Paul was the preeminent theologian in the New Testament. A man driven even harder by passion for Jesus than his opposition to Jesus when he was Saul of Tarsus the zealously religious Pharisee. He knew the heights and depths of Jesus amazing love. Does that mean he always lived on the mountaintop? No, read his letters, he clearly did not. Yet he had these experiences and prayed that we would as well (see Col. 1:9-11, Phil. 1:9-11 and Eph. 1:17-21, 3:14-21). The prime drive for Paul was his awareness of the heart of the gospel.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)
There is a little phrase in these two verses we would do well to understand and embrace, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Most of us likely understand the scriptural truth that salvation is by faith through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet how does salvation by faith through grace reveal the righteousness of God? Righteousness is a word connected to covenantal commitment.
“The concept of righteousness in the Old Testament is wholly a religiously determined idea. It does not express any abstract ethical norm or concept. Neither is it any ideal moral system or set of universal laws. Righteousness describes the relationship which Israel had with Yahweh. Essential for the basis of righteousness is the covenant relationship. This alliance presupposes a mutual righteousness between the two parties which is expressed most fully in faithfulness to the covenant relationship. The righteous or just one fulfills to the other party the obligations that are dictated by the covenant.
This is not to say that the covenantal parties of the Old Testament were equal; on the contrary, God was the Master, and Israel was the servant. The covenant relationship was created in the first place because of God’s merciful initiative to choose a sinful people.”
Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary
In the OT the ‘righteous or just one’ was Yahweh. Fulfilling the covenant depended on His fulfilling His commitment. While this is framed as a legal transaction we see the true outworking of covenant when we read Psalm 23. Here David describes the outworking of this covenant in terms of friendship and intimacy. No legal language here!
1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)
When you read and meditate on this Psalm recognize that this is the covenant of righteousness that Paul experienced after conversion. He knew covenant as a Pharisee, he lived covenant as a believer. Let us go and do likewise.
More to come…