Psalm 106:3 “Blessed [are] they that keep judgment, [and] he that doeth righteousness at all times.”
1 John 2:29 “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.”
1 John 3:7 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
Poieō [G4160]: The AV/ KJV translates G4160 as follows: do (357x), make (113x),bring forth (14x), commit (9x), cause (9x), work (8x), shew (5x), bear (4x), keep (4x), fulfil (3x), deal (2x), perform (2x), not translated (3x), miscellaneous (43x), vr do (3x). Click the title link to see the full meaning…
Dikaiosynē [G1343]: is always translated as righteousness in the AV/KJV; this word means (in conjunction with the active verb, Poieō, to do, to make, to bring forth, to show forth…): “integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting…“
1 John 3:10 is quite clear; it states:
“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
Note that it starts with in this; that is hereby, or as a result of, or by this thing or that, the children of God are made manifest. By doing, bringing forth, or showing forth righteousness, the children of God are manifested. Likewise, those who are not children of God are made manifest by their lack of doing, bringing forth, or showing forth any God-wrought righteousness. This truth is a fearful one, a very fearful one, for whatever “doing righteousness” means, it is tantamount to declaring (manifesting, evidencing or showing forth) whether one is, or is not, a child of God.
Many will argue that whatever doing righteousness means, it absolutely cannot mean any keeping of God’s commandments, or His law. They point to Romans 10:4-5 which states:
“For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”
Likewise, they will point to James 2:10-12 which states:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”
However, I believe one of the key passages to understanding the matter is Galatians 5:1-6 which states:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
Note some key terms here: liberty; justified by; faith; worketh; and love. In Galatians 5:1-6, we see a warning that anyone who is circumcised (a form of keeping the ceremonial law, which is the law of Moses, or the Mosaic law) for the purpose of justification before God, will have no such justification, because (1) the only God-honouring justification is the one procured by the blood of Christ, and (2) true justification is made manifest before all, by God-given faith, which is in direct opposition to dead, carnal works (seeing that without faith, it is impossible to please God, it is impossible to work, obey, or do anything that is pleasing in His sight, per Hebrews 11:6).
Understand also, that it is not just any faith that manifests justification and salvation, but a faith which (1) works and which (2) works by love. A faith that doesn’t work, that isn’t accompanied by God-wrought good works, is a dead faith for “…faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” – James 2:17. Moreover, a faith that doesn’t work by agape love is also dead. Why? Because it is of sin, and because it is sin. Any “faith” that is apart from agape love cannot be divine, God-wrought faith. How do we know this? We know it because 1 John 3:4 declares:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for SIN IS the transgression of the law.”
So sin is rightly defined as transgressing the law. And yet, (agape) love is rightly defined as obeying the law (which is the exact opposite of transgressing). The law in view here is not the Mosaic law (the source of so much confusion in these matters), but the entirety of the word of God (all that it commands and exhorts) that wasn’t specifically put away, being nailed to the cross with Christ Jesus at Calvary.
Yet, how do we know that love is actually defined as the keeping of the New Testament law (all of the imperatives, exhortations, warnings, etc. for us today)? We know this because God clearly tells us. God unequivocally states in Romans 13:10…
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.”
Love is defined as a fulfilling of the law; that word fulfilling is plērōma [G4138]. It is a noun which means a fulness, a completeness, a fulfilling or keeping. Thus, agape love is simply an all-encompassing synonym for, or primary header/container for, all of God’s commands for us today. You love one another through obedience to God’s word… period. Get it out of your head that love is just a feeling, just an emotion, just something we mystically have because we have Christ. Love is work, love is labour, love is obedience, and love is manifesting/fulfilling righteousness. There simply is no expression/manifestation/presence of agape love, apart from obeying God’s word. This is why we also read:
I John 5:3 “For THIS IS the love of God [i.e. the very definition of divine love], that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
2 John 1:6 “And this is love [i.e. the very definition of divine love], that we walk after his commandments [plural]. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Matthew 5:43-46 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”
[Note: The instruction is to love our enemies; this is a command, an imperative, even for us today. That commandment is explained to us by the extant law of God which teaches that we love our enemies not through mere feelings or sentiment alone, but by blessing them, doing good to them, and praying for them. Such is how you (agape) love your enemies, by taking biblical action, by doing righteousness. Anything short of this is not true agape love, and oh how we fall so far short of this throughout our lives].
The reason why Galatians 5:1-6 is so important is because it commands us to stand fast in our liberty and to not get caught up in works for justification, especially not abrogated ceremonial works but (as James and others declare), none of our works are to be deemed as the grounds for our justification, not even works pertaining to commands for our day. Likewise, not even the obedience that God works out in us, when he causes us to obey His commands, is to be deemed a ground, or basis, for our salvation. We never work for justification; however, we do work as a result of already being justified. We work out the good works (i.e. we doeth the righteousness and adorn the Gospel in the manner) that God aforehand declared that we should walk in. We work out the good works for which we were created, as His workmanship, for He created us unto good works, even works of righteousness.
We must also read Romans 10:4-5 (quoted above) in context. This passage is not condemning doing righteousness, obeying the law, keeping the commandments so as to do them, etc. This passage is condemning the notion that one can strive to obey the law so as to establish a righteousness of one’s own before God. Remember, Romans 10:1-3 states:
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Many false prophets to their eternal destruction, and many of God’s elect (for a season), confuse and conflate obedience to God’s word FOR justification and obedience to His word AS A RESULT OF already being perfectly justified in/by/through Christ Jesus. Scripture only condemns the former, never the latter. God never condemns obeying His commands/law/word as a result of being justified because He works out that obedience in/by/through us, declaring that he has set us free, set us at liberty, to obey Him and His word — by His effectual grace. God only frowns upon (in fact, He abominates) attempts to put forth a righteousness that is in lieu of the one that Christ alone established, and that Christ, Himself, is for His people. Christ is the righteousness and justification of the saint, and both with Him and by Him, we can work (fulfill, manifest, outwardly establish) the righteousness (the good works, the labours of love, the obedience to His word) that He promises to work out in us.
This is why, to point to a passage like the following, to say that we cannot (and ought not) attempt to do any righteousness is grievous error. We are called upon to do righteousness; we are expected to do so; having been set at liberty to do so. Consider: Titus 3:4-7
“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Clearly this passage, as with all such, is teaching that our quickening; our being born from above; our initial salvation has nothing to do with our own works of righteousness, but everything to do with the righteousness the Lord Jesus established on the cross of Calvary. Moreover, no one ever maintains, or seals, or guarantees their salvation (or their righteousness/justification) before God by their own, personal works (or even by the works the Lord, Himself, foreordained for us, and manifests through us). All aspects of our salvation (the start, maintenance, and perfecting), is one hundred percent of Christ. The righteousness that we do/fulfill/manifest/establish, in light of the LORD being our perfect righteousness, has nothing to do with our legal/judicial state before God, and everything to do with our usefulness during this earthly sojourn. We are saved for a purpose and that purpose is to know Christ, love Him, obey Him, and to share the Gospel truth, and all that it entails, with others.
Now, if you still have doubts, just ask yourselves: can you do good to others apart from, or when running contrary to the obedience of God’s extant law and commandments? Can you adorn the doctrine of Christ (Titus 2:10) apart from obeying God’s commands, warnings, and exhortations for us today? Can you work a labour of (agape) love that is actually contrary to the word and will of God? Are you ever manifesting love towards anyone when treating them, or interacting with them, in a manner that runs afoul of what God commands? The truth should be clearly evident, it’s right before our eyes. Sadly, in our fallen nature (as it relates to this body of death), we need much grace to see it, internalise it, and to live it out — day by day by day.
There are many teachers out there who will challenge the above. Woe to them. Far too many are quick to opine, challenging the sound teaching of others (openly no less, in venues that are not at all appropriate). Many who are not qualified to teach, or who have not yet been called to do so, pick up a mantle of their own, and spout off words without knowledge. Their understanding is darkened and silly women (and men for that matter) fall for it. They mean well in their own minds; they would affirm one another’s good intentions and “right understanding;” but they carry on as blind leaders and followers of the blind.They have no clear understanding of Christian liberty; the Christian calling; the promises of God; or the power of God.
If the Lord has saved you, then He is saving you, and will perfect (as in finalise) that salvation upon His return. After our inner man, and before God judicially, we are already perfect in Christ. However, in this body of death, subjectively, we have anything but a perfect walk. Moreover, by saying “in this body of death,” we declare that we are still in a body of death, and that our body is not yet perfected (and thus, we are not yet manifestly perfected, holistically considered). Beware of those who argue otherwise, who strive needlessly, and who distract from truth. The fact is, we are called to avoid such. We are called to:
“…mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” Romans 16:17-18.
Hopefully, some are true Christians that are temporarily deceived, straying for a season. Yet, you cannot always distinguish. This is why we are commanded in Titus 3:10-11 “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Pray for them, love them, accept them when they repent, but avoid them until they do. It’s difficult at times, very difficult; however, though obeying God’s commands should never be grievous, no one said it would always be (or even often be) easy.
May God give us much grace, wisdom, knowledge, and love, to do His will.
To Him be the glory in Christ Jesus,