Isaiah Study: The Lord’s Desire for Justice

Since starting a university master’s program two years ago, I’ve participated in several diversity trainings and class assignments that prompted us to evaluate our core values. One thing I realized is that while a buzz-word like “equity” just makes me feel tired since I’ve heard it so much, the idea of “justice” stirs a deep desire for things in the world to be right. I think many of us (perhaps even most of us) want fairness and justice. We feel there’s a way things should be, and we’re irritated when that isn’t the case. We hate injustice, especially if it’s directed at us but often if we see it happening to others as well.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis proposes that our sense of right and wrong is a clue pointing to God’s existence and revealing His nature. Even in our modern age of moral relativism, people still have some idea of how the world “should” be (though different groups often dramatically disagree about what that looks like). Many of us still have in mind “some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it” (Lewis) that hints at a larger ideal to strive toward. Lewis expands on this recognition of a need for justice when he talks about his time as an atheist.

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? …

Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too— for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 1

Lewis maintains that knowledge of justice points to the existence of a God who embodies justice, and the Bible supports that. Scripture reveals that God is deeply concerned with justice and that it’s one of His driving motivations. This shows up clearly in Isaiah 40-66, the passage of scripture we’ve been studying over the past couple months. These last 27 chapters of Isaiah record a message from God where He speaks candidly about His desires, motivations, and plans. If you go back and read the very first post, you’ll see I made a list of key themes from this section of scripture to study more extensively. One of those themes was that “God is motivated by justice.”

Image of an oasis in a desert overlaid with text from Isaiah 40:27-29, WEB: "“Why do you say, Jacob, and speak, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from Yahweh, and the justice due me is disregarded by my God?’ Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might.”
Image by HarveyMade from Lightstock

Justice, Righteousness, and Judgement

“Justice” is a complex word when we’re working with Hebrew to English translations. In the King James Version, “justice” appears 5 times in this section of Isaiah and it’s translated from tsedeq (H6664 and H6664); a word that WEB translates “righteousness.” In the WEB translation, “justice” is used 14 times and it’s translated from mishpat (H4941), which the KJV translates as “judgment.” So we have two Hebrew words here, and three different English translations. That’s not really surprising if you’ve compared Old Testament translations or studied Hebrew even a little bit. Hebrew has a smaller pool of available words than English, and relies on context and word pictures to paint pictures that we might use half a dozen English words to express.

When I’m trying to understand the nuances of a Hebrew word, I like to look it up in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT). This resource says the root word for tsedeq “basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard” (entry 1879). It has to do with justice and “rightness,” and it’s connected to righteously living in accordance with God’s law. It’s also closely connected with God. He is righteous and just, and so His commands are as well. The TWOT says there’s a “forensic” and legal aspect to tsedeq. When people break His commands, God is righteous to punish them for it. He is also righteous when He provides “salvation as vindication,” acting to clear our names in a legal sense.

Mishpat and its root shapat (TWOT entry 2443) are concerned with “the process of government.” While shapat is often translated “judge,” it really includes all the functions of a proper government–not just what we think of as the “judicial branch.” It’s also closely connected with a ruler; the law and the one giving the law aren’t separated the way we do today. God’s role as ruler, judge, and lawgiver are all connected. When we see mishpat translated “justice,” that’s the best word available in English to represent a concept with “at least thirteen related, but distinct, aspects of the central idea” related to judicial government, authority, and legislation (TWOT entry 2443c). In connection with God, justice involves “the just claims of God. God, who is Lord, can demand and He does demand” (Koehler, qtd. in TWOT). God wants things to be right in the world, and He’s the one who tells us what right, just, and correct looks like.

Image of a woman with her arms raised in worship overlaid with text from Psalm 987:1-2, WEB translation: "Yahweh reigns! Let the earth rejoice! Let the multitude of islands be glad! Clouds and darkness are around him. Righteousness (tsedeq) and justice (mishpat) are the foundation of his throne."
Image by Ruby-Rose from Lightstock

The Justice-Bringing Messiah

That was a long introduction, but it gives us a lot to think about in regards to justice. While justice does involve our ideas of fairness and what’s right, it’s also more than that. In the Bible, real justice is connected to God’s character, authority, and laws. It’s also a central concept in this section if Isaiah, and it underlies all the other topics we’ve discussed so far. “God is Incomparable and Irreplaceable,” and His justice is a key part of His character. There is “Joy in the Sabbath Covenant With God” in part because His sense of rightness involves rewards for acting justly and walking with Him. When we are “Looking Toward the Messiah,” we see that a big part of Jesus’s role in both His comings involves satisfying God’s justice. God’s activity in “Doing A New Thing” involves bringing justice to all the nations in the future. Finally, “The Contrast Between Righteousness and Wickedness” that God describes involves how each group does or does not align with His justice.

We can see how integral this idea of justice is from the very beginning of the message in Isaiah 40-66. This section of scripture opens with God saying that He has punished sins and now He will pardon them. It says God is a ruler brining reward and recompense to His kingdom. No one can compare to Him; other so-called rulers are nothing (Is. 40:1, 10-26). Even in the verses where mishpat and tsedeq aren’t used directly, we can clearly see themes of authority, law, righteousness, and justice. With those aspects of God’s character in mind, how can people possibly say, “My way is hidden from Yahweh, and the justice due me is disregarded by my God?” (Is. 40:27, WEB).

In reality, the “justice due” to us isn’t something we should want because “all have sinned” and “the compensation due sin is death.” However, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23, LEB). When we looked at the Servant Song prophecies a few weeks ago, we only briefly touched on the role of the Messiah in bringing justice but it’s an important part of Jesus’s mission. Just look at how many times justice is mentioned in this first Servant Song.

 “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights:
    I have put my Spirit on him.
    He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout,
    nor raise his voice,
    nor cause it to be heard in the street.
He won’t break a bruised reed.
    He won’t quench a dimly burning wick.
    He will faithfully bring justice.
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
    until he has set justice in the earth,
    and the islands wait for his law.”

Isaiah 42:1-4 WEB

This is one of the Servant Songs quoted in the New Testament; Matthew references it when showing his readers how Jesus’s actions on earth link back to prophecies from the Old Testament (Matt. 12:15-21). Jesus’s actions in healing and helping people demonstrated His commitment to justice. He also highlights justice as one of ” the weightier matters of the law” when talking with the Pharisees (Matt. 23:23).

Image of a woman studying her Bible overlaid with text from Matt. 12:17-18, 20, NET translation: This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I take great delight. I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. ...
He will not break a bruised reed or 
extinguish a smoldering wick,
until he brings justice to victory.”
Image by Pearl from Lightstock

God’s Love for Justice

We see further evidence of God’s love for justice in another prophecy that’s sandwiched between the Servant Songs in Isaiah 50:4-11 and Isaiah 52:13– 53:12

“Listen to me, you who follow after righteousness,
    you who seek Yahweh. …

“Listen to me, my people;
    and hear me, my nation,
for a law will go out from me,
    and I will establish my justice for a light to the peoples.
My righteousness is near.
    My salvation has gone out,
    and my arms will judge the peoples. …
my salvation will be forever,
    and my righteousness will not be abolished.”

Isaiah 51:1, 4-6, WEB
Image of a woman's hand turning pages in a Bible with the blog's title text and the words "God’s desire for justice drives Him on to  accomplish 
salvation and share His righteousness with the world. "
Image by Delanie from Lightstock

Notice how close the connection is between justice, righteousness, salvation, and God’s law. God loves justice, as He says very clearly near the end of Isaiah: “For I, Yahweh, love justice” (Is. 61:8, WEB). When we love the God of Justice, we’ll also want to practice justice. Without justice, we don’t have a relationship with God.

Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save;
    nor his ear dull, that it can’t hear.
But your iniquities have separated you and your God,
    and your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear. …

They don’t know the way of peace;
    and there is no justice in their ways.
They have made crooked paths for themselves;
    whoever goes in them doesn’t know peace.
Therefore justice is far from us,
    and righteousness doesn’t overtake us.
We look for light, but see darkness;
    for brightness, but we walk in obscurity. …

Yahweh saw it,
    and it displeased him that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no man,
    and wondered that there was no intercessor.
Therefore his own arm brought salvation to him;
    and his righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
    and a helmet of salvation on his head.

Isaiah 59: 1-2, 8-9, 15-17, WEB

You might want to take some time and read all of Isiah 53 here; it’s got a lot to say about how upset God is when there’s no justice and how motivated He is to fix that problem. He wants the people He’s in a relationship with to “Maintain justice and do what is right” (Is. 56:1-2). He also wants His people to receive justice–to have Him as their good and righteous ruler acting with authority to make justice happen. His desire for justice drives Him on to accomplish salvation and share His righteousness with the world. We benefit every day from God’s desire for justice and His love of righteousness.

Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock

Isaiah Study: The Contrast Between Righteousness and Wickedness

If you’ve been following this blog for the past month and a half, you know we’ve been studying Isaiah 40-66. After six weeks, you might think we’re starting to run out of material, but that’s not the case. I feel like we’re only about halfway through mining the rich treasure trove of the last 27 chapters of Isaiah. This section of the book is an extended dialog where God speaks about redemption and reconciliation, but that isn’t the only thing He talks about.

In the first post for this study, I made a list of key themes that I want to study more extensively in this section of scripture. The list included (among other things) a sharp contrast between prosperity for the righteous and no prosperity for the wicked. This is also connected to another theme that runs through this section of scripture: the importance of obedience. Since God’s nature and character are unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), we can conclude that He cares just as much about this topic today as He did thousands of years ago when He talked with Isaiah. Therefore, reading these words and figuring out what message He had for His people then can also help us learn what He wants to say to us today.

Outcomes for the Righteous and Wicked

In Isaiah 40-66, there are several passages showing a sharp contrast between two groups of people. On the one hand, you have the righteous people who listen to God, treat Him with respect, and follow His commandments. On the other hand you have the people who disregard God’s words, spurn Him and profane His ways, and disobey His commands. God discusses the outcomes of these two groups in clear-cut language.

This is what the Lord, your Protector, says,
the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you how to succeed,
who leads you in the way you should go.
If only you had obeyed my commandments,
prosperity would have flowed to you like a river,
deliverance would have come to you like the waves of the sea.” …

“There will be no prosperity for the wicked,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 48:17-18, 22, NET

I’m sure this message put Isaiah’s readers in mind of the blessings and cursing section of Deuteronomy. Near the end of that book, Moses reminded the people of Israel about the blessings God promised for faithfulness to His covenant and the curses that would come upon them if they disobeyed (Deut. 28-30). Isaiah’s original readers were in the position Moses talked about when he said, “When you have experienced all these things, both the blessings and the curses I have set before you, you will reflect upon them in all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you” (Deut. 30:1, NET). Now, the people of Isaiah’s day had an opportunity to turn back to God, receive deliverance, and inherit the prosperity that comes with obeying God’s commands.

The curses that God lays out in Deuteronomy and the statement in Isaiah that “There will be no prosperity for the wicked” are straightforward facts. It’s not a threat so much as it is a revelation about how the world designed by God works. If you do things that align with God’s righteous character, your life will turn out better than if you live wickedly. Sometimes, this rule is difficult for us to see evidence of. It often looks like people who disobey God have all the good things while righteous people are beset by trails.

We’re not the first people to wonder why there seems to be so much evidence contradicting this rule of “prosperity for the righteous/no prosperity for the wicked.” David, Asaph, and Jeremiah all said they saw evildoers prospering, and they wrested with how those observations might relate to God’s promises. All three concluded that the answer is found by looking at the end result of people’s lives (Pss. 37; 73; Jer. 12). No mater how prosperous the wicked seem, they often lead bitter and violent lives and–unless they repent and change (Ezek. 18)–they will be cut off from God in the end.

Similarly, David, Asaph, Jeremiah, and many other people throughout history wondered why righteous people struggle when God said they will prosper. Here again, we need to consider the end result. Even when following God, there will still be ups and downs in your life. Things might even seem downright terrible (just look what happened to some of the people in the faith chapter), but ultimately God works all things out for good in the lives of those He calls into His family (Rom. 8:28). Even during the midst of trials, the righteous can have peace that transcends outward circumstances. Interestingly, the word translated “prosperity” in Isaiah 48 is shalom, which is more typically translated “peace” and also means “wholeness.” The righteous get a sense of “wholeness” that comes from being in relationship with God. The wicked, having rejected God, do not.

Image of a woman studying her Bible overlaid with text from Psalm 37:1-4, NET version: "“Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed. Do not envy evildoers. For they will quickly dry up like grass,
and wither away like plants. Trust in the Lord and do what is right. Settle in the land and maintain your integrity. Then you will take delight in the Lord, and he will answer your prayers.”
Image by MarrCreative from Lightstock

The Importance of Obedience

God wants us to follow Him with genuine hearts–hearts on which the New Covenant is written. This covenant is not engraved on stone tablets like the kind Moses carried down from Mount Sinai, but on “tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 8:7-10). Our hearts. And when our hearts are following God, that results in obedience from the inside-out. We’ll walk in His ways because we’re being transformed by His spirit. Just as in Isaiah’s day, God is looking for obedience that shows our hearts are in the right place.

This is what the Lord says,
“Promote justice! Do what is right!
For I am ready to deliver you;
I am ready to vindicate you openly.
The people who do this will be blessed,
the people who commit themselves to obedience,
who observe the Sabbath and do not defile it,
who refrain from doing anything that is wrong.”

Isaiah 56:1-2, NET

As we discussed in the post about Sabbath-keeping in Isaiah 40-66, we find an abundance of joy and blessings when we walk in covenant with God and do the things He commands. There’s a special relationship between God and the people who sincerely follow Him. Even though He loves everyone with a selfless, beneficent desire for their good, His familial/friendship love is reserved for those who commit to living in relationship with Him.

For the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity,
whose name is Holy, says:
“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.” …
“I create the fruit of the lips:
Peace, peace, to him who is far off and to him who is near,”
says Yahweh; “and I will heal them.”
But the wicked are like the troubled sea;
for it can’t rest and its waters cast up mire and mud.
“There is no peace,” says my God,
“for the wicked.”

Isaiah 57:15, 19-21, WEB

As in the verses we looked at earlier, God reveals a sharp contrast between the wicked and righteous. One prospers, one does not. One is full of peace, the other has none. Having peace/wholeness and experiencing blessings is a natural state for those who walk in relationship with God. Even if their circumstances aren’t great right now, they know things will work out for good in the end and their relationship with God can give them a supernatural peace.

In contrast, the wicked don’t enjoy the peace and prosperity that comes with being in relationship with God. They’re not necessarily stuck in that state, though. God is always eager for people to reconcile with Him and if they do, God promises, “None of his transgressions that he has committed will be remembered against him” (Ezek. 18:22, WEB). There’s always the opportunity for us to move from one category to the other (Ezek. 18; 33).

Image of a man studying his Bible overlaid with text from Ezekiel 33:12-16, NET version: “The righteousness of the righteous will not deliver him if he rebels. As for the wicked, his wickedness will not make him stumble if he turns from it. ... Suppose I say to the wicked, ‘You must certainly die,’ but he turns from his sin and does what is just and right. ... None of the sins he has committed will be counted against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live.”
Image by Anggie from Lightstock

Hoping and Praying for Good Outcomes

The sharp contrast between long-term outcomes for the righteous and wicked might seem harsh. But as I mentioned before, what God lays out here and in other passages throughout the Bible is simply a revelation about how His world works. He designed and created the universe, and He has the “inside scoop” on how to live in a way that results in a good outcome. We can either listen to Him or reject His counsel. Either way, we’ll reap the consequences (good or bad) that He tells us about beforehand.

“But you who forsake Yahweh,
    who forget my holy mountain,
    who prepare a table for Fortune,
    and who fill up mixed wine to Destiny;
I will destine you to the sword,
    and you will all bow down to the slaughter;
because when I called, you didn’t answer.
    When I spoke, you didn’t listen;
but you did that which was evil in my eyes,
    and chose that in which I didn’t delight.”

Therefore the Lord Yahweh says,
    “Behold, my servants will eat,
    but you will be hungry;
behold, my servants will drink,
    but you will be thirsty.
Behold, my servants will rejoice,
    but you will be disappointed;
Behold, my servants will sing for joy of heart,
    but you will cry for sorrow of heart,
    and will wail for anguish of spirit.”

Isaiah 65:11-14, WEB
Image of a man praying with the blog's title text and the words " In Isaiah 40-66, God draws a sharp contrast between the outcomes for those who live righteous and wicked lives. One enjoys peace and prosperity, the other does not unless they repent and change."
Image by Shaun Menary from Lightstock

These aren’t the sort of feel-good, reassuring verses that we like to spend our time reading. If it just said, “My servants will eat, drink, rejoice, and sing for joy of heart,” then we might spend a lot more time reading Isaiah 65. But it also contains information about what will happen to those who forsake God, ignore His voice, and do things He calls evil. And those verses give us pause, as they should.

When we read these hard verses, it’s an opportunity to take a look at ourselves. If we see ourselves in any of those descriptions, then we can repent and recommit to following God with our whole hearts. He is always eager to hear sincere repentance and grant forgiveness. He also offers us help through His own indwelling Spirit, His words written in our hearts, and His energetic working inside us to accomplish salvation (John 14:16-7, 26; Phil. 2:12-13). We’re not left alone on this journey. Jesus and the Father work in us, and apply their righteousness to us (Jer. 23:6; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24).

These verses might also make us think about others and grieve because we don’t want these terrible things to happen to anyone. That is also a godly response. God “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4, WEB). He is “not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, WEB). When we wish that people wouldn’t need to go through such terrible things, it’s a desire God shares. And even though we can’t make people come to God–He’s the one who opens eyes and draws hearts to Him (John 6:44; 14:6)–we can share our hope with people around us and pray for others to come to know God (1 Peter 3:15-16; 1 Tim 2:1-4).

We can also take comfort from scriptures like these in Isaiah. When we’re walking with God, we are among those blessed by His favor. These good, comforting, and encouraging words are for us. He teaches us how to succeed. He sends deliverance over us like ocean waves. He vindicates us, revives us, heals us, and gives us peace. He fills us with joy. There is a “day of vengeance of our God” proclaimed in this section of Isaiah, but it is also “the year of Yahweh’s favor,” filled with comfort, provision, and joy for the Lord’s people who faithfully follow Him (Is. 61).

Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock

Song Recommendation: This Is The Year (Isaiah 61) by Deborah Kline-Iantorno & Vince Iantorno

“Who Is the One Who Will Condemn?”

Sometimes, I’ll come across something during Bible study that makes me sit up and think, “Oh! That’s what that means.”

I suspect this is one of the ways God keeps me humble; by reminding me that I haven’t figured anything out yet, even things that in hindsight seem obvious. It’s also one of the ways He keeps me interested in Bible study; I’m not very motivated to keep studying something after I’ve figured everything out, and thankfully that doesn’t happen when you’re studying scripture.

So, Romans 8:34 typically reads something like this: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (WEB).

One thing I’ve learned studying Greek and French (the two languages other than English I’ve spent the most time with) is that sentence structures don’t always translate well from other languages into English. Word orders are different in many cases, and sometimes you need to add or rearrange things to get the same intention in English as there was in Greek. Figuring out how to do that is complicated by the passage of time. If we have a harder time guessing what Paul meant here because we can’t talk with him or anyone else who used this particular Greek; they all died centuries ago.

That’s a long, rambling introduction to saying that this particular sentence structure kinda makes it seem like Christ is the answer to the question, “Who is he who condemns?” We know from context that Paul is not saying Jesus condemns us; he’s saying the opposite. It still seems odd the way it’s setup in English, but I just read over it and didn’t really think about why it looks odd and if there might be a translation that would make more sense to me.

Image of a Bible laying on a deck in the sunset, with text from Romans 8:34-35, 38-39, NET version: “Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? ... I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Image by Lamppost Collective from Lightstock

Setting Up A Contrast

I started reading the NET Bible a few years ago, and I’m still finding translation choices that make me notice verses in a slightly new way. It’s one of the best translations I’ve found for balancing a desire to stay as close to the original languages as you can with transferring the sense of the original into English. I particularly like reading the New Testament in this translation. For Romans 8:34, the NET translators make it extra clear that Paul is setting up a contrast here rather than saying that Christ is the one who condemns.

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us.

Romans 8:31-34, NET

In other words, verse 34 continues the exact same pattern as the previous sentences. Do you think anyone can stand up against us or charge us with wrong doing? Don’t worry–God is for us and He’s the one who justifies His people. Do you worry about people who might condemn us? No need–Jesus Christ died for us and He’s interceding on our behalf with God, so we’ve got nothing to worry about. With Jesus mediating for us, not even the “the one called the devil and Satan … the accuser of our brothers and sisters” can condemn us (Rev. 12:9-10, NET).

Image of a woman looking up at the sky, with text from 1 John 3:19-22, NET version: "And by this we will know that we are of the truth and will convince our conscience in his presence, that if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience and knows all things. Dear friends, if our conscience does not 
condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God, and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing to him."
Image by Brightside Creative from Lightstock

No Condemnation

Paul addressed the topic of condemnation earlier in this same letter as well, just a page or so farther back in our Bibles. It’s part of a point he’s been building up to through the whole letter of Romans about how we relate to God’s law in the New Covenant.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4, NET

Paul is not contradicting Jesus’s statement that He did not “come to abolish the law or the prophets.” Rather, Paul is clarifying what Jesus meant when He said, “I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. … whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:17-20, NET). Jesus removes the condemnation that the Law placed on us as sinners by taking our sin away and paying the penalty for it Himself. Now, we’re free to keep God’s law by living in the Spirit, fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law as God’s grace covers our mistakes.

Image of a man reading a Bible, with text from Romans 5:17-18, NET version: "For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people.”
Image by Matt Vasquez from Lightstock

Salvation and Belief

There’s a delicate balance in how we understand God’s grace. I think we often error toward one extreme or another. On the one hand, we might make the mistake of thinking grace means we don’t have to obey God’s law and He’ll just give us salvation no matter what we do. On the other hand, we might stray too close to an idea of “salvation by works” and think our actions play a bigger role in salvation than they really do. The truth is something much more amazing.

Image of  a woman reading a Bible with the blog's title text and the words "We can live lives of righteousness with confidence, knowing all we need to do if we make a mistake is repent. There is no condemnation when we have Jesus interceding for us."
Image by Pearl from Lightstock

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.

John 3:16-18, NET

God offers us salvation that we had nothing to do with; we cannot save ourselves. In return, He asks for life-changing belief. There’s a reciprocal aspect to grace. It’s part of a covenant agreement God offers us and if we accept this covenant we also accept our role as lovers of God who want to become like Him and follow His commands.

When we enter a relationship with God, we can trust that He is all-in with His commitment as well. He’s already demonstrated this in a spectacular way with Jesus dying for our sins. Moreover, He continues to demonstrate it today with Jesus acting as our mediator and advocate “who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34, NET). We can live lives of righteousness with confidence, knowing that if we make a mistake all we have to do is repent and ask forgiveness. There’s no condemnation for us when we have Jesus interceding for us.

Featured image by Aaron Kitzo from Lightstock

Song Recommendation: “Our God” by Chris Tomlin

Cultivating Lives of Peace and Joy

Joy is a topic that intrigues me. It’s not the same thing as happiness, which is much more situation-dependent. Joy is an enduring quality that people can have even when things are going bad and there’s no apparent reason for happiness. It’s also something that feels elusive. Some people seem to radiate joy, but for many of us it’s harder to grasp.

I don’t think of myself as someone who’s typically or consistently full of joy, but I suspect that having it is related to inner peace. It’s hard to have joy when you’re anxious and worried about things, but shalom–the peace that comes with knowing God has made you whole; nothing missing and nothing broken–is an antidote for that anxiety.

Of course all the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) are related to one another so closely that Paul calls them just one “fruit.” We need to keep that in mind when we’re separating out joy and peace for closer study. They don’t stand on their own, but we can focus today’s discussion on them and try to learn more about how we can have both peace and joy in our lives.

Click here to download a 30-day scripture writing program to support your study of Joy.

Joy Following Peace

I suspect that you can start feeling peace without feeling joy, but it’s pretty hard to have joy without peace. Maybe that’s just my perspective, but I see peace as the opposite of frantic worry. If your mind is scattered, latching on to all the things that you have to worry about, it’s very difficult to shift over to joy without first finding some peace.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:6-9, NET

That sounds to me like a good foundation for joy. Training our minds to shift off of anxious thoughts and onto whatever is true, respectable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy makes it possible for us to have the perspective that joy requires. The God of peace can bring things about in our minds that surpass all understanding. He makes it so we can have peace even if there is trouble around, and joy even if there are things happening that could make us unhappy. Joy comes when we follow God’s example of peace and peacemaking.

Peace Comes as We Learn to Trust God

There aren’t a whole lot of Bible verses directly linking peace and joy. This one we’re about to look at in Hebrews doesn’t directly say that joy comes along with peace. Instead, it points out that things which don’t seem joyful at the time later produce peace and righteousness.

Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.

Hebrews 12:11-13, NET

This verse indicates joy doesn’t typically come before peace. Peace comes after we get experience going through trails with God’s help. Experiencing His faithfulness through those trials lays the foundation for a joy-filled life. The author of Hebrews also says righteousness is developed right alongside peace. That link with righteousness is particularly interesting in light of what Paul says here in Romans:

For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people.

Romans 15:17-18, NET

Joy, peace, and righteousness exist together in maturing Christians who press on faithfully toward the kingdom of God. As we learn to take refuge in God, find our peace in Him, and see Him faithfully aid us over and over again, we also realize how many reasons we have for joy (Neh. 8:10; Ps. 5:11; 16:11; 71:22-23; Is. 12:2-4; 61:10-11). Joy develops as we go through a refining process (Luke 6:22-23; Col. 1:10-11; Jam. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-9; 4:12-13). As we cultivate greater peace and joy in our lives, that lays the foundation for a perspective that can say even if everything else in my life is going badly, “yet I will rejoice in Yahweh. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Hab. 3:17-18, WEB).

Peace and Joy for Today and Forever

I live in a country where the founding documents say people here have the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” Far better than that is the promise in the “founding documents” of the Lord’s Heavenly Country where I now claim citizenship. God says joy is part of what we get when He gives us His spirit. He promises us joyful lives. There might be moments when we feel joy is elusive and need to pray alongside David, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12, WEB). But the overall trajectory of our lives is heading toward peace and joy that we can experience now, and which will be fully realized when Jesus returns.

For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky,
    and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth,
    and makes it grow and bud,
    and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
so is my word that goes out of my mouth:
    it will not return to me void,
    but it will accomplish that which I please,
    and it will prosper in the thing I sent it to do.
For you shall go out with joy,
    and be led out with peace.
The mountains and the hills will break out before you into singing;
    and all the trees of the fields will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:10-12, WEB

We can relax into God’s promises, knowing He’s there working to give us joy and peace. We can also be intentional about cultivating peace and joy in our lives. For example, in Paul’s closing remarks for Romans, he prays God would fill his readers with “all joy and peace,” then in 2 Corinthians he instructs his readers to “rejoice” and “live in peace” (Rom. 15:13; 2 Cor. 13:11). As with so many of God’s gifts, we can ask Him to give them and also do our part to make the most of these blessings.

If you look back on the verses we’ve read and referenced today, you might notice that joy and peace are connected to righteousness and salvation (Ps. 51:12; Is. 12:2-4; Rom. 14:17-18, for example). These words show up again and again in scriptures talking about joy and/or peace. That’s no coincidence. Salvation is the biggest reason we have for joy. Knowing that God loves us, forgave us, and redeemed us to welcome us into covenant with Him is a reason for joy that isn’t affected by anything happening outside us. Our relationship with God is the main reason we can have real joy. It’s also something that produces righteousness in us because the closer we stick to God, the more and more we become like Him. As we focus on cultivating peace and joy in our lives, we do well to remind ourselves of the precious gift of salvation and to pursue righteousness (Matt. 6:33; 2 Tim. 2:22). As we put God’s kingdom first, seek His righteousness, and embrace His peace, our lives will fill up more and more with joy that no one can take away from us.

Featured image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

Who or What is the “Morning Star”?

A comment on last week’s post about names got me thinking about “Morning Star” as a title for Jesus Christ. Many of His titles are easy to interpret. They make a lot of sense–of course He’s called Savior, Redeemer, Lord, High Priest, and Lamb of God. We have tons of evidence for and explanations of those titles and roles. In contrast, Morning Star isn’t quite so easy to define.

I’ve studied Jesus as the Light before, and touched on the Morning Star title in those posts (see “The Sun of Righteousness” and “The Light From The Beginning“). I haven’t dug deep into this particular title, though, or addressed the fact that there’s also a verse describing Satan as a “morning star” (though that depends on which translation you’re using).

The phrase “morning star” is used infrequently through the Bible, and not always of Jesus. To understand how this title is used, we need to understand how the Bible talks about stars and which Old Testament passages inform the New Testament verses saying Jesus is the Morning Star. As we’ll see, this title has to do with Jesus’s authority, His light, and His role understanding God’s ways.

Morning Stars in the Bible

“Morning Star” isn’t only used as a title for Jesus. The words show up in other verses as well, and looking at those can help give us a feel for what Morning Star means when used as a title. Let’s start with looking at the Hebrew words in the Old Testament.

In the story of Job, God shows up in-person to answer Job’s questions with some questions of His own. He asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 6-7, WEB). This verse uses the Hebrew words kokab (H3556, “star”) and boqer (H1242, “morning, break of day”) (definitions from BDB lexicon). It’s the only time in the Bible those two words are used together. There’s other talk of stars in the Bible–both literal stars and as figurative language for spiritual beings–but this is the only place in the Old Testament that really narrows in on the idea of “morning stars.”

Other phrases translated “morning star” in English versions of the Old Testament use different words. When Job “cursed the day he was born” and said “Let its morning stars be darkened” (Job. 3:1, 8, NET) the Hebrew word translated “morning” more often means “twilight” (though it can be evening or morning twilight, H5399). It’s not the same phrase as God uses later in Job 38:7. Similarly, the verse in Isaiah talking about Satan’s fall is sometimes translated “morning star, son of the dawn” (Is. 14:12, NIV). However, a more accurate translation of heylele (H1966) would be “shining one.”

How you have fallen from heaven, shining one, son of the dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven! I will exalt my throne above the stars of God! I will sit on the mountain of assembly, in the far north! will ascend above the heights of the clouds! I will make myself like the Most High!” Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15, WEB

This passage is talking about one who shone like the dawn and arrogantly thought he could exalt himself “above the stars of God” (that word in v. 13 is kokab). I don’t want to spend too much time on this point, but the question “Aren’t Jesus and Satan both referred to as the morning star?” does come up from time to time and can be confusing. Though the titles may have some similarities, the comparison highlights the differences between these two beings. Just like Jesus as the Lion of Judah is far more powerful than Satan as a roaring, ravenous lion, so does Jesus as the Morning Star and Light of the World outshine Satan’s former glory as a shining one.

The Star of Jacob

The clearest connection between an Old Testament prophecy and Jesus as the Morning Star comes from a section of scripture that doesn’t include the word “morning.” This prophecy was delivered by Balaam, a prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the nation of Israel. God did not permit him to speak curses over them, though; he was only allowed to speak blessings (Num. 22-24).

“Balaam the son of Beor says,
the man whose eyes are open says;
he says, who hears the words of God,
knows the knowledge of the Most High,
and who sees the vision of the Almighty,
falling down, and having his eyes open:
I see him, but not now.
I see him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob.
A scepter will rise out of Israel,
and shall strike through the corners of Moab,
and crush all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be a possession.
Seir, his enemy, also shall be a possession,
while Israel does valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall one have dominion,
and shall destroy the remnant from the city.”

Numbers 24:15-19, WEB (emphasis added)

This is the only Old Testament passage I’ve found that explicitly identifies the promised Messiah as a star. That being the case, this prophecy is likely something Peter was thinking of when he wrote these words:

For he received honor and glory from God the Father, when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Son, in whom I am delighted.” When this voice was conveyed from heaven, we ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:17-19, NET

Here in these verses, Peter chooses not to use the standard Greek word for star (aster, G792). Rather, he uses the word phosphorous , which means “light bringing” (G5459). The reason that it’s translated “morning star” is because it’s often used of the planet Venus as the “day star” (Thayer’s dictionary). It is also is “a Hellenistic word that was sometimes used of emperors and deities” (NET footnote). This strengthens the connection back to Numbers 24:17 by connecting to the authority Jesus has as the scepter-carrying Star of Jacob. 17

What Peter’s doing here is connecting his audience back to prophecies in the Old Testament scriptures that point to Jesus as the Messiah, then he references one of those prophecies while drawing a parallel between Jesus as the Morning Star and Light that shines into our minds. That connection is made even more explicit through Jesus’s own words at the end of Revelation (though He uses aster) .

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

Revelation 22:16, WEB

The Morning Star Dawns in Us

If we look back at the verse in Peter’s letter, we see he’s talking about how the Bible (specifically the “prophetic word”) is something we ought to “pay attention to … as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” There’s a connection between Jesus’s title Morning Star and the way that truths of His word dawn on us. He is the great light shining into the world’s darkness; “the dawn from on high” who visited us (Matt. 4:13-16; Luke 1:76-79).

Even if our Good News is veiled, it is veiled in those who are dying, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. For we don’t preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake, seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, WEB

From the Old Covenant times until now, the righteous have been associated with light, dawn, and the sun (Ps. 112:3-5; Prov. 4:17-19; Is. 62:1; Dan. 12:2-3; Matt. 13:43). God is light, and if we walk in His ways (i.e. live righteously) then we will shine with His light (1 John 1:5-7). It’s because of Jesus shining into us that we have the chance to shine with God’s righteousness. This idea of Jesus dawning understanding into us may be why His letter to the church at Thyatira says this:

He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Revelation 2:26-29, WEB

It’s sort of a weird phrase. Based on what we’ve studied on this topic, Jesus giving people “the morning star” may be connected to understanding, righteousness, and/or authority. It’s hard to tell for sure, though. Like so many things in the Bible, “morning star” is something we could study over and over again, and probably find a deeper understanding each time. I’m not sure where we might take this study next, but I feel it’s still at the beginning stages. Who knows, maybe we’ll come back to it again in another two years (that’s about how long it’s been since the last post I wrote which touched on the Morning Star).

If you have thoughts on this study or it inspires you to dig into the topic of stars in the Bible, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think and learn about this!

Featured image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Living With Jesus’s Righteousness

I wasn’t planning to write another whole blog post about Paul’s letter to Rome. But I started studying “righteousness,” and didn’t make it out of Romans so here we are.

There’s a lot of talk in the Bible about righteousness. Scripture is full of how we ought to behave righteously, what happens to those who aren’t righteous, and the righteousness of God. Today’s world doesn’t spend much time thinking or talking about righteousness, but when we turn to God’s word the pages are filled with this topic. It can be overwhelming to try and understand it all, and it would take a far longer article than this one to cover the whole topic in depth. But we can get a good understanding of God’s take on righteousness just from this one letter by the apostle Paul.

God’s Righteousness Comes First

The first time Paul brings up righteousness in this letter, it’s in relation to the gospel revelation of God’s righteousness in contrast to humanity’s unrighteousness. This lays groundwork for an analogy he’ll use later to explain the relationship between righteousness, law, and grace.

For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness

Romans 1:17-18, NET

Immediately, Paul sets up a stark contrast between the righteous God and those who practice unrighteousness (particularly the ones who ought to know better [Rom. 1:32]). He makes some strong accusations against the readers, too, challenging them to check if they’re following righteousness or unrighteousness using this test: “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous” (Rom. 2:13, NET). Paul is laying an expectation on us that results from God’s righteous character. Listening to God’s words doesn’t do much for us, but putting them into action can. That’s not enough on it’s own, though.

Image of a man reading the Bible, with text from Romans 3:9-11, NET version: "we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin, just as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands,
there is no one who seeks God."
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The Pivotal Righteousness of Jesus

One reason it’s so important to read scripture in-context is because there’s often more said on the subject in the nearby chapters and verses. Nowhere is that more true than in Romans, where Paul continues adding on to his teachings about righteousness. If we stopped at 2:13, we might think that doing the law is enough to make us righteous. But Paul goes on to say “there is no one righteous, not even one,” and “no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law” (Rom. 3:10, 20, NET). God’s law is a good thing, but it can’t make us righteous; it can only tell us where we don’t measure-up to God’s standard of righteousness. And transgressing the law even once means we justly fall under condemnation from the perfectly righteous God. We’ve all sinned, we’re all unrighteous, and we can’t fix that problem by our own power (Rom. 3:4-20). God would be well within His rights to condemn us, but He very much wants us to accept the alternative He offers.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (although it is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed— namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.

Romans 3:21-26, NET

We can be righteous because God chooses to apply Jesus’s righteousness to those who believe in Him. Jesus’s faithfulness and righteousness meant He could be–and was–the sacrifice needed to fulfill the righteous requirements of God’s law and redeem us from the consequences of sin (Rom. 6:23).

Before moving on to the next part of Paul’s argument we must, as Paul did, take the time to clarify a potential misunderstanding. Paul makes clear that “we uphold the law” by teaching righteousness through Jesus rather than (as some wrongly suppose) nullify the law through faith and grace (Rom. 3:31). We need to look at Paul’s whole teaching on this subject, and make sure we don’t jump to conclusions about his overall theology based on a single part of one verse like “you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14-15).

Image of a man reading the Bible, with text from Romans 10:9-10, NET version: " if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation."
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Compensation, Reward, and Credit

Paul continues to build on his explanation for how righteousness works by bringing in a money analogy. Chapter 4 breaks down the example of Abraham, to whom faith was “credited” as righteousness even before the law was given at Sinai. This shows righteousness was never about trying to keep the law perfectly; as if God would then “owe” you righteousness as wages for your works. Righteousness is something God “credits” to believers in response to their faith (Rom. 4:1-12, 20-25; the Greek word logizomai can “refer to deliberations of some sort” or “charging up a debt” [NET footnotes]). By sinning, we earned death because “the compensation due sin is death” (Rom. 6:23, LEB). However, Jesus’s actions on the cross credit us with righteousness that cancels out that debt.

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. …

God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath.

Romans 5:1-2, 8-9, NET

Righteousness by faith isn’t incompatible with law keeping (it would be strange if it was, considering how often scripture links obedience, love, and faith). Rather, Paul is showing that righteousness comes from God, not our own efforts. If we’re trying to make ourselves righteous–even by doing a good thing like obeying God–then our “zeal is not in line with the truth.” Righteousness only comes through God in response to our belief (Rom. 10:1-13).

Obligated to Walk in Righteousness

Image of a woman looking up at the sky with the blog's title text and the words "we can't make ourselves righteous on our own. Rather, righteousness is credited to our accounts through Jesus's sacrifice, as Paul explains in his letter to the Romans."
Image by Brightside Creative via Lightstock

After explaining the method by which we can be credited with Jesus’s righteousness, Paul then explains what a life of righteousness looks like for someone justified by faith. Because we’re under grace, we must not permit sin to take mastery over us again by presenting ourselves as “instruments to be used for unrighteousness” (Rom. 6:12-14, NET).

Do you not know that if you present yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. (I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.) For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Romans 6:16-19, NET

Having established that we’re credited with righteousness as a result of Jesus’s life and death–not our own efforts–Paul now highlights that we still have a choice to make. Jesus’s righteousness applied to us covers over our sins, but it does not give us license to keep sinning (though if we do sin, He covers those sins as well after we repent and turn back to Him). Jesus’s righteousness frees us from being slaves of sin to become slaves of God, following His holy, righteous commandments (Rom. 7:12).

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4, NET

As children of God, “we are under obligation” to live in the spirit rather than in the flesh (Rom. 8:12-14). It’s the same kind of obligation that’s inherent in covenant grace, which early Christians like Paul teach is both relational and reciprocal. We don’t follow the law in order to become righteous, but once God applies Jesus’s righteousness to us we keep the law as a result of aligning our lives spiritually with God’s righteousness. Now, we get to live with Jesus’s righteousness as a part of us, covering over the parts of us that don’t yet look like Him and enabling us to grow more and more like Him the longer we walk in His spirit.

Featured image by Pearl via Lightstock

Song Recommendation: “Your Great Name” by Krissy Nordhoff and Michael Neale