righteous community is his family, his neighborhood, or his church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Amos 5:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The giving of the law at Mount Sinai was the climax of a series of events that began at Passover, the moment and the means of the Israelites' redemption. At Passover they killed a lamb and put the blood on their doorposts. When the death angel passed through to slay the firstborn, those who had blood on the doorposts were spared. God was saving, redeeming, buying back His people.

Mount Sinai adds the other half of the equation. Though redemption through the blood of a lamb (Christ) freed them from sin's dominion and death, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai shows that freeing them is not all that God had in mind. Israel came to Mount Sinai after being redeemed, heard the law, and assented to keep it. God gave the law to show the pattern of life, the principles of righteousness, for the redeemed.

On one side of the coin is grace and on the other is law and obedience. They are harmonious; they cannot be separated. They are both vital parts of the process of sanctification leading to salvation. Grace is given upon repentance from sin, but after repentance, what is a Christian to do with his life? Obedience to God and living a life of holiness become his first priorities, and these work to produce character in the image of God (II Corinthians 3:18).

Amos 5:25 reconfirms that the sacrifice, offering, and shedding of blood is a foundational necessity for a relationship with God. "Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?" The answer is, "Yes." The people were sacrificing, but is that all that they did? He implies that though they were sacrificing, something was missing—obedience to the law.

God told Israel that He would dwell in the Tabernacle, specifically the Holy of Holies, the symbolism of which we need to understand. The most important piece of furniture inside the Holy of Holies was the Mercy Seat, a wooden chest overlaid with gold. Its lid functioned as the seat. Inside the chest, under the seat, were stored the two tablets of stone, symbolizing God sitting on His law, the basis of His judgment.

When one sins, he begins to separate himself from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2). He is no longer permitted, as it were, to come into the Holy of Holies. What means did God provide to heal the broken relationship, to restore the fellowship?

One might think that the giving of a sin offering would appease God, and He would forgive the sin. However, Hebrews 10:4 is very clear: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." Then why did God have the Israelites make these sacrifices? "But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year" (verse 3). As Amos does not mention the sin offering in Amos 5:22, it seems that Israel did not even make the attempt to be reminded of sin.

So how was fellowship restored? On the Day of Atonement, once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with blood. God's intent in this ritual was to show people that their transgressions of His law were covered by the blood. The redeemed were again in fellowship with God.

The blood and the law are essential parts for maintaining the correct relationship with God. The law is permanent and codifies the nature of God in precepts to help us understand Him clearly. Obedience to His law is a perpetual requirement, with blood available to cover any transgression of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:4-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To enlarge their coffers, merchants opened their shops for business the minute the Sabbath and holy days passed. They used nonstandard weights and measures to cheat their customers of a few ounces of grain. Some cheated the people to the point that they had to sell themselves into slavery to pay their debts! At the end of the day, the businessman would sweep up the bad wheat berries left on the floor, and sell them to the poor as first-quality wheat when business resumed in the morning!

Their problem lay in their personal attitude toward sin and holiness. God looked at their hearts and saw nothing of His righteousness and holiness. Whenever He finds a lack of these elements in His people, He becomes very concerned. The Israelites manifested their godless attitude in their domineering ways, their penchant to exploit, and their insatiable feeding of their own indulgences. Although God appears to attack mainly the rich and powerful throughout the book, the poor and needy probably had the same attitude but lacked the power to carry it out. Thus, God will punish both "the great house"—the rich—and "the little house"—the poor (Amos 6:11).

Israel's attitude toward the things of God was one of total disrespect and indifference. When Jesus cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-16), one thing that angered Him was how the priests disqualified the peoples' sacrifices without legitimate grounds, forcing them to buy animals far above fair market value. Sincere worshippers would have no choice but to pay fifteen or twenty times the normal price for another sacrificial animal that the priests had already proclaimed acceptable. The Israelites of Amos' day exhibited the same attitudes in their normal business practices.

The sin that underpinned these attitudes is covetousness, causing them to turn everything in life to self-advantage. As in America, competition was the lifeblood of the people, the vitality of the nation, and they felt they had no alternative but to lie, cheat, and steal to keep their "competitive edge." "The end justifies the means" was their motto. God says that they did not have to approach business this way. The nation was very wealthy—there was enough for everyone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Habakkuk 2:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Terrible times, God says, are coming, and the proud will be caught in that time. If we want to be spared, if we want to be saved, if we want to witness these things and live eternally beyond it, then we must live by faith and wait for it. It will require perseverance and endurance.

The word translated as "faith" is not the normal Hebrew word for faith. It has a meaning more akin to "fairness": The just shall live by his fairness. By extension, we could say, he shall live by his stability, certainty, reliability, personal character, or integrity.

A person is faithful to God only because he trusts Him, and therefore, to help us to understand, the translators decided to insert the word "faith" here. Human faithfulness ultimately rests on his trust in God. If a person is going to be faithful, it is because he believes what God says, and he is motivated to have a genuine commitment to righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At first, the question "What is righteousness?" may seem like a "no-brainer" because we know it means "rectitude," or more simply, "right doing." By quoting Psalm 119:172, "All Your commandments are righteousness," we feel equipped with a direct biblical definition of this important biblical concept. None of these is wrong, but the Bible's use of "righteousness" is both specific and broad—so broad that in some places it is treated as a synonym of salvation itself (Isaiah 45:8; 46:12-13; 51:5; 56:1; 61:10).

Though the Bible uses "righteousness" so broadly, its comparison with "salvation" does not help us much in understanding it because "salvation" is one of the Bible's most comprehensive terms. Since none of us has fully experienced salvation, we look through a glass darkly trying to comprehend it.

Righteousness is used in a similar sense in the very familiar passage given in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus commanded, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Here it has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor. It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some have argued that the righteousness Jesus refers to in Matthew 5:6 is what comes to all through Christ upon repentance. The Bible, though, shows three kinds of righteousness, and each is important in its own right. The first is the righteousness of faith that comes when God justifies a sinner by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This results when Christ's obedience is imputed to him, thus giving him legal righteousness before God. David writes in Psalm 14:1, "There is none who does good, no, not one"; Paul changes the wording in Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no, not one."

God makes these powerful indictments against a world in which most people undoubtedly consider themselves as "good." But it is a goodness perceived through their own standards - in a mind not awakened to God's righteousness, filled with the pride of self-righteousness, deceived and blinded by the god of this world (Revelation 12:9; II Corinthians 4:3-4). Such a mind can be, like the unconverted Paul, an accomplice in killing and persecuting God's true children and think all the while it is righteously doing God service (John 16:2). They are like those described in Titus 1:16: "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work."

According to God, all of us have been somewhere in this picture. As sinners we frequently broke God's law in word, thought, and deed, and in many cases, were ignorant of doing so because of the deception and blindness Satan has wrought. But God in His calling removed the veil that was over our minds and revealed Himself, His purpose, and His standards. We convicted ourselves of spiritual bankruptcy. Where we formerly thought of ourselves as perhaps involving ourselves in a "little" sin - but basically okay as measured against our neighbor and the evil people in society - we now begin to see ourselves in a far different light. We do not have a leg to stand on before God.

Romans 2:4 makes it clear that only by God's mercy are we led to see ourselves to some degree as He sees us: "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" God enables us to measure our goodness, our righteousness - which He describes as "like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) - against Him rather than our neighbor. We realize that certain death for sin is staring us right in the face, yet He has graciously provided us with a perfect righteousness in Christ. This offer is not free, though, because we must totally surrender our lives to His rule. Even as it cost Jesus His life to provide this deliverance, it also costs us our lives, as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), to take advantage of God's offer. Nonetheless, it is amazing how hungry and thirsty we become for God's offer of justification leading to salvation.

However, we cannot stop here. Hunger and thirst have brought us this far, but it is only a beginning. If it is a true, godly hunger and thirst, it remains, even though we are justified, because the justified person realizes God has only begun a good work in us (Philippians 1:6). The hungry person will recall Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Justification brings reconciliation and therefore peace with God and access to Him. But it also brings with it the hungering and thirsting for the very glory of God! What an awesome thing to consider that, once we have an imputed righteousness, having God's very image created in us, imparted to us by His Spirit, is the goal of the process we began through God's calling. It can be ours!

It is a profound but nonetheless true purpose that everyone who catches this vision must surely desire with all his being! Have we ever been offered anything greater? Can any other goal in life even begin to compare? We must not "neglect so great a salvation" (Hebrews 2:3)! We must not let this great potential slip from our grasp! No wonder Jesus used such strong language to describe the driving desire for God's righteousness that pleases Him. And when He sees it in us, He will also satisfy it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One of the types of righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst is the one that occupies the greater portion of our life after conversion. Notice how Jesus states this beatitude. He does not say, "Blessed are those who have hungered . . . ," but rather, "Blessed are those who hunger [do hunger, KJV]." This hungering and thirsting is a continuous state, and it must be this way for the second kind of righteousness, elsewhere called pursuing holiness, going on to perfection, or growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Frequently the Bible calls it sanctification. None of these terms is specifically righteousness, but all are contained within its broad meaning. This righteousness is created in us, imparted to us by God's Holy Spirit following justification as we experience our relationship with God. It is seeking godly character to be prepared for living in His Kingdom.

God cannot create His holy and righteous character by fiat. It requires the willing and freely given cooperation of the called; by exercising their free moral agency, they submit to Him in the experiences of life. Submission is difficult, and thus Christianity is no cake-walk through a garden. Jesus often warns that it will require a devotion to Him of such degree that all else must be secondary to Him. We are to bear our crosses and count the cost (Luke 14:26-28). He also warns, "The way is difficult and narrow" (Matthew 7:14), and "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). The trek of the ancient Israelites through the wilderness is a type of the Christian's pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. Their wilderness experiences expose a number of pitfalls that can destroy a Christian's faith and enthusiasm for continuing to the end.

Through this beatitude, God presents us with a serious challenge. Because it is continuously needed, it establishes a demanding requirement. How much do we want goodness, the righteousness of God? Do we want it as much as a starving man desires food or a parched man wants water? Do we so lack vision that we will give up our faith as all the Israelites, save Joshua and Caleb, did in the wilderness? According to Hebrews 4:1, though they heard the good news, they did not believe it sufficiently. They, therefore, died in the wilderness, their pilgrimage finished before they reached their goal. Rather than submit, they resisted God until their deaths. Apparently, they did not hunger for it.

Most of us have a desire for God's Kingdom and His righteousness, but it is, to our detriment, frequently nebulous rather than sharp. When the time comes to make a choice, we are not prepared to make the required effort or sacrifice that the righteousness of God demands. It is situations like these that reveal that we do not desire righteousness more than anything else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 5:10-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This beatitude presents us with yet another paradox. The other beatitudes show that a Christian can be filled with a joy that he cannot fully express, yet lament over things that the carnal consider as insignificant. He has a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, yet groans daily and sincerely. His life-experiences are often painful, yet he would not part with them for the great wealth, acclaim, and ease that the world offers. Though the world exalts those filled with pride, self-esteem, and assertiveness, God exalts the humble and meek. The world displays its approval for war-makers by giving them ticker-tape parades, putting them into high office, and remembering their achievements by naming streets, cities, parks, and schools after them—yet God blesses peacemakers. Understanding these earlier paradoxes among the Beatitudes, this one states that all we will receive for doing well is to earn the antipathy of fellow man.

We need to understand the connection between righteousness and persecution because not every sufferer or even every sufferer of religious persecution suffers for righteousness' sake. Many suffer persecution for zealously holding fast to what is clearly a false religion. Often, a rival religious group or civil authority—just as ignorant of God's truth—are the persecutors. At any given time, persecutions of one form or another are taking place. In the recent past the Japanese persecuted the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Nepalese. In Africa, the Moslem Sudanese are persecuting nominal Christians, while in Europe, the Slavic Eastern Orthodox are persecuting Moslem Kosovars. In the history of man, this familiar beat of persecution continues endlessly with nary a connection to righteousness.

Some people become victims of their own character flaws and personality disorders. They foolishly take comfort in Matthew 5:10-12, claiming persecution when others merely retaliate against their displays of evil speaking, haughtiness, or self-centeredness. Such people are just reaping what they have sown.

Psalm 119:172 says, "My tongue shall speak of Your word; for all Your commandments are righteousness." This is a simple, straightforward definition of righteousness. It is rectitude, right doing. God's commands thus describe how to live correctly. They teach us how to conduct relationships with Him and fellow man. This beatitude is written about those who are truly doing this. They will receive persecution because they are living correctly—not because they have irritated or infuriated others through their sins or because they belong to another political party, religion, or ethnic group.

Does anything illustrate the perversity of human nature clearer than this? We might think that one could hardly be more pleased than to have neighbors who are absolutely trustworthy; who will not murder, commit adultery or fornication, steal, lie, or covet one's possessions; who rear respectful children; who are an asset to the neighborhood; who so respect God they will not even use His name in vain; who submit to the civil laws and do not even flaunt the codes and covenants of the neighborhood.

However, this description does not mention the relationship to God that really brings the persecution. These are things moral people of this world might do, yet they lack the true God in their lives and are not regenerated by His Spirit. An element of righteousness is still missing. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

The source of true persecution is Satan, and his target is God. Satan not only hates God, but he also hates all who bear His holy image in them by means of His Spirit. Satan works in and through people just as God does, and he incites them to do all in their power to vilify, destroy the reputation of, put fear in, or discourage God's children to cause their disqualification. He will do anything to get us to retaliate as worldly people do, because then we would display Satan's image rather than Jesus Christ's. Satan knows those who have the Spirit of God, and just as he tempted Jesus, he will also single out His brothers and sisters for persecution.

The righteousness needed to resist these pressures and respond in a godly manner goes far beyond that of a merely moral person. This righteousness requires that one be living by faith minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. It is a righteousness that is ingrained into a person's very character because he knows God. He is intimately acquainted with Him and His purpose rather than merely believing academically that He exists.

Following on the heels of this beatitude is another statement by Jesus on righteousness: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). He focuses on a righteousness that is not merely legal, resulting from God graciously justifying us by Christ's blood, but one inculcated within the heart and mind by constantly living God's way. Such a person's righteousness comes through sanctification. He is striving to keep all the commandments of God, not merely those having to do with public morality. He has made prayer and study a significant part of each day, along with occasional fasting to assist in keeping humble. He is well on his way toward the Kingdom of God.

These are not normally things that one does publicly; his neighbors may never know much of this person's life. Nonetheless, Satan knows, and this person's living faith will attract Satan's persecution, the Devil's attempts to derail him from making it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 5:13-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our Savior Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 5:13-14 that we are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world"—we who are also the weak and the foolish of this world (I Corinthians 1:27). Mentally, when we hear such praises from God, some of us look both ways and behind, and say, "He must be talking about someone else." We struggle to overcome, and we feel we are always "a day late and a dollar short." Though we wish with all our heart that we were more like God, His image in us seems all the more elusive.

But Jesus did not lie in saying these things. As salt gives food a rich, pleasant taste, we are those who are to give a good flavor to the lives of those we encounter. There should be something in our conduct that shows the fruit of the life to which God has called us.

He goes on to say that, if we are not "radiating with flavor"—reflecting the teachings of God in our lives—what use are we, especially to God Himself? Salt without flavor has no use, and it can even be detrimental to the things it comes in contact with. Maybe its best use is to be put on icy roads, to be ground under the tires of vehicles and then washed away.

In Christ's other metaphor, light illuminates what was once dark; it reveals things that were hidden. Though we may be poor, considered old and over the hill, uneducated and obscure, when we live our lives as He instructs, we are a brilliant beacon to this tired and confused world. Our lives can shine a spotlight on the solutions to many common problems experienced by our friends and neighbors.

Jesus points out that we should not hide our light under a basket (verse 15), but live it in the open for all to see. We can set a proper example of the abundant way to live. We should give everyone we meet the light of our loving concern, the light of our honesty, the light of joy and peace, the light of godly family relations, the light of good work habits, and all the other rays of light contained in God's way.

In doing this, we will initially bring attention upon ourselves, and this may at times become uncomfortable. Righteousness has an uncanny tendency to bring out the worst in carnal human beings. Ultimately, however, we will glorify God the Father and His Son by it, promoting the cause of the Kingdom of God.

John O. Reid
Abstaining From Evil


 

Matthew 5:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A Christian's righteous life, pleasant attitude, and good works, including pure conversation and faithful obedience, should not be hidden but be seen and known. We can give no light until we have received the grace of God and the enlightenment that comes through the Holy Spirit. Our lives must produce the fruit of the Spirit, reflecting the shining example of Jesus Christ. Humbly, in all communities, in all business, at home and abroad, in prosperity and adversity, it should be clear that we adhere to God's way of life. Letting our examples shine requires that we resist the influence of the world. We cannot have a light that shines and at the same time live as the world does with its lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (I John 2:16-17).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Light


 

Matthew 5:17-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus is saying, in plain language, that His teaching does not contradict the Old Covenant law, but it is the ultimate fulfillment of its spiritual intent. Even in the smallest matter, the smallest statement—the jot and the tittle—the law must be fulfilled.

Notice where His statement appears. Matthew places it immediately after Jesus' exhortation, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16). What if our works are good? Are we supposed to hide them? Then comes His statement regarding law. Is there a connection between good works and keeping the law? One would have to be quite obstinate to believe there is no connection between them. It is obvious that He is connecting good works with lawkeeping.

To strengthen the argument, He mentions righteousness in verse 20. What is the Bible's definition of righteousness? Psalm 119:172: "All Your commandments are righteousness." Thus, sandwiched between righteousness and letting one's light shine comes an explanation that He did not come to do away with the law but to fill it to the full, to help us understand its ultimate application—its spiritual intent.

Is it possible to keep the law in its spirit without also keeping it in the letter? It cannot be done. One must first keep it in the letter before learning how to keep its spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 14)


 

Matthew 5:38-42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

All of these examples deal with the attitude of one's heart in exhibiting patience and love, and Jesus' intent in them is to raise us above the righteousness of the Pharisees to the higher righteousness of God's calling.

In Jesus, we have the ultimate example in responding correctly, when He said, while hanging on the stake, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Not long thereafter, Stephen, when faced with death at the hands of a mob of hateful Jews, rather than responding with epithets or seeking revenge, beseeched, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" (Acts 7:60). Both had a generous spirit and a true love for their fellow man.

Matthew 5:41 speaks of being pressed into service to do a task for another. It might be good to remember that each of us has been pressed into the service of Almighty God and asked to go the extra mile. For most of us, our calling was unlooked for and perhaps even came at an inopportune time in our lives. Yet, a Higher Authority has put us into service to do a work. Have we taken on our burden and cheerfully gone an extra mile for God?

And beyond God Himself, in our marriages, in raising our children, in dealing with each other, and in interacting with those outside our fellowship, we should be doing all we can to go that extra mile. By doing so, we reflect the higher standards of God's law, the standard of truly loving God and each other. This attitude will take us far beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

John O. Reid
Go the Extra Mile


 

Matthew 6:33   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here the term righteousness has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:6). It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 22:11-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The guests do not enter the wedding hall immediately. Those gathered from the highways would be inappropriately clothed, so time is given them to clothe themselves in proper attire provided by the king (Isaiah 64:6; Zechariah 3:3-4). The parable suggests that, not only did the man not have on a wedding garment, but he did so intentionally. He decides against clothing himself properly, even though the appropriate clothing is available. His presence at the wedding is a sign of his rebellion against the king's authority and majesty, symbolized by the feast. When the man realizes his sin against the king's order, he is speechless as his judgment is pronounced.

The wedding garment, conspicuous and distinctive, represents a person's righteousness. It symbolizes the habit of sincerity, repentance, humility, and obedience. It replaces the street clothes that stand for the habits of pride, rebellion, and sinfulness. Biblically, beautiful clothing indicates spiritual character developed by submission to God (Revelation 3:4-5; 19:7-9). Paul exhorts Christians to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" like a garment (Romans 13:14). Clothing, then, represents a Christ-covered life, and as a result, character consistent with God's way of life.

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Matthew 23:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Pharisees made their first major error in this area of judgment. They had abandoned the proper yardstick for their basis of judgment. As Matthew 15:1-9 shows, they had developed their own traditions that transgressed the law of God (verse 3). Their worship had become vain - worthless - as they substituted the doctrines of men for the doctrines of God (verse 9).

The Pharisees had lost touch with God's instructions, His mind. They leaned on carnal reasoning, which always decided in their favor. Situation ethics ruled, rather than the precepts of God. They became very harsh in their dealings with the "little people," taking advantage of them simply because they could (Micah 2:1-2).

"A just weight and balance are the Lord's; all the weights in the bag are His work. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:11-12). Though the Pharisee's "additions" to the law seemed innocent enough at their inception, over time they became increasingly partial to those who made the additions. This destroyed godly standards, and wickedness reigned. Since the leaders' righteousness had been destroyed, their leadership was void of justice. Significantly, the Bible's final warning is not to add to or subtract from God's Word (Revelation 22:18-19), for our own judgments do not have the purity and objectivity of God's.

This problem never seems to go away. Christ excoriated the Pharisees for it. James addressed the church about it because some were showing partiality to the wealthy in the congregations (James 2:1-12). Decision-making, judging, discerning, and evaluating fruits often become subjective. We base them on how they may affect our own well-being rather than render them impartially and objectively in the light of God's Word purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Is it any wonder God gives us an average of 70 years to learn to make right judgments?

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment


 

Matthew 25:1-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Mark 5:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ was met by the unclean men coming out of the tombs. These rock-hewn tombs were repulsive to the Jews and to dwell in them was deemed a sign of insanity. Because of the remains of the dead they contained, they were shunned by the Jews as unclean (Matthew 23:27). Under the Old Covenant, one could be physically defiled by touching a dead body. Even when a person died in a tent, the whole tent was regarded as unclean (Numbers 19:11, 14).

Unclean in Scripture means "to be defiled, polluted, unhealthy, or unfit," and refers to foods that are unfit, defilement of religious character, and moral or spiritual impurity. The word "defilement" describes a sinful and unfit condition (Isaiah 6:5). The Old Testament distinguishes between what is clean and helpful and what is unclean and unacceptable (Leviticus 10:10). The New Testament deals more with the spiritual application and lists uncleanness or moral defilement along with fornication and other sins as "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21).

In the gospels, "unclean" describes those who are possessed by demonic spirits through constant submission to evil. Uncleanness represents sin, and sin separates man from God. Because of sin, "we are all like an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6). Believers are not called to uncleanness but to live in holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). We are not to yield our members to uncleanness but to righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:19).

The teaching about uncleanness springs from the concept of God's holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45). It is a miracle in itself that freedom from uncleanness and guilt is possible through God's grace. Holiness within, purity of heart, is possible through the exercise of faith in Christ's redemptive work and obedience to His truth.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two-Demon Possessed Men Healed (Part Two)


 

Luke 15:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just people need no repentance because they need no change of mind and purpose. Some people were reared in a godly and righteous family environment. Their parents obeyed and worshipped according to God's laws, statutes, and ordinances, and taught their children to do likewise. The Gentile Cornelius was one such man (Acts 10:1-2). Of course, no human being is completely just (Ecclesiastes 7:20), but he may be righteous in comparison to those who flagrantly sin, such as those succinctly described in Luke 15:1. A just person cannot repent of the idolatries of a pagan, which he has not practiced, nor of the larcenies of a tax collector, of which he has never been guilty. When comparing just people to flagrant sinners, we immediately see what Jesus means: These needed no repentance in comparison to the others, not being guilty of such gross sins.

There is more immediate joy over a sinner who repents and follows Christ than over those who are already repentant and safely within God's flock. The latter already have greater and more intimate happiness—eternal joy!—within the Family of God. Faithful members should be elated by the fact that their Shepherd loves and cares for them so intimately. And for the one who strayed, upon genuine repentance, there is hope of salvation.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part One)


 

John 10:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Unlike other animals, sheep rarely find their own way safely. Since sheep go astray, their guidance and safety lies in the Shepherd's leadership (Psalm 23:1-2). A thief, a robber, or a stranger may call the sheep by name and try to imitate their Shepherd's voice, but through long usage and intimacy, the sheep can discern a strange voice and become alarmed. We know the Shepherd's voice because the Holy Spirit gives us discernment; the result is that we turn and flee from any unfamiliar, misleading voice.

Often the unfamiliar voice is a religious-sounding one. Just as the Pharisees' voices confused and misled Jews, so do many religious leaders' voices today. Since the truth is not in them (I John 1:8; 2:4), they lead foolish sheep away from the truth. It is vital for us to seek to live according to the Good Shepherd's will, known from His voice. His positive guidance leads us "in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Shepherd (Part Two)


 

Romans 3:19-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.

Once a person has sinned, they are under the penalty of the law, and their righteousness is not sufficient to justify them before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.

Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.

Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Romans 3:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation cannot be obtained by simply repenting and deciding to obey God's laws. Merely keeping the law will not justify anyone. Being justified means having one's sins forgiven and coming into a right relationship with God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 3:20-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Where does righteousness apart from the law appear in the Bible? In the law, back in the Old Testament! It is not new with the New Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Romans 3:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here Paul explains that God has provided a means whereby we may receive forgiveness of sins and be accounted righteous in His sight. It is separate and distinct from obedience to the law. This forgiveness comes by having faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 13:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 8, Paul has presented us with an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he states that we should owe no man anything that he can rightfully claim from us, yet on the other hand, we must owe everyone more than we can hope to pay—perfect love. By this, he extends and intensifies the concept of obligation. We must be more scrupulous within the limits of the customary concept of indebtedness, and we must infinitely widen the range within which they operate.

Was it not our failure to meet our obligations to God and man that accrued the unpayable debt in the first place? Now that the debt has been paid, we are under obligation, not only to strive to avoid falling into the same trap, but to expand and perfect the giving of love. The paradox is more apparent than real because love is not merely one's duty added to others, but is the inclusive framework within which all duties should be performed. Love is the motivating power that frees and enables us to serve and sacrifice with largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

However, as long as we view love merely as the keeping of God's laws, we are stuck on a low-level, letter-of-the-law approach to righteousness. That is most assuredly a vital and necessary aspect of love, but there is far more to love. That level of love can be merely one of compulsion, and be done in a "just because" attitude: "I must love this person, but I don't have to like them." This may suffice for a while, but Paul, by drawing upon Christ's teaching, unveils an entirely new significance to the concept of obligation.

Of what level was the love of the fallen woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them with her lips, and anointed them with costly oil? Was her conduct merely to keep a commandment, or was it an exquisite expression of a heart freed to give its all?

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

1 Corinthians 1:19-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God has purposely chosen this means to put proud and stiff-necked man totally in debt to Him for the most important achievement in all of life. Men have accomplished much and will continue to do many great things. However, verses 19-21 expose why the wise of this world will not submit to God. The reason becomes clear in the phrase, "the foolishness of preaching" (verse 21, King James Version [KJV]). This translation is somewhat misleading in the King James; it should read "the foolishness of the message preached," as in the New King James Version (NKJV). Paul is not saying that the wise of this world reject the act of preaching but that they consider the content of the message preached to be foolish. In other words, the wise will not believe the gospel, most specifically that God in the flesh has died for the sins of the world.

It cannot be overestimated how important humility expressed by faith before God is to the overall spiritual purpose of God for each individual! Each person must know as fully as possible that Christ died for him, that his own works do not provide forgiveness, and that he has not created himself in Christ Jesus. Nobody evolves into a godly person on the strength of his own will. It is God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13). No new creation creates itself. So, by and large, God calls the undignified, base, weak, and foolish of this world, people whom the unbelieving wise consider to be insignificant and of no account. He does this so that no human will glory in His presence. On this, a German commentator, Johann Albrecht Bengel, clarifies, "We have permission to glory, not before God, but in God."

The term "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) indicates that we are in an intimate relationship with Him. Paul then details—through the terms "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption"—that God, using our believing, humble, submissive cooperation, will be responsible for all things accomplished in and through us. Some modern commentators believe that, because "wise" and "wisdom" appear so many times earlier in this chapter, the terms "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption" should be in parentheses because Paul intends them to define what he means by true wisdom in this context.

God, then, is pleased to save those who believe and to do a mighty work in them. This set Abel apart from, as far as we know, every other person living on earth at that time. What he did by faith pictures what everyone who receives salvation must also do to begin his walk toward the Kingdom of God. Everyone must be called of God; believe enough of His Word to know that he is a sinner who needs the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; repent, that is, undergo a change of mind toward God; and be justified, made legally righteous by having Jesus Christ's righteousness imputed to him. This enables a relationship with God to begin, and sanctification unto glorification can proceed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Galatians 3:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word translated here "foolish" means unintelligent or unwise, and by implication sensual. This implication is very interesting when considered in light of what the letter to the Galatians is fundamentally about: The Galatians were trying to use the rites and ceremonies and physical requirements of Gnostic Judaism to "work" their way into God's Kingdom. Their emphasis was on what they were doing, rather than on God's work in them. Their focus was on things dealing with the senses; things that would be, by definition, sensual—not in terms of being sexual or provocative, but rather indicating the emphasis on the physical senses.

This word (anoeetoi — Strong's #453) is a derivative of a negative participle and noeo (Strong's #3539), which means to exercise the mind, observe, to comprehend, heed, consider, perceive, think, or understand. So the word foolish is the opposite (because of the negative participle) of all these things. The Galatians, then, were not exercising their minds; they were unobservant, uncomprehending, unheeding, inconsiderate, imperceptive, non-thinking, and non-understanding. They were not thinking things all the way through, and not fully considering all of the aspects of the way they were living. They were unable to see that their ideas and views did not add up—that there were some obvious gaps in their understanding that had brought them to the condition they were in.

Paul here is continuing with a theme from Galatians 1:4-9 — namely, that the Galatians were falling away ("so soon removed") from the original teaching that had been given to them by God through His human servants. The very foundation of the New Covenant with God is that we can build a relationship with God directly—because of the sacrifice of Christ. For them even to make the covenant with God properly, it was a requirement that they understand that justification by means of a sinless sacrifice was the only way it is possible for us to come into God's presence! Our own righteousness is as "filthy rags" in comparison to God's; our works simply do not amount to enough to even out the scales. But this does not negate the necessity of working! The Galatians' problem was that they thought their personal righteousness was sufficient—and if that was the case, then truly there was no need for Christ to die.

Paul refers to the Galatians being "bewitched." This word means "to malign," or "to fascinate by false representation." The Galatians were drawn in—their fascination was piqued by these Jewish and Gnostic ideas. It did not take long for them to begin slipping spiritually, and a large part of this was because of their misplaced faith. They had more faith in themselves, in their own works, to save them than they had in Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and intercession! They did not see or know God clearly enough, and the absence of Him in their lives created a void that was quickly and easily filled by these false ideas.

This is the only place in the New Testament where this word ("bewitched") is used (Strong's #940), but numerous other verses speak of this principle. Paul is speaking of this principle when he says in Galatians 1:7-9 not to deviate from this gospel message even if an "angel" from heaven gave them different instructions! The Galatians were weak enough in the faith that they could be easily deceived and drawn away if one of Satan's angels were to appear before them.

Matthew 24:24 speaks of false Christs—false ideas, pictures, impressions about Christ—arising, as well as false prophets, who will be able to manifest terrific signs and wonders to the extent that even the elect of God could be deceived if God allowed it! This is why we have to have such a concrete picture in our minds of what "Christ" is comprised of so that when we begin to hear about or see miraculous things, our faith will not be shaken as the Galatians' was.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 5:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ephesians 5:8 says that converted persons are "light in the Lord" and should "walk as children of light." This light is revealed in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. This is what others should witness in us and be guided by as an example. Each of these three terms covers a different aspect of our witness.

Righteousness conveys legality. Psalm 119:172 defines righteousness as keeping the commandments of God, thus righteousness implies conformity to law. It is a narrower term than either truth or goodness. It indicates uprightness and a manifestation of justice. It can literally mean being right. God uses the illustration of a plumb line in Amos to portray what He means by righteousness. The person who is righteous has been measured against the standard of God's law and found to be in alignment. Therefore, righteousness should be a characteristic of a Christian. He is fair and just in his dealings with others, plays life by the rules and respects others' rights and possessions.

Earlier, in Ephesians 5:6, Paul speaks of deceit, things done in secret, and the hidden things of darkness. "All truth" is their opposite. The character of the life of the Christian is without deceit. Nothing is hidden, underhanded, or dishonest; nothing smacks of hypocrisy or pretense. The life of those walking in the light will be open, aboveboard, and transparent; it has nothing to conceal and never pretends to be something it is not.

New Testament goodness, agathosune, is a versatile and strong word that can be used either of the act or the intention motivating the act. It can be gentle or sharp, but the intention of the good person is always the well-being of the recipients of his goodness. An English word that covers some aspects of the Greek word is "benevolence." This "inclination to do good" seems to be Paul's intent in Ephesians 5:9.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his Darkness and Light, a commentary on Ephesians 4 and 5, writes that this goodness is "indicative of a perfect balance in the various parts of the personality. A good man is a balanced man, a man in whom everything that is noble and excellent works harmoniously together" (p. 402). Thus he can be gentle or sharp, but what he does always has the right balance and is good.

Such a person tries to promote the happiness of all around him. He is not selfish or self-centered, but because he has this balance himself, he desires that others have it too. This is how God is. God looks upon us in our misery, the result of sin, and in His goodness leads us to repentance. Sometimes the path to repentance for us is sharp and painful, but it is always good.

On the more gentle side, God "makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). Although men are evil, He does this kindness out of His goodness.

In the converted person we see a pale reflection of this goodness. The good man is one who thinks about love, beauty, and truth—not just in the realm of majestic mountains, surging seas, gorgeous flowers, and sunsets, but more specifically in his fellow man. He wants to alleviate suffering and to mitigate wrongs. He consciously looks for ways to benefit others. Because he is not out to gratify himself, His works are the opposite of the self-centered works of darkness. The good person is the benefactor of the weak, helpless, and those in trouble—and sometimes even of the evil.

In the presence of Cornelius and his family, Peter says of Jesus, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). The Scriptures speak frequently of Jesus' healing all who came to Him without qualification as to who they were. He sharply rebuked those who had the power to do good but did not. Though He at times ate with the "respectable" of the cities and villages, He was known to keep company with publicans and sinners. He flatly states that He did not come for those who were well, but for those who needed a physician (Matthew 9:12-13). As a man Jesus continued to follow the same pattern He established as God above, and in so doing He gave us a perfect example to follow within our contacts and power.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness


 

Philippians 1:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christians are clearly identified as saints in Scripture. A saint is a "holy one," separated from the unconverted, who do not have God's Spirit. We must not confuse righteousness and holiness. Though they function together in the salvation process, they are specifically not the same qualities. Righteousness is the practical and consistent application, the right doing, of God's way of life. At its foundation, holiness is being cleaned, purified, and set apart, distinguished from others, for God's uses. Holiness is notable by a life as free from the defiling acts of sin as the convert can achieve as he overcomes and grows. Holiness is godliness.

So essential is holiness that the author of Hebrews declares, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness must be pursued. Thus, God's legal declaration of holiness, which we receive through Christ's righteousness as we begin converted life, is not the end of our pursuit of glorifying God. I Peter 1:13-16 charges us with this responsibility:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Holiness reflects the attitude and way that God conducts His life. Peter's charge to us is not to add to the righteousness conferred on us by receiving Christ's righteousness. Never in our human lives will we ever be more righteous than at that moment. The purpose of the pursuit of holiness through living God's way in our daily lives is to engrain His way into our pattern of living so thoroughly that it becomes habitual, or as we might say, first nature. This effort as a living sacrifice is our contribution that helps transform us into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1).

II Corinthians 5:17 describes what we presently are in God's purpose: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." II Corinthians 3:17-18 more specifically defines where God's creative process is headed:

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

J.C. Ryle, the author of Holiness, writes:

Sanctification is the same with regeneration, the same with the renovation of the whole man. Sanctification is the forming and the framing of the new creature; it is the implanting and engraving of the image of Christ upon the poor soul. It is what the apostle [Paul] breathed after. (p. 317)

In Galatians 4:19, Paul writes, "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you. . . ." He also says in I Corinthians 15:49, "And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man."

Just as surely as Christ's sacrifice is absolutely vital to our justification before God, so His labor in support of our sanctification forms the reflected image of Him within our very beings, our "hearts," in preparation for life in the Kingdom of God. There would be no salvation, no entrance into that Kingdom, without His efforts because we would be unprepared to live in that sinless environment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Colossians 2:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In their struggle to find a New Testament scripture that supports their misconception that God's law is "done away," antinomians point to Colossians 2:14 to "prove" that Christ nailed the law of God to the cross. Proponents of such a teaching say that the "handwriting of requirements [ordinances, KJV]" refers to the law "that was against us." They further claim that Christ "took it out of the way" or abolished the law.

The phrase "handwriting of requirements" is translated from the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin. Cheirographon means anything written by hand, but can more specifically apply to a legal document, bond, or note of debt. Dogmasin refers to decrees, laws, or ordinances, and in this context means a body of beliefs or practices that have become the guidelines governing a person's conduct or way of life.

What Paul is saying is that, by His death, Christ has justified us—brought us into alignment with His Law—and wiped out the note of guilt or debt that we owed as a result of our sins. Before repentance, our lives had been governed by the standards and values of this present, evil world—the "decrees, laws and ordinances" of the society in which we lived. After repentance and acceptance of Christ, we embark on a new way of life and live by God's standards and values. Consequently, God wipes out the debt we acquired as a result of our sins and imputes righteousness to us.

Also notice that the phrase "handwriting of requirements" restates the phrase immediately before it. "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us" parallels "having forgiven you all trespasses." Thus, Paul could not be referring to the law itself but rather to the record of our transgression of that law—sin!

The last sentence in verse 14 reads: "And He has taken it out of the way..." In this sentence, the word "it" is a singular pronoun and refers back to the singular word "handwriting." "Requirements" could not be its antecedent because "requirements" is plural. So, some kind of handwriting—a note, a record, or a citation—was affixed to the cross.

Historically, only two objects were nailed to the stake of crucifixion: 1) the condemned person and 2) an inscription naming the crimes for which he was being punished. Thus, when Jesus was crucified, only His body and Pilate's inscription ("This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"; see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19) were nailed to the cross. Normally, the inscription would be more accusative, saying something like, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, who rebelled against Caesar." Pilate's complimentary inscription replaced the customary note or record of guilt—the "handwriting of requirements" that would have been found nailed to the crosses of the two malefactors crucified with Him.

Just before He died, when the Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:46), our sins were symbolically nailed to the cross in His body. "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed" (I Peter 2:24). At the time of His crucifixion, Jesus Christ became sin for us. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21). Our note of debt that we owed God as a result of our sins is what was "taken out of the way" and "nailed . . . to the cross."

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?


 

2 Timothy 2:14-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Renouncing ungodliness appears here in an interesting context. People in the congregation were getting into heated discussions about genealogies, meanings of words, and technicalities of law. Paul called this "ungodliness" (or irreligion) and instructed Timothy to shun such things. These brethren had missed the point of God's way of life, which Paul says is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Being technically correct about a minor point is not as important as building right relationships through kindness, forgiveness, service, and sensitive concern for others.

The word also appears in Romans 1:18-32 within a broad denunciation of obvious ungodliness, shown as the fruit of an unholy marriage of idolatry and immorality. When grace truly comes into a person's life, he must consciously repudiate and utterly reject ungodliness. That is, he must rid himself of the leaven of those sins. It will not happen all at once, but one must make consistent effort in that direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

2 Timothy 3:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse could be updated using synonyms for some of these words: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, for conviction [something that we know for certain], for correction [or restoration, to get us turned around, healed in mind and spirit], for training in righteousness."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Titus 2:13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The thrust of Paul's exhortation is to encourage us to quit looking back with longing to the world and our former lives and to live in the present with our minds focused with eager and active expectation on our Savior's return. If we are doing these things, we are preparing for that future great event. Eagerly anticipating the imminent fulfillment of our earnest desire for Christ's return motivates us to modify our conduct in the present evil world.

If we do not have this glorious hope in us, we will very likely just drift around, squandering our time in useless, trivial, but perhaps exciting carnal pursuits. We will fail to use the grace of God toward growing in His image and producing fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Hebrews 8:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God's law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and godliness. Actually, no human being is completely converted, but many people are in various stages of conversion.

Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law's principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all. (Proactive is a term author-speaker Steven Covey uses to distinguish internal motivation to do or accomplish something as opposed to external motivation.)

David F. Maas
Righteousness from Inside-Out


 

James 3:17-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These two verses give direct and specific reasons why peace is such a great benefit toward spiritual prosperity.

"Wisdom" indicates influence of heavenly origin, that is, from God. Its effect on the mind is to make it pure and chaste, not more imaginative or intelligent. Its purpose is to make the person upright, inoffensive, and good, then peaceable, etc. It disposes a person to live at peace with others. By itself, it corroborates Jesus' statement that He is willing and able to give a peace unlike the world's, a state of being not native to man.

If a person is of a pure spirit, then peace tends to follow. First, this occurs because a pure-hearted person is at peace within himself. He is therefore not self-righteously, self-centeredly, and discontentedly seeking to impose his will and way on others to control their lives. Such a person will not induce conflict.

Second, they will follow Paul's advice, which he gave in two places. Romans 14:19 says, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Hebrews 12:14 adds, "Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." It is very difficult for people to have conflict with others who will not fight! This does not mean that we should make peace at any cost by denying truth. We can remain faithful to truth without going to war, though it might appear costly at the moment. Jesus—and many others—did it.

James goes on to say that this approach to life's relationships produces the fruit of righteousness. This phrase could mean that what is produced as a fruit is righteousness, but it can also mean the fruit that righteousness produces. The latter is preferable. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit the Spirit produces. The fruit of repentance is the change repentance produces in one's manner of living and attitude. Some of the fruit of righteousness are the qualities James mentions in James 3:17. Righteousness is therefore the seed from which these things grow.

But a seed needs the proper conditions to germinate, grow, and produce fruit. Regardless of how good a seed is, if the conditions are not right, this process will be hindered, and it will bear poorly. The Parable of the Sower and Seed in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 shows this clearly. Peace is the proper condition for the fruit of righteousness, and peacemakers are the green-thumbed gardeners. Growing a good crop demands the right conditions for good seed.

So important is peace to the Christian's spiritual prosperity that God will permit a marriage to be broken by divorce where there cannot be peace. I Corinthians 7:15 says: "But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace."

Divorce is usually preceded by a fairly long period of contention. It is warfare on a small scale. Living in an environment of warfare right in the home contributes little to growing in the image of the loving God of peace. It forces one to focus on himself, and at worst, it is entirely possible God will lose the person involved in such a contentious circumstance. At the very least, growth will be slow and minimal.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

1 John 5:16-17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The concept in these two verses provides a foundation for showing that the Bible clearly categorizes sin in a number of different ways.

First, we must define a few terms. Psalm 119:172 says, "All Your commandments are righteousness." What does the word righteousness mean? It is an Old English word that we still use today, especially in religion. It is slowly being replaced by the word rectitude. Righteousness is a combination of two words, right, meaning "correct," and wise, although it is not spelled anything like our modern word wise. Wisdom is "right application," that is, "right doing." Righteousness, then is "right doing." "All Your commandments are right doing." All unrighteousness—all wrongdoing—is sin.

I John 3:4 reads, "Sin is the transgression of the law." We need to define transgression. Transgress means "to go beyond the limit," "to violate," giving us a broad foundation for understanding this. Sin, then, can be defined as "going beyond the limit of what the law allows." Righteousness is applying the law's letter and/or its intent!

Quite a number of words—Hebrew and Greek—are translated into this single English word sin. A general element that is present in all sin, regardless of which word is used, is failure. Sin equals failure. It is failure to apply or to live up to the standard of what is right. This is why John says that all wrongdoing is failure, but some failure is much more serious than others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Revelation 3:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Gold, clothing, and eye salve represent the three major industries of Laodicea: banking, textiles, and medicines.

Gold, spiritual riches (I Peter 1:7), contrasts with the word "poor," and fire symbolizes trial. God advises them to obtain spiritual riches produced through trials, which the self-sufficient Laodicean avoids by compromising.

"White garments" contrast with their nakedness. Clothing helps us to distinguish people and groups. Because of the differences between men and women's clothing, sexual distinctions can be made. Clothes reveal status: A man in a well-tailored suit falls into a different category than a beggar in rags. Clothing provides a measure of comfort and protection from the elements. It hides shame and deformity. Biblically, God uses it to symbolize righteousness (Revelation 19:8). He instructs the Laodicean to dress himself in the holiness of God to cover his spiritual nakedness, self-righteousness.

Their need of eye salve contrasts with their blindness. Commentators understand it to represent God's Spirit coupled with obedience. The combination of the two gives a Christian the ability to see - to understand spiritual things. "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalms 111:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Find more Bible verses about Righteousness:
Righteousness {Nave's}
Righteousness {Torrey's}
 




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