QUESTION: Can you please explain what the bible means by the word “righteous”? Does it give different meanings in different context?
Romans 3: 10 says that there is no one righteous and by this I understand that there is no one who is sinless. So righteousness = sinlessness
However the bible calls some people righteous (Noah, Lot, Mary's husband Joseph, etc.). Here righteousness does not equate sinlessness.
ANSWER: Hello Lenin; First please accept my apology for taking so long to reply, I have been busy with duties.
If you will, let us examine some things. You say "righteousness" equates to "sinlessness" in Rom 3:10. In one sense of the word you would be correct,for the word from the Greek is "dikaios" which one of the meanings is 'guiltless, faultless, innocent". The scriptures tell us plainly that "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 8:23.
As it pertains too Noah, Lot, Joseph etc. it is not saying that they were ever "guiltless, faultless, or innocent" in all things. So again, you would be correct in saying in the case of these, it does not equate to "Sinlessness".
In the Old and New Testament as translated in the King James version, the word righteous appears over 226 times. In most cases it appears in the original text as:
Old Testament; Hebrew: "tsaddiyq"
) just, lawful, righteous
a) just, righteous (in government)
b) just, right (in one's cause)
c) just, righteous (in conduct and character)
d) righteous (as justified and vindicated by God)
e) right, correct, lawful
The above word appears in reference to Noah at Gen. 7:1:"And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."
In the New Testamament we find the Greek Word "dikaios":
) righteous, observing divine laws
a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God
1) of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves in their virtues, whether real or imagined
2) innocent, faultless, guiltless
3) used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life
a) only Christ truly
4) approved of or acceptable of God
b) in a narrower sense, rendering to each his due and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them
So when we read about Lot in 2Peter 2:6-8 :
6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
We find that Lot was considered "righteous" because his way of thinking was in line with Gods will. He was approved of by God himself, for his soul was tortured, he was disgusted and outraged daily about the ways of those of Sodom and Gomorrha. Because of his right thinking,feelings and acts;because he kept himself and his family free from participating in the sins of those peoples, God spared Lot from destruction.
This same word "dikaios" appears in Matthew 1:19 when speaking of Joseph; however in the King James Version it is rendered "just" in this passage:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
When speaking of Joseph, it refers to Josephs Faith, for he was devout; it speaks to his "fairness" in Judgment, and obedience to God.
So as we look in the scriptures and see this word "righteous", we must examine the context of the passage, the meanings of the word and what sense of the word applies so that we accurately understand what the scriptures are telling us.
There are some translations that state "righteous" and others that translate it in other ways such as "just" So whereas all these men were considered "righteous" or "just" in the sight of God and therefore approved of God, non were sinless.
Now I earlier mentioned that "most times" the word righteous was translated from the words above, but allow me to share passages that have other words rendered as "righteous::
Old Testament: See Job 9:15, 10:15,15:14, 40:8. The word in the original text in these passages, is the Hebrew word "tsadaq" and means:
1) to be just, be righteous
1) to have a just cause, be in the right
2) to be justified
3) to be just (of God)
4) to be just, be righteous (in conduct and character)
b) (Niphal) to be put or made right, be justified
c) (Piel) justify, make to appear righteous, make someone righteous
1) to do or bring justice (in administering law)
2) to declare righteous, justify
3) to justify, vindicate the cause of, save
4) to make righteous, turn to righteousness
e) (Hithpael) to justify oneself
At Job 23:7; Prov. 2:7, Prov 14:9 we find the word "yashar":
1) straight, upright, correct, right
a) straight, level
b) right, pleasing, correct
c) straightforward, just, upright, fitting, proper
d) uprightness, righteous, upright
e) that which is upright
In the New Testament we see only one (1) instance of variation of the word "righteous" in the original text. This is found at Rev. 22:11, where both the Greek words "dikaios" and "dikaioo" are used:
Dikaioo: 1) to render righteous or such he ought to be
2) to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered
3) to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be
Rev. 22:11 King James: 11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
The second instance of the word "righteous" is translated from 'dikaioo"
he that is righteous, let him show himself, let him continue to be, righteous.
I hope this helps in your understanding of the uses of the word "righteous". If there is anything that needs to be clarified, or If I can be of further service too you, please do not hesitate to follow up.
God Bless and Keep you;
Rev. Darryl Murphy
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QUESTION: Dear Rev.,
Thank you very much for such an extensive coverage on the subject topic. It does help me to understand the word and also for further study. I still have some questions on the subject and I am grateful that you are willing to help.
Referring to Romans 3:10 (and Psalm 14:1, 53:1), can you please tell me why the scripture says “There is none righteous, no, not one”. Does it refer to the righteousness which we cannot obtain ourselves and is given to us only through faith in Christ and thus qualifies us to go to heaven? If so, how does one see the difference when people before Christ were called righteous? As you agreed, even though these people were guiltless, faultless, or innocent, their condition cannot be equated to sinlessness. Then does the bible make a distinction between their righteousness and the righteousness of believers in Christ?
The motive behind my question is this: Is it correct for me to quote bible to an unbeliever to claim that there is no one righteous in order to stress the necessity of faith in Christ whereas there are some people who are called righteous in the same bible whose righteousness have nothing to do with their faith in Christ?
ANSWER: Hello Lenin and thank you for following up with such relevant and important questions. May I ask, did you want this answer to be private? I ask because at first I made the mistake of hitting the "private" button on my previous response to you, and later changed it and resent the response. I am changing it to public in hopes that it was a mistake marking it private, if not please forgive me.
Now lets tackle the key question first, but I am going to break it down into parts:
You: "Is it correct for me to quote bible to an unbeliever to claim that there is no one righteous in order to stress the necessity of faith in Christ;"
This is a very good question because an "unbeliever" would not be able to understand the quote and the differences if any of what is being stated. It is at these times, I wish the translators would have done more to convey the true meaning and senses of the words used and how they apply. The key would be, as you know, the explanation. The necessity of faith in Christ would not be understood by quoting this type of scripture, however what would be understood if explained, is that at some point we all stood equal in the eyes of God; We are and were all sinners.
Lets Look at the passages of scriptures:
Romans 3:12 KJV
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.
2 God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.
3 Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Romans 3 speaks of the Psalms. We, mankind, are, Like the Psalmist says: "5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalms 51:5. Mankind has a sin nature and therefore sinful and guilty.
What is important for the "unbeliever" to understand is, that it is only through Jesus Christ that this condition can change:
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Also refer to John 3:16-17.
Now as far as the ones called "righteous" in the Bible, this would be a matter of teaching and study after the person understands the "ransom sacrifice" of Jesus Christ. However, if dealing with a learned person, the explanation:
Although there has never been anyone that was "sinless" except for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, there were some, that in spite of wickedness and sin, their hearts, minds were different than others. For they despised their evil ways, desired to obey the laws of God, they were just in judgement, always repentant, obedient as far as humanly possible to Gods law...because of this, they were considered "righteous".
You:"Then does the bible make a distinction between their righteousness and the righteousness of believers in Christ?"
"whereas there are some people who are called righteous in the same bible whose righteousness have nothing to do with their faith in Christ?"
If we read Romans 3 in context, we find that Paul is making it clear, there is no distinction between the "righteousness" of those of Old and those who believe in Christ. For this "righteousness" spoken of is by "Faith". Now in order to not become too theological, I invite you to pray and read over Romans 3.
Excuse me for being so lengthy in my response, but the questions you pose are very significant, thereby requiring a full explanation be given. It is ok for us to quote scriptures only if we have full understanding of the message that is contained in them.
It could very easily turn into a debate with an unbeliever if he is told "no one is righteous" and he has knowledge that the Bible says there are those who are "righteous". Sometimes the first reaction of an unbeliever is to debate or question based on knowledge, not understanding. If the believer does not have full understanding and is not prepared to address the unbeliever, then things will go wrong very quickly.
It is obvious that you see this and is why I applaud you for asking such a question as this, for it goes far deeper than one may see.
Thank you Lenin for following up. I pray I properly addressed your questions. If there is something that needs clarification or I can be of further assistance on this matter or any other, please do not hesitate to contact me.
God Bless and Keep You
Rev. Darryl Murphy
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QUESTION: Dear Rev.,
Thank you again for spending your valuable time in teaching me on this topic. I accept that this conversation be open to public since it might be useful to other seekers.
I am so grateful that you are still interested in clarifying things for me.
You: “It is at these times, I wish the translators would have done more to convey the true meaning and senses of the words used and how they apply.”
Do you mean that you would prefer that the translators used different words to describe the kind of righteousness people had before Christ?
You: “Sometimes the first reaction of an unbeliever is to debate or question based on knowledge, not understanding.” “Although there has never been anyone that was "sinless" except for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, there were some, that in spite of wickedness and sin, their hearts, minds were different than others. For they despised their evil ways, desired to obey the laws of God, they were just in judgement, always repentant, obedient as far as humanly possible to Gods law...because of this, they were considered "righteous".”
This is where I have problems when it comes to sharing the gospel with those “I-don’t-think-Jesus-is-the-only-way” people. I am now 46 years old. I was born in a Hindu family in India, became an atheist when I was very young and came to Christ about nine years ago. Having lived among Hindus, Muslims and atheists, although I can see the truth in Romans 3:9 (all under sin) I know some good people who are kind, generous, honest, who fight for justice, sacrifice their comforts for the welfare of others but have nothing to do with Christianity. The lives of these people may be similar to the OT righteous people. I mean even without believing in the God of the bible, they have some of the qualities of righteous.
As you rightly said the first reaction of an unbeliever is to debate or question based on knowledge - not only of the righteous people mentioned in the bible but also - of these good people I mentioned above.
You: “Paul is making it clear, there is no distinction between the "righteousness" of those of Old and those who believe in Christ. For this "righteousness" spoken of is by "Faith".”
Can you clarify if the faith in the one true God of Noah and others are somehow equal to our faith in Jesus Christ?
Some preachers claim that all those God’s people in the OT were looking forward to the first coming of Christ based on the prophecies in the OT and thus even their righteousness is attributed to their faith in Christ and not on how they lived?
Can you tell me what is your opinion on this point?
Hello Lenin, thank you for allowing this to remain public and thank you for allowing me the privilege of clarifying things stated.
You: "Do you mean that you would prefer that the translators used different words to describe the kind of righteousness people had before Christ?"
What I mean is that in some passages the word "righteous" is used whereas the context of the passage speaks to the person being "just" "obedient" "submissive to the will of God" etc., which are of course other senses of the Hebrew or Greek word translated as righteous. If this had been done, it would be very easy to understand "righteous and righteousness" as spoken of in the Bible and its application in the Old and New Testament.
You: "Can you clarify if the faith in the one true God of Noah and others are somehow equal to our faith in Jesus Christ?"
The Old Testament saints or patriarchs/matriarchs and others had faith in the One True God through direct experience with him and learned to trust in all of his "word".
We too express total faith in the same One True God, however the only difference is that it is through His Son, that we come to know him:
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
It is the One True God, The Father, who draws us to His Son:
King James Version #KJV#
43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
So there is no differences in the "Faith":
King James Version #KJV#
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
The ones of the Old Testament knew the "Christ" through prophecy, for as the scriptures state even Moses wrote of the "Christ":
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
Some of the people in Jesus time knew of him by personal experience and others through testimony, however, all based on the prophecies of old that testify of his coming and the fulfillment thereof.
We know of the Christ because of prophecy, the fulfillment, the testimonies, and because God himself has drawn us to him. In this Jesus reveals to us the Father who we have 'Faith" in through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ the one who according to the prophecies and Word of God, came and died as a ransom sacrifice for the atonement of our sins in order that we could return to 'right relationship" with the Father.
So whereas the experiences may have been different, the "Faith" is all the same, for the "Faith" is in the One True God and the one he has sent:
1 John 5:13
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
King James Version #KJV#
15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
You: "Some preachers claim that all those God’s people in the OT were looking forward to the first coming of Christ based on the prophecies in the OT and thus even their righteousness is attributed to their faith in Christ and not on how they lived?"
"Can you tell me what is your opinion on this point?"
I could not disagree more with the position of the "preachers". That type of answer is based on "theology" and is not scripturally supported.
Yes the people of the Old Testament looked forward to the prophecies and fulfillment of the coming of Christ, however, their "righteousness" is not attributed to their "faith" in Christ, but attributed to their "Faith" in God.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God
Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Joshua, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, The 3 Hebrews men and others of the Old Testament "Trusted God" Joseph, Mary Trusted God.
Yes, they had hope in the coming Messiah, but the Trusted God, that he would do all that he said he would do. They trusted in his Word.
We Trust in God, who through his Son has proven that he will do all that he says he will do. By believing on the Son, we show our belief in the Father who sent him.
I pray this explains my position on things. I also pray that your eagerness and desire to learn and understand Gods word never fail.
If there is anything that requires clarification, or I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to follow up or contact me with more questions.
May God Guide and Be With You Always:
Rev. Darryl Murphy