WEEK 4-FAITH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
An important and overlooked Scriptural relationship exists between Righteousness and Faithfulness. How we treat this relationship tests the maturity level of our spiritual journey; and has a direct correlation to the amount of victory we experience in our prayer life.
Saul was encamped with 3,000 of Israel’s finest men. All of them with the purpose of killing the fugitive named David. During the night the fugitive snuck into Saul’s camp and could have killed him, but spared his life in obedience to the Lord. In the ensuing conversation between the two in 1 Samuel 26:23, David proclaims; “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you into my hand today, and I would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.”(ESV)
“The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness”
Other scripture references point to the relationship of faith intersecting with righteousness. Habakkuk 2:4, “Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.”(NRSV) Galatians 3:11, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”(NLT)
The Greek word for “righteous” in Galatians 3:11 is dikaios, and Strong’s defines it as; equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively). “Faith” is the Greek word Pistis and defined as; persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God. A reasonable conclusion of these scriptures is because of one’s moral conviction based on a belief system in God, one is equitable in action and character; and that one experiences life.
James 2:21-26 is the classic example of faith and righteousness colliding. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”(NASB) “”Justified” in the above scripture comes from the same word in Galatians 3 translated as righteous. Likewise, “Believed” in the above scripture comes from the same word as faith defined above. “Works” is the Greek word ergon and comes from a verb meaning to toil or act. One way to translate James 2:26 is:
Without equitable acts-righteousness; moral conviction, credence and religious truth-faith; is dead!
The Moody Commentary puts it this way. “James’s point appears to be that if one has true faith in Christ, it does one no practical good in this life of trials if it is not put into action. Neither does a “dead faith” save one’s life.”
I was bowling the other day with a young couple and bowling on the lane beside us was a young man with special needs. His mother was there but not bowling. This boy absolutely loved bowling. He would roll the ball down the alley and jumped in excitement before it even reached the pins. If he got a strike his head would hit the roof!! Out of nowhere he came up to shake my hand and thank me. A little confused to as why the young man approached me, I took his hand and prayed a silent prayer for him. A couple of moments later, I saw the rough and tough, tattooed construction worker I was bowling with up at the customer service desk paying for more games so the young man could get more joy. I stood there convicted! Whose moral conviction and religious truth did that young man and his mother beside us see? My silent prayer or the righteous, equitable act shown by the construction worker? I expect that prayer will reap blessing in that family’s life sometime in the future; but the free games of bowling will be what they remember most about that day.
A biblical example of this principle is found in 1 Kings 17. It’s the story of a righteous, equitable act, intercessory prayer, and the first recorded biblical resurrection of the dead. In verse 10, Elijah completes his journey to Zarephath and encounters a widowed mother of a son, both starving and preparing to die from their hunger. The widow displays incredible faith by listening to Elijah’s, instruction. What makes this scene even more dramatic was the fact that Elijah was a foreigner and a stranger in Zarephath. The widow never saw him before and didn’t know him. Yet by following his instruction, the Lord provided plenty of food for all three; the widow, her son and Elijah.
The widow takes Elijah into her house and provides him a place to stay. The story picks up in verse 17, “Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” In verse 19 Elijah performs the equitable act, without fanfare and emotion, “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed.”(NIV)
Step two was intercessory prayer-Elijah’s moral conviction and religious truth. Verses 20-21, “Then he cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”(NIV)
The result in verses 22-24, “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”(NIV) The widow didn’t see the intercessory prayer, she witnessed Elijah’s act of taking her dead child and giving her back a live one. Her statement, “now I know the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth”; is typical of our culture’s skeptical, see first then believe mantra.
The world is waiting to see the results of us intersecting righteous acts with our faith utilizing intercessory prayer!
Scripture leaves no doubt that righteousness and faithfulness is every Christian’s calling. Hosea 10:12 says, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love…” (NLT) Messiah in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”(ESV) 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”(NIV)
The most reassuring scripture which embodies our moral conviction and our creed is found in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”(NASB)
If the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings is righteous and faithful toward us, shouldn’t we have the same attitude toward others? The scriptural relationship between faith and righteousness is life-giving, miraculous, and victorious. Our world needs to see more of it!