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Righteousness by Faith

 

The last time I spoke to you we discussed Righteousness by Works.

Today we will look at righteousness from the perspective of righteousness by faith, or, as David Stern, translator of The Complete Jewish Bible, has pointed out, righteousness by trust. Although I will be using the word faith, I think "trust" might be an even more appropriate and meaningful term.

(Genesis 15:6) And he [Abram] believed in the LORD, And He [the LORD] accounted it to him for righteousness.

Faith is one of the most important themes running throughout the entirety of the Scriptures. It is just as important in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) as it is in the Greek Scriptures (New Testament), for in order to please God we must possess faith:

(Heb. 11:6) "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

This verse contains a wealth of useful information about faith and its essential role in aiding the individual Believer in developing a proper relationship with God. The first ingredient of faith mentioned in this verse is belief: to believe that God exists. But belief by itself is not enough, as it is written:

(James 2:19) "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!"

Many people in the world believe there is a single God who is the creator of all things. However, many of those same people lack the second essential ingredient mentioned in Hebrews 11:6, the fullness of faith that God is looking for; an unwavering trust that He not only exists, but that He can and will take a personal interest in the life of each individual who "diligently seeks Him." Thus, true Faith involves not only believing that God exists, but also having an unwavering trust and confidence that God can and will save us from the folly of sin. Faith, even though it is a spiritual entity, rather than a physical reality, is nevertheless totally real.

 

What is Faith? Let’s define it.

It is written that:

(Heb. 11:1) "... faith (i.e. trust) is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

(Rom. 8:24-25) For, "...... Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."

Faith, by its very definition, cannot be a physical reality, for once the object of faith becomes real, it is then present and no longer qualifies to be called Faith.

For example: A young man visiting a foreign country meets a young woman and they come to love one another. They want to marry, but circumstances at the time prevent them from doing so. The young man is forced to return to his native land, but before leaving he promises to return and take the young woman to be his bride. She must now wait for her betrothed husband to return. In her mind, there is absolute trust and confidence that he will keep his promise. This is true Faith. Now, once the young man has returned and married her, she no longer has faith that he will do so, for now she is dwelling in the reality of his presence. In other words, her faith has now become sight and therefore is no longer faith or trust.

Faith is the total embodiment of all confidence and trust, that what is believed will come to pass. No doubts, no uncertainties, and no questions, just total and complete Trust. Because the person of complete Faith is so absolutely positive that what they believe will come to pass, Faith takes on a life of its own and becomes a spiritual substance that dwells within their heart until the day it is fulfilled.

Conversely, to lose Faith is to lose the absolute trust and confidence that something is going to happen as promised, which explains why harboring doubts breeds discouragement.

 

Let’s Consider the Faith of the Elders

If one looks up the word 'faith,' in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, it is surprising to see that only two entries exist from the Old Testament. This fact has led some to conclude that the religion of the Old Testament depended upon works, while the religion of the New Testament is one of faith. This is simply not true, as the writer of the book of Hebrews makes clear:

(Heb. 11:2) "For by it [i.e. by faith or trust] the elders obtained a good testimony."

Nineteen men and women from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are specifically mentioned, in the Faith Chapter of Hebrews 11, as being examples of complete, trusting faith. They range from Abel to David. On the other hand, but in addition, the prophets are all lumped into one group and not even mentioned by name.

Judaism has always been a religion of faith. Even though Righteousness by Works plays an important role in Judaism, it is faith, trust, and confidence in God that sustains the spiritual life of the Jew just as much as it does the Christian.

Even though the list of faithful men and women from ancient times is legion, there was one figure who stood out so completely from the rest that he has come to be known as "the father of the faithful." That man, of course, was Abraham. As we read before:

(Gen. 15:6) "And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."

An important point to observe about this verse is that it says Abraham believed 'in' HaShem, not just that he ‘believed' HaShem. If a person is brought before a king and told the king will do some particular thing, the person may well believe it. However. this is not to say that the individual has total and complete trust and confidence in the king's integrity in all matters. Abraham, on the other hand, believed 'in' God in addition to trusting His message. Taken together these two elements constitute Faith.

More important to this subject is the fact that Abraham's faith had a most remarkable outcome; it was counted to him as 'Righteousness.' This introduces an entirely new element, the fact that righteousness can come not only from the righteous actions of a person, but also through a spiritual element called Faith.

What exactly was it that God told Abraham, which he believed with such profound trust? It was that Abraham, in his old age, would father a son through whom the multitude of blessings (which had previously been promised) would flow.

(Gen. 15:1-6) "After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid. Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ "But Abram said. 'Lord God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?' Then Abram said, 'Look, you have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!' " And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' "And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."

The word translated "shield" in verse 1 is the Hebrew word magen (mah-gehn’, Strong's #4043). One of the meanings of this word is protector. An essential part of Abraham's belief "in God" was that God would be his protector no matter what might happen.

God is looking for this same kind of faith today. It is the single most important ingredient we can have in our relationship with Him, for it is written in Heb. 11:6 that:

"... without faith it is impossible to please Him, ...".

 

How Can We Better Understand Faith?

The reason there are so few occurrences of the English word 'faith' in the Hebrew Scriptures is because the translators often chose to render the Hebrew words that might normally be translated 'faith' into other English words such as: 'believe,' 'believed,' 'trust,’ 'faithful,’ and even 'truth.' Actually, there are three related Hebrew words which deal with the concept of faith:

Aman (ah-mahn’, Strong's #539) which means: to build up or support, to render firm, to trust or believe;

Emuwn (ay-moon’, Strong's #529) which means: established, trusty; trustworthiness;

and Emuwnah ( ee-moo-nah’, Strong's #530) which means: firmness; fidelity; faith.

All of these words are significant in understanding faith from an Old Testament perspective. A detailed study of the usage of these words also aids significantly in understanding the New Testament usage of the Greek word pistis (pis’-tis Strong's #4102) which is almost always translated as 'faith.' Faith is a perfectly good English term, the problem with it is much the same as that with other 'religious' words, it has taken on extraneous meanings because of its religious usage. For this reason David Stern, in his Complete Jewish Bible translation, has chosen to use the words 'trust' or 'confidence' instead of 'faith,' when translating pistis. This aids the English reader in developing a better understanding of what the writers of the Greek Scriptures were trying to communicate. This was discussed by Philip Edwards in his sermon "Faith is Trust."

Another problem in understanding the New Testament usage of the word 'faith,' is the fact that it is used in two distinct ways. First, as we have already seen, it speaks concerning the individual trust or confidence a Believer is to have in God and in the Messiahship of Yeshua, i.e. Jesus. The second manner in which 'faith' is used has to do with the body of beliefs that constitute the doctrines of those who follow Messiah Yeshua, i.e. Jesus the Messiah, or for that matter, any other religion. When used in this manner, the translators usually render it as "the faith."

 

Now let’s discuss Faith and Righteousness

As we have already seen, the concept of Righteousness by Faith finds its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures. Despite the emphasis placed on obedience to the Torah and the commandments of God, it is evident from a number of Scriptures that God intended for the children of Israel to understand that salvation depended upon more than just obedience; it also required Faith:

(Psalm 37:39-40) "But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him."

Although Righteousness by Works is a prerequisite in this example, please notice it says that salvation comes from 'trusting;' having confidence, that God will save. In other words, a combination of Righteousness by Works accompanied by Trusting Faithfulness is what moves God to perform the work of salvation for them.

This next passage hints of a 'universal salvation' for the descendants of Israel:

(Isaiah 45:22-25) "'Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other, {23} I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return. That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. {24} He shall say, Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. {25} In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory."

The word 'justified' in verse 25 is tzadak (zah-dahk’, Strong's #6663) and means to be made righteous. So it is God who will make the children of Israel righteous, it cannot and will not come about through their own efforts.

The Isaiah passage we just read is listed by Alfred Edersheim (in his classic work The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah) as being one which the ancient Rabbis taught were to be applied to the Messiah. The same is true of:

(Jer. 23:5-6) "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. {6} In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: The LORD our Righteousness."'

Ultimately the righteousness of Israel and Judah must be God Himself. That is the bottom line.

Once again, Isaiah confirms this understanding:

(Isaiah 46:12-13) "'Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness:{13} I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion. For Israel My glory.’"

It is God's own righteousness that will serve to bring salvation to the children of Israel. By doing so, God receives all of the glory, thus none of it can be claimed by man.

 

How was Righteousness by Faith Confirmed?

It should come as no surprise that the New Testament or ReNewed Covenant does not contradict, rather it confirms everything that is taught in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning faith. Remember, at the time Paul was writing his letters to the various congregations scattered abroad, the only 'Scriptures' in existence were the Hebrew Scriptures; the so-called 'Old Testament.' That was the 'Bible' of his day. With correct translation and exegesis (ek-sa-je’-sis), meaning the scriptural explanation of words, the seeming contradictions between the two testaments disappear and the two become a unified whole.

With that in mind, let us now explore several passages in the New Testament that teach us the meaning behind the concept of Righteousness by Faith.

First of all, it is important to understand that God's love of mankind is so great, that He made a way to forgive our unrighteousness (i.e. our sin). In order to express the meaning of these concepts more clearly, I want to read the next scripture from the Complete Jewish Bible:

(Rom. 3:21-26 CJB) "But now quite apart from Torah, God's way of making people righteous in his sight has been made clear - although the Torah and the Prophets give their witness to it as well - {22} and it is a righteousness that comes from God, through the faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah, to all who continue trusting. For it makes no difference whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, {23} since all have sinned and come short of earning God's praise. {24} By God's grace, without earning it, all are granted the status of being considered righteous before him, through the act redeeming us from our enslavement to sin that was accomplished by the Messiah Yeshua. {25} God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah (i.e the atonement, expiation, propitiation, covering) for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated God's righteousness: because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [with neither punishment nor remission] the sins people had committed in the past; {26} and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yeshua's faithfulness."

Clearly, it is only the righteousness of God that grants righteousness to mankind. The vehicle through which God has chosen to deliver His righteousness is the sacrificial death of Yeshua HaMashiach. That is the message of the New Testament or ReNewed Covenant.

It is interesting to note that Paul makes the point that by accepting the faithful sacrifice of Yeshua, God has also vindicated Himself. Why does God need vindication? Because prior to this event it was possible that people could have argued that God had not sufficiently punished His people for their sins, and therefore His promised rewards and/or punishment for following (or not following) the instructions of the Torah had not been upheld. On the other hand, up until that time, neither had He seen fit to forgive them.

At this point, I would like to interject a recommendation for the use of the Complete Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern. It is a very good source to help the Believer sort out the many anti-Semitic undertones that have crept into most English translations of the New Testament.

Now God has determined to accept the sacrifice of Yeshua as sufficient payment for the sins of mankind. He has done this in order to proclaim all those who are willing to accept that sacrifice as being made righteous. This action is a judgment that God has made. As it is written:

(Rev. 16:7) "And I heard another from the altar saying, 'Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.'"

(Psalm 19:9) "The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether."

Whether it be the justifying of faithful men (i.e. making them righteous), or the punishment of the wicked, whatever God determines can only be deemed a righteous decision.

So, it is through the Righteousness by Faith of men that the righteousness of God is revealed:

(Rom. 1:16-17 CJB) (cited from Hab. 2:4) "For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God's powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile. {17} For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust - as the Tanakh puts it, 'But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust'."

Paul also makes it abundantly clear that Salvation Righteousness can be imputed only through trusting faith and never by works:

(Rom. 4:16) "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law (i.e. the Jews), but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (Gentiles who, like Abraham, believe), who is the father of us all ..."

In Romans 9:30 Paul makes it even more clear how righteousness by faith has benefitted the Gentiles who were not familiar with the Torah, but had faith in Christ, while the same righteousness by faith became a stumbling block to Jews who pursued the righteousness obtained by obeying the Torah but were tripped up by denying Christ.

(Rom 9:30-33 NKJV) What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; {31} but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. {32} Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. {33} As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

However, our next scripture shows us that all Believers were expected to learn and live by the Torah (God's instructions), for once the minimum requirement for fellowship had been met per Acts 15:20, then every Gentile convert was expected to attend Synagogue each and every Sabbath. There they would learn all of the Law (Torah) that was to be kept:

(Acts 15:21) "'For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."'

 

Let’s Consider the Differing Requirements For Fellowship

There were two primary differences between the Synagogues of the Believing Jews and the Synagogues of the non-believing Jews. The most obvious was that the members of the Believing Synagogues accepted Yeshua as the promised Messiah ben (son of) Joseph, and believed that He would appear yet a second time as the Messiah ben David or King Messiah.

Even though the leadership of the non-believing Synagogues did not accept Yeshua as Messiah, nevertheless, in many cases (especially in Jerusalem) they allowed those Jews who believed in Yeshua to continue in Synagogue fellowship with them. A complete break between the Believers and the leadership of the non-believing Synagogues did not take place until the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-135 CE. However, in the Diaspora (Dye-as’-per-a), that is outside of Israel, the break between the two took place much earlier when many uncircumcised Gentiles came to believe that Yeshua gave up his life in order to make atonement for their sins and grant them salvation.

Part of the problem centered around the requirements which non-believing Jews placed upon those Gentiles who wished to become proselytes. They had to go through a lengthy period of learning both the Torah and the customs of the Jews. During this time (a minimum of one year) the prospective proselyte (called a God-fearer, see Acts 10:1-2) was not allowed to have table fellowship (share a meal) with the Jews for fear that he might unknowingly render the observant Jews unclean. As a result of these and other concerns during this training period, the God-fearer was required to sit separately in the Synagogue. In other words, a symbolic 'wall of partition' had been erected so there could be no intermingling of Jew and Gentile, even in the Synagogue. Once the God-fearer had completed his course of study, understood the commandments of the Torah, and the customs of that particular Synagogue, he was then eligible for circumcision.

Once the circumcision had healed, the God-fearer would be immersed in a mikvah (meek-vah = immersion pool), after which he would be required to bring a sacrifice to the Temple. Upon completion of all these requirements the God-fearer was then accepted into full Synagogue membership and was considered to be Jewish in every respect. From that time on it was forbidden to remind him that he had ever been a Gentile, and his parents were then considered to be Abraham and Sarah.

Due to the revelation which God gave to Peter (when he was staying at the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa), the Believing Synagogues changed their acceptance practice concerning how a Gentile could be brought into both 'The Faith' and full fellowship in the Synagogue. The reason for this change was because of a voice from heaven which gave the following instruction to Simon Peter:

(Acts 10:15) "'What God has cleansed you must not call common."'

Immediately following this vision experience, Simon Peter was called to journey to Caesarea to the home of a Gentile God-fearer named Cornelius. It was during this visit that Peter came to understand what God had communicated to him through the vision:

(Verse 28) "Then he [Peter] said to them, 'You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean."'

When Peter saw the Holy Spirit fall upon the uncircumcised Gentiles, and heard them speak in tongues, he determined that it was God's intent that full fellowship should be given to them at once:

(Acts 10:47-48) "'Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized (immersed) who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?' "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days."

It is interesting to note that Cornelius, even though he was an uncircumcised Gentile, was considered to be a Tzadik (a righteous or just man) prior to his receiving the Holy Spirit and being immersed. Also, it should not be forgotten that God chose a Gentile (who was already performing Righteousness by Works) to be the very first Gentile to be brought into the brotherhood of Believers:

(Acts 10:22) "And they said, 'Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you."'

Peter discovered, upon returning to Jerusalem, that word of these events had already preceded him, and many Believing Jews were upset. They were not upset that Gentiles had accepted Yeshua as Savior and Messiah, what bothered them was that Peter had gone into the home of uncircumcised Gentiles and had eaten a meal with them:

(Acts 11:1-3) "Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, 'You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!"'

Thus began the controversy between Righteousness by Works and Righteousness by Faith, which has existed up until this very day.

 

Let’s try to Understand Paul’s Motivation

As we begin to understand the interaction between Righteousness by Works and Righteousness by Faith, the teachings of Paul come into focus. Paul knew that the Believing Jews, especially those from a strict orthodox background, would naturally believe that a Gentile could not receive salvation unless they were first circumcised. However, circumcision was a major stumbling block to many of the Gentiles whom God was calling. Paul knew that it was not required for initial fellowship, because of the voice from heaven that Simon Peter had both seen and heard during his mid-day prayers while staying in Joppa, plus his experience with the household of Cornelius. Even though Simon Peter explained his entire vision to the Believing Jews in Jerusalem upon his return, apparently not all of them accepted it. For sometime later a group of them came to Antioch, where Paul was dwelling, with a troubling message for the Gentiles:

(Acts 15:1) "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."'

This controversy led to the famous Jerusalem Council meeting where a determination was made concerning the minimum requirements for fellowship. Ya'acov or James, who was probably the most orthodox of all the Believers, was president of the Believer's Sanhedrin, and because of his position, he was called upon to render the verdict of that body. But before he issued the decree of the court, Ya'acov, i.e. James, made the following observation:

(Verses 13-17) "... James answered, saying, 'Men and brethren, listen to me: 'Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

[Quoted from Amos 9:11-12] 'After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up, So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD. Even the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things."

Those with a vision of what God was doing (like Ya'acov, i.e. James), could see that God was bringing together both Jew and Gentile into a single body of Believers.

The Gentiles were to come to God through faith and trust in the sacrifice of Yeshua, after which they were to learn Righteousness by Works from the Jews, who already knew how to live by the Torah; the Instruction Book from God. But before this newly revealed order of bringing Gentiles into fellowship could begin, some minimum requirements needed to be established so that both Jews and Gentiles could fellowship together without hampering each others faith. For as it is written:

(Rom. 14:23) "... whatever is not from faith is sin."

So, a compromise was established to allow the Gentiles full fellowship in the Synagogue without first being circumcised. This compromise afforded the Jewish Believers assurance that they would not be served common or unclean food if they were to join a Believing Gentile in a meal. We can read of it in:

(Acts 15:28-29) "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well."

Of the four items of Righteousness by Works that the Gentiles were asked to perform in order to join into full fellowship with the Believing Jews, one had to do with sexual immorality, the other three dealt with food. This was because food was the primary issue when it came to fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were concerned that, without proper instruction, the Gentiles would serve them food that was not kosher.

Because of this ruling by the Jerusalem Council, Paul wanted to make sure that the congregations, with which he was working, understood they could not be saved by circumcision or any other 'work' which they might perform; as worthy as those works might be. In order that a true understanding of Righteousness by Faith be set forth, Paul made statements such as:

(Gal 2:21 CJB) "I do not reject God's gracious gift; for if the way in which one attains righteousness is through legalism, then the Messiah's death was pointless."

According to Paul, the purpose of the law was to show each one of us where we fall short of the righteousness of God:

(Gal 3:21-22 CJB) "Does this mean that the legal part of the Torah stands in opposition to God's promises? Heaven forbid! For if the legal part of the Torah which God gave had had in itself the power to give life, then righteousness really would have come by legalistically following such a Torah. {22} But instead, the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had been promised might be given, on the ground of Yeshua the Messiah's trusting faithfulness, to those who continue trustingly faithful."

The law has two primary purposes: to teach us how to love God and love our neighbor (Righteousness by Works); and to lead us to the understanding that we must have Faith (or Trust) in Yeshua in order to obtain salvation (Righteousness by Faith). Both are extremely worthy goals. However, Paul (because of the resistance he received to his correct teachings concerning Righteousness by Faith) seldom emphasized the Righteousness by Works portion of the law. He did not feel it was necessary to teach that which was already known, but rather continued to teach those principles of Righteousness by Faith which were more difficult to understand. Today the situation is almost entirely reversed; Righteousness by Faith is taught at the expense of Righteousness by Works. We need to put each into its proper perspective.

It was the slavish insistence by some, that only through the legalistic observance of the commandments of the Torah could salvation be obtained, which Paul fought to the end. Paul correctly understood that the Scriptures teach that if salvation were to be based upon Righteousness by Works, then everyone on earth would be lost, for no one is able to keep the Law perfectly. That is why he wrote:

(Verses 23-25 CJB) "Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this yet-to-come trusting faithfulness would be revealed. {24} Accordingly, the Torah functioned as a custodian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful. {25} But now that the time for trusting faithfulness has come, we are no longer under a custodian."

Even though the practice of some was to pervert the Torah into legalism, that perverted legalistic approach to the Torah nevertheless served as a tutor to bring sinners to repentance. However, once an individual has gained an understanding of their own sinfulness, they are then also expected to understand that the Torah is an instruction book to help the Believer learn the mind of God and what He is like, but that it is useless for bringing them salvation, which comes only through Righteousness by Faith:

(Verses 26-29 CJB) "For in union with the Messiah, you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness: {27} because as many of you as were immersed into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah, in whom {28} there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. {29} Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise."

While Paul continually pounds away in his letters about the absolute need for each Believer to be washed in the water of Faith, the end result is that we are expected to walk in Righteousness by Works as the natural expression of the cleansing and renewal that has taken place:

(Eph.4:20-24) "But you have not so learned Christ, {21} if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: {22} that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, {23} and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, {24} and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness."

A true spiritual conversion of the mind will create, in the 'new man,' a desire to live according to the instructions of the Torah; to live a life of Righteousness by Works. Paul makes this abundantly clear in the next few verses of Ephesians where he points out some of the Torah commands which a Believer should be following:

(Verses 25-32) "Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. {26} 'Be angry, and do not sin: ' do not let the sun go down on your wrath, {27} nor give place to the devil.

{28} "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

{29} "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

{30} "And do not grieve the Holy spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. {31} Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. {32} And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you."

In chapter five of Ephesians Paul goes on to mention other sins that Believer's should not partake of: formication, uncleanness. covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting. Then Paul makes the following statement which can only be interpreted as full support of a life style that follows after the precepts of the Torah without turning it into legalism:

(Eph. 5:5-7) "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. {6} Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. {7} Therefore do not be partakers with them."

The seeming dichotomy disappears when we understand that it is by Righteousness by Faith and only by Righteousness by Faith that we can be forgiven for our past sins and set free from their penalty, which is death. However, once we have been set free it is unseemly to say that we no longer have to be obedient to the commandments of the Torah whose breaking caused the death penalty in the first place. For when we are truly converted by the Spirit of God, then we want to learn and obey the clear instructions of the Scriptures. Paul summed it up well when he said:

(Gal.5:l6-l8 CJB) "... Run your lives by the Spirit. Then you will not do what your old nature wants. {17} For the old nature wants what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is contrary to the old nature. These oppose each other, so that you find yourselves unable to carry out your good intentions. {18} But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism."

"Legalistic observance" is an entire system of works by which one expects to be saved. However, it must be conceded that it is impossible to keep all of these commands perfectly all of one's life. Therefore, the next step in this mind set is to determine that one's life is like a balance. In this thinking it becomes possible for people to believe that if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then everything will work out and they will "make it into heaven."

The truth is that our works can never measure up to the righteousness of God. Therefore, God has chosen to accept our complete and total trust in Him, and the sacrifice of His Son, Yeshua or Jesus, to make up this difference. We call this special blessing Righteousness by Faith. Specifically, Righteousness by Faith is counted to those who accept Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, as their personal Savior. However, it is a grave mistake to believe that, just because we are saved through Righteousness by Faith, that Righteousness by Works should no longer have a place in our lives. For it is written:

(Ezek. 34:20) "... 'I will judge every one of you according to his own ways."'

Righteousness by Faith is not a New Testament concept. It goes back to the time of the Patriarchs. Abraham is considered to be the father of the faithful. Yeshua confirmed this when He said:

(John 8:56) "'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.'"

 

Summary

In the final analysis it must be understood that Righteousness by Faith was given to Believer's to make up for what Righteousness by Works is incapable of doing; that is to provide salvation to the sinner, for even those who are considered to be righteous by works still need Righteousness by Faith:

(Heb. 12:22-23) "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, {23} to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect."

This verse makes it clear, that just men (Greek = pistis, comparable to tzadik in Hebrew), even though they are considered righteous, must be made perfect through Righteousness by Faith.

 

This sermon is adapted, with permission, from an article in Hebrew Roots magazine.

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

20 August 2011

 

Copyright 2011, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

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