C.  Preachers of righteousness:

 To define the righteousness that we preach, the Hebrew writer stated in the context of his rebuke that his readers should be teachers of the word, “For everyone who partakes of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hb 5:13). When one is skilled in the righteousness of God, then he is knowledgeable of His Bible. Paul explained, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable … for instruction in righteousness (2 Tm 3:16). One is instructed in righteousness when he studies to show himself approved before God (2 Tm 2:15).   Since the word of God is that which instructs one in righteousness, then those who do not know the word of God cannot attain unto the practice of righteousness.

It is the word of righteousness that Noah preached to his generation. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt 2:5). And for this reason, he “became heir of the righteousness that is according to faith” (Hb 11:7). Noah became the heir of righteousness because he preached the will of God to the people. In doing the same, the disciples of Jesus can increase the fruit of their righteousness. “Now He who provides seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the fruit of your righteousness (2 Co 9:10).

Bringing forth fruit from our righteousness involves our proclamation of the righteousness of God to the world. This point is clearly revealed in Paul’s explanation of how the Gentiles attained unto the righteousness of God through the preaching of the gospel. He begins with a series of questions:

How then will they [Gentiles] call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (Rm 10:14).

These questions must stimulate within us a Noah’s faith that should move us to preach the righteousness of God. Paul concluded his series of questions with another question: “And how will they preach unless they are sent?” (Rm 10:15).   The Hebrew writer commended Noah for being a preacher of righteousness, and thus an heir of the righteousness of God.   Paul blessed the feet that would take every new creature into all the world with the word of righteousness: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things” (Rm 10:15).

It is in this context of preaching the word of righteousness that Paul made the statement, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rm 10:17). When we preach the righteousness of God (grace and faith), faith springs forth in the hearts of those who hear. And without this faith, the unbeliever is not motivated to respond with obedience to the good news. It is for this reason that we must do today what the early disciples did in the first century: “Their sound went into all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Rm 10:18).

D.  Persecuted for righteousness:

In the beatitudes, Jesus explained the journey of the transformed life from the time of mourning over one’s sin to the time when one lives righteously before God (Mt 5:1-12). He concluded that the world would not appreciate the one who gives up the ways of the world. One’s righteous living will intimidate and embarrass those of the world.

Jesus’ final words of the beatitudes were words of encouragement for those who dedicated themselves to live the life of the righteous new creature: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10). The righteousness of the new creature shames those who walk in the world. And for this reason, Paul encouraged Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tm 3:12). If one would choose to live the life of righteousness, then he will suffer persecution (1 Pt 4:16).

Those who persecuted Paul and Barnabas were labelled by Paul to be enemies of all righteousness. The enemies were such because they were “full of all deceit and all fraud,” and thus, they were the “enemy of all righteousness” (At 13:10).

Because of persecution from the enemies of righteousness, some early Christians turned back to the pollutions of the unrighteous.   They again entangled themselves in the ways of the world. Peter wrote of such backsliders: “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Pt 2:21). The way of righteousness in a world of deceit and fraud is a way of persecution.

If the new creature endures the persecution, he will receive the crown of life (Rv 2:10). Those who are persecuted for righteousness sake must always remember the promise of the Holy Spirit:

Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him (Js 1:12).

E.  Judged by righteousness:

God has appointed a time when He will judge the world through Jesus. We must all stand before Him in order to give account of our deeds (2 Co 5:10).   God will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (At 17:31). Those who are unrighteous before God should be in fear of this coming judgment. At least Felix believed enough in the prophets that Paul’s speech before him stirred his conscience. “Now as he [Paul] reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened …” (At 24:25).

Those who have given themselves to trust in the grace of God need not be terrified of the coming judgment. They know, “that as sin has reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rm 5:21). The righteous must never forget what Paul, in the final hours of his life, never forgot:

 Finally, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me at that day, and not only to me, but also to all those who have loved His appearing (2 Tm 4:8).

[End of lecture series 107.]


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