Four Aspects of Divine Righteousness -- By: Fred G. Zaspel
RAR 6:4 (Fall 1997) p. 67
Four Aspects of Divine Righteousness
Psalm 97:2 declares that God dwells in “righteousness and justice” (tsedek and mishpat). That is to say, He is Himself right and true. He is morally and ethically right, and He acts according to what is proper. This, the psalmist affirms, is God’s very “habitation.” Righteousness is no accident to Him, no incidental quality. It is essential to His very being and always characterizes everything that He does. He is and does only what is right and just.
This theme is common in Scripture. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” (Gen. 18:25). He is a “righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:8). “He will judge the world in righteousness” (Ps. 9:8; Acts 17:31). The Father is the “righteous Father” (John 17:25), the Son is the righteous Advocate (1 John 2:1), and the Spirit was sent to convict the world concerning righteousness (John 16:8, 10). God is righteous, and He always acts only in keeping with what is just.
But what is that righteousness which is so characteristic of God? How shall we understand this attribute? The primary words which the biblical writers use (tsedek and dikaiosune) denote, in a physical sense, “being straight,” or in a moral sense, “being right,” and hence, “conformity to an ethical or moral standard,”1 being and doing what is right. One who is righteous “lives up” to expected obligations; he acts in accordance with what should be done. A righteous man is one who is right and who does what is suitable, one who maintains a “right relation with”2 what is expected.
For this reason, theologians have described God’s righteousness as the ethical dimension of His holiness, or as His “transitive holiness,”3 or as a “mode” of His holiness.4 It is that aspect of His holiness which distinguishes Him as consistent with His own moral demands.
But then what is that rule, that standard of moral rectitude to which God is conformed? What law is it that obligates Him? We must be careful at this point not to imply that
RAR 6:4 (F...
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