What does the Bible teach about … Righteousness and Truth?

Author Craig C. Broyles

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the Lord have created it.  Isaiah 45:8 NRSV

What does the bible teach acout righteousness and truth?

Some words from the Bible are used so frequently in Christian vocabulary that we assume we know their meaning. But often they have been so colored by our traditions that their meaning has shifted from biblical times. Fortunately, to recover these ancient meanings we do not have to rely on archaeology and inscriptions (though these resources are often helpful). Most scholars use the same resource every Christian has access to: the Bible.

A word’s meaning or definition is best determined by how it is used. The usage is found through considering the following contexts:

1. The sentence (grammar and syntax)

2. The genre (a literary type) and literary context

3. The situation (historical and sociological contexts)

Let’s now examine two words—righteousness and truth—to see how these features can shed light on a word’s usage and meaning.

 Righteousness

God’s Righteousness in Isaiah 40–55

For many Christians “righteousness” (sedeq or sedeqah) can simply mean conformity to God’s moral law. This conformity should then be exemplified in moral behavior. There are indeed biblical references that support this perspective (Deut 6:25). But there are other facets to this diamond of biblical “righteousness,” especially when we focus in particular on God’s righteousness in Isaiah 40–55.

1. The Sentence.

“Parallelism” is characteristic of Hebrew poetry, and it can provide an immediate clue to the field of meaning (often called the “semantic field”) of a particular word in a particular context. In this verse we see that as “righteousness” rains down from the skies, it produces “salvation.” While there are different kinds of parallelism, in this case “salvation” and “righteousness” appear as near synonyms.

2-3. The genre and literary context, and the historical situation.

This hymnic fragment follows a pivotal oracle (44:24–45:7) in Isa 40–55. These chapters are addressed to the Jews exiled from their homeland to Babylonia in the mid-sixth century BC. They had little hope, except for “the word of our God” that “stands forever” (Isa 40:80). In this pivotal, prophetic word, God announces that he will use Cyrus, king of Persia, as his agent to restore the Jews to their homeland and to rebuild Jerusalem. He even calls this Persian king “my shepherd” and “anointed” (or “messiah”)! Now we can make sense of why “salvation” and “righteousness” are one and the same thing for these Jewish exiles. God, by “saving” his people from deportation, “puts things right” for these oppressed people. This amounts to nothing less than “rescuing righteousness.”

“My righteousness” and “my salvation,” that is, God’s salvation and righteousness, are parallel terms in Isa 46:13 as well. In this speech the Lord challenges His people to believe that “the man of my counsel from a far country” (46:11), namely Cyrus the Persian, will bring God’s “righteousness” and “salvation” to Zion/Jerusalem. Similarly, three times “my righteousness” and “my salvation” appear as parallel terms (51:5, 6, 8) that bring the Lord’s comforting and restoring of Zion/Jerusalem (51:3). Finally, in Isa 45:21 the Lord characterizes Himself as “a righteous God and savior”—in contrast to the idols of the nations. In this speech against the nations, they are given an altar call, so to speak (“turn to me and be saved”), wherein they may confess, “only in the Lord … are righteous deeds and strength” (i.e., rescuing acts; 45:22–24). Indeed, “in the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified” (or “made right,” yisdequ). This verse uses the verbal form of the Hebrew word for “righteousness.” The righteousness of God in Isaiah 40–55 does not denote the absolute, moral standard by which He judges and condemns people. What is decisive here is that God’s “righteousness” is virtually synonymous with His “salvation”—even though his people disobey His “law” (Isa 42:24) and His “commandments” (48:18). In fact, it is in spite of Israel’s being “far from righteousness” that God declares “I bring my righteousness near, it is not far” (46:12–13; compare, 48:1). Thus, the “righteousness” of God in Isa 40–55 anticipates the rescuing righteousness of God that is fundamental to Paul’s epistle to the Romans (see esp. 1:16–17).

Truth: Truth in the Psalms

As with the term, “righteousness,” many in Western society conceive of “truth” (’emet) as an abstract, absolute standard or norm of reality. But the Old Testament tends to treat “truth” in the context of relationship.

In the Psalms ’emet, (תמא) is frequently paired with khesed, which is translated as “steadfast love” (NRSV, ESV), “lovingkindness” (NASB), and “love” (NIV). All fifteen of these pairings describe attributes of God. This pairing of terms, along with the psalmic prayers and praises that use it, associates ’emet, (תמא) with relational loyalty. Hence, the NRSV and ESV translators use “faithfulness” in these contexts. The echoes in Ps 86:15 point to the famous confession in Exod 34:6: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (’emet).”

At this moment during the Golden Calf incident, the Lord revealed His merciful “faithfulness”—in spite of His people’s rebellion.

In some cases where “truth” is used in reference to humans in the psalms, it is better understood and translated as “authenticity.” When the hymn, Ps 145, celebrates that the “Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (145:18 NRSV), it refers to those who call on the Lord with sincerity and authenticity and not necessarily to those who are in full conformity to an absolute standard of “truth.” Ps 51 is a classic confession of personal sin.

The claim, “you desire truth in the inward being” (Ps 51:6 NRSV), points to the sincere, authentic confession exemplified in the psalm itself. The temple entry liturgy of Ps 15 echoes this same notion: “those who … speak the truth from their heart” (15:2). These uses of ’emet do not point to “truth” in the sense of moral perfection but to “true” speech that authentically reflects one’s heart.

Word studies can be fruitful endeavors. By listening closely to how the Hebrew writers used their words we can get closer to how they thought. In the cases of “righteousness” and “truth” they primarily considered them not as external, moral standards or norms, but within the context of a committed relationship. In Isaiah 40–55 and the Psalms, God’s “righteousness” and “truth” exhibit themselves as salvation and fidelity. Human righteousness in the Psalms exhibits itself as authenticity.

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy ofBible Study Magazinepublished byLogos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 2.

What Does the Bible Teach about Justification and Sanctification?

Author Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

In the Bible, justification and sanctification are solutions to long-standing problems.

Justification

The Problem
All people are guilty of doing wrong (sinning) against other people and against God. All are personally responsible for their sins and thus under condemnation (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Just as people who break the laws of a society are brought before a court to be tried and judged, God brings each individual before Himself to judge them.

The Solution Is there a way to fix all that we have done wrong? God fixes our wrongs by providing Jesus Christ. Jesus’ righteousness satisfies God’s demands. His righteousness (right actions, status and sacrifice) is accredited to all who believe (Rom 3:21).

Justification Defined
The term justification means “to declare righteous.” The New Testament writers, specifically Paul, use the term in a judicial sense. Imagine God the judge, sitting on His throne, declaring to the believer, “In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”

The defendant of course would ask, “How did this happen? And what did Jesus do to make things right between God and I?” The defendant is really asking is, “What is the basis for justification?”

The Answer is Threefold:

WhatDoestheBibleTeach

God’s grace (Rom 5:15)—Provided by Jesus Christ’s obedience to God the Father.

Jesus’ blood (Rom 5:9)—Jesus’ suffering and death made all who choose to believe in him right with God.

Jesus’ righteousness accredited to believers (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21)—Those who believe in Jesus are freely given “right status” with God, not on the basis of their own works, but on the basis of what God has done in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28; 4:5–6; Gal 2:16).

Once wrongdoers (sinners) have placed their faith in Christ, God declares them righteous. New believers have peace with God (Rom 5:1) because all sins, past, present and future are forgiven. Once forgiven, believers are no longer subject to the judgment that was once due (Rom 8:1). The declaration of this is justification.

In summary, justification is an act of God’s grace: A guilty sinner places his or her faith in Christ and is acquitted by God. A wrongdoer is “made right” with God.

“In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”

Sanctification

The Problem Wherever there is the presence of sin, there is conflict. Paul wrestled with this conflict in Rom 7:15–25. This passage shows us that resolving this conflict is a process. It involves God making us more “set apart” from our wrongdoings and more like Him.

For the believer, there must be a constant and ever-increasing sense that although sin remains, it is not in control. It is one thing for sin to live in the believer, but it is quite another for the believer to live in sin.

WhatDoestheBibleTeach2

The Solution The Holy Spirit is the continuous agent of sanctification, who works within us to subdue sinful impulses and produce fruits of righteousness, or right actions (Rom 8:13; 2 Cor 3:17–18; Gal 5:22). This process is sanctification.

Sanctification Defined The basic meaning of sanctification is “to be set apart.” The Hebrew word (qadosh; שודק) has a basic meaning of “separation.” As a moral term, sanctification is translated as “holiness” or “purity.” The term in Greek (hagios; ἅγιος) is translated as “holy”, as in “Holy” Spirit, or “saint.” In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God,” or to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son.

Summary Sanctification is a work of God’s grace. The whole person is enabled to die to sin and live according to God’s will. Justification occurs at the moment of salvation, whereas sanctification is a process. When our lives are over, we will enter into God’s presence glorified, free from the presence and power of sin—already justified, fully sanctified.

 In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God.”

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 1.