Righteousness from God?

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

via Passage: Psalm 24 (ESV Bible Online).

One way you can see that there is a problem in how Evangelicals read the Bible is that they will, first, think “righteous from the God of his salvation,” must refer to imputed righteousness, second, notice that this righteousness seems to be a response to moral uprightness, third, then either consider alternative interpretations of “righteousness,” or else find a way to reverse the seeming cause and effect order of the passage.

But here the NIV is more helpful on verse 5:  “He will receive… vindication from God his Savior.”  The word “righteousness” does not have to necessarily have anything to directly to do with some kind of reckoned moral perfection.  In this case, the point is that those who belong to the Lord will be vindicated or declared in the right.  This is not a declaration that one is sinless.  It assumes God has in some way dealt with sin and the question is, for whom has he done so?

The answer primarily are those that have faith in him.  They don’t turn to idols! (v. 4).  Of course, the idea that trust in God is somehow opposed or different from a life of obedience is simply unknown to the Bible (because, if for no other reason, it is logically incoherent).  Someone who trusts in the true God, will sin, but his life will not be indistinguishable from unbelievers.  Those who refuse idols will also keep their hands clean and their hearts pure.  The first commandment, after all, command faith and trust in the LORD alone.  That is the obedience of faith.

4 thoughts on “Righteousness from God?

  1. Matt Colvin

    Right you are. And this is called imputing faith itself, the act of believing, as righteousness. Which is what the WCF, all hung up on transferring an alien moral perfection, denies.

  2. Nick

    I believe you are wrong on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    In my study on this topic, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular Protestant Lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”

    The Protestant Lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:

    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such.

  3. mark Post author

    Also, it doesn’t seem to want to fit the facts. On your statement, Paul says the reckoning is *not* like that of a boss reckoning payment as an obligation (Romans 4.4), so using that as an example of the nature of the reckoning in Romans 4.3 (appealing to Genesis 15) is to reverse the point Paul is trying to make.

    I think you are trying to build too much on too little here. I appreciate the points you bring up, but I don’t think they add up to the sum you are hoping to get.


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