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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: Is God Righteous?

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Is God Righteous?

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 9

The psalmist declared the Lord, the God of the Bible, is righteous. He put it this way.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. (Psalm 116:5 NKJV)

God is a righteous God.

Ezra the scribe wrote of God’s fairness to the nation Israel. Indeed, he noted that the Lord had been more than fair by letting some of the people survive.

LORD God of Israel, you have been more than fair by letting a few of us survive. But once again, our sins have made us ashamed to face you. (Ezra 9:15 CEV)

Even though the Lord was more than fair to them, they still sinned against Him. Unhappily, this type of behavior occurs much too often.

In another psalm, we find that God’s commands are entirely righteous. Indeed, the psalmist praised the Lord for His righteousness.

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. (Psalm 19:9 NIV)

There is nothing in Scripture that is declared more strongly than the righteousness of the God of Scripture. Indeed, righteousness belongs to the Lord.

The prophet Daniel acknowledged God’s righteousness in the strongest of terms. In his prayer, we find him saying the following.

Everything you do is right, our Lord. But still we suffer public disgrace because we have been unfaithful and have sinned against you. This includes all of us, both far and near—the people of Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel, as well as those you dragged away to foreign lands...And when you finally punished us with this horrible disaster, that was also the right thing to do, because we deserved it so much. (Daniel 9:7, 14 CEV)

It is clear that the Scripture teaches that God is righteous. What exactly does the Bible mean when it says that the God of Scripture is righteous? A number of observations need to be made.

1. God Always Does What Is Right

God’s righteousness means that God’s character, or nature, always leads Him to do that which is right or just. Righteousness is holiness in action. We can also refer to God’s righteousness as God’s justice.

God Brings Justice Every Morning

The prophet Zephaniah wrote that God brings His justice every day. He brings the truth to the light. We read,

The LORD is righteous within her; He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He does not fail. But the unjust knows no shame. (Zephaniah 3:5 NASB).

The Lord is the final standard of righteousness and justice. Indeed, according to this passage in the writings of Zephaniah, God can do no injustice.

2. He Does Nothing in Darkness

Isaiah the prophet wrote about how the Lord openly speaks His truth. He does nothing in darkness or in secret.

The LORD did not speak in a dark secret place or command Jacob’s descendants to search for him in vain. The LORD speaks the truth, and this is what he says... (Isaiah 45:19 CEV)

This is an all-important truth. We don’t have to stumble around in darkness trying to find God’s truth. He openly reveals it to us.

3. The Lord Testifies to His Own Righteousness

Isaiah the prophet records God testifying to His own justice. In doing so, He makes a number of powerful statements.

“Why don’t you get together and meet me in court? Didn’t I tell you long ago what would happen? I am the only God! There are no others. I bring about justice, and have the power to save.” (Isaiah 45:21 CEV)

The Lord reminds them that He had already told them long ago what would come to pass. True to His Word, it did indeed come to pass. Consequently, they should have no complaint against Him because the righteous God warned them ahead of time.

4. We Cannot Tell Him What Is Right

Because God is always righteous, humans cannot instruct Him about right and wrong. Indeed, Paul compared it to the clay objecting to the potter who was shaping it. We read in Romans,

But, my friend, I ask, “Who do you think you are to question God? Does the clay have the right to ask the potter why he shaped it the way he did? Doesn’t a potter have the right to make a fancy bowl and a plain bowl out of the same lump of clay?” (Romans 9:20, 21 CEV)

He, of course, is the potter while we are the clay. He molds and shapes us and tells us what to do; we do not tell Him! Indeed, no can tell the Lord what is right and what is wrong. He alone is the standard of righteousness. Consequently, we must submit to all of His commands.

5. God Does Not Have to Explain His Actions to Anyone

There is something else we must appreciate. God is answerable to nobody. Indeed, the living God does not have to explain His actions to any human or any angel. In the Book of Job, we read of the Lord saying,

I am the Lord All-Powerful, but you have argued that I am wrong. Now you must answer me...Are you trying to prove that you are innocent by accusing me of injustice? (Job 40:2, 8 CEV)

When God responded to Job He did not give specific reasons as to why He did certain things. To the contrary, His answers to Job emphasize His own authority and majesty.

Consider the following question that God had earlier asked Job.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” (Job 38:4 NLT)

If Job did not know how God created the physical universe, then how could he tell Him how to run the moral universe? He could not. Neither can we. None of us are in a position to question the righteousness or the actions of God. We should never forget this!

We do find that Job realized that he was in no position to question God.

Job said to the LORD: Who am I to answer you? (Job 40:3, 4 CEV)

Who indeed are any of us who try to question the Lord’s righteousness and wisdom?

The Lord then asked Job about his power.

Are you trying to prove that you are innocent by accusing me of injustice? Do you have a powerful arm and a thundering voice that compare with mine? If so, then surround yourself with glory and majesty. Show your furious anger! Throw down and crush all who are proud and evil. Wrap them in grave clothes and bury them together in the dusty soil. Do this, and I will agree that you have won this argument. (Job 40:8-14 CEV)

Job neither knew how the Lord originally created the universe neither did he have the power to do create or sustain anything on his own. This power belongs to the Lord and to Him alone.

Therefore the Lord owed Job no answer as to why He acted in the way that He did. Neither does He owe an answer to any of the rest of us. This is a solemn truth that each and every one of us would do well to remember.

Isaiah the prophet records the Lord comparing His ways to our ways. From His statement we find that there is no comparison.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9 ESV)

Therefore, finite human beings are in no position to question the God of the Bible about His actions, His justice, His judgments, or anything that He does. Our responsibility is to obey Him, not question Him.

6. God Always Deals Righteously with Humanity

God deals righteously toward humanity. Abraham knew that God was just or righteous. He said to the Lord,

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25 ESV)

Abraham realized that God was the righteous Judge of the entire earth. Therefore, God would be fair in His dealings with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

7. The Lord Is Perfect in His Ways

Moses declared that the Lord is perfect in all His ways. Furthermore, he said that these ways are always fair. He stated it in this manner.

He is a rock. What he does is perfect. All his ways are fair. He is a faithful God, who does no wrong. He is honorable and reliable. (Deuteronomy 32:4 God’s Word)

The behavior of the Lord is always honorable and reliable. He deals with humans in ways which are always fair. These are certainly comforting truths. Though we may not be dealt with in a fair manner by our fellow humans, God will always deal fairly with us.

These words of Moses are echoed in the New Testament. Paul says Moses’ teachings reveal God’s righteousness toward humanity. To the Romans, he wrote,

So Moses’ Teachings are holy, and the commandment is holy, right, and good. (Romans 7:12 God’s Word)

Thus, the New Testament also emphasizes the comforting truth that God deals with people in a righteous way.

8. Righteousness Sometimes Involves Judgment

God reveals His righteousness by loving the things that are good, and by hating the things that are evil. Consequently, His righteousness sometimes results in judgment.

In the Book of Revelation, we read of this. An angel testified to God’s righteous as a terrible judgment was coming upon the earth. The Bible says,

And I heard the angel who had authority over all water saying, “You are just in sending this judgment, O Holy One, who is and who always was.” (Revelation 16:5 NLT)

God remains righteous when He judges.

In First Kings, we have the prayer of Solomon recorded as he dedicated the First Temple. Listed among other things, he gave the following testimony to God’s righteousness.

“...then hear in heaven and act and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct on his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.” (1 Kings 8:32 ESV).

Solomon realized that God’s righteousness sometimes required judgment. The Lord condemns the guilty and vindicates the righteous.

9. God’s Righteousness Includes Judgment and Reward

God’s righteousness is seen in both judgment and reward. Again, Paul wrote to the Romans about these truths.

He will give everlasting life to those who search for glory, honor, and immortality by persisting in doing what is good. But he will bring anger and fury on those who, in selfish pride, refuse to believe the truth and who follow what is wrong. There will be suffering and distress for every person who does evil, for Jews first and Greeks as well. (Romans 2:7-9 God’s Word)

The destinations are completely different for the believer and for the unbeliever. The believer will receive everlasting life in the presence of the Lord. However, only suffering and distress await the unbeliever. This is the righteous judgment of God.

10. God’s Righteousness Is Compared to Humanity’s Unrighteousness

The righteousness of the Lord is compared with the unrighteousness of human beings. Daniel the prophet said the following.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.” (Daniel 9:7 NIV)

There is a great gulf between the righteousness of God, and the unrighteousness of the human race. We are separated from Him because of our unrighteous nature.

11. The Gospel Reveals God’s Righteousness

The gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ reveals the righteousness of God. Paul wrote to the Romans about this important truth.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—Jews first and also Gentiles. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:16, 17 NLT)

The righteous of God is made known through the message of Jesus Christ to the world. It is by faith in Christ that we too become righteous. However, our righteousness is given to us by Christ; we certainly do not earn it. Our responsibility is to believe.

12. God’s Righteousness Was Satisfied by the Death of Christ

God’s righteousness was satisfied when the penalty for the sins of the world was put upon Jesus Christ. Paul wrote about how Jesus took the punishment each and every one of us so richly deserve.

For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:25, 26 NLT)

The good news of Jesus Christ reveals the righteousness of God. Believers are declared righteous because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

13. God Will Reward the Righteous

God promises to reward those who have been faithful to Him. The psalmist wrote the following about this wonderful promise.

O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day. (Psalm 7:9-11 NASB)

God, the righteous Judge, has promised that He vindicate His people. Indeed, He will reward the righteous and judge the evil.

There Is a Prize Awaiting for the Believer in Jesus Christ

The Apostle Paul wrote of a reward that was awaiting him upon his death. He gave them triumphant words to Timothy.

The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again. (2 Timothy 4:8 God’s Word)

There is a prize awaiting all of us who have trusted Him. This prize will be given out by the Lord, the fair or righteous Judge.

The Righteous God Does Not Forget Our Work for Him

The writer to the Hebrews noted that God remembered the work of the righteous. Indeed, He promised that He will forget our work.

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10 NASB)

The Message says,

God doesn’t miss anything. He knows perfectly well all the love you’ve shown him by helping needy Christians, and that you keep at it. (Hebrews 6:10 MsgB)

The Lord always takes notice of the work of those who are righteous. Our work for Him is never forgotten.

14. Jesus Christ Will Rule the World in Righteousness

Scripture says that God will someday rule the world in righteousness through the Person of Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews said,

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8 NRSV)

Righteous will be the hallmark of the coming kingdom of God.

The psalmist declared that God’s throne is established, or founded, on the righteousness and justice of God.

Your throne is founded on two strong pillars—righteousness and justice. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants. (Psalm 89:14 NLT)

The righteousness of God is indeed an important topic of Scripture. Studying it can help us better appreciate who God is and what He does. Furthermore, it will help us ordering the priorities of our lives. Like Him, we want to act righteously toward all others.

Summary – Question 9
Is God Righteous?

The Bible emphasizes that the God of Scripture is a righteous God. God’s righteousness, or justice, is an attribute that leads Him to do only those things that are right. He never does anything wrong. Indeed, it is impossible for Him to do anything unrighteous.

Therefore, humanity cannot correct His mistakes because He makes no mistakes. We should never assume that we know better than Him. In other words, we should never “second guess“ His decisions.

Consequently, the God of the Bible does not need to explain His actions to anyone. Indeed, who do we think we are that He owes us some explanation of what He does do or what He does not do? He is answerable to nobody; whether it be angel or human.

We also find that whenever He deals with humanity He deals righteously. In fact, the Scripture places a huge emphasis on the reliable or fair dealings of the Lord with the human race. He always treats us fairly and judges us righteously. He is never wrong in His judgments or unfair in His treatment.

Since God is a righteous God He must judge sin. The Bible teaches that His righteousness is shown through His judgment of evil. Indeed, God is no less righteous when He is a God of judgment who sends sinners away from His presence for all eternity. Along this line we find that God’s righteousness is compared to the unrighteousness of humans. His perfection in character and actions is compared to our imperfections in these areas. The contrast is obvious.

The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the righteousness of God. God righteously forgives the sins of those who trust Christ as well as crediting us with the His righteousness. This is the good news of the gospel. We are now “in Christ.”

The Scripture speaks of a reward that is waiting someday for those who have believed in Jesus Christ and who have faithfully served Him. It will be given out by the Lord, the righteous Judge.

Someday the Lord will rule the entire universe with absolute righteousness. This is indeed a wonderful day in which we can all look forward to.

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