`He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' -- Micah 6:8
`Present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness. Even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.' -- Rom. 6:13,18,19
The word of Micah teaches us that the fruit of the salvation of God is seen chiefly in three things. The new life must be characterized, in my relation to God and His will, by righteousness and doing right; in my relation to my neighbour, by love and beneficence; in relation to myself, by humility and lowliness. For the present, we meditate on righteousness.
Scripture teaches us that no man is righteous before God, or has any righteousness that can stand before God; (Ps. 14:3; 143:2; Rom. 3:10,20) that man receives the rightness or righteousness of Christ for nothing; and that by this righteousness, which is received in faith, he is then justified before God, (Rom. 3:22,24: 10:3,10; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9) he is right with God. This righteous sentence of God is something effectual, whereby the life of righteousness is implanted in man, and he learns to live as a righteous man, and to do righteousness. (Rom. 5:17,18; 6:13,18,19; 8:3; Tit. 1:8; 2:12; 1 John 2:29; 3:9,10) Being right with God is followed by doing right. `The righteous shall live by faith' a righteous life.
It is to be feared that this is not always understood. One thinks sometimes more of justification than of righteousness in life and walk. To understand the will and the thoughts of God here, let us trace what Scripture teaches us on this point. We shall be persuaded that the man who is clothed with a divine righteousness before God must also walk before God and man in a divine righteousness.
Consider how, in the word, the servants of God are praised as righteous; (Gen. 6:9; 7:1; Matt. 1:19; Luke 1:6; 2:25; 2 Pet. 2:7) how the favour and blessing of God are pronounced upon the righteous; (Ps. 1:6; 5:13, 14:5; 34:16,20; 37:17,39; 92:13; 97:11; 144:8) how the righteous are called to confidence, to joy. (Ps. 32:11; 33:1; 58:11; 64:11; 68:4; 97:12) See this especially in the Book of Psalms. See how in Proverbs, although you should take but one chapter only, all blessing is pronounced upon the righteous. (Prov. 10:3,6,7,11,16,20,21,24,25,28,30,31,32 See how everywhere men are divided into two classes, the righteous and the godless. (Eccles 3:17; Isa. 3:10; Ezek. 3:18,20; 18:21,23; 33:12; Mal. 3:18; Matt. 5:45; 12:49; 25:46) See how, in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus demands this righteousness; (Matt. 5:6,20; 6:33) how Paul, who announces most the doctrine of justification by faith alone, insists that this is the aim of justification, to form righteous men, who do right. Rom. 3:31; 6:13,22; 7:4,6; 8:4; 2 Cor. 9:9,10; Phil 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:11) See how John names righteousness along with love as the two indispensable marks of the children of God. (1 John 2:4,11,29; 3:10; 5:2) When you put all these facts together, it must be very evident to you that a true Christian is a man who does righteousness in all things, even as God is righteous.
And what this righteousness is, Scripture will also teach you. It is a life in accordance with the commands of God, in all their breadth and height. The righteous man does what is right in the eyes of the Lord. (Ps. 119:166,168; Luke 1:6,75; 1 Thess. 2:10) He takes not the rules of human action; he asks not what man considers lawful. As a man who stands right with God, who walks uprightly with God, he dreads above all things even the least unrighteousness. He is afraid, above all, of being partial to himself, of doing any wrong to his neighbour for the sake of his own advantage. In great and little things alike, he takes the Scriptures as his measure and line. As the ally of God, he knows that the way of righteousness is the way of blessing, and life, and joy.
Consider, further, the promises of blessing and joy which God has for the righteous, and then live as one who, in friendship with God, and clothed with the righteousness of His Son through faith, has no alternative but to do righteousness.
O Lord, who hast said, `There is no God else beside Me: a just God and a Saviour,' Thou art my God. It is as a righteous God that Thou are my Saviour, and hast redeemed me in Thy Son. As a righteous God Thou makest me also righteous, and sayest to me that the righteous shall live by faith. O Lord, let the new life in me be the life of faith, the life of a righteous man. Amen.
1. Observe the connection between the doing of righteousness and sanctification in Rom. 6:19,22; `Present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.' `Having become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification.' The doing of righteousness, righteousness in conduct and action, is the way to holiness. Obedience is the way to become filled with the Holy Ghost. And the indwelling of God through the Spirit -- this is holiness.
2. `Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. It was when the Lord Jesus had spoken that word that He was baptized with the Spirit. Let us set aside every temptation not to walk in full obedience towards God, even as He did, and we too shall be filled with the Spirit. `Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.'
3. Take pains to set before yourselves the image of a man who so walks that the name of `righteous; is involuntarily given to him. Think of his uprightness, his conscientious care to cause no one to suffer the least injury, his holy fear and carefulness to transgress none of the commands of the Lord -- righteous, and walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless; and then say to the Lord that you should so live.
4. You understand now the great word, `The righteous shall live by faith.' By faith the godless is justified, and becomes a righteous man; by faith he lives as a righteous man.