Life-Study of 2 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
We need to have a proper definition of righteousness. Unbelievers, of course, do not know the meaning of righteousness in the Bible. But many believers in Christ also do not have a full understanding of the significance of righteousness. Strictly speaking, in the Bible righteousness signifies the expression of God’s image. This means that, according to the Bible, righteousness is God expressed.
How can we say that righteousness in the Bible signifies the expression of God? In order to answer this question, we need to see that in the Word righteousness refers in the first place to the fulfilling of the law. If we keep the law and fulfill it, we are right. We have righteousness. But if we break the law, or if we offend others by breaking the law, we are not right. We do not have righteousness. Hence, the first meaning of righteousness in the Bible is that righteousness is the fulfillment of the law.
The law denotes the Ten Commandments. But what is the significance of the Ten Commandments? The Old Testament indicates clearly that the Ten Commandments are the testimony of God. The ark was called the ark of the testimony (Exo. 25:16), and the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony (Exo. 38:21). The testimony here refers to the law. The law, therefore, is God’s testimony.
As a testimony of God, the Ten Commandments were a picture of God, a description of Him. This means that the law is a clear description, definition, and explanation of God. It reveals what kind of God our God is.
If you study the Ten Commandments, you will see that our God is holy. He is not common. He is separate, different from everything outside of Himself. Therefore, one of the commandments declares that we should have only one God and not make any images or worship idols. Furthermore, we should not take the Lord’s name in vain, and we should recognize that the Sabbath is a day of memorial of God as the unique Creator.
By studying carefully the first four commandments, we see that these commandments indicate that God is jealous. He is jealous because He is holy and unique. The Bible uses the marriage relationship to illustrate God’s uniqueness. Just as a wife has a unique husband, so we, the people of God, should not have any other God. God is our unique Husband, and we should not have another husband besides Him. Just as a woman’s husband is separate from all other men and thus is not common, so God is separate from everything else and is not common. This means that our God is holy.
If we read the last six commandments, we shall see that God is righteous. He is a just God, a God of justice. Furthermore, He is a God of love and of light. Therefore, according to the description of God contained in the Ten Commandments, God is holy and righteous and He is a God of love and light. This is our God.
The last six commandments definitely reveal that God is righteous and a God of love and light. To honor our parents is surely right. It is right not to murder, not to commit fornication, not to steal, not to bear false witness, and not to covet. If we fulfill these commandments, we shall be right with others in society. Moreover, fulfilling these six commandments is also a matter of love. Certainly someone who commits murder does not have love. If you love others, you would not commit fornication, steal, or bear false witness. Neither would you covet others’ possessions. Therefore, the Ten Commandments present a God who is holy and righteous and full of love and light.
If we keep the Ten Commandments, we have righteousness. This righteousness is the expression of God, that is, the image of God. Hence, according to the biblical meaning, righteousness is the keeping of the law to present to others an image, an expression, of God. In this way we make known what kind of God we worship. If we are righteous, full of righteousness, this righteousness becomes the expression of the God we worship and serve.
Suppose someone claims to be of God and says that he worships God and serves Him. However, this person steals, lies, and covets. This would cause others to say that they would never believe in that man’s God. Such a person would give others the wrong impression of God. But suppose we worship God, serve Him, and claim to be of Him. Suppose we also live a life that is holy, separated unto God, and a life that is righteous and full of love and light, a life that is considerate of others. We honor our parents, we do not steal, we do not bear false witness, and we do not covet. In other words, we serve God and worship God and we are also righteous. As a result, we have the expression, the image, of God. Then others will realize that our God is surely the true God. They will have the desire to take this God as their God.
Christ, our precious Redeemer, now dwells within us as the life-giving Spirit to be our life and life supply. Now we have a wonderful motivation and supply in us. As the Spirit, Christ supplies us, motivates us, and even carries us all day long. If we live by Him and live Him out, our living will be genuine righteousness. This righteousness is the living image, the living expression, of God. This is the reason we say that the Spirit is within us as life and that righteousness is the expression outwardly.
The purpose of the ministry of the new covenant is to minister into the saints the life-giving Spirit and righteousness. Both the Spirit and righteousness are actually Christ Himself. Christ living within us is the life-giving Spirit, and Christ expressed through us is righteousness as the image of God. How wonderful!
In 3:8 and 9 Paul speaks first of the Spirit and then of righteousness. In verse 8 he says, “How shall not rather the ministry of the Spirit be in glory?” Here we read of the ministry of the Spirit. In verse 9 Paul goes on to say, “For if the ministry of condemnation came in glory, much rather the ministry of righteousness abounds in glory.” Here we have the ministry of righteousness. This is our reason for saying that the ministry of the new covenant is a ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness.
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