Word Study ‘Righteous’ – Part 02 – Relationships

In this post I consider the references to individual righteous people and the group of people called ‘the righteous’. This post will go into a fair degree of detail describing the relational nature of righteousness in the scriptures. The relationships between God, the righteous and creation.

This is the second of a series of posts on the concept of righteousness and justification in the scriptures. I’ve listed most (if not all) references to right, righteous, righteousness and just, justified and justification in the scriptures to do my own study on what the scriptures say about the concept.

Click on this link to go to the first post which has a summary and links to all.


God (Ex 9:27; Dt 32:4; Jdg 5:11; 1 Sam 12:7; Ps 7.9; 97.6; Mic 6:4; cf. Ps 103:6; Dan 9:16; 2 Chr 12:6; Ezr 9:15; Neh. 9:8)

Let God be true though every one were a liar (Rom 3.4). I should first state the obvious. Throughout the scriptures God is recognised as righteous.

6 The heavens proclaim his RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all the peoples see his glory. (Ps 97.6)

Individuals (a righteous person) (Gen 6.5-9; Hab 2.2-4; Mt 27.19; Mk 6.20; Lk 1.5-6; 2.25; Rom 5.6-7; Jas. 5:6; 2 Pet 2.6-10)

There are a large number of passages which refer to individuals describing them as righteous. For example;

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a RIGHTEOUS person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. (Rom 5.6-7)

5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a RIGHTEOUS man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Gen 6.5-9)

The term is clearly used to identify individuals. Calling someone righteous also says something about that person’s character and attitude. To describe someone’s character as righteous suggests some sort of standard of ethics and morality is being measured up against. I will discuss this in the next post on ethics.

Covenantal Designation – The Righteous One (Acts 3.13-14; cf. 7:52, 22:14 ‘fathers’)

In a few locations in the Next Testament there are references to a Jesus Christ as ‘the Righteous One’.

13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and RIGHTEOUS One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. (Acts 3.13-15)

The echoes of Ex 2.23-24 and Ex 3.14-17 in the passage demonstrate the covenantal overtones of the title.

Corporate (the righteous) (Gen 18.23-24; Ps 1.5-6; Ps 142.7; Job 17.8-9; Mt 13.43; Rom 2.13; 1 Pet 3.8-12; 2 Cor 6.14)

There are a large number of references to a group called ‘the righteous’ in the scriptures. Particularly in the Psalms.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the RIGHTEOUS; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the RIGHTEOUS, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Ps 1:5–6)

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the RIGHTEOUS will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mt 13.40-43)

13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are the RIGHTEOUS before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Rom 2.13) (The Greek is plural)

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit;

11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the RIGHTEOUS, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet 3.8-12)

Paul also refers to God’s people as ‘righteousness’.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has RIGHTEOUSNESS with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God. (2 Cor 6.14-16)

Contrasted to the wicked and sinners (Gen 18.23; Ps 1.5-6; Mt 9.13; Lk 15.7)

Quite often the expression is contrasted to others called ‘the wicked’ or ‘sinners’.

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine RIGHTEOUS persons who need no repentance. (Lk 15.1-7)

The usage of a righteous person and the righteous in the scriptures reflects an idealistic portrayal of these people. That is, it reflects a black and white, good and evil perspective on people. This polarised description of people runs right through the scriptures.

How the righteous relate to God

The righteous relate to God in a number of ways. They:

Trust God (Ps 52.6-8; 125.1-4)

1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.

3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the RIGHTEOUS, lest the RIGHTEOUS stretch out their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! (Ps 125.1-4)

Take Refuge in God (Ps 5.11-12; 11.1-7; 64.10; Prov 18.10)

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.

12 For you bless the RIGHTEOUS, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Ps 5.11-12)

Rejoice in God (Ps 64.10; 68.3)

10 Let the RIGHTEOUS one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult! (Ps 64.10)

Give thanks to God (Ps 140.13)

13 Surely the RIGHTEOUS shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. (Ps 140.13)

Obey God (Gen 7.1,5; 18.17-19; Ps 112.1-9; Pr 2.20; Eze 18.9)

7 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are RIGHTEOUS before me in this generation. … 5 And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him. (Gen 7.1,5)

God’s relationship with the righteous

Relational connotations

There are a large number of connotations associated with God’s relationship with the righteous.

The righteous have favour with God (Gen 6.8-9; Prov 12.2-3)

The righteous walk with God (Gen 6.8-9; Ps 1.6; 14.5)

8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a RIGHTEOUS man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (Gen 6.8-9)

The righteous dwell with God (Ps 140.13)

13 Surely the RIGHTEOUS shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence. (Ps 140.13)

God watches over the righteous (Job 36.7; Ps 34.15; cf. 1 Pet 3.12)

7  He does not withdraw his eyes from the RIGHTEOUS, but with kings on the throne he sets them forever, and they are exalted. (Job 36.7)

God blesses the righteous (Ps 5.12; Prov 3.33; 10.6)

12 For you bless the RIGHTEOUS, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Ps 5.12)

God tests the righteous (Ps 11.5; Jer 20.12)

12 O LORD of hosts, who tests the RIGHTEOUS, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. (Jer 20.12)

God upholds the righteous (Ps 37.17)

16 Better is the little that the RIGHTEOUS has than the abundance of many wicked.

17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the RIGHTEOUS. (Ps 37.16-17)

God will not forsake the righteous (Ps 37.25; 55.22)

23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;

24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the RIGHTEOUS forsaken or his children begging for bread. (Ps 37.23-25)

God loves the righteous (Prov 15.6-9)

6 In the house of the RIGHTEOUS there is much treasure, but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.

7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.

8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.

9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Prov 15.6-9)

God hears the prayers of the righteous (Prov 15.28-29)

28 The heart of the RIGHTEOUS ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the RIGHTEOUS. (Prov 15.28-29)

Relational Hierarchy

The righteous have a special relationship with God that subordinates them under his authority. The righteous are called:

His people (Ps 14.5-7; 94.14-15; 125.2-3; Lk 1.75-77; cf. Ps 106.3-5; Isa 26.7-11; 32.16-18; 56.1-3; 60.20-21)

14 For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;

15 for justice will return to the RIGHTEOUS, and all the upright in heart will follow it. (Ps 94.14-14)

His nation (Ps 33.1,12; Isa 26.2; 58.1-2; cf. Je 31:23)

2 Open the gates, that the RIGHTEOUS nation that keeps faith may enter in.

3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isa 26.2-4)

His servants (Ps 34.21-22; Mal 3.17-18)

17 “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the RIGHTEOUS and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. (Mal 3.17-18)

His saints (Ps 31.18,23; 37.27-31; 97.10-12; Rev 19.8)

28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 the RIGHTEOUS shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. (Ps 37.28-29)

His children (Mt 13.43; 1 Jn 2.28-3.1,7-10)

43 Then the RIGHTEOUS will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mt 13.43)

Clearly you can see from each of these ‘the righteous’ are clearly God’s chosen people. When associated with a corporate body, the designation ‘the righteous’ is virtually synonymous with God’s people.

Covenantal Connotations

There are also covenantal connotations to the expression. I will review these in greater detail in a following post. Here is a quick preview.

The righteous will inherit the land (Ps 37.29; 125.3; Isa 60.20-21 cf. Gen 12.3)

29 The RIGHTEOUS shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. (Ps 37.29)

The righteous will inherit God’s kingdom (Mt 13.36-43; cf. 1 Cor 6.9)

43 Then the RIGHTEOUS will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mt 13.43)

The righteous receive God’s promises (Heb 10.35-38)

35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;

38 but my RIGHTEOUS one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Heb 10.35-38)

The author of Hebrews applies this covenant blessing to those who existed before the Mosaic covenant.

We can see this in Heb 11. Abel (Heb 11.4) ‘commended as righteous’, Enoch (Heb 11.5), Noah (Heb 11.7) the ‘heir of righteousness’ (cf. 2 Pet 2.5), Abraham and Sarah (Heb 11.8-12) are mentioned.

‘These all’, referring to the above, ‘died in faith, not having received the things promised’ (Heb 11.13). The promises of course are part of the God’s covenant. So in this passage we see the covenant covenantal associated with faith and righteousness. Most of these existed before the Abrahamic covenant.

Abraham and Sarah (Heb 11.17-19) are again mentioned and so is Moses (Heb 11.23-28). Again the author of Hebrews says;

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb 11.39-40)

My point here is that the righteous receive covenant blessings and promises. Even those who existed before the covenant was made.

Salvific Connotations

God also saves the righteous in various ways.

God provides for the righteous (Prov 10.3)

2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but RIGHTEOUSNESS delivers from death.

3 The LORD does not let the RIGHTEOUS go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. (Prov 10.2-3)

God saves the righteous from wrath (Gen 18.22-33; Mt 13.40-43,47-50)

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the RIGHTEOUS with the wicked? (Gen 18.22-23)

God saves the righteous from evildoers (Ps 34.15-22; 37.37-40)

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.

38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the RIGHTEOUS is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (Ps 37.37-40)

The righteous are enrolled in the book of the living (Ps 69.27-28)

27 Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. 28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the RIGHTEOUS. (Ps 69.27-28)

The righteous receive eternal life (Mt 25.31-33,46)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. … 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the RIGHTEOUS into eternal life.” (Mt 25.31-33,46)

This finishes this post. In the next we consider the ethical connotations of righteousness.

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