What Is Righteousness? Titus And The Cretan Churches
By Randy Bushey
What is righteousness? In this post, Randy explains how “righteousness is character, attitudes and behaviour that are consistent with God’s law and His character.”
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Titus Had A Challenge
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4,5).
Titus had a monumental challenge. The Apostle Paul dispatched the young man – one of his sons in the faith – to pastor new believers and fledgling churches on the island of Crete.
And the people were pirates.
In addition to piracy, the eastern Mediterranean island was a hub for human trafficking. Every person that Titus encountered in his ministry had been a pirate, or slave trader, or else had them somewhere in their family.
The tiny infant Cretan churches were full of people who had been saved out of that shameful history.
And Titus, a young man in whom Paul had great confidence, was sent to bring order to these immature communities of faith. Paul was insistent that Titus teach sound doctrine and be a strong personal example. And Paul demanded that the people demonstrate good works. Remind them… to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. (Titus 3:1).
What Is Righteousness?
Sometimes we struggle with that concept. Good works equals righteousness. When it comes to recognizing good in ourselves, we’re often guilty of a misplaced modesty that belies a misunderstanding of the Gospel.
Do you think, “I really don’t have any righteousness”?
That was not the apostolic Gospel.
Righteousness is character, attitudes and behaviour that are consistent with God’s law and His character.
The Bible teaches that we can never perform to a standard that will impress God. We are not saved through our good works. And nothing I do can make God love me any more than He already does.
There is emphatically, no place in the Gospel for self-righteousness.
Good Works Follow Salvation
But when a person comes to faith in Christ Jesus, the moral trajectory of their life is radically different. Good works follows salvation. About righteousness in our lives, Bible teacher John Piper reminds us, “Justification by faith alone does not exclude this; it empowers it”.
And so Paul insists, we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10).
Although we must never underestimate the depths of our natural moral depravity, neither should we miscalculate the powerful energy of the Holy Spirit incrementally actualizing the ethical perfection of Christ into our lives.
When the Lord analyzes my life – and the life of every believer – He expects to see righteousness!
Good Works, Justice, And Righteousness
But, the cynic may ask, aren’t all our righteous acts like filthy rags? (Isaiah.64:6).
When he wrote those well-known words, Isaiah was observing the external, inauthentic religious grand-standing of which the Jewish people of his time were guilty.
And God was repulsed by it!
But the Gospel is good news. It proclaims that not only did the Lord Jesus remove the sin from my account, but I am declared just because His righteousness has been credited, or counted, or deposited into it (Romans 4:1-8).
Good works. Justice. Righteousness. The currency of the Kingdom of God.
Takeaway: Paul demanded that the Cretans of the 1st century – and no less obligatory for us in the 21st century – be passionate and zealous in their pursuit of authentic righteousness. If genuine, it will evidence itself in character, attitudes, appetites, and behaviour.
“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” (Titus 3:8 ).
“Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).
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