Friday, July 24, 2009

The righteousness of God

In the first century in Judea the main points of Jewish beliefs were based upon monotheism, election and eschatology. For the Jews of the period, there was the one God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and there was Israel the chosen people of God; and there was a time coming when Israel would realize all that has been promised through Abraham, the prophets and the lord Jesus their Messiah.

Israel was looking forward to the deliverance which they believed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had promised; would take place in the future. Their belief in this deliverance was based upon the covenant promise the Lord God made to Abraham. God’s calling out of Abraham was the beginning of His called-out assembly through whom He would undo the lawlessness of Adam and bring about a New Age that would replace the present age. The covenant God made with Abraham was in order that God could though him and his descendants, namely Israel, deliver mankind from the wrath to come and also bring deliverance for the entire creation, now held in bondage as the apostle Paul states. The hope of Israel was for justification, that God would vindicate His people Israel.

Israel was supposed to take the message of deliverance to the whole world, but they failed in their responsibility, and in doing so became a problem that needed to be corrected. How did God deal with the problem of Israel not carrying out their responsibility? He sent His beloved son, to do what Israel had not done; and in doing so; Jesus carried out God’s plan and purpose as representing Israel before God. Through his death and resurrection we have revealed to us God covenant faithfulness - God‘s righteousness, and His doing so though the “seed” who was to receive the promises given to Abraham. The king is representative of his people. So we see that Israel’s vocation is now being achieved through Jesus the Messiah of Israel and those who now believe in him constitute the Israel of God, in the present day, the called-out Assembly of God, the household of God, the Temple of God. So we realize that God is going to put everything right according to His long term plan which He began with Abraham through Abraham’s “seed” Jesus.

The book of Galatians give us an explanation of the covenant God made with Abraham and how it has reached it culmination in Jesus the Messiah, pointing towards to the message of the new creation. In second Corinthians the new covenant leads us to the new creation. Jesus death is the covenant-fulfilling act that leads the Israel of God into the New Age, as new creations in him. In Jesus death, victory is realized over all the evil forces that enslaved humanity, they are now completely defeated.

One of the most important events in human history was when God raised Jesus from the grave to show forth His covenant faithfulness, His righteousness backing up His plan to save all those who make up His called-out Assembly, and to deliver this world from bondage to freedom in the Messiah Jesus, who will rule as God’s vice-regent seated on David’s throne at Jerusalem when he comes. Jesus resurrection is a guarantee of future liberation from death and corruption for all who are in him and for the entire creation as well. So we understand the long discussion from Galatians 3:1 to 4:1; is about the way in which the promises made to Abraham have been fulfilled in the lord Messiah Jesus, and that in keeping with God’s righteousness - God's covenant faithfulness. As the “seed” of Abraham, Jesus in heir to all the world and those in him are to co-inherit and co-rule with him in the coming New Age. What amazing grace that God recognized those in the Messiah as His children and sends forth the spirit of His son into our heart crying “Abba Father” so we know that we are no longer slaves under bondage to sin, but a son and if a son then an heir of the world through and with the lord Jesus Messiah.

Romans 3:21 - 4:25, explains God’s own righteousness, God’s covenant faithfulness, revealed in the death and resurrection of the lord Jesus the Messiah of the Israel of God. God has always been true to the covenant He made with Abraham, he has dealt with sin and made a way of deliverance for Jews and Gentiles who believe in the one whom He has sent. No wonder Paul says: “for I am not ashamed of the good news message; for it is God’s power for deliverance to all who believe, the Jew first and also the Gentile. For God’s righteousness - God’s covenant faithfulness is revealed in it, from faith to faith, as it is written: “The one who by faith is righteous will live”. God’s covenant faithfulness operates through the faith of Jesus
for the benefit of all those who are faithful to the message of the lord Messiah Jesus [‘from faith to faith’]. So the end result is that if you are a Jew or Gentile, a man or woman “in the Messiah” you are all one in the Messiah Jesus and Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. All this made possible by God’s righteousness, His faithfulness to the covenant promises He made with Abraham. This covenant status we enjoy as a gift of God: it is a dekaiosune ek theou, a ‘righteousness from God’.

Therefore, God’s own righteousness has to do with His covenant faithfulness, not with the status He bestows on His people. We have the status of covenant membership as a gift of God and this gift is given upon faith in the Messiah Jesus and in doing so we live out his message in our lives. So we see that justification has nothing to do with how someone become a Messianic believer; but is a declaration that they are Messianic believers. It is by believing in the lord Jesus as the one whom God has sent and accepting his message as from God and through repentance and baptism entering into a covenant membership as a member of the body of the Messiah Jesus.

The good news message of the Messiah Jesus reveals God’s righteousness, His covenant faithfulness, His dealing with sin in the world through the fulfillment of His covenant in the lord Jesus the Messiah of the Israel of God. So covenant membership is defined not by circumcision, or race, but by holding fast to the faith of Jesus the Messiah. All who believe this good news are the true, sin-forgiven, people of God. God’s purpose in the covenant was to deal with the sin of Adam. Now in the Messiah Jesus that is what He has done, amazing grace. All who believe the good news that Jesus brought are already considered as members of the family of Abraham, with their sins being forgiven. The good news message is about the lordship of the lord Messiah Jesus who works by the spirit of God to bring people into the family of Abraham defined as those who are “in the Messiah” and recognized as having the faith of Jesus, living it out in their lives.

Galatians 3:7: Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are the sons of Abraham.