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Righteous, Righteousness, Justify, Make Righteous in the New Testament, Part 4

by Karl Kemp  
2/14/2018 / Bible Studies

We continue with this study of the Greek noun dikaiosune here in Part 4 of this paper, starting with Rom. 4:5.

Romans 4:5 ((But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies [dikaioo, this Greek verb is discussed later in this paper; here in Rom. 4:5 the verb could not be used in its full new-covenant salvation sense, as I have explained] the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. We are all in the ungodly category when we become Christians. This is why we need to be saved! Because of what Paul was doing in this chapter he used the words "credited as righteousness," words that have nothing to do with being transformed through new-covenant salvation. It is significant that Romans chapter 4; Gal. 3:6; and James 2:23 are the only places in the New Testament that use the words "credited as righteousness," or equivalent words." See Rom. 4:3, 5, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24; Gal. 3:6; and James 2:23. (They are all discussed in this paper.) The apostle's words "credited/reckoned as righteousness," or the equivalent, in Romans chapter 4, starting in Rom. 4:3, and Gal. 3:6, and of James in James 2:23, were borrowed from Gen. 15:6. James did not use these words in the greatly limited sense that Paul used them in these very special passages. See under James 2:23 in this paper, under the study of dikaiosune. 

Most of the problem arose because Paul went on in Romans chapter 4 to use these words "credited as righteousness," or the equivalent, of born-again Christians. We must understand that what Paul was doing in Romans chapter 4 caused him to use the words dikaioo and dikaiosune with a greatly limited, very unusual meaning. This doesn't cause any problems for those who understand what Paul was doing in that context, but many Christians haven't recognized that he was using the words with a greatly limited, very unusual meaning. 

All Christians must come to God through being forgiven through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus. He bore our sins with the guilt so we could be forgiven. However, thanks be to God, the Lamb also bore our sins with the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, so we Christians don't have the option to only appropriate "righteousness" in the greatly limited, forgiveness, strictly legal, right standing sense (and we must understand that we are not going to maintain a right-standing relationship with God while we are living in sin): We Christians are obligated, and privileged, to appropriate and walk in the imparted righteousness of God on a continuous basis through the outpoured, indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life, by grace through faith. We are called, enabled, required, and privileged to leave ungodliness behind when we become Christians.)); Romans 4:6 (just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man whom God credits righteousness apart from works. What I said above under Rom. 4:3 and 5 applies here in verse 6 too, and in the next verse listed here, Rom. 4:9, and the other verses that follow in Romans chapter 4 that use dikaiosune.); Romans 4:9 (Is this blessing then on the circumcised [Jewish Christians], or on the uncircumcised [Gentile Christians] also? For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness." Paul goes on in the next verse to state that these words were spoken to Abraham before He was circumcised. Some (or many) Jewish Christians were slow to understand that Gentiles did not have to do the "work" of circumcision, or other ceremonial works of the old covenant, to become Christians. It is also true that Christians do not work trying to merit or earn salvation; we are enabled to do the righteous (moral) works that we are required to do by the powerful, enabling, saving grace of God in Christ, and God must get all the glory for our righteousness and salvation.); Romans 4:11 ((Dikaiosune is used twice in this verse. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised [In this context the apostle was speaking of righteousness in the greatly limited sense in which he used the word "righteousness" in 4:3, 5, 6, and 9. It is necessary to understand that Paul could not use the word "righteousness" of full new-covenant-salvation righteousness since Abraham lived in the days before that righteousness became available through new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus. (The apostle Paul frequently made the point that the only way we can be righteous [have righteousness] in a full, adequate sense is through the imparted righteousness of God through new-covenant salvation [e.g., Rom. 1:17; 3:21-24; Gal. 3:21; Phil. 3:9].) The incarnation, atoning death and resurrection of the Son of God and His ascension, along with His outpouring the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life made a GIGANTIC DIFFERENCE! This shouldn't surprise us! When we learn who Jesus is and what He did for us in His all-important atoning death, it would be SHOCKING if we could not have the total victory over sin, and all the more so knowing that God hates sin!], so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised [referring in context to Gentile Christians; those who insisted that Gentile Christians must be circumcised to be saved were wrong], that righteousness might be credited to them. We must understand that, if it were not for this very special context in Romans chapter 4, Paul would never have spoken of "righteousness [being] credited to" Christians. He would have spoken, as he typically did, of God's righteousness being manifested in them (or, imparted to them, or the equivalent), as in Rom. 1:17, for example, or of our "having been freed from sin" and become "slaves of righteousness" as in Rom. 6:18, etc.)); Romans 4:13 ((For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law [[The Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant, was not able to solve the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem. That super-serious problem required new-covenant salvation through the incarnation, sinless life, and the cross, and by the outpoured Spirit of life, righteousness and holiness. The promise of new-covenant salvation that was given to Abraham was given hundreds of years before the Mosaic Law was given. It was "not [given] through [or as part of] the [Mosaic] Law."]], but through the righteousness of faith. In the context of Romans chapter 4, the apostle Paul is still speaking of righteousness in a greatly limited sense, but it must be understood that we would not be inheriting the world, or having a place in heaven, if God didn't solve the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem and make us righteous with the imparted righteousness of God through new-covenant salvation. Paul makes this point clear in Romans chapters 1-3 and 5-8, for example.)); ((Romans 4:14-21 do not use the word dikaiosune, but they are important verses, and the interpretation isn't obvious, so I'll quote ROMANS 4:14-15 here and refer the reader to a discussion of Rom. 4:16-21 in my Paper on Faith that is on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching): For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise ["the promise" of new-covenant salvation contained in the Old Testament, which solves the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem and includes inheriting the earth and eventually having a place in new Jerusalem] is nullified. [As the next verse goes on to show, "faith is made void and the promise is nullified" if we must receive the inheritance through the Law, because "the Law brings about wrath" (because it intensifies the sin problem [cf. Rom. 7:8-13]) rather than solves the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem. It is clear that the Law (the old covenant) cannot provide the new birth and the imparted righteousness of God of new-covenant salvation (see Gal. 3:21, for example).] (15) For the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there is no violation.)); Romans 4:22 (Therefore it was credited to him [to Abraham] as righteousness. ["Righteousness" is used here in the same greatly limited sense as in Rom. 4:3, 5, 6, 9, and 11.] Rom. 4:23-24 continue with the same theme without using the word "righteousness.")

((I'll quote and briefly comment on ROMANS 4:25, which provides the transition from the greatly limited "righteousness" of Romans chapter 4 back to a typical new-covenant- salvation perspective, where we are not only forgiven and have a strictly limited, right standing with God, but are also transformed by the imparted righteousness of God through the indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness and holiness. He who was delivered over [to His all-important atoning death in God the Father's new-covenant plan of salvation], because of our transgressions [which He bore in His body on the cross with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons], and was raised up [He was resurrected unto eternal life and glory on the third day, leaving death and Hades behind in every way.] because of our justification. [[The Greek behind "justification" here is dikaiosis, which is a Greek word closely related to the Greek words we are discussing in this paper (dikaios, dikaiosune, and dikaioo). I am not discussing this Greek noun in this paper beyond what I say here; this Greek noun is only used twice in the New Testament, here, and in Rom. 5:18. This noun was derived from the verb dikaioo. The Lord Jesus (who is a man, THE GOD-MAN, WITH WHOM WE ARE UNITED AS CHRISTIANS - WHAT A SALVATION PLAN!) was able to be resurrected with His glorified body as a man (a man, but not just a man, that we are united with as born-again Christians) BECAUSE OF OUR JUSTIFICATION, because His all-important atoning death had overthrown the authority and power of sin and of death (spiritual death and physical death) and of Satan. Because of what He accomplished IN HIS ATONING DEATH AND RESURRECTION, when we become Christians we leave spiritual death (and bondage to sin and demons) behind and participate in the spiritual life (and righteousness and holiness) of God IN UNION WITH the Son of God, who became the God-man and accomplished a very full new-covenant salvation for us. As born-again Christians, we have already been resurrected spiritually, by the Spirit. And in the near future all true Christians who have died physically will be resurrected bodily, with glorified bodies like His glorified body. Those of us who are still living on the earth when the Lord Jesus returns will skip dying and the resurrection (this sounds good to me), but we will be glorified and begin to reign with the Lord Jesus in a never-ending reign, along with the resurrected, glorified saints.]])); Romans 5:17 ((For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one [both spiritual death and physical death], much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Christians, having been set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, "reign in life" as born-again Christians. We are no longer reigned over by spiritual death and sin and demons. "Righteousness," which comes as a gift (by grace) and is a big part of what new-covenant salvation is all about, is used here in the full new-covenant-salvation sense that includes being forgiven, but the emphasis is on the fact that we are set free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons, born again and enabled to walk in the imparted righteousness of God through the indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness and holiness. No surprise here! Dikaiosune is used in the same full sense of Christians in Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22; 5:21; 6:13, 16, 18, 19, 20, etc.!)); Romans 5:21 (Romans 5:1-8:18 are discussed verse-by-verse in my book Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin. See the Contents of the book. so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Sin used to reign in spiritual death. Now the life-giving, saving grace of God in Christ reigns and the very righteousness of God is manifested in the hearts and lives of Christians, and the end result will be inheriting the fullness of eternal life and glory when the Lord Jesus returns.); Romans 6:13 (and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead [no longer spiritually dead], and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.); Romans 6:16 (Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death [If Christians turn their backs on God and give themselves back to their former master of sin, to obey sin, the result will be death, spiritual death. See my paper Once Saved, Always Saved? on my internet site.], or of obedience [to God and His righteousness, by grace through faith, which is required of Christians] resulting in righteousness.); Romans 6:18, 19, 20 ((All of these verses clearly use "righteousness" in the typical full (very full) sense that includes walking with the victory over all sin by grace. and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. That is wonderful slavery! (19) I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh [In other words, I am exhorting you with this talk of slavery, the need for obedience, etc., because I know that it is rather easy for Christians to allow the old man to manifest itself in sin (and that the demons are eager to help Christians sin). We must (we can) walk by faith in accordance with what God requires of us and by the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis.]. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness [resulting in an abiding state of lawlessness; I would skip the word "further" that the NASB added in italics], so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification [I would translated holiness, instead of "sanctification," with the KJV, NKJV, and NIV, and it would be reasonable to add a few words in italics here: resulting in an abiding state of holiness. [Doesn't that sound good?] (20) For when you were [faithful] slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. The apostle is making the important point that now we are called, enabled, and privileged to be free in regard to sin.)); Romans 8:10 ((If Christ is in you [and Christ dwells in every true Christian by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9)], though the body is dead because of sin [What Paul meant here is that the body of Christians hasn't been fully redeemed yet (cf. Rom. 8:23), and the old man, who still wants to sin, hasn't been annihilated yet. This resulted "because of sin," referring to Adam's initial great transgression (cf. Rom. 5:12-21).], yet the spirit is alive [I would translate the Spirit is life with the KJV, NKJV. The indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness and holiness is a big part of what makes the new covenant effective in overcoming spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons.] because of righteousness [because Christ's one act of righteousness in His all-important atoning death set us free from bondage to spiritual death and sin and demons]. 

ROMANS 5:18 explains this verse: "So then as through one transgression [Adam's] there resulted condemnation to all men [the condemnation of being spiritually dead and in bondage to sin and demons that resulted from Adam's one transgression, and not being prepared to stand before God in judgment; however, it is very important for us to understand that we will all have to answer before God for what we have done, not for what Adam did; we all need new-covenant salvation in the Lord Jesus, "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45)], even so through one act of righteousness [Greek dikaioma, which was derived from the Greek verb dikaioo] there resulted justification of life to all men [to all believers (all true Christians)]." It is very significant that this is the "justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). The word "justification" (being justified) here includes having the spiritual life that comes with becoming a born-again Christian. Being justified includes being born again by the indwelling Spirit of life and righteousness and holiness, who enables us to live in the righteousness and holiness of God with the victory over sin and demons.)); Romans 9:30, 31 ((What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness that is by faith [As is typical, none of the three uses of dikaiosune here fit a greatly limited meaning for the word righteousness that has nothing to do with Christians being transformed and enabled to live in the righteousness of God, by grace, through faith in God, His Son, and the gospel of new-covenant salvation. Although the Gentiles didn't have the Law of God and were not trying to keep His Law, the Gentiles who became true Christians "attained righteousness," even forgiveness and the imparted righteousness [of God] that is provided for all Christians. The first use of the word "righteousness" here is not used of new-covenant-salvation righteousness, but it is used of not pursuing righteousness that deals with living right before God.]; (31) but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law [The people of Israel, speaking of the majority, did not submit by faith to (they rejected) God's new-covenant plan of salvation; they did not appropriate the "righteousness" of God in Christ by faith that would enable them to keep God's moral law by grace. (See Rom. 9:32.)])); Romans 10:3, 4 ((For [Israel] not knowing about God's righteousness [the righteousness of God in Christ that cannot be earned but must be received and walked in by faith, which very much includes walking in the imparted righteousness of God; it wasn't that they didn't hear about the righteousness of God available in the new covenant, but that they rejected that righteousness (see Rom. 10:16-18)] and seeking to establish their own [establish their own righteousness by trying to keep God's Law without the enabling grace available only in new-covenant salvation], they did not subject themselves [by faith in Christ and new-covenant salvation] to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes. I would translate For Christ is the end of the Law resulting in [Greek preposition eis; this preposition is translated "resulting in" twice in Rom. 10:10 (NASB).] righteousness to [or "for"] everyone who believes [who believes in new-covenant salvation in Christ Jesus]. The NIV is good here: "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." The old covenant, which was based on the Mosaic Law, could not provide the righteousness of God that solves the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem.)); Romans 10:5, 6, 10 ((I'll quote ROMANS 10:5-11. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. [However, as the apostle Paul often mentions, no one can be saved by keeping the law of God, because no one can fully keep God's law without the enabling grace of God in Christ. Although believers who lived under the old covenant did not fully keep God's moral law, they will be saved through the one Sacrifice of the Lamb of God.] (6) But the righteousness based on faith [Paul is speaking of faith in God and His Son and new-covenant salvation.] speaks as follows [quoted in part from Deut. 30:12 and 14]: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is to bring Christ down), (7) or 'who will descend into the abyss'? (that is to bring Christ up from the dead)." [Paul's point is that it is too late for anyone to try to do the works of bringing Christ down from heaven or bringing Him up from the dead to save us. God has already done these works for us. We need to humbly submit to His new-covenant saving work by faith.] (8) But what does it say? [Deut. 30:14] "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching [The apostle and others were preaching the gospel of new-covenant salvation, which must be submitted to and walked in by faith. We are saved by God's work, by grace, by faith (faith is not a work; but by faith, by God's enabling grace, Christians do righteous works for the glory of God; another way to say it: He imparts His righteousness to us).] (9) that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [Of course Paul is not denying that we must continue to walk by faith in the truth and righteousness of the gospel by God's enabling grace, but he is denying that we can be saved by our works, by our trying to keep the Law apart from the saving grace of God in Christ.] (10) for with the heart a person believes [faith is of the heart; God requires us to submit to Him from our hearts], resulting in [Greek preposition eis] righteousness [full new-covenant righteousness by the saving grace of God in Christ], and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in [Greek preposition eis] salvation [new-covenant salvation]. (11) For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed [Literally "not be put to shame" (margin of NASB)]." There is a strong emphasis on faith, not our works, here. Believing in (having faith) in Christ is the only way to appropriate, and cooperate with, and walk in the imparted righteousness of God, which enables Christians to do the required righteous works. These righteous works are in a very real sense God's work, for His glory, by His enabling grace, not our works. This solves the pride problem! And pride with unbelief is the root of sin.)); Rom. 14:17 (For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.); 1 Corinthians 1:30 (But by His [God the Father's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification [I would translate holiness with the NIV], and redemption. Some believe "righteousness" here is limited to being forgiven and having a right standing with God. I believe Paul was speaking of righteousness in the much fuller sense that I am speaking about throughout this paper. This is Paul's typical use of this word in new-covenant-salvation contexts as this paper demonstrates, and it fits the Old Testament use of the words righteous and righteousness, which were not used (apparently not even one time) of a righteousness that was based on (or only on) being forgiven (see my paper on Isaiah chapter 53). The words "holiness" and "redemption" used here in 1 Cor. 1:30 deal with God's saving transformation, and we need God's "wisdom" to live in His righteousness.); 2 Corinthians 3:9 ((But if the ministry of condemnation [2 Cor. 3:6-7 show that Paul was referring to the old covenant with the words "the ministry of condemnation." In 3:6 he said "for the letter (the letter of the Mosaic Law) kills," kills because breaking God's law brings judgment/wrath. In 3:7 he speaks of "the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones."] has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. "Righteousness" is being used in the typical full new-covenant-salvation sense here. Those under the old covenant were under spiritual death and in bondage to sin and not ready to stand before God. They needed a lot more than the forgiveness of sins and a strictly legal, right standing before God. They needed the super-important imparted righteousness of God along with forgiveness.)); 2 Corinthians 5:21 (Many argue for the greatly limited meaning for the word "righteousness" in this verse, but I believe the evidence in that context is strongly against that viewpoint. This is a very important passage, so I'll quote 2 CORINTHIANS 5:17-6:2. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature [or, new creation]; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. [It is necessary to understand, as the context shows, that the apostle Paul was speaking of things that should be true of all Christians now. We should be faithful to God and not leaving any room for sin! This is the ideal and we must be aiming at this target! God's enabling grace is sufficient!] (18) Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ [We need to understand that people are not reconciled to God to the extent they are still in rebellion against Him and sinning against Him. Reconciliation involves a lot more than being forgiven, though that is a required first step.] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. [The "us" here, and therefore also in the first part of this verse, refers to the apostle Paul and his companions (and It could include the other apostles and relevant ministers). He is not including the Christians at Corinth (or other locations) in the "us" here. This is confirmed by 5:19-20 and 6:1. It is true, however, that God can use all true Christians in a ministry of reconciliation.] (19) namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (20) Therefore, we [especially the apostle Paul, but including his companions] are ambassadors of Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg you in behalf of Christ be reconciled to God. [The word "you" is not included in the Greek here, but it is clear that Paul's words were aimed at all of the Corinthian Christians who needed to repent with a high priority, and "you" is included in the Greek of 6:1. It is shocking how often Paul called the Corinthian Christians to repent in 1 and 2 Corinthians, especially in 1 Corinthians, and at the end of 2 Corinthians he said in 13:5, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith [to be "in the faith" is to be a true Christian from God's point of view]; examine yourselves!" I trust it is obvious that our faith must be based on God's covenant with us, not on the sinfulness of some Corinthian Christians. We dare not follow their example! They were strongly warned that they must repent!] (21) He [God the Father] made Him [the Lamb of God] who knew no sin [He was sinless] to be sin on our behalf [He became sin for us when He bore our sins with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons. He did not sin, or die spiritually, or become unrighteous in any way in His all-important atoning death. The Hebrew word for "sin" in Leviticus chapter 16, which deals with the Day of Atonement, is "chattath." It is interesting, and very significant, that the very same word was also used for the "sin offering" in that chapter: The sacrificial animals became "sin" when the sins of the people were literally put upon them with the guilt and the penalties. One gigantic shortcoming of those old-covenant sacrifices was that they couldn't deal with or take away the penalties for Adam's sin with the guilt AND THE PENALTIES OF SPIRITUAL DEATH AND BONDAGE TO SIN AND DEMONS.], so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. [It has always seemed clear to me, and still does, that the apostle was speaking of righteousness in the full new-covenant-salvation sense here that includes the imparted righteousness of God. FOR ONE THING, IN THIS CONTEXT (ESPECIALLY WITH 5:20 AND 6:1, THE VERSES RIGHT BEFORE AND RIGHT AFTER 5:21), PAUL WAS EXHORTING HIS READERS TO REPENT EVERYWHERE REPENTANCE WAS REQUIRED AND "BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN [CHRIST]."] (6:1) And working together with Him [with God], we also [The NIV and ESV do not include the word "also" in their translations, which is reasonable. If "also" is included it means "we also (working together with, and in agreement with, God)."] urge [exhort; this was something far beyond a mild request or suggestion] you not to receive the grace of God in vain. [To receive the grace of God in vain would be to not really receive it, or not really keep it, which would be the result for those who opted to continue in sin without repentance.])); 2 Corinthians 6:7 (The apostle spoke of himself, and his companions, being faithful to God in every way in the word of truth, in the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. The context makes it clear that Paul is speaking of a manifested "righteousness," a righteousness far beyond being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God.); 2 Corinthians 6:14 (Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness ["Righteousness" goes with keeping God's laws [His moral laws] from the heart; it is the opposite of "lawlessness."]; or what fellowship has light with darkness? And Paul continues listing things that are opposite one another.); 2 Cor. 9:9, 10; 11:15 (The word "righteousness" is clearly not used with a forgiveness, strictly legal, right standing meaning that has nothing to do with how we live or what we do in these three verses.); Galatians 2:21 ((I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. Paul is speaking of the powerful saving grace of God in Christ that enables born-again Christians to walk in the imparted righteousness of God by the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit. That righteousness could not come through the old covenant that is based on the Mosaic Law. In the preceding verse (Gal. 2:20; cf. Rom. 6:6), Paul spoke of the fact that he (his old man) had been crucified with Christ and that Christ was now living in him, enabling him to live as Christians are required and privileged to live. (I do not believe, however, that the old man can be annihilated as long as we live in this world, but we are enabled to keep the old man from manifesting itself in sin as we walk by the Spirit by faith on a continuous basis [cf., e.g., Gal. 5:16].) This "righteousness" could not come by the Law of the old covenant (or any other law), because the Law could not dethrone spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons [cf., e.g., Gal. 3:21].)); Galatians 3:6 ((In Gal. 3:1-5 the apostle continues with the theme of Gal. 2:20-21, that what the Law could not do (for one thing, as Paul says in 3:2 and 5, people could not receive the poured out, indwelling Holy Spirit through the Law or doing works of the Law), God has done for us through new-covenant salvation, which gives us the Righteous, Holy Spirit, who brings spiritual life and enables us to live in the righteousness of God. We appropriate this salvation by grace through faith in God, His Son, and the gospel of new-covenant salvation. I'll quote GALATIANS 3:5-6, So then, does He [God] who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing by faith. [Then in 3:6 Paul goes on the back up the idea that we are saved/justified by faith, not by works of the Law, by referring to Abraham (Gen. 15:6), as he did in Rom. 4:3.] (6) Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Since Abraham lived before new-covenant salvation became available in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Paul couldn't say that Abraham participated in the full new-covenant-salvation righteousness, but he could use Abraham to demonstrate the very important points that we are saved by grace, not by merit (what is owed), and by faith, not by our works. So, in agreement with Paul's use of this quotation in Rom. 4:3, we probably should say that he was using the word "righteousness" here in the greatly limited sense of being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God. However, in this context (including the last two verses of Galatians chapter 2 and all of Galatians chapter 3), unlike in Romans chapter 4, Paul was speaking of full new-covenant salvation, which includes the imparted righteousness of God and victory over sin and demons; and he used the word "righteousness" in the full new-covenant-salvation sense in Gal. 2:21 and 3:21.

One last comment, a very important comment: There is widespread agreement that the more basic meaning of Gen. 15:6 is that Abraham's faith in God was reckoned to be (a manifestation of) righteousness, not just that his faith was credited to him as righteousness in a strictly legal sense. Faith (heart faith) in God is the necessary foundation for salvation, and Abraham's ultimate salvation will come to pass through the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God.)); Galatians 3:21 ((This is a super-important verse to demonstrate the primary point that I am making throughout this paper about the meaning of the word righteousness in the New Testament. Is the Law [the Mosaic Law, which was the foundation for the old covenant] then contrary to the promises of God [contrary to His promises that are found in the Old Testament of new-covenant salvation, which sets us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons and makes us righteous with the imparted righteousness of God through the Sacrifice of His Son and the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit of life.]? May it never be! [The Mosaic Law and the new covenant both came from God. They do not contradict one another. But the old covenant was given on a temporary basis to prepare the way for the new covenant. God never intended the old covenant to solve the spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons problem. The sacrifices under the old covenant were effective to do what they were designed to do, but they clearly were not given to bear and take away the penalties of spiritual death and bondage to sin and demons that came to all mankind because of Adam's one transgression (see Rom. 5:12-21). Before the foundation of the world God had already planned to sacrifice His Son to save believers (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:19-20), and at the right time to judge and remove the devil and all those who are aligned with him.] For if a law had been given which was able to impart life [But no law, including the Mosaic Law, was able to dethrone spiritual death and impart the spiritual life of God. And it is very significant that the apostle goes on to say that it is impossible to have righteousness in a full new-covenant-salvation sense apart from having the life of God, which comes with being born again by the indwelling Righteous, Holy, Spirit of LIFE. The fact that we have to have life by the Righteous, Holy, Spirit of life through new-covenant salvation before we can be righteous confirms that Paul is speaking of walking in the imparted righteousness of God, and not just being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God.], then righteousness would have been based on law. Hence, as Paul is always saying one way, or another, the only way to be saved is through new-covenant salvation, which dethrones spiritual death and sin and demons and makes believers righteous, really righteous, which is a whole lot more than being forgiven and having a strictly legal, right standing with God.));

We will go on to Gal. 5:5 in this study of the Greek noun dikaiosune in Part 5 of this paper. 

Copyright © by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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