An Important Introduction of "The Righteous"
Text: Matthew 25 : 31 - 46
The identity of “the sheep” was made very clear in a very gentle way. Matthew inserted the all-important phrase that made it clear as to who “the sheep” really were. Jesus had spoken very gracious words to “the sheep”. It would be interesting to note how they responded.
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger
and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we
see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'”
Matthew used the phrase, “the righteous” to identify “the sheep”. It is not without significance that this word “righteous” was the key theological word that the apostle Paul used to describe those who possessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us look at how Paul used this key theological word in his famous epistle to the Romans.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ,
for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone
who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed
from faith to faith;
as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ ”
In this short text we have some very important truths declared.
1. A statement concerning salvation
a) It concerns the Gospel.
b) The focus of the Gospel is none other than Jesus Christ.
c) The power of God to grant salvation is found in the Gospel.
d) To the person who believes (Jew or Greek) salvation is granted.
2. A Statement concerning Faith
a) The way to salvation is through faith in God.
b) It has always been faith.
c) Whether it is faith in the days of Abraham, or faith in the time of Paul (from faith to faith; Cf. Habakkuk 2:4).
d) Those who possess this faith are called “the just”.
It is not without importance that the phrase “the just” is exactly the same phrase Matthew used to call “the righteous”.
FURTHER DISCUSSION OF “THE RIGHTEOUS”
The apostle Paul went to great lengths to discuss the subject of how one obtains righteousness before God. Let us consider just one key passage that he wrote.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed,
being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ,
to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
being justified freely by His grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation
by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness,
because in His forbearance God had passed over
the sins that were
previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time
His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one
who has faith in Jesus.”
1. Not Man’s righteousness!
Paul dismissed the idea of man being able to stand before God in his original righteousness. He has none. For “all had sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
2. God’s Righteousness
a) God is of course intrinsically “righteous”.
b) His righteousness is well described in “The Law and the Prophets” (Scriptures).
3. God’s Righteousness imputed to the believer
a) First there must be faith in Jesus Christ!
b) By God’s grace the believer is now “justified freely” (The word “justify” is taken from the same root word as “the righteous” or “the just” [dikaios]).
c) God has passed over all our sins.
d) He is the Great Justifier of all who have faith in Jesus.
e) The righteousness that every believer has may be called “imputed righteousness”.
THE SAME GOSPEL!
How do we link what Matthew wrote with what Paul expounded? It must be argued that all the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ possessed the same body of truths. Whether Matthew was writing his Gospel, or Paul writing his epistles, both shared the same set of doctrines drawn from “The Law and the Prophets” (Cf. Romans 1:1-5). Paul argued strongly that there was but ONE Gospel. Anybody who preached any other gospel was under the anathema of God (Galatians 1:6-9). Matthew could not have used the phrase “the righteous” to refer to one who has attained so much personal righteous that he earns his way to heaven! Matthew’s reference to “the righteous” when understood in the light of Paul’s exposition concerning “the just” makes perfect sense!