Vol.XVII No.V Pg.6
July 1980

Can Man Be Righteous?

Robert F. Turner

From "God's Strategy in Human History" by Roger Forster and Paul Marston (Tyndale Publ., Wheaton, 111.) we quote portions of their study in the word "righteousness." (p. 150-f.)


The material is drawn from that very worthwhile study book by Dr. Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross ...Morris writes: "The righteous are those acquitted at the bar of God's justice, and righteousness is the standing of those so acquitted" (p. 260) ...Basically the righteous man is the one who is accepted before God, the one who conforms to His way" (p. 269)....

We may understand the book of Job much better if we grasp the Hebrew meaning of righteous. If (it) were taken in our western sense we should be surprised at the Bible calling any mere man righteous, for the only ethically perfect one was Christ himself. If the word meant "ethically irreproachable" then men like Noah and Lot were manifestly not righteous (Gen. 7:1; 2 Pet. 2:8; compare Gen. 9:21; 19:30-38). Since, however, the word implies mainly that a man is in a right standing before God, we may see why the word is applied to them. The same is also true of Job. The Lord himself declared Job to be blameless and upright. This did not mean that Job had no faults, but that he was in a fundamentally right standing before God. (See Job 1:8; 2:3; rft)

To our western minds, the word righteous not only implies ethical perfection; it tends also to have a connotation of self-righteous. These two associations of ideas might easily have led us to condemn Job for continually protesting his innocence and righteousness. When we see what his claim really was — to be in a fundamentally right standing with God — we may understand why God condoned what he said ...The Bible does not necessarily condemn the claim of a man to be righteous. What is wrong is a claim to be able to make oneself righteous, to earn God's acquittal.

We must not suppose that gentile converts (to whom Paul compares Jews, Rom. 9:30-32) had no interest at all in being right with God.... Paul indicates that the gentile interest was small in comparison to the Jews who were obsessed with it. Nevertheless the gentile converts achieved a right standing before God because they sought it through faith and not through works ...Morris comments: ... The Jews who were very anxious to establish themselves as righteous before God failed to do so because they came by the way of law works instead of by that of faith, which is the way God has appointed. It is quite clear that righteousness is being used to denote a standing, a status, a verdict of acquittal, and not an ethical quality" (p. 275). In summary, therefore, several subjects dealt with in this book become clearer once we understand what the Hebrews meant by a righteous man. His primary meaning was not a man who lived up to a perfect standard but one who had been acquitted in God's judgment.


Christ And The Cross Is The Procuring Means, Forgiveness Is The Operation, And Obedient Faith Is The Condition!!