1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1–3, NKJV)
Religious zeal can be misinterpreted as divine approval. The Jews of Paul’s day were trusting in the works of the law of Moses to save them (Romans 2:17-24; 3:20, 27-28). Not a few Jewish Christians were being influenced to demand Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5, 23-24). The epistle to the Romans explains the futility of the Jewish attempt to be saved by the law of Moses, and to force it on the Gentiles. Paul said trying to be saved by the law of Moses amounted to establishing their own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:3; 1:16-17; Galatians 2:16). Paul desired the salvation of the Jews, but their zeal without knowledge would not save them. Zeal does not establish God’s approval, faithfully doing the Father does (Matthew 7:21-23). Zeal is not a substitute for knowing God’s will. Zealous ignorance is removed only when a humble heart hears the word of God and obeys it in faith (Matthew 7:24-27; Acts 3:17-19). Learn God’s will and have the faith to obey it to be saved from your sins (Acts 4:12; 10:34-35).
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20, NKJV)
Personal accountability for one’s sin is a consistent, Biblical theme. We cannot blame others for the sins we commit, including our ancestors. We do not bear the guilt of Adam’s sin; we bear the guilt of our own sin. It is a deceptive, demonic doctrine that says we inherent depravity from Adam, or that we inherit a sin nature due to Adam’s sin; It is not biblical truth (1 Timothy 4:1). Without question, sin and death entered the world through Adam. But, “death passed to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Ezekiel affirms the same truth. Each person bears the guilt of his own sin – “the soul who sins shall die.” We do not inherit sin, or righteousness. Let us cast off the false doctrine of inherited, total depravity. Our sin separates us from God. Yet, God’s marvelous mercy and grace offers us freedom from sin and death through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23; 1:16-17). By accepting personal accountability for your sin, you can be convicted, converted and saved (Acts 2:36-41).
10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another… (1 John 3:10–11, NKJV)
There are obvious differences between the children of God, and the children of the devil. This passage expresses those differences negatively. The person who does not practice righteousness, and the one who does not love his brother, is “not of God.” This is entirely consistent with the apostle’s declaration in Acts 10:35, that “whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Practicing righteousness is equivalent to practicing truth, and walking in the light (1 John 1:6-7). Christians live their profession of faith by walking in truth, otherwise, they are “not of God,” and are without God’s approval. For you see, it is sin not to practice righteousness (1 John 3:7-8; James 4:17). As we practice righteousness, we must love our brethren, even as Jesus commanded from the beginning (1 John 13:34-35). The devil’s children do not practice righteousness or brotherly love. To them, these are unnecessary for God’s acceptance. It is a great deception to say how one lives as a Christian does not impact one’s divine approval now, and eternally. May we practice righteousness, and love our brethren. By this, we know we are of God.
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29, NKJV)
The Bible says, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Yet, the Scriptures identify many people as righteous (Abel, Noah, Job, Daniel, Joseph, etc.). How is the possible? Nobody is righteous through law-keeping; that requires sinless perfection (and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23). The harmony is that these righteous ones were people of faith, and their faith was counted to them for righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5; Philippians 3:9). Note please, the Scripture does not say Christ’s righteousness was imputed to them. Scripture says the sinner’s “faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). We cannot earn righteousness through law-keeping – we are sinners (law breakers)! But, we can “hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be filled (Matthew 5:6). By faith, we can practice righteousness (1 John 2:29). We practice righteousness as we live by faith, following the teachings of the Righteous One. The sinner who is born of God is counted righteous by faith (Romans 1:17). To practice righteousness, be upright in heart and faithful to Jesus, and your faith will be counted for righteousness.
25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NKJV)
We have been reared to think of ourselves as autonomous, in control of ourselves and unfettered by the authority of others. In one sense, this is true, for we are free moral agents – each one morally responsible and accountable to God and others for our actions. This demonstrates that while we are free to act without regard for others, such a decision is sinful and foolish. We must regard God and man in all our actions. Not only were our bodies were given to us by God, we were “bought at a price” by the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:28; 10:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Instead of using our bodies to fulfill sinful lusts through sexual immorality, we are to offer our bodies in the service of the Lord to do His will (see Rom. 12:1-2). Coming out of the sinful defilement of the world, God will dwell with us and we with Him (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1). So then, both our redemption and our subsequent relation with God demands that we “flee fornication” and pursue righteousness (1 Cor. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:22).
9 I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know. 10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great assembly. (Psalm 40:9–10, NKJV)
Over the past two days we have briefly considered the Ad Council’s campaign, “Love Has No Labels.” Today, let us commit ourselves to a different sort of campaign, one needed by our nation and the whole world; a campaign of righteousness. It is led by Jesus Christ, who was prophetically described as “David a Brand of righteousness,” and as King, who executes “judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 23:5-6). As David proclaimed good news to the great assembly, even so His physical descendant Jesus Christ proclaims “the good news of righteousness” to the world. Let us join His campaign and proclaim God’s salvation in Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Be a foot soldier in His campaign of righteousness and be the “salt of the earth” who flavors this world with righteous living. Join His campaign of righteousness and be the “light of the world” who exposes this dark world to the light of truth (Matt. 5:13-16). God’s grace calls on us to live righteously and godly (Titus 2:11-12). Such living demands that we “do not restrain our lips,” but declare God’s faithfulness, mercy and truth.