What is righteousness? What is sin? What do the two have to do with each other?
~ Sin Defined ~
Make no mistake – there’ll be a reckoning at the end of this current age, or era. (Please refer to my book Finding the End of the World for details regarding the end of our world as we know it!) It’ll come as judgment and consequence both to those who were and are obedient to God’s instructions and those who’ve been disobedient. This disobedience, rebellion, or sin must be dealt with one way or another – either through a true change of heart that leads to a change of behavior (repentance) and resulting forgiveness, or by judgment and sentencing.
Many things are often loosely defined as sin because they contradict manmade doctrine even if there’s no apparent rebellion against God’s ways. Some core behaviors should be called sin but aren’t. Understanding what sin really is and how it often manifests itself will be crucial to avoiding it and keeping our eyes on the prize of eternal life with God and His Christ. Here are the primary forms of sin as identified by the Strong’s Concordance for the Old and New Testaments (‘H’ = Hebrew Old Testament; ‘G’ = Greek New Testament):
|Hebrew or Greek Word for Sin||Primary Meaning||Strong’s #|
|hamartanō||missing the mark||G264|
For the most part, sin is defined as an offense or ‘missing the mark’. But missing what mark? Offending whom? In this author’s opinion, sin is missing the standard (mark) set by God and is therefore offensive to Him. Wherever there’s sinful behavior, there’ll be something contrary to God’s ways or commandments. Let’s look at these standards and commandments in more detail in order to gain a better understanding of what we’re to strive for.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” (cf. John 14:15 & 23). This implies that not keeping His commandments will reflect a lack of love, or rebellious behavior – sin. What were these commandments? That we love God appropriately and man charitably (cf. Matthew 22:35-40). He tells us that the Law [of Moses] and teachings of the prophets are summed up in those two statements. This makes sense since nearly everything we can think of to do is related to our treatment of God and man. Here’s an interesting and related tidbit: the first five of the Ten Commandments relate to our treatment of, and obedience to, God; the last five dictate some basic guidelines for how we should treat our fellow man. Everything we do – or want to do – should be measured against those two categories. Want to know whether a particular action (whether intended or carried out) is a sin? Just consider how it will affect God or fellow human beings. Is it really that cut and dry?
Scripture clearly teaches that there’s a distinction between an isolated rebellion against God (sinful action that we need to repent of and be forgiven for) and practicing sinful behavior. While the former can be resolved along the journey toward righteousness, the latter will bring clear separation from God and invoke judgment! Practicing sinful behavior, which certainly implies a lack of repentance, will, as I’ve said several times, result in God’s wrath at the end-of-the-age judgment to come (see 1Corininthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21, for instance).
We know that sin is rebellion against God and His ways. Sin without repentance and the practice of sin will lead to separation from God and ultimate judgment. But how do we gain an understanding of God’s ways – the standards by which we should compare all we think and do? We can only come to know the mind of God and His instructions through two ways: (1) Communication with Him through the Spirit that resides in us once we’ve truly believed in the Christ and His incredible gift of salvation; (2) knowledge of God’s instructions and ways through exposure to the messages and testimonies found in the Bible.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” —John 14:26.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. —Romans 10:17.
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.
~ Righteousness Defined ~
“ . . . for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. —2 Timothy 3:14-17.
By Strong’s definition, righteousness is ‘equity of character or action; by implication innocent and holy – just and right; right – justice and its execution’ (see the Strong’s definitions and related verses below).
Essentially, we’re righteous if we’re living right and are just in our actions. This is the opposite of sinful behavior. Sin and righteousness are incompatible – we can’t be both at the same time!
Want to be righteous? Learn God’s ways (again, see 2Timothy 3:14-17 and others that tell us to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures of the Torah – Old Testament – and letters and Gospel accounts of the New Testament to accomplish this).
The righteous will be rewarded; the sinful will be punished. Sheep or goat – which will you be in the last days?
Keep an eye out for “Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss!” scheduled for a mid-2015 publication. There, you’ll find roughly 60 topics related to daily life (such as sex, religion, finances, tattooing, and everything in between!) along with practical application of God’s guidance for navigating those difficult waters!
And, for a very comprehensive and detailed study of the very important topic of God’s judgment to come and being rescued from it, feel free to read my 2011 guide titled, “Finding the End of the World” available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from www.ronbraley.com in paper and e-book formats. In the guide, you’ll find roughly 500 pages of building blocks to help you do your own complete and unbiased study based on Scripture and history!