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The Possessors of Righteousness

The Possessors of Righteousness

From Redeemed with Judgment: Sermons on Isaiah: Vol. 1, pages 481-482, by Homer C. Hoeksema.

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“Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever” (Isa. 60:21). Those who inherit the earth are the righteous.

They are righteous in the legal or objective sense. They are those who are declared innocent, who are free before the tribunal of God’s justice, and who have a righteousness of God. They are righteous in the deepest sense according to God’s eternal decree in Christ, for out of grace they are justified before God from all eternity. They are righteous through the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was obedient unto the death of the cross in their stead and in their behalf. They are righteous through the seal of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was delivered on account of our offenses and raised again on account of our justification (Rom. 4:25). They are righteous by and out of faith, justified without works. Faith is not another work; faith is not a condition that we must fulfill; faith is not partly our work and partly God’s work. Faith is the God-given power and the God-given activity whereby his elect people cling to the power of God unto salvation revealed in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be righteous by faith. Finally, they shall be righteous in the final judgment. Their complete, final, full, and public justification is still coming, and when it comes, they will be justified in Christ before the whole world.

To be righteous is more than something legal. It is to be righteous also in the inward, spiritual, ethical sense. He is righteous who, in the entire condition of his nature—heart, mind, soul, and strength—is in perfect harmony with the law of God. To be righteous is to be without sin and without any inclination to unrighteousness. He is righteous whose works and outward deeds, arising from a righteous nature, are all in harmony with the law and will of God.

The word “all” is intended for emphasis: “Thy people also shall be all righteous.” Now this is not the case. God’s people are not yet all righteous. They now have only a small beginning of the new obedience. Besides, God’s people as a whole, his church, is not all righteous yet. The church does not consist of all righteous today, nor did it in the old dispensation. The history of the Old Testament reveals again and again that Israel was a mixed people in which the righteous were very few. At one time there were so few righteous and there was so little manifestation of their righteousness that Elijah said to the Lord, “I, even I only, am left” (1 Kings 19:10). The Lord said to him, “Wait a minute, Elijah. I have seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” But out of all Israel, even the seven thousand were very few. Isaiah speaks of the same truth in the beginning of his prophecy: “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:9). So it is with the church of all ages, and so it is with the church of the new dispensation. The church is mixed, and the fleshly seed is always present, whether it rises from within or enters from without. However faithful it may be, there is no church discipline on earth that ever can or will realize a church that is all righteous. What a source of misery! What sin, what error, what strife, what persecution, what separation, what grief there are!

But all of this will be radically changed in the new creation. The church will be entirely righteous, and it will be exclusively righteous— both senses of “all” are intended in the text. There will be no spot or blemish left, and the entire church will be completely united in the bond of perfectness in Christ her head. This is the promise of God to his people, and his word is sure!

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