"Fundamentals of the Bible" Series
The Truth About Righteousness
Bridging the Gap Between the Righteousness of the Law and Righteousness by Faith
By David M Rogers
Published: February 2012 - Updated July 2013
Table of Contents
As with most other issues of Bible interpretation, the understanding about righteousness as taught in many Christian churches is imbalanced and lacks perspective of what the Torah and the Prophets say. Each sect and denomination in the Christian world puts their own spin and nuance on this doctrine. Anyone can research "righteousness" online and find that Catholics believe one thing and Protestants believe another. And within the Protestant camp, nearly every group has their own "take" on what biblical righteousness is and how righteousness is imparted to those belonging to Messiah.
Perhaps the reason why so many different denominations of Christians teach different messages about righteousness is insinuated by the writer of the book of Hebrews:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of Elohim's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Ivrim [Hebrews] 5:11-14)
Thus, an understanding of biblical righteousness is for those who are experienced in the Word. The teaching about righeousness is closely connected with one's ability to distinguish good from evil. This hint given by the writer to the Hebrews about true righteousness as taught by the Scriptures must be taken into account while we search for a truly biblical understanding of righteousness.
The vast majority of Christian and Messianic teachers base their interpretation of righteousness on mistaken premises. They tell about a righteousness that someone belonging to Messiah obtains and is credited with by merely believing that Jesus is the promised Messiah and by asking him into your heart. At that moment when someone "believes," those teachers say, the entire righteous character of Messiah is credited to the sinner's life and being.
That theoretical righteousness taught by most Christian churches is not a true indication of one's character. Even more importantly, the Scriptures do not teach that view of righteousness. One has to have the elementary truths correct (and they don't! See my related studies on Faith, The Gospel, and Holiness) before one can correctly understand the more mature subject of righteousness. Christians, by and large, don't know how to distinguish good from evil and righteousness from unrighteousness, because most Christians have rejected the Torah of Elohim, which tells us how to distinguish between them.
So, let's fasten our seat belts and go for a ride through the Bible and find out what the Almighty really has to say about righteousness. It's time to put the fairytale man-made doctrines and religious dogmas to rest. What Elohim declares to be so about righteousness is the only opinion that matters. Yahuwah speaks the truth and we want to know the truth about righteousness, so let's listen to what he has spoken authoritatively about righteousness.
What does righteousness mean? We could look up the word in a dictionary or a commentary or some other intellectual work of man. But that would only give us someone else's tainted perspective on what righteousness is - including all the flaws that traditional baggage brings. It is better if we start in the Hebrew language where this word finds its context and meaning.
The words right (Hebrew noun, qd,cñ, , Hebrew adjective, qyDic;) and righteousness (Hebrew, hq'd'c. ) are translated from a single Hebrew root word, tzedek. This word means what is right, just, normal; rightness, justness, righteousness, truthfulness.
To understand what is righteousness is not too difficult. You don't need to be a PhD to comprehend the simplicity that is righteousness. However, the subject of righteousness has been confused by man. Most religious folks don't realize that the righteousness that Elohim speaks of is not the same as the righteousness of man. Man judges righteousness by the way one conforms to the mores, expectations, traditions and stipulations set by man. But God's righteousness is based on truth as revealed through his Instructions, Laws and Right-Rulings which are written in the Word. So, biblical righteousness is about following and obeying the Laws of God and about loyalty to the things that Elohim says are right and holy.
The Bible speaks a very simply word and message about righteousness. We must look for an understanding of righteousness from the Scriptures themselves. In the book of Job we see a poetic parallelism which helps us to understand the biblical meaning of righteous.
Can a mortal be more righteous than Elohim? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? (Job 4:17)
Pure is a synonym for righteous. To be pure is to be without blemish and free from sin.
It is the Creator who has established all natural and spiritual law in creation. He is the one who defines good and evil. Let's take a journey through the Scriptures and see what the Bible really says about righteousness. Beginning "in the beginning" and stopping many times along the way, we are going to see and realize that all of the Bible teaches a consistent message about righteousness. And that message is: the one who DOES what is right is righteous. And the one who continues to break God's Law is a sinner and is not a member of God's household.
Just a word about the righteousness of Elohim. The Creator is revealed as a Righteous Elohim. The Psalmist summed it up quite succinctly:
For Yahuwah is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. (Psalm 11:7)
The uprightness or rightness of Yahuwah is a defining characteristic of Elohim. His righteousness implies his fairness and his love for justice. It speaks to the fact that the Creator always does what is right.
There are many instructions he gives his people about fairness and justice which echoes his own character. For Elohim wants us to mimic him in his qualities. For example, we are told to have righteous weights and measures:
Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest ( qd,cñ,, righteous) scales and honest ( qd,cñ,, righteous) weights, an honest ( qd,cñ,, righteous) ephah and an honest ( qd,cñ,, righteous) hin. I am Yahuwah your Elohim, who brought you out of Mitzrayim. (Vayiqra [Leviticus] 19:35-36)
When we use these righteous weights and measures, we assure that we are trading, buying and selling fairly, and we are thus imitating the righteous acts of Elohim. Using righteous weights and measures assures that in this arena we are doing what is right.
The Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms also speak frequently about the righteousness of Elohim. In the Torah, Abraham spoke of the rightness of Elohim:
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
In his prayer of repentance on behalf of the nation, the Prophet Daniel references the righteousness of God:
Yahuwah did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for Yahuwah our Elohim is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him. (Daniel 9:14)
And the Psalms speak freely of the goodness and rightness of Elohim:
O righteous Elohim, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is Elohim Most High, who saves the upright in heart. Elohim is a righteous judge, a Elohim who expresses his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:9-11)
Elohim's righteousness displays itself in his fair treatment of people, his correct and fair judgment of all men and the righteous cause of his wrath.
You can read volumes of materials in Christian libraries, both in systematic form and in devotional form, of the righteousness of God. So we won't do that exhaustive study here. We merely mention it here because it is the basis for the righteousness that Elohim calls all men to. As we study further what kind of righteousness Elohim imputes to men, we note that it will look very similar to the righteous character of Elohim himself.
The first stop in our excursion is in the opening pages of Genesis. From the very beginning of man's sojourn on earth, the Laws of Elohim were known. There has always been a clear understanding of the difference between good and evil, between right and wrong, between obedience to Elohim's laws and disobedience - the transgression of Elohim's laws.
Even in the garden, there was clear instruction given about which tree not to eat from. Mankind has always had the choice to make between obedience and disobedience, between good and evil, between that which is acceptable and that which is not. And as we all know, the man and the woman made the choice to question the clear revelation of Elohim. Thus, they took of the forbidden fruit and ate. Sin, for them, was their choice to ignore the command of God and defy his authority. They brought sin into the world through their act of disobedience.
The first two sons of Adam and Chava (Eve) also knew the difference between right and wrong. One made the choice to do what pleased Yahuwah; the other chose a different response.
In the course of time Qayin brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to Yahuwah. But Abel also brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Yahuwah looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Qayin and his offering he did not look with favor. So Qayin was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then Yahuwah said to Qayin, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:3-7)
This passage has greatly confused expositors for many years. The grain offering and the animal offering were both acceptable offerings on Yahuwah's alter. In fact, both are required, according the instructions for offerings given in the Torah. So, why did Yahuwah turn away from Qayin's offering while looking favorably toward Abel's offering?
The key to understand this apparent contradiction is in the word also. It says that "Abel also brought...." Thus, what the text is implying is that Qayin brought only the grain offering, but Abel brought that and also an animal sacrifice. Why is this important? Because a knowledge of the requirements of Elohim, all his laws and rulings, including the requirements for making sacrifices and offerings was known from the beginning of time. The Torah explains that a proper offering to Yahuwah included both an animal sacrifice as a sin or guilt offering and a grain and drink offering.
Exodus 29 describes the daily offerings which the priests were to offer on the alter of the miqdash (the tabernacle). These were also the same offerings brought to the temple on a daily basis:
This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning-- a pleasing aroma, an offering made to Yahuwah by fire. (Shemot [Exodus] 29:38-41)
In fact, every animal brought as an offering was to be accompanied by a grain offering and a drink offering. This has always been known and understood about what is an acceptable offering to Yahuwah. So, when Qayin only brought a grain offering but Abel brought a grain and an animal offering, naturally Yahuwah would accept Abel's but frown upon Qayin's
So this brings us, then, to the crux of our passage. Yahuwah speaks to Qayin about sin and his need to resist sin and do right:
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4:6-7)
Here, doing what is right is equated with bringing the proper offerings as prescribed by God's Law. And not doing right is connected with sin, which is the failure to comply with Elohim's Law. Here, again, is the simple definition of sin and righteousness. Sin is disobedience to Yahuwah's instructions, while righteousness is the expression of obedience to Yah's Word. Furthermore, doing what is right is what makes you acceptable to Yahuwah, while doing what is wrong causes you to be unacceptable before the Master.
The biblical account of Noah is also a primary lesson in understanding righteousness. Noah was commended for his righteousness. But was this righteousness based on his behavior or was his righteousness completely independent and disconnected from his response to the Living Elohim? The record is clear that his righteousness before Elohim had everything to do with his complete wholehearted obedience to the command of the Almighty. Righteousness for Noah was based on what he did!
The testimony about Noah begins with the disgust Yahuwah felt toward the rest of mankind who had sunk to the depths of depravity and rebellion against him:
So Yahuwah said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-- for I am grieved that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahuwah. This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with Elohim. (Genesis 6:7-9)
Because of the great wickedness in all the earth, Elohim decided to destroy the whole world by a flood. But Noah was different. He was righteous, a man "blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with Elohim."
To this point in the narrative, we know nothing else about the lifestyle of Noah, nor do we know anything about his relationship with the living Elohim. But we are given a clue about those things next.
You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." Noah did everything just as Elohim commanded him. (Genesis 6:19-22)
As Noah was given instructions about how Elohim would save him and his family, he listened to all that Yahuwah was commanding him. And it says that "Noah did everything just as Yahuwah commanded him."
Unhesitating obedience and willful compliance with the commandments of Yahuwah is the essence of righteousness. Noah's instant and complete acceptance and submission to Yahuwah's instruction is what constituted righteous for him. As the story unfolds further, we see over and over again Noah's quick response of obedience to Yahuwah's will as revealed to him:
Yahuwah then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." And Noah did all that Yahuwah commanded him. (Genesis 7:1-5)
Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as Elohim had commanded Noah. (7:8-9)
Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as Elohim had commanded Noah. (7:15-16)
Not only did Noah live a righteous life, but another testimony of Scripture indicates that he was a proclaimer of righteousness:
... if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others... (2 Peter 2:5)
I would suggest that the actions of Noah in obedience to every instruction of the Almighty was his proclamation to a wicked world of the righteousness of Elohim. Thus, he was "a preacher of righteousness" because Noah always DID what is right.
Those who are familiar with their Bible know that Paul writes about the righteousness of Abraham in terms of his faith. Paul makes much of the statement made in Bereshith 15:6, which reads, "Avram believed Yahuwah, and He counted it for righteousness." Paul argues in several places that Abraham's faith alone is what commended him before Elohim. Usually, Christian theologians, pastors and teachers interpret this as meaning that Abraham was commended completely apart from any good he had done. His righteousness, in their view, has nothing to do with right living or obedience to any commandment of God.
That being said, let us examine the testimony of Scripture with regard to Abraham. Does the Bible indicate that Abraham was justified by mere belief, or is there more to the story? Doesn't James tell us that faith without deeds is useless? And what is Paul talking about in his letters when he speaks about Abraham's righteousness? Can righteousness be a state of being for anyone apart from real, down to earth good and right living?
We begin by examining the text which describes Abraham's faith response to Elohim's promises:
After these things the word of Yahuwah came to Avram in a vision: "Fear not, Avram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance." But Avram said, "Adonai Yahuwah, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?" Avram added, "Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!" But look, the word of Yahuwah came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir."
He took him outside and said, "Peer into the sky and count the stars--if you are able to count them!" Then he said to him, "So will your descendants be." Avram believed Yahuwah, and He counted it for righteousness (Hebrew, hq'd'c. , Bereshith [Genesis] 15:1-6).
This is the account which Christian theologians use as "proof" that one only has to "believe" and that one never has to "do" anything to merit a standing of righteousness in Elohim's sight. The statement, "Avram believed Yahuwah and he counted it for righteousness" is cited by Paul several times in his letters. Christians insist that "just believing on Jesus" will merit you righteousness and salvation. But is that really what the testimony of Scripture is saying about Abraham?
The Hebrew word here translated, "believed" is the same word we noted above. It is !m;a' (aman). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as "to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain. The BDB Hebrew Lexicon defines it as "confirm, support, made firm, sure, lasting, confirmed, established, sure." And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines aman as "to be firm, trustworthy, safe; to occupy oneself constantly with; to prove to be firm, reliable, faithful" as well as "to think, to believe."
If we try to interpret the statement of Bereshith 15:6 with this full understanding of the root Hebrew word, the meaning begins to emerge. Here is an amplified version of verse 6: "Abraham believed Yahuwah - which is to say, he found trustworthy what the Almighty said and committed himself in faithfulness to Yahuwah - and He counted it for righteousness." It was more than just superficial belief on Abraham's part that Yahuwah saw which resulted in Yahuwah crediting this as righteousness. Abraham had a track record which testified to his fidelity to the promises of Yahuwah. Abraham had committed his being to Yahuwah and thus "believed" him.
Abraham was already in the habit of obeying the instructions given to him from his Maker. When told to leave Ur of the Chaldeans, the Scripture says Abraham immediately left and went to the place which Yahuwah was to show him. Avram, when instructed to do so by Elohim, left his father's household and his family and his place of residence and became a tent-dweller in a foreign land. Abraham always obeyed the commandments given to him from Elohim. So, when the Scripture says that "Avram believed Yahuwah," it is speaking not just of a mental acknowledgment or agreement about what Elohim was saying. Avram obeyed the voice of Yahuwah, he acted positively on the commandments of Yahuwah and he complied with all Elohim's instructions.
This testimony is confirmed several times in the biblical account of the life of Abraham. When the three visitors came to Abraham (and one of them was Yahuwah), the three were having a discussion:
When the men got up to leave, they looked out over Sodom. (Now Avraham was walking with them to see them on their way.) Then Yahuwah said, "Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do? After all, Avraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name. I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahuwah by doing what is right (Hebrew, hq'd'c. ) and just. Then Yahuwah will give to Avraham what he promised him." (Bereshith 18:16-19)
Elohim had chosen Avram to fulfill those promises to him because He saw in Avram a willingness and faithfulness to obey Yahuwah's instructions. And because so, Abraham would teach and command his children to do the same - to do what is right and just, and to obey all the commands of the Almighty.
Note here that the Hebrew word translated right is hq'd'c. , righteousness. "Doing what is righteous and just" is another way of saying "he will obey all my righteous and just commandments." And Abraham was always "keeping the way" of Yahuwah. This means fidelity to the instructions and faithfulness to the path Yahuwah commands him to walk in. And this instruction he was to pass on to his children so that they, too, would inherit righteousness by faith (faithfulness and loyalty to Yahuwah).
Another testimony about Abraham's faithfulness and fidelity to Yahuwah comes in the form of a promise being made to his inheriting son, Yitzchak:
Yahuwah appeared to Yitzchak and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; settle down in the land that I will point out to you. Stay in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will fulfill the solemn promise I made to your father Avraham. I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants. All this will come to pass because Avraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my rules, and my Instructions." (Bereshith 26:2-5)
Just as the promises were given to Avram on account of his fidelity to Yahuwah, these same promises are passed on to his son Yitzchak because of Abraham's faithfulness. It says that he "obeyed me," literally in the Hebrew, "he shema'ed my voice" (heard or obeyed my voice). And he "kept my charge" which literally means "he guarded my guardians" (here the commandments of Yahuwah are described as "guardians" because they act like a protective fence for those who obey them). And Abraham obeyed the chukim and the torot (the rules and instructions) of Yahuwah.
But someone will argue: "There were no laws before the giving of the Law by Mosheh." Yet here we have an explicit account explaining that Abraham obeyed the commandments of Yahuwah by utilizing the same Hebrew terminology which is used later on in the Instructions of the Torah of Mosheh. Moses was not the first to use these terms to describe the known laws of Elohim. There is sufficient evidence in the numerous references to the Law of Elohim early in the book of Genesis to conclude confidently that Yahuwah's laws, rules and instructions were well known in those ancient times and put into practice by those who feared (loved) Yahuwah, creator of heaven and earth.
For example, there was a knowledge of proper sacrifices and offerings in the Cain and Abel story, a knowledge of clean and unclean animals in the Noah account, a knowledge of a proper alter for offerings to Yahuwah (i.e. the use of uncut stones) in the testimonies of the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and a knowledge of the appointed times as seen several times in Abraham's communications with Yahuwah.
It is altogether true, as Paul points out so vividly, that Abraham's belief in Yahuwah's promise is what was counted as righteousness. Elohim saw the track record of obedience of Abraham and he saw his heart bent on faithfulness to Elohim. His belief in Yahuwah's proclamation indicates a profound agreement and compliance with the will of God, and true faithfulness to the living Elohim. Righteousness, then, for Abraham was based on Abraham's continuing fidelity to the will of God; that is to say, whenever Yahuwah spoke, Abraham believed and obeyed.
The teaching of the Torah (the "Law" of Moses) is straight-forward and unambiguous in its expression of true righteousness. Paul tells us that the righteousness from Elohim which is for followers of Messiah is testified about in the Torah and the Prophets:
But now a righteousness from Elohim, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from Elohim comes through faith in Yahusha Messiah to all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22)
We are going to come back later in our study to examine this passage thoroughly and interpret what Paul is teaching here. But for the time being, let's examine what he means that the Torah and the Prophets testify to this righteousness from Elohim.
Where does the Torah speak about the righteousness from Elohim which is for believers? It speaks of all the instructions, the laws, the rulings and the commandments as being righteous, and those who obey these commandments as righteous. First, doing the individual commandments of the Torah are acts of righteousness for those who obey them. And second, the whole Torah itself is righteousness for those who guard and obey it.
The doing of the commandments of Yahuwah are considered acts of righteousness. An example or two should suffice. Returning the debtors cloak to him before sunset is considered a righteous act. The instruction is as follows:
Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of Yahuwah your Elohim. (Devarim 24:13)
Yahuwah reckons obedience to this command as righteousness for the one performing it - a righteous act.
The doing of the commandments of Yahuwah are frequently the basis for portraying someone as righteous. There are some testimonies in Scripture which describe the righteousness of people in terms of their obedience to the Torah. We saw this earlier in the record of Noah which says that "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with Elohim." (Genesis 6:9) Noah was blameless which means he was without sin, and he walked with Elohim which means he obeyed his commands.
In Luke's Gospel, Zechariah the priest is preparing to enter the Sanctuary to offer incense. The record describes Zechariah and and wife Elisabeth as righteous people:
Both of them were righteous in the sight of Elohim, observing all Yahuwah's commandments and right-rulings blamelessly. (Luke 1:6)
Note that they were determined to be righteous because of their notable obedience to the laws and rulings of the Torah.
Messiah Yahusha also spoke about 'acts of righteousness.' He instructed us to do these discreetly rather than an act to be seen by men:
Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)
What are these acts of righteousness which Messiah was talking about? They are clearly the acts of obedience to the Torah law that instructs us to give to the poor and the needy.
These acts of giving to the needy are spoken about often in the Torah.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. (Devarim 15:11)
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that Yahuwah your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Devarim 14:28-29)
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors Elohim. (Proverbs 14:31)
Thus, giving to the poor and the needy, the widow and the orphan, were considered acts of righteousness in Israel. Such who do this honor Elohim. Messiah endorsed such giving. That Messiah spoke of this giving to the needy as 'acts of righteousness' again conveys the truth that doing these commands are viewed by Elohim as acts that impute righteousness to those who are performing them.
In another place in the Torah, we are told that all of the instructions are considered righteous in Yahuwah's sight. As Mosheh was reviewing the commandments and instructions to the nation, he describes the whole Torah code as righteous:
And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous laws and rulings as this Torah I am setting before you today? Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:8-9)
The entire Torah is viewed as more righteous than any other set of laws or decrees of men. This Torah (code of instructions) which consists of laws (~yQixu things prescribed, statutes) and rulings (~yjiP'v.mi, judgments, rulings) transfers righteousness to those who keep it. For the Creator who installed righteousness into the Torah imputes that righteousness to those who perform it.
This truth that righteousness is imputed to those who obey the Torah is even more clearly and explicitly declared in Devarim 6:
Yahuwah commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Yahuwah our Elohim, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness (Hebrew, hq'd'c. )." (Deuteronomy 6:24-25)
It is helpful to point out that this text informs us that the Torah causes us to prosper. In fact, more than that, the keeping of it will extend our life. You could properly and accurately say that keeping the Torah will prolong and make abundant your life. It is no coincidence that Yahusha Messiah told his followers
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (4th Gospel 10:10)
Or, as is better known in the King James translation:
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
This life and abundance which Messiah speaks of is offered both by the Torah and by the Master.
But really, these are the same thing. The life and abundance ("that we might always prosper") offered by the Torah is the very same life and abundance offered by Messiah. How can this be? Here's how. When we are connected to Messiah - as disciples, committed to conforming ourselves to him by walking in his footsteps - we are embracing the lifestyle of obedience to the Torah, just as Messiah taught us. Did not Messiah say, "If you love me, obey my commandments"?
The Master Messiah teaches us that obeying the commandments issues in eternal life! Not many Christians have wrapped their brains around this, because their false shepherds (pastors and teachers) continue to pound from their pulpits that the Law has been done away with. But this is not what Messiah said. His advise to those seeking eternal life is to obey the commandments!
Now a man came up to Yahusha and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Yahusha replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." "Which ones?" the man inquired. Yahusha replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 19:16-19)
Messiah Jesus (Yahusha) unambiguously teaches that obeying the commandments of the Law is the path to eternal life! Christian false prophet, there is no getting around this simple, straight-forward declaration from the Master. So, stop telling lies in the name of Jesus!
The record of Messiah's teachings from the Book of Luke are even more helpful in understanding how it is that we may receive eternal life.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Yahusha. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love Yahuwah your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Yahusha replied. "Do this and you will live." (Luke 10:25-28)
Here, the Master explains that it is in loving the Almighty and loving our neighbor that we inherit eternal life. These commandments to love are of course, and integral part of the Torah of Mosheh
Then, later, it is recorded that another person asked the Master the same question.
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Yahusha answered. "No one is good-- except Elohim alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" (Luke 18:18-20)
This time, Yahusha answers the question by explaining that it's the keeping of the commandments, namely those written on the stone by the finger of Elohim, that brings eternal life. Just as is recorded in Matthew's account, Luke (and also Mark) include this story and teaching as a part of the significant teachings of the Messiah. All three of these Gospel accounts bear witness that the Master is teaching that keeping the commandments is the righteousness that brings eternal life to those who obey them.
Let it not escape our notice that the Master answers the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life" in two different, yet similar ways. He says that loving God and our fellow man will cause us to have eternal life. And he also says that keeping the commandments of the Torah will bring us eternal life. Both of these are part of the Ten Commandments and the central theme (if you will) of the entire Torah. Keeping these commandments really do impute righteousness to the obedient one, just as the Torah teaches. This should not surprise us that the Master has faithfully been teaching that everything the Torah teaches is true and valid, including the way to inherit eternal life.
But even more to the point we made about righteousness being imputed to those who obey the Torah, our text emphatically proclaims this:
And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness (Hebrew, hq'd'c. )." (Deuteronomy 6:25)
The Torah IS righteousness which becomes OUR righteousness when we obey it. This clear declaration of Scripture flies in the face of the commonly accepted teaching in most Christian circles that one cannot be righteous by keeping the Law. God says just the opposite! There is righteousness for those who keep it.
And this is the righteousness that is revealed in the Torah and the Prophets, just as Paul teaches,
But now a righteousness from Elohim, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. (Romans 3:21)
(We will explain why Paul writes "apart from law" later.) The Torah itself is that righteousness which is imputed to believers when they have faith in Messiah and walk in the footsteps of his obedience to the Law.
The Psalms also present in vivid color the righteousness of Elohim's Law and the righteousness of those who faithfully keep that Law. Though this theme is scattered throughout the Psalms, we will examine just two Psalms which significantly present this teaching.
The 23rd Psalm is well known and beloved by all who read the Bible. Yet, the meaning of verse 3 is hidden by the poor English translations. Most say something like,
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. (Psalm 23:3, KJV)
By this common rendering, most people think this is a generic description of righteous behavior. But there is actually a very specific meaning hidden in the text, if we understand the real meaning of the words.
The Hebrew word, here translated paths is lG"[.m; (pronounced ma'gal). The Brown, Driver, Briggs Lexicon describes our word as meaning 1. entrenchment; 2. track, wagon-track. As tracks or wagon tracks, our word in Psalm 23 suggests the well defined path in which we are commanded to walk. But the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) offers a more specific meaning for our word. The meaning of track or wagon-track is drilled down to mean ring of waggons (for protection), or the circular camp created by wagon tracks circling the camp in formation to protect it.
Two interpretations suggest themselves with this understanding of the
terminology. The holy appointment days - the Sabbath and the
annual appointed times - run in well defined cycles which "circle" the
he leadeth me in the cycles of righteousness for his name's sake,
because these appointments bring us into the proper worship habits. Meeting with Yahuwah on these days is righteousness for those doing it. As a side note, if this is his meaning, David is testifying that he faithfully keeps the Sabbath day and all the feasts and appointment days of Yahuwah - which is not difficult to imagine. Certainly we know from his life that he indeed kept these days holy to Elohim.
But the cycles of righteousness may also refer to the commandments of the Torah as a whole. Another word used as a synonym for commandment is rm'v.mi (pronounced, mish-mar). This word means to guard, guardian, custodian, watch, lookout, protection. If wagons circle their tracks for the protection of that which is inside the wagons, its easy to see how the commandments act as protection for those who are within their scope. The keepers of the commandments are kept and protected by them.
No matter how you understand the word paths in Psalm 23:3, the meaning emerges. The paths or cycles of righteousness are the commands of Yahuwah in which the righteous walk. The commands of Elohim are righteous and those who walk in those paths display the righteousness of Elohim in their lives, for his name's sake.
Furthermore, David writes extensively of his love for the Torah in Psalm 119 and he speaks of the commandments of the Torah as righteousness. First, his love for the Torah:
97 Oh, how I love your law (Hebrew, hr'AT torah)! I meditate on it all day long.
113 I hate double-minded men, but I love your law (Hebrew, hr'AT torah).
163 I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law (Hebrew, hr'AT torah).
165 Great peace have they who love your law (Hebrew, hr'AT torah), and nothing can make them stumble.
David's testimony is that he deeply loves the Torah. This stands in stark contrast with most Christians who have an utter disdain and hatred toward God's Law. David speaks of the Law as something longed for. Christians speak of the Law as something to be shunned and avoided. David's place in the Bible is for an example to others in how to love God and to love God's righteousness. For all the talk about "believing the whole Bible," it seems that there are many Christians who need a serious ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT!
David also makes clear that the commandments of the Torah are altogether righteous:
7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
75 I know, Yahuwah, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.
137 Righteous are you, Yahuwah, and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.
144 Your testimonies are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.
David says over and over again the the laws of Yahuwah are righteous. So why do so many Christians hate the laws of Yahuwah? Why do they think that the Laws of Yahuwah are "weak and beggarly elements" (see Galatians 4:9) when David insists that they are "altogether righteous"?
David furthermore insists that "all your commands are righteous." Not just some of them, and not just the really important ones - but ALL of Yahuwah's command are righteous. Again, this flies in the face of traditional, orthodox Christian teaching which says that the commands of God are a burden and have therefore been "done away with."
And finally, David asserts that the laws of Yahuwah are eternal. Not just the "love" commandments, but ALL of Yahuwah's righteous laws are eternal. None of them have been "done away with." They can't be dismissed because they are eternal! He says that "all your righteous laws are eternal" and "your testimonies are forever right." There will never be a time when Yahwuah's laws will be thrown away.
And didn't Messiah say exactly that same thing? Of course Messiah teaches the Torah correctly. For he said,
Think not that I am come to destroy the Law (Torah), or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
The Law of Yahuwah is eternal. Not even a single dash or dot will disappear from the Law as long as heaven and earth still exist. David insists upon this. And the Messiah reiterates this eternal truth. The Law is forever and is forever righteous.
Messiah Yahusha had much to say about righteousness. He faithfully kept the commands of the Father, and never transgressed any of the instructions of the Torah. And he taught his disciples that the correct walk of faith is to guard the commandments of the Torah. These are the things we are about to examine in some detail.
The sinless life of Jesus (Messiah Yahusha) is well known and understood by Christians. It is the basis for his ability to offer up his own life as a ransom for many. If he had transgressed the Torah, he would have had to die for his own sins and would have been disqualified from dying for the sins of the world. But the testimony of the Bible is that he was sinless.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Later, the same writer admits that
Such a high priest meets our need-- one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:26)
This is the witness of those who knew him. Yahusha committed no sin.
When confronted by the Pharisees concerning his teachings and his obedience to the Torah of Mosheh, Yahusha replied,
Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? (4th Gospel 8:45-46)
The answer to his rhetorical question is NO. No one could prove him to be in transgression of the Torah. Though the Pharisees made many attempts to cast aspersions on his character, none could stick. Even during his trial, the Pharisees had to bring false witnesses against Yahusha to try to convict him. And even the false witnesses couldn't agree upon precisely what he might have done wrong.
At the beginning of his ministry, Yahusha was baptized by Yochanan. When asked about why he wasn't doing the baptism on Yochanan, Yahusha answered,
"Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then Yochanan consented. (Matthew 3:15)
Yahusha's mission was to "fulfill all righteousness." His sinless character and his performing of the righteousness of obedience to the Father throughout his lifetime was the perfect display of "fulfilling all righteousness."
The teaching of Messiah about righteousness is consistent with the personal righteousness of Yahusha in his life and walk. He taught his disciples that the proper way to express their faith in Elohim and their allegiance to him is to walk in obedience to Yahuwah's commandments. As we just mentioned above, Yahusha had come to display the Torah and the Prophets as the way of life for those who seek to serve Elohim:
Think not that I am come to destroy the Law (Torah), or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Contrary to the popular Christian teaching that that "Old Testament Law" has been fulfill and nullified, Messiah Yahusha said quite the opposite. He had not come to destroy the Torah. But Christians destroy the Torah in their walk and in their teaching.
Yahusha had a word to say about such people who break the commandments and teach other to do the same:
Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
Most of the popular radio and television evangelists and teachers in the Christian world fall into this category. They routinely blast commandment keeping as belonging to fanatics and heretics. But Jesus was talking about their kind when he authoritatively declared that they will be called "Least" in the kingdom of heaven. The great majority of churches in our day teach this satanic doctrine that the Law has been done away with. They will one day give account of themselves to the Judge of all - that very same Jesus whom they pretend to honor and worship.
What these so-called Christians don't seem to comprehend - and that because they ignore the Law and the Prophets as a reliable source of instruction for the "New Testament Church" - is that the prophets plainly and clearly taught that the true Messiah would be teaching the Torah to the nations!
In the last days the mountain of Yahuwah's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahuwah, to the house of the Elohim of Ya'acov. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The Torah will go out from Zion, the word of Yahuwah from Yerushalayim. (Isaiah 2:2-3)
It is the Messiah who will inhabit the temple in the last days and usher in the Messianic Age. He will be teaching the Torah to all the nations who stream to it. So why do those ignorant teachers who rule over the churches teach these lies about the Messiah? Could it be that they are the false teachers and false prophets that the very writers of the New Testament and Messiah himself said would come in and deceive many?
Yahusha continues his declaration of his mission to fulfill the Torah in Matthew 5 by equating the keeping of the Torah with righteousness:
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
After stating that the keeping of the commandments and teaching others the same is to be commended by the Almighty, Yahusha makes a startling statement about the righteousness of the Pharisees. Every time I've heard a pastor or teacher talk about this statement, they have interpreted this to mean that the Pharisees where extremely righteous in their observance of the great many detailed instructions they follow, but that to enter the kingdom one has to be even more righteous than that. This is their rationale for thinking that Messiah's perfect righteousness must be imputed to believers by faith, and that walking in obedience has nothing to do with the Christian's righteousness.
But they have completely misunderstood what Messiah is teaching us here. The truth of the matter is that the Pharisees were not righteous at all. They routinely transgressed the Torah of Elohim when they obeyed and observed their traditions and man-made commandments. Messiah rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law many times. Each time it was because they held their own traditions above the commandments of Elohim. Thus, they did not possess the only righteousness that counts in Elohim's eyes - the righteousness of obedience to the will of the Almighty as expressed through obedience to his commandments.
Thus, anyone who wants to obtain to the righteousness of the Pharisees will not please Elohim. Their righteousness is a pretended walk of faith and consists in obedience to the commandments of men while flagrantly and willfully transgressing Elohim's righteous and holy commands.
Anyone who still has doubts about Messiah teaching the Torah as righteousness for his followers might want to take another look at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and ask yourself where these teachings came from. I have written another study article which may offer some guidance along the way, entitled The Sermon on the Mount.
Then there were several times when Messiah healed someone or forgave someone and then warned them sternly to "go and sin no more." Yahusha spoke with the woman caught in the act of adultery:
Yahusha straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Yahusha declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (4th Gospel 8:10-11)
Another translation renders it,
Go and sin no more. (KJV)
And to the man who had been an invalid for 38 years, Yahusha told him to get up, and he got up. Then he told him to pick up his mat and walk. This caused a stir among the Pharisees who have their own law that a person cannot carry his mat on the Sabbath. So, the man was looking for him who had healed him. And the testimony tells us:
Later Yahusha found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (4th Gospel 5:14)
Again, the KJV renders this text:
Sin no more.
What can we learn from these statements of the Messiah. That the Master did not heal and help people so that they can continue in their life of sin. He calls all men to repentance and obedience. The very essence of righteousness is to stop sinning and begin to obey the instructions, the commands, the laws and the right-rulings as set forth in the Torah of Mosheh. Thus was Messiah's teaching.
When we come to Paul's letters in the New Testament, we have arrived at the source of most of the false teachings about righteousness (and many other false doctrines). Countless myriads of the twisted views and interpretations of righteousness which Christian churches have adopted are based on misunderstandings of Paul's teaching about righteousness in his epistles. This should not be surprising for those who are familiar with their Bible. Peter told us about the general confusion caused by Paul's writings. Peter has told us that those in his day who are unfamiliar with the Torah have distorted and twisted Paul's writings:
Bear in mind that our Master's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that Elohim gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. (2 Peter 3:15-17)
Thus, it should not surprise us that many in our own times who do not know and understand the Torah will distort and twist Paul's writings, such that their interpretation of Paul is nothing like what Paul is actually teaching!
As we look at righteousness as taught in Paul's epistles, we find that most Christian explanations of righteousness bear no resemblance to the true righteousness as taught by Paul and as revealed through all of the Scriptures. So, let's look at what Paul really is telling us about the righteousness of the believer and find out the true source in the Torah and the Prophets for Paul's declarations about the righteousness revealed by Elohim.
We start with Paul's statement in the beginning of his letter to the Romans about righteousness. Paul introduces the theme of his letter here:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (1:16-17, KJV)
The gospel is the message of Scripture which says that Elohim is reconciling the world back to himself through the work of Messiah (see The Everlasting Gospel for a full examination). This gospel contains information about the righteousness of God.
Paul says that this righteousness of God is revealed "from faith to faith." Then he cites a reference from the prophet Habakkuk, "the just shall live by faith" to provide foundation for what he is saying. When we peer into the verse from Habakkuk, we can see Paul's meaning here in Romans.
The word "faith" in Habakkuk 2:4 actually comes from the Hebrew word, hn"Wma/, pronounced e-mu-nah. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as "firmness, fidelity, steadiness." The BDB Hebrew Lexicon defines it as "firmness, steadfastness, fidelity." And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) says, "steadfastness, trustworthiness, faithfulness, honesty, permanent official duty."
There is nothing in this word emunah that implies fairytale-like belief in something. Like you could just believe something were so and that makes it so! Reality check, please! Emunah does not mean mere mental assent to a thing. It does not mean "to agree in mind only." Simply wishing something or fixing one's mind on that thing and "believing" it is so, doesn't change the Creator's mind about sin, rebellion and lawlessness. He is still righteous, just and set-apart. And he still requires all who stand in his presence to be set-apart from sin.
Emunah is an action word. It embodies the doing of a thing. It implies complete steadfast obedience and fidelity to this thing "believed" in. Thus when it says that "the righteous one will live by faith," it is teaching us that "in complete fidelity and faithfulness the righteous one will live." It is not enough to just mentally acknowledge the truths that Yahuwah our Creator reveals to us. We must take action and obey in every detail everything that he commands us. This is the essence of the covenant relationship we have agreed to. He is to be our Elohim - he provides health, life, strength, protection. And we are to obey and do everything he commands us. If we fail to obey the covenant, we have broken the covenant and are no longer under the protection of Elohim provided under the terms of the covenant.
Habakkuk 2:4 is telling us the that righteous one will live by faithful compliance to the will of Elohim. When we take this back to Romans 1, here is what Paul is saying: "the righteousness of God [is] revealed from faithfulness to faithfulness: as it is written, The just shall live by faithfulness." What does that mean? Righteousness from Elohim is a process; it runs from one faithful act to another faithful act and so on. Righteousness is living a life of faithfulness. This is exactly what Habakkuk is teaching us. The one who is declared righteous by Elohim will live his life by one faithful act of obedience after another after another.
So, this is the righteousness that Paul is espousing: that God's righteousness is revealed in the lifestyle of faithful obedience to Yah's ways. It is not mere mental assent to who Jesus is. It is fully seen and understood in the context of a child of Elohim being obedient to the Father. Paul plainly says this very same thing a short few verses later in Romans:
it is not those who hear the Torah who are righteous before Elohim, but those who do the Torah will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13).
Those who are the righteous ones of Elohim are not those merely reading the Law or ignoring the Law. The truly righteous ones are those who are obeying the Torah in every detail. Nobody will be declared righteous who flagrantly and obstinately transgress the Torah or ignore the stipulations of the Torah. Only those who OBEY the Torah will be declared righteous, because "the righteous will live by faithfulness."
When we come to Romans 3, Paul becomes more difficult to understand. Many expositors have denigrated the Torah on account of a misunderstanding of what Paul is saying in Romans 3 (and other places). And no wonder. Paul seems to be discounting the Law. Here is the text.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to Elohim. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from Elohim, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from Elohim comes through faith in Yahusha Messiah to all who believe.
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Elohim, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Messiah Yahusha. Elohim presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Yahusha. (Romans 3:19-26)
He seems to be saying that the Law brings only condemnation. He states that "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law." Yet, he had just written in Romans 2 that
it is not those who hear the Torah who are righteous before Elohim, but those who do the Torah will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13).
Which is it, Paul? Will people be declared righteous by doing the Torah as you wrote in 2:13, or will no one be declared righteous by observing the law as you wrote in 3:20? What do we do with this dilemma? Is Paul hopelessly confused, or are we confused about what Paul is saying?
What the vast majority of New Testament Christian Bible interpreters fail to realize is that Paul is talking about two different things in these two passages. Paul's entire upbringing as a Pharisee taught him that there are two Torahs! There is the written Torah as recorded in our Bibles. And there is the Oral Torah which has been passed down through the writings of the Rabbis. As a good Pharisee, Paul learned that the laws of the Oral Torah were to supersede the written Torah of Mosheh.
But when he came to know Messiah, Paul had a complete reversal of thinking. He realized that the Oral Torah is nothing more than the commandments and traditions of men. But the written commandments of the Torah of Mosheh are indeed the very will of Elohim revealed. Rejecting the Oral Law as rubbish, Paul began to teach (correctly) that the written Torah is eternal and is to be obeyed by all those who call upon the name of Yahuwah.
So, in Romans 2 and 3, as in other controversial sections of Paul's writings, Paul is talking about two different laws. He had learned that the man-made laws taught to him as a Pharisee are of no value at all. Thus, he says in Romans 3 that "no one... will be declared righteous by observing the law." Here, he is referencing the Oral traditions of the Pharisees. But in Romans 2, he says that those who do the Torah will be declared righteous." Here, he is talking about the Word of Elohim. As we have seen everywhere else in Scripture, doing the Torah of Elohim brings righteousness to the one doing it. But those who are enveloped in doing the commandments of men have no righteousness coming to them.
In order to help the reader differentiate between when Paul is talking about oral law and written Law, I have capitalized Law or Torah when he is referring to written Torah but have left the word in lower case when it refers to Oral Torah of men. Here's how that breaks down.
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to Elohim.
The written Word of Elohim speaks to all those who are prisoners trapped under man's law and convicts them of sin. On account of the written Torah, all are held accountable before Elohim, because the written Torah tells us how we are supposed to live
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
So, none of those who observe man-made laws, traditions and customs while ignoring the true Law of God can ever be declared righteous. Only the doing of God's Law brings righteousness to the believer. Doing man's laws does not. But through doing man's law, we become conscious of sin, because we are transgressing God's righteous Law when we are entangled in man's law.
But now a righteousness from Elohim, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from Elohim comes through faith in Yahusha Messiah to all who believe.
So, to be clear, the true righteousness from Elohim exists apart from man-made law. The Law and the Prophets tell us all about the righteousness of Elohim which is imputed to all those who are putting their trust in Elohim and are doing Elohim's commandments. Therefore, for all those who attach themselves to Messiah and do what he commands us to do, there is righteousness imputed to us - because we are being conformed to his image through the obeying of his commandments.
There is a stark difference between "my righteous deeds" and "me doing God's righteous deeds." Paul alludes to this several times in his epistles. In Ephesians 2, Paul mentions both in the same sentence.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Elohim--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are Elohim's workmanship, created in Messiah Yahusha to do good works, which Elohim prepared in advance for us to do.
In the first part of this statement Paul says that salvation does not come from our works. By this he means the doing of what we think are good deeds. These are the things people do to commend themselves to the Almighty and are unrelated to the commands he has given us. But in the end of the sentence he makes mention of the good works which Elohim has created us to do. These good works are the keeping of Elohim's commandments.
Again, Paul's upbringing as a Pharisee who was taught the rigorous life of keeping the commandments of the Pharisees is the backdrop to Paul's new understanding of faith and works. For Paul, faith is the faithful doing of God's commands while works in Paul's thinking is the doing of the traditions and commands of men. Men's deeds are worthless. But fidelity and loyalty to Elohim merits righteousness for those who put their trust in him.
Paul summarizes his remarks about righteousness by faith with an important statement about our attitude toward God's Law:
Do we, then, nullify the Law (Heb. Torah) by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the Law (Heb. Torah). (Romans 3:31)
Faith in Messiah is not antithetical to observing the Torah of Mosheh. The fact that we have put our faith in Messiah does not mean that we stop obeying Yah's commandments or that we hold the Torah in contempt (as many Christians are taught to do by the false shepherds who destroy Yah's flock). Rather, our faith in Messiah is the driving force to help us to faithfully keep all the commandments of the Torah.
Evangelical Christians are fond of teaching that righteousness is imputed to those who believe in Jesus. They typically say that Christ's perfect righteousness is instantaneously transferred to all who "believe" in him, such that they are all just as righteous as Christ, regardless of their lifestyle practices and their non compliance with the commandments of Elohim! Everywhere you go and every pastor and teacher you listen to, including the popular radio and television evangelists - they all speak a similar word about Christ's righteousness being imputed to the believer.
So what then is Paul talking about when he argues that Abraham was credited with righteousness apart from works? For Paul writes:
What does the Scripture say? "Avraham believed Elohim, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts Elohim who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom Elohim credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin Yahuwah will never count against him." (Romans 4:3-8)
For those more familiar with the King James Version, it reads this way:
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (4:3-8, KJV)
So here is the first mention of imputed righteousness in Paul's epistles.
Let's begin this investigation with a simple glance at the definition of impute. It comes from the Greek word logi,zomai (pronounced logizomai). The Freiberg Lexicon describes our word:
from a basic meaning think according to logical rules; (1) as an objective reckoning; (a) as keeping a mental record take into account, keep in mind, count (up) (1C 13.5); (b) charge or credit to someone's account, reckon to (RO 4.11); (2) as the result of an objective evaluation consider, look on as, regard as (AC 19.27); (3) as a subjective act of thought have in mind, ponder, think (about) (1C 13.11); (4) as the result of a subjective evaluation have an opinion, think, believe;
BDAG Lexicon lists the meanings of our word:
1. to determine by mathematical process, reckon, calculate, freq. in a transf. sense; a) count, take into account, b) as a result of a calculation evaluate, estimate, look upon as, consider
2. to give careful thought to a matter, think (about), consider, ponder, let one’s mind dwell on
3. to hold a view about someth., think, believe, be of the opinion
We get our English words logic and logical from this Greek word. It means to come to a rational, logical conclusion about something. Thus, when it says that God imputed something, we should understand this to mean that God is making a judgment about something based upon the truth or reality. He does not look through glasses shaded with the blood of Jesus! At that moment of conversion, the person is truly and actually righteous.
The popular doctrine of imputed righteousness is usually expressed by suggesting that forgiveness of all one's sins is obtained by merely believing that Jesus died for you. Then, all your sins - past, present and future - are covered by the blood of Jesus. Any sin you may commit, going forward, will be forgiven. You have obtained all the righteousness of Messiah. Nothing that you may do after that point in time can take away from you the righteous status you have before God the Father.
However, there are serious problems with that popular doctrine of imputed righteousness as taught in many churches today. First, the Creator does not look at anyone through shaded lenses. He sees everyone just as they are. To say that the Creator of the universe disregards a person's lifestyle and behavior and yet imputes righteousness on the basis of believing something simply defies common sense. Paul clearly equates the imputing of righteousness with NOT imputing sins to someone who repents. When supporting his proposition that Elohim imputes righteousness, he quotes the Psalmist who describes the person whom Yahuwah does NOT impute sin:
Blessed is the man whose sin Yahuwah will never count against him.
Second, it impugns Elohim's character. It makes him out to be decidedly unfair and unjust, since some practicing sinners he condemns and others he condones. Does the Bible really teach that you can be righteous before God and still defy and transgress his commandments? Can I be as righteous as the Messiah who died for me simply by believing that he died for me? In the real world, does that make any sense at all? People who believe that kind of nonsense might as well believe in dwarfs and hobbits and the Elvin people.
Here is what the biblical teaching of imputed righteousness means. It is absolutely true that God imputes righteousness based on one's faith. And he credits righteousness to the wicked. At that moment in time when a sinner confesses his sin and commits himself to seek God and to walk in a personal friendship and fellowship with God, God sees the heart's intention of that person and credits him righteousness. His sins are forgiven when confessed and forsaken. And that individual becomes a child of God.
Paul has yet more to say about imputed righteousness. He describes Abraham's faith in terms of his confidence that Elohim would perform what he promised:
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:19-24, KJV)
Abraham's state of mind is in view here. Abraham was convinced that Elohim would fulfill his promise for him. And Elohim sees the heart and mind of Abraham and credits righteousness to him for his confident trust and believe that God's words are true.
But no relationship is static. And time moves on and life moves on. The real test of the repentant sinner's confession is what he does going forward. If the believer's confession is followed by walking in the Master's footsteps, this confirms the genuineness of the confession. Messiah said, "by their fruit you shall know them." If their good deeds are in step with their believe in Jesus, we can be pretty sure they are the real deal.
This is the point James was making in his letter regarding Abraham's faith. Though James seems to contradict the teachings of Paul, the reality is that James is describing the fruit of an individual.
Was not our ancestor Avraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Yitzchak on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Avraham believed Elohim, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called Elohim's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:21-24)
How do we reconcile these texts? Was Abraham imputed righteousness by his belief alone as Paul teaches, or by his deeds combined with his belief as James states? Or could both be true?
The Christian theologians and thinkers for centuries have downplayed James' statement about the righteousness of Abraham in light of Paul's declaration about righteousness. But they have misunderstood Paul, James and the teachings of the Torah and the Prophets and Psalms about righteousness. They have thrown out all others statements and teachings about righteousness in order to accept and propagate an interpretation of Paul that contradicts all other Scriptures.
Abraham was truly justified by his belief, as Paul describes it. His profound trust and belief in Elohim's promise was seen by Elohim for what is truly was. Elohim saw the sincerity of Abraham's heart and knew his intentions. That commitment of the heart of Abraham caused Elohim to acknowledge that act of trust as righteousness for Abraham.
That Yahuwah sees the heart and knows the thoughts is expressed by the writer to the Hebrews:
For the word of Elohim is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from Elohim's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
This agrees with the Psalmist, who speaks of Yahuwah's comprehension of our souls:
If we had forgotten the name of our Elohim or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not Elohim have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? (Psalm 44:20-21)
Elohim, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. (Acts 15:8)
Since its clear that Elohim sees the intention of the heart, it makes sense that Abraham was credited with righteousness by his faith. God saw that Abraham's heart was bent on compliance with Yahuwah's will. And so Abraham's belief in the expressed will of God was viewed by Elohim as though Abraham had already done his will. Abraham afterward fulfilled his heart's intention by obeying the commands of Yahuwah.
But it is also true that a man is justified by his works and not by faith alone. Abraham believed in his heart the promise of Elohim. Then Abraham walked out his faith, expressing his trust and reliance on Elohim by his obedience to the will and commandments of Yah. This is what James is writing about where he says that "a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." The faith and heart's intent of Abraham was demonstrated in his willful obedience to Yahuwah's instructions to him.
The discussion of righteousness in Romans 6 sheds further light on Paul's intended meaning of righteousness by faith. In practical terms Paul describes our condition before we came to Messiah and contrasts that with our current position in relationship with Messiah. Our attitude toward sin has taken a complete reversal:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to Elohim in Messiah Yahusha. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to Elohim, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)
The contrast Paul makes here between sin and righteousness, between instruments of wickedness and instruments of righteousness, between death and life underscores Paul's call to obedience. Since we have passed from death to life, the appropriate response of thanks to Elohim is to give our bodies (and hence, our lives) to faithful service to God. Just as we used to obey the evil desires of our carnal nature, now we are to obey Elohim's righteous instructions.
Paul's conclusion is not that we would continue to sin and throw away the Torah in light of Elohim's kindness. Quite the opposite. God's grace drives us to obey the commandments of Torah and to embrace the righteousness found in the Torah:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to Elohim that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18)
When we came to belong to Messiah, we were offering ourselves to become slaves to him. Just as we once we slaves to sin and obeyed the sinful desires, now we are slaves to Elohim to obedience to his commands.
Being slaves to righteousness translates into being compelled to follow in the path of righteousness which is spelled out in the righteous laws and right-rulings of the Torah. Paul implores his readers to do just this - to offer themselves as slaves to God and to perform righteousness by keeping the commandments.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to Elohim, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of Elohim is eternal life in Messiah Yahusha our Master. (Romans 6:19-23)
The result of obedience to the righteous requirements of the Law is that we are led to holiness and we inherit eternal life.
In Romans 10, Paul compares the righteousness of Elohim as taught in the Torah (5 books of Moses) with the righteousness by faith:
For Mosheh writes about the righteousness that is by the Torah (law): "The one who does these things will live by them." So the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Messiah down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach)- (Romans 10:5-8, quoting Devarim 30:11-13).
The righteousness of Elohim as taught by Torah is one and the same as the righteousness by faith which Paul preached!
Let's take a look at what Mosheh teaches about righteousness. First, he talks about the commandments of the Covenant. He does not describe them as "difficult or impossible to keep" as some Christian denominations teach today. On the contrary,
this commandment (Covenant) I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it too remote. It is not in heaven, as though one must say, "Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, "Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" For the thing is very near you--it is in your mouth and mind so that you can do it. Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. What I am commanding you today is to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his rules, and his right-rulings. Then you will live and become numerous and Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in the land which you are about to possess (Devarim 30:11-16).
The commandments under the "Old Covenant" (as it is often called) are NOT too difficult to keep. In fact, it is described as "very near you - in your mouth and in your mind - so that you CAN do it."
This should ring a bell for anyone who has read and studied the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans (you know, the book that is so often quoted as being the case for "righteousness by faith alone"). Paul writes about righteousness by faith(fulness),
But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Messiah down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach) - (Romans 10:6-8).
Keep in mind that Paul is here describing "righteousness by faith." Paul is describing the righteousness by faith as "near you" and "in your heart" by quoting that portion of Scripture that is describing the righteousness of Elohim as revealed through the Law! This righteousness that was revealed through the Law is that one and the same righteousness by faith(fulness/fidelity).
Paul then asks concerning this "righteousness by faith":
But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Yahuwah is Yahusha and believe in your heart that Elohim raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation (Romans 10:8-10).
Listen and pay attention! Paul's message of "righteousness by faith" is one and the same as the message given by Moses to the children of Israel! He quotes Devarim 30:14 where he notes that "it is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart" He is talking about the righteousness that was revealed at Sinai! That righteousness that was revealed through the Law at Sinai is the righteousness by faith that Paul is speaking of! It is near you and in your mouth and in your heart. Righteousness is attained by faithful obedience to the Creator. Faith, by its very definition, means "fidelity/faithfulness" to the Elohim we serve. This is the message that brings us life!
Going back to the Torah - the Law teaches that life and righteousness are attained through fidelity to the Covenant:
"Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. What I am commanding you today is to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his rules, and his right-rulings. Then you will live and become numerous and Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in the land which you are about to possess (Devarim 30:15, 16).
The message of the covenant given at Sinai, and the message given by Paul in the book of Romans are one and the same. Salvation is by faithfulness (obedience to the commandments) and life is obtained by obedient fidelity to Yahuwah.
But the converse is also true. Life is forfeited through disobedience to the commandments which is "unfaithfulness" to Yahuwah. Death is the result of disobedience.
However, if you turn aside and do not obey, but are lured away to worship and serve other elohim, I declare to you this very day that you will certainly perish! You will not extend your time in the land you are crossing the Yardan to possess. Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live! I also call on you to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to obey him and be loyal to him, for he gives you life and enables you to live continually in the land Yahuwah promised to give to your ancestors Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'acov" (Devarim 30:17-20).
The call to all who will hear his voice is to "choose life" by "obeying him and being loyal to him" because "he gives you life and enables you to live...."
Thus, Paul's gospel of "righteousness by faith" is the eternal, unchanging message that "the revealed righteousness of Elohim" is attained by "faithfulness" to his Covenant and expresses itself through obedience to his commandments.
The righteousness that Messiah's people wear is nowhere more clearly explained than in 1 John. Yochanan explains in simple and clear terms what sin and righteousness are. And he lays down in terms anyone can understand what it means that Elohim's people are righteous.
Dear friends, now we are children of Elohim, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the Torah (law); in fact, sin is Torahlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of Elohim appeared was to destroy the devil's work.
No one who is born of Elohim will continue to sin, because Elohim's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of Elohim. This is how we know who the children of Elohim are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of Elohim; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 Yochanan 3:2-10)
Yochanan skillfully contrasts sin and righteousness, obedience and lawlessness. In down-to-earth terms, sin is defined as breaking the Torah. The Torah is the Instruction which the Almighty has given to mankind. Sin is Torahlessness, which means living outside of obedience to the Torah. Sin, therefore, is defined, described and identified by one's behavior - by what a person does. We don't have to guess what sin is. Sin is breaking Elohim's commandments.
Likewise, righteousness is also defined, described and identified by one's behavior - by what a person does. Yochanan does not want us to be led astray by fine sounding arguments about sin and righteousness: "do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous." Yochanan tells us plainly that the one who does what is right is righteous! So, just as he (Messiah) is righteous, the one who is righteous is the one who does what is right. And that which is right is defined by God in his Torah law.
So, if you want to know the truth about sin and righteousness, you need simply to believe these plain, straightforward statements of fact from Yochanan. Sin means breaking the Torah. Righteousness means keeping the Torah. Yochanan clarifies for us these definitions by pointing out the "no one who lives in him (Messiah) keeps on sinning" and "no one who is born of Elohim will continue to sin." What could be clearer? If a person continues to sin, he has not been born of Elohim - he is not part of the family of Elohim. But the righteous one lives by faithfulness to God's instructions (sound familiar? Check out again Habakkuk 2:4).
Those who truly belong to Elohim stop sinning. Sin is a choice we make every day. No one is forced to sin. No one can use the excuse that we can't help but sin because we are made of flesh and bones. No. Sin is defined and described by the Torah as lawlessness - the breaking of God's law. And righteousness is defined as keeping the Law or obedience to God's Torah. It is black and white. It is easy to understand.
The Christian pastors and theologians want us to believe that you can continue to practice sin but still be reckoned as righteous in God's eyes. They use the illustration of God wearing his "Jesus sunglasses." "When God looks at you, he sees Jesus." Or, "when God looks at you, he looks through a blood stained lens and sees the righteousness of Jesus." This is nothing but pure dribble and poppycock. It is the stuff of fairytales and false prophets. No, God sees everyone as they really are. His vision is not clouded by anything. He judges everyone according to their works, just as the Scriptures say. All of the Bible teaches this truth.
That Elohim judges everyone fairly by one's deeds is the teaching of the Torah and the Writings:
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
One thing Elohim has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O Elohim, are strong, and that you, Yahuwah, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (Psalm 62:11-12)
If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:12)
For Elohim will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
This is also the teaching of the Prophets:
According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. (Isaiah 59:18)
This is also the teaching of the Messiah:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
This is even the teaching of Paul:
Elohim "will give to each person according to what he has done." (Romans 2:6)
And this is the teaching of the Book of Revelation:
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (Revelation 20:12-13)
We need to get over the corrupted gospel taught in many churches today that says you are seen as righteous in the Father's eyes even when you are practicing sin. This is a lie. Don't be deceived by this false teaching propagated by the false shepherds and teachers. Following in this teaching will lead you to a place you do not want to go.
1 John plainly and clearly instructs us that the righteous one is the one practicing righteousness. The sinner is the one practicing sin. Stop believing all that nonsense from Christian theologians who teach that you can remain righteous in God's sight while continuing in sin because of your connection with Jesus. Not so. Jesus is the one who told people to "stop sinning." You cannot remain connected to Messiah and stand in right relationship with the Father while you are practicing sin. The righteous one is righteous because he has stopped sinning and is walking in the commandments of Elohim.
So how do we reconcile this straight-forward teaching about righteousness that Yochanan teaches with the statements of Paul which seem to indicate that simply being a Christian makes you righteous in God's sight? Let's take a look at some of those statements now, so that we can learn to "rightly divide the Word of truth."
One of the most commonly used statements by Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians to make their case is that of Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (KJV)
Or as translated by a Messianic rendition:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yahusha
What does it mean to be "in Christ Jesus"?
This same phraseology is utilized by Paul elsewhere. Many times he refers to being "in Christ." A few examples, all from the KJV:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:18-19)
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:2)
So, what does it mean to be "in Christ"? Well, it means to belong to Messiah. It means that you are one of his followers. It means that you have accepted the call to walk like Messiah, talk like Messiah and suffer for Messiah. It means you want to be like Messiah in every possible way. It means you are part of that group of people (the body of Messiah) who are serious about conforming themselves to the character of Messiah.
Again, Yochanan can help us understand what Paul is talking about. He explains what it means to be "in Christ." The book of First John provides us this insight into belonging to Messiah:
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth (1 John 1:6)
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Elohim's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yahusha did. (1 John 2:3-6)
So, from John's practical point of view, to be "in Christ" - that is, to be a follower of Messiah - means that we don't walk in darkness, which is a metaphor for sin. Those who say they belong to Messiah but continue to sin are liars, they are pretenders. Those who say they are Christians but do not do what he commands are liars. The real, genuine followers of Messiah "must walk" in obedience to Yahuwah's commandments "as Yahusha did."
A little bit later in his letter, Yochanan pinpoints again who the true followers of Messiah are:
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (1 John 2:29)
Here, John reveals who are the true followers of Messiah. They are the righteous. And he doesn't describe them as those who "believe" in Jesus. He says that the righteous ones are those "who do what is right." In other words, there is no righteousness dropped on people from heaven (such as those who view Paul's imputed righteousness teaching as such), but their righteousness consists of DOING what is right, just as Messiah did. The righteousness of the followers of Messiah consists of their DOING right just like Messiah did right.
John describes this process the follower of Messiah engages in:
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (1 John 3:3-7)
True believers purify themselves by stopping their breaking of the Law. They stop sinning. Just like Messiah lived in compliance with Yahuwah's will by obeying all the Law, the true believer will live in compliance to the commandments of Yahuwah. This truly is the righteous one - the one who DOES what is right, as defined and explained in the Law Elohim gave to Moses.
"Being in Christ" means that we live our lives as Messiah did - in full obedience to the Father's commandments. So, there is indeed "now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" because those who are "in Christ" are no longer breaking the Law of God. It is the breaking of the Law that brings condemnation. In the Romans 8 passage, Paul goes on to say this very thing:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yahusha, because through Messiah Yahusha the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, Elohim did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:1-5)
Paul says that the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. It's the Holy Spirit in me that frees me from all sinful practices. By stymieing my sinful tendencies, he enables my to keep all of Elohim's righteous laws. And so, when I live "according to the Spirit" I can meet all the requirements of the Law, because now I can keep the Law and do keep the Law. Thus, being connected to Messiah ("in Christ"), I am no longer under the curses and condemnation of the Torah.
The "curse of the Law" is the condemnation on those who TRANSGRESS the Law. The Law itself is not a curse. Neither are those who obey the Law cursed. The curse is on transgressors. But in Messiah, I am no longer under the bondage of sin and am therefore free from the curse when I keep God's righteous commandments. This is what Paul means when he says that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
We have seen that throughout the Scriptures sin has always been disobedience to the revealed will of Elohim and that righteousness is conformity to the will and character of Elohim. In practical terms, this means that righteousness is the state of one who is wholeheartedly obeying Yah's commandments. This has never changed throughout the history of man. Righteousness has always been defined as right living.
Messiah came to die on the tree to set us free from the bondage of sin. He did so, not that we might freely and without consequence ignore or transgress God's law. He died so that we would become like him - slaves to righteousness and right living. It is Elohim's will for all people that we obey his righteous laws and so become like him in our being.
Paul's message of righteousness by faith is no different than that righteousness as revealed in the righteous commandments of Yahuwah. Paul's call to his readers is to becomes slave to God and to righteousness by upholding the Torah and obeying the commandments of the Covenant. And so, for all who wish to do God's will and inherit the Messianic Age, throw away your rebellion against the living Creator and do his will as expressed in his commandments to all mankind. Have faith in the Father and in his Son and learn to obey "everything that I have commanded" (Matthew 28:19).