Day 2: Legal Righteousness

Luke 1:5-7 :

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the priestly division of Abijah. He had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years.

Zacharias and Elisabeth were getting pretty old and even though the Bible says here that they were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord,” God had refused to give them any children. This is yet another example of how righteous people may have to endure hardship and reveals that some of the things said by preachers today are not correct at all. It wasn’t because of anything that this couple had done that they were unable to have children. It was entirely God’s purpose as we will soon see.

I’m not saying that Zacharias and Elisabeth had no sin. We will see that this is also not true in the story, but we do read here that they were “walking blamelessly.” It is worth thinking about how a person under the Law could be considered “righteous before God” when they were clearly not saved by Jesus who hadn’t come yet. Under the Law, the Jews were required do many outward things that set them apart. We can see here that God gave the Jews the ability to do what was right. He also gave them provision for when they accidently did something wrong through the offering of sacrifices that represented what Jesus would do someday to pay for sins. We read here that this couple was living by all of these “commandments and ordinances” and it made them righteous.

Paul talks about his “righteousness” under the law of Moses in this passage:

Philippians 3:4-9 :

though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. However, what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

The problem with the law is that everyone who tried it failed in some way or another. Legal righteousness in the Jewish religion before Christ was not possible without sacrifice. Attempts today to be righteous by law are very dangerous in that there are no sacrifices available that God accepts other than the one that Jesus offered, and when you take this sacrifice, you must also leave your own righteousness behind as Paul explained here. When Paul was “found blameless” it was only with men. God found plenty of blame. He had already opened the Holy Place by the blood of the lamb; Jesus who died for our sin.

We shouldn’t be confused by the reality that God accepted Jewish righteousness. This was the a system for obtaining righteousness before Jesus came because it adequately pointed directly to His coming while also demonstrating the lack of human ability to create righteousness in the flesh. It created a vacuum that could only be filled by the coming of the Messiah. We stand with Paul at this point in history and our righteousness “is from God by faith.”