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Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK), unless indicated otherwise.
Proverbs 4: 18 (KJV)
WHO ARE THE JUST? And what is their path? The observation is made by Solomon, author of many wise and pithy sayings for the guidance of all who seek to live godly. Though reputedly somewhat neglectful of his own admonitions, Solomon’s wisdom is regarded to this day as sound and instructive, both in the ordinary course of life, and especially in the walk of the consecrated – those whose chief concern is the service of God. Theirs is, specifically, the path of the Just.
But perceptions differ widely as to the precise identity of the Just. Some might regard them as those fair-minded people whose conduct is free from favouritism or self-interest, conforming to established ethical and moral standards of behaviour. And such evidence of noble character is by no means confined to those of a religious disposition, who profess to faith in a God of one kind or another. Many agnostics and atheists display admirable justice in their dealings with others, and may be described as just men and women.
And the Scriptures do indeed support the idea that exemplary personal justice, generous respect for the rights of others, has great merit in the sight of God. Challenged as to which was the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied (Matthew 22: 37-40):
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Thus unwittingly many unbelievers keep the second part of the divine law, which without question will be held to their credit when – to their surprise – they find themselves raised from death to a new life in Christ’s earthly Kingdom. But having in this life failed to keep the first and greatest commandment, they are strictly speaking among those described by the Apostle Paul as the ‘unjust’ (Acts 24: 15, KJV).
Since Paul further states ‘There is no-one righteous, not even one’ (Romans 3: 10), how can any be pleasing to God? How can any be regarded as just or justified?
There is a way.
While justification in the general sense means to be declared or proved to be right, in Biblical terms being ‘justified’ describes the condition of being accounted as right or as just, in spite of human faults and failings. As the Apostle John beautifully assures believers (1 John 2: 1, 2)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, . . .
And Peter endorses the concept when he states (1 Peter 3: 18, KJV):
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.
Such a favour is not granted to any who do not appreciate its value or acknowledge their need for a Saviour, so that unbelievers, as unjust in the Godly sense, are not counted as walking along the Path of the Just.
They are everywhere. Admission to the privileges of Christian fellowship has usually been limited to those who conform to certain standards of belief and conduct. At one extreme, adherence to an impossibly rigid and comprehensive set of theological concepts is required before acceptance as a worthy member of the community. On the other hand, a simple acceptance of the Lord Jesus as Saviour, perhaps being ‘born again’, and conforming to approved standards of moral conduct is all that is required to be welcomed into Christian fellowship. Baptism of infants is deemed essential by many traditional churches, while adult water baptism – with Biblical example – is practised by others.
Among professing Christians there are differing views as to the call to follow Christ. Probably the majority seek to cultivate the ethics of His teachings, but hampered by human failings make only poor progress. While trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus to make them acceptable to God – being justified by their faith – they draw back from the prospect of full discipleship, from the giving of their lives in consecration to God.
To many the Christian life is a comfortable existence, a shelter from the ugliness of a sinful world, which they may pray for and support financially within their means. But having held back in their full devotion to Christ, they receive the grace of God in vain and their faith justification lapses until such time as they return in the earthly resurrection. And surely most will become pleasing to God in that day, and happy in a perfect earthly life.
Yet there have been many throughout the Gospel age who have responded to a burning urge to be ambassadors for Christ. Such zeal became especially prominent in the latter years of the 19th century, when dedicated missionaries devoted their lives to preaching the gospel of salvation to those hitherto having no hope. Others undertook the practical work of ministering to the physical needs of the world’s poor and oppressed. Thus in their devoted service for Christ they responded to the appeal of Paul, recorded in Romans 12: 1:
I urge you, [brothers and sisters,] in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.
A further body of consecrated disciples are those of a studious nature who earnestly search the Scriptures to learn more of God’s plans for the blessing of mankind in the ages to come. This is pleasing to Him, and as Amos 3: 7 puts it: ‘Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.’ These searchers into divine revelation, while often viewed as neglecting the more evangelistic work of ‘winning souls’ for Christ, devote time and mental energy to the study of the Divine plan and, perhaps more than most, can give a reasonable answer to the questions that baffle others, both believers and unbelievers.
The Scriptures seem to indicate that the faithful of what may be termed the Gospel or Church Age are now gathered, raised to the heavenly inheritance with their Lord. But while the light of their path as the Just of that era has led them to their own perfect day, they still await their manifestation to the world as kings and priests, when they will reign over the earth, extending to every child of Adam the merit of the ransom paid by Christ (Revelation 5: 10; 20: 6; 1 Timothy 2: 5, 6). In that day, the prayer of generations will be answered: ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6: 10).
The administrative and restorative work of that thousand years – called the Millennial Age – will require a ministry of reconciliation, the chief ministers having been fitted in every respect for that work. Other righteous men and women, living before Christ, died in faith, having walked the path of the Just. Sleeping in death, they await their resurrection and prospective roles as officers under the new administration. Abraham, for example, believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Galatians 3: 6). And the eloquent Isaiah in poetic terms (35: 8) visualises that day when
a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. . . . it will be for those who walk in that Way.
And he urges us (62: 10) to
Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.
And what of the faithful of the present day, trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, believing in the divine promise of eternal life for the worthy? Surely they, too, will be workers for Christ’s Kingdom. Having understood, and perhaps experienced more than most, the exceeding sinfulness of sin in this present evil world, they may play a prominent and practical role in leading earth’s returning multitudes to a restored relationship with the loving God who gave His only-begotten Son to die as their ransom price.
The great majority of Christians are as yet unaware of their future activities, but their zeal is often exemplary. However, this particular path of service is not one in which to linger and merely view the landscape. Increased knowledge brings increased responsibility, and demands action now, rather than merely to stand and wait for blessings to unfold in a distant future. The destination is real, and the believer must press on, in spite of present discouragements or future persecution, no matter how long or meandering the route may be.
Copyright November 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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