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Jeremiah 23:56; Romans 3:2126; 10:14, 910comment (0)

December 13, 2012

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 23:56

Bible Studies for Life 
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University


Jeremiah 23:5–6; Romans 3:21–26; 10:1–4, 9–10
This week’s lesson connects the Old Testament’s revelation of salvation according to the righteous activity of God, based on compassion and love, with the New Testament’s focus on salvation based on the righteousness modeled by Christ in the ultimate expression of God’s love for us.

A struggle shared by all humans is the daily challenge of defining and doing what is right. More often than not, we choose to set our own standards for what is right. We may do this to justify questionable choices and decisions. This lesson reminds us that God’s standard of righteousness is fully developed and revealed in Jesus. When we apply this standard in daily living, we can experience righteousness before God.

As we draw closer to Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth, we remember that Jesus fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy of the one to come who would make it possible for unrighteous folk like you and me to live with a right standing before God.

God Promises Righteousness (Jer. 23:5–6)
The prophet’s message was not received with gladness among the people of his day. Jeremiah’s call was to announce the coming destruction of Judah. All that God had done for the Hebrew people since they were delivered from Egypt would be undone. Jeremiah declared the hard reality of coming judgment. Is it any wonder he had only one close friend, his scribe Baruch?

Yet as painful as the message was, the prophet’s words included words of hope. What was soon to come to the people would not be the end of their story. The day would come when a righteous “branch,” or messianic king, would come to Israel. Zedekiah, Judah’s king at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, did not live up to his name, “The Lord is My Righteousness.” Unlike him, the messiah to come would do what was just and righteous. When this messianic king arrived, the fabric of a people torn by painful, devastating judgment would be restored.

Jesus Reveals Righteousness (Rom. 3:21–26)
Righteousness is doing the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons. God alone is fully capable of righteousness. Try as we may and even with the help of the Spirit, we regularly fall short of the call to this kind of living. We deserve God’s judgment for failure to live by God’s standard of righteousness. However, God’s compassion, love and mercy for broken, sinful humanity are fully revealed in Jesus’ sacrifice. Because of Christ, the “Righteous Branch” of whom Jeremiah prophesied, we can know forgiveness of sin and a path to righteousness before God. 

Christ Alone Gives Us Righteousness (Rom. 10:1–4, 9–10)
What was present in Paul’s day can be seen today: well-intentioned religious zeal and energetic good deeds are often considered pathways to righteousness before God. 

However, righteousness before God comes only through faith in Christ and His extravagant sacrifice of love. Any and all other attempts to gain a right standing before God are not sufficient or necessary. In the life, death and resurrection of Christ we can have redemption of sins and be made right with God.

The earliest known confession of faith in the Church is “Jesus is Lord.” Paul pairs this outward, spoken confession with an inward conviction and affirmation of God’s redemptive, renewing activity in Christ. For Paul, these inward and outward expressions are inseparable. Genuine heart-belief of this kind cannot be contained. It is given outward expression in our words and deeds. Righteous living is the anticipated result. Christ is our model for doing the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons.

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