GOD'S RULE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
Righteousness must be established if God's rule and power is to be experienced, and the righteousness that means anything to God only comes when repentant men and women believe from their hearts in the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Before the Flood, when God looked down at a world that he spurned His mercy and patience, He was grieved and said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh." God's edict was, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth…for it repenteth me that that I have made them."
It is because one man named Noah had learned what God's grace meant that he and his family were spared and lived to tell us about the great Flood that girded the whole earth. It is because of him and his righteousness that each of us enjoys life today.
The life of Noah's son, Shem, produced Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, Mary and Jesus, the Christ. All this was rooted in the fact that God found a man to whom He could say, "Come thou and all thy house, into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." It is in this world, righteous, that we find the reason why God rescued Noah. No other reason is given in the Genesis text.
WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD?
What is it to be righteous before God? I know a Christian worker, an auto mechanic. He went into missionary work so that, for one thing, he could keep the mission's cars in good running condition. While he gets in the grease pit and gets grease on his hands, face, and clothes, others can get dressed up in clean clothes and go out to churches and conventions and teach classes. This mechanic does not minister in the public service, but he does speak to others about Christ right in the garage.
Now his righteousness before God is not proved by the fact that he preaches or has a public ministry. No, his righteousness is seen by God. God sees his heart and sees that his aim is to love God and to trust His Son Jesus Christ.
If righteousness were proved by the chances to preach, pastor churches, or lead the song service, then every Christian ought to get trained for the "ministry" in the formal sense of the word. But we know that that does not make us righteous before God. Jesus said that even if the outside of the cup is clean and shiny the inside could be dirty and infected. A man's background, riches, education, ability or intelligence cannot make him righteous before God.
A HEART ISSUE
Righteousness is a heart issue; it has to do with a pure aim and attitude in the heart of a pastor, evangelist, mechanic or carpenter. Man looks at what he can see, but God looks at the heart.
God could rescue Noah because of his righteousness. In the 11th chapter of Hebrews it says that Noah was delivered because of his faith in God.By faith, Noah, being warned of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
So we see how God got His work done: God rescued Noah because of his righteousness and Noah was righteous because of His faith in God. This is what Scripture calls the "righteousness of faith." The righteousness that God found in Noah was that which sprang from his faith in God.
FAITH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
Why should righteousness be so rooted in faith? I'm sure we all know that righteousness and faith are related. We know that we will never act right if we do not believe right. Also we will never believe right unless we can believe somebody who can be trusted. Some years ago we, as a family, took a trip into Pennsylvania. We got lost and needed direction. We saw two young fellows sitting by the side of the road by a saloon. I got out of the car and went over to them. It didn't take long to see that both of them were visibly drunk. I asked them how we could get on the right road and one of them gave me directions. We took him at his word. We got on the right road and also to our destination.
If we could manage to believe someone who was drunk and get the right directions, how much more should we believe our holy Lord when He gives us the directions in His Word. God knows that if we will believe Him, he will lead us in the "paths of righteousness." He will not let us down if we trust His words and ways. God counts our faith in Him for righteousness. Faith gives God the right to take His place as the center of our lives. Without Christ in charge of our lives there can be no righteousness.
The Bible says that Noah was this kind of a believer in God and he became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith. In the book of Hebrews we find Abraham used as an example. He, like Noah, was a man spurred on by faith in God. His acts were acts of faith.By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out…went out (Heb. 11:8).
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise.
By faith Abraham when he was tried offered up Isaac.
In Genesis 15 we read also the record of the time when God brought Abraham out under the star-filled heavens and said,Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them; and he said, So shall thy seed be: and Abraham believed God; and he counted it unto him for righteousness.Abraham made some great "finds" in his lifetime. He found a real contact with a personal God. He discovered the land of Canaan. He learned that God had power to give him a son in his old age. But what was Abraham's greatest "find"? This is Paul's question in Romans 4.What shall we say then that Abraham our father as pertaining to the flesh hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scriptures? Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
The righteousness of faith was Abraham's greatest discovery.
FAITH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
From Romans 3:21 to chapter 4:22 the word "righteousness" is mentioned 12 times and the word "faith," 15 times. In the New Testament as whole the word "righteousness" is mentioned about 140 times and the word "faith" about 240 times. It is plain, then, that faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ is the way in which He declares and creates righteousness in His Church.
Jesus always stressed the fact that faith was the way that men took hold of God's blessing, favor and power. When Jesus brought deliverance and help to the bodies and souls of men, he did not say, "My power has made you whole" or "My compassion has delivered you" or "the Spirit of God makes you free." He did say, however, words like these many times: "Thy faith has made thee whole." It is our faith in Christ that receives these blessings; it is our unbelief that hinders the work of God in us. God's power, compassion, and spirit need never be questioned, and they are never the hold-up. Jesus always made faith in Himself the big issue.
ASK THIS QUESTIONSo again it is good to ask this question,Why is faith so important in the teachings of Jesus and in the examples of great men of God?
The answer is clear in the Scriptures: Righteousness must be established if God's rule and power is to be experienced, and the righteousness that means anything to God only comes when repentant men and women believe from their hearts in the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Faith is a powerful force and its greatest work is that by faith we get hold of Christ's atonement for our sins and receive the gift of righteousness from God.
When these issues are settled, anything can happen that Scripture promises in regard to this life or the life to come.
DANIEL AND THE SECRET OF DELIVERANCE
We have spoken about Noah and Abraham and how the righteousness of faith made great things happen in their lives. One other man who knew this secret of deliverance and power was the prophet Daniel. By his faith in God he interpreted the dream that Nebuchadnezzar forgot. This so amazed the king that he elevated Daniel's God as the God of gods and Lord of kings (Dan. 2:47). Because of Daniel and his friends' influence, this humbled king was led to confess,Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the king of heaven; for all his works are right and his ways are just and those who walk in pride he is able to abase (Dan. 4:37).
This man, Daniel, by his faith in God, confounded his enemies, stopped the mouth of lions, obtained revelations from God, got prayers answered so that battles were fought even in the heavenly realms so that an angel could bring down a message from God to him.
Daniel, like Noah and Abraham, knew what the righteousness of faith was. God tells us in Hebrews 10:38, just before the great chapter on faith, that "my righteous one shall live by faith." It is this righteousness that permitted God to do great works in Bible days. Let us remember that in these latter days of the church, its exploits will come out of righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ, "for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers" (I Pet. 3:12).
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