Flee from youthful passions. Instead, pursue righteousness…
(2 Tim 2:22)
When Paul tells Timothy to ‘pursue righteousness’ what does he mean?
He can’t be telling him to get his ‘own’ righteousness. He can’t be telling him that his own efforts will ‘add to’ his righteousness. Paul believed that the righteousness he had recieved from God was a ‘gift.’
Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from obeying the law, but…a righteousness that comes from God!
…how much more will those who recieve God’s abundant proivision of grace and the gift of righteousness, reign in life!
So what does Paul mean by pursue righteousness?
Let’s look at the word ‘righteousness’ as Paul used it, in Greek.
Firstly, according to Bible Hub: the word is dikaiosuné (pronounced: dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay) and can also be translated as justice, which gives the verse an entirely different meaning.
Secondly, dikaiosuné means the righteosuness of which God is the source or author: a divine righteousness.
The word also means “a judicial verdict” or judicial approval.
It means the verdict of approval.
The approval of God.
It means what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes.
Paul knew that He was approved by God.
Paul knew that according to God’s court of law the verdict on him was the verdict of approval. Divine approval. He knew that he was approved by God, even though he called himself the ‘chief of sinners.’
And he knew that it wasn’t anything to do with his attempts to obey the law. It was because of Christ. Paul knew he was approved because Christ is approved – that he was the righteousness of Christ.
Christ our righteousness.
(1 Cor 1:30)
None of our efforts to ‘be righteous’ has any effect on our approval, on our standing before God.
We cannot gain God’s approval by good works. In fact, Isaiah says ‘all our righteous acts are as filthy rags’ compared to the righteousness God has given us as a free gift.
God has approved us, because Christ took our sin and consumed it on the cross.
This is the only way we can stand approved before God. This is the only way we can get a verdict of divine approval.
We can not earn our way out of hell. We each deserve to spend eternity apart from our loving Creator God because we have chosen sin over relationship with Him. Yet, because of His great love for us, He reached out to us, suffered the eternal consequences of our sin (death) in our place that we might live forever with Him.
He did it all. This is why Jesus cried out from the cross It is Finished.
He didn’t say ‘It is almost finished. Now it’s up to them to do their part. God, I hope they can sort their lives out and be good.’
Then what was the point of dying on that rugged cross?
The cross was the end of sin for all who believe.
Christ put away sin on the cross.
He ‘did away’ with it according to the writer of Hebrews.
We are no longer sinners. We are the righteousness of Christ.
We stand approved by God, not because of anything we have done or do – but because of what Christ did.
The sooner Christians understand that NOTHING they do can earn any gold stars from God, the sooner they can enter His amazing rest.
The sooner Christians stop preaching that we must struggle and strive to overcome our sin, the sooner we can all enter His rest.
Christ overcame sin on the cross.
He did it.
It is finished.
Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.
What we see when we sees Jesus, God sees when He sees us.
When we sin God doesn’t say
Oh no, not again! What is the matter with these people. My Son died for them and they just keep on sinning as if nothing happened. When are they going to get their acts together?
No. He doesn’t say that.
What did Paul say when he was struggling?
The things I want to do I don’t do, but what I hate I do! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul doesn’t look to himself to overcome sin and stop his wrong actions, he thanks God through Jesus Christ for dying in his place and taking his sin and crucifying it on the cross.
So, to return to our original question, what does Paul mean by ‘pursue’ righteousness?
My personal favorite definition of the word ‘pursue’ is ‘to set into flight.’
When I first became a Christian and realized I was a child of God, a prince, a son of The King of Kings, I felt like a cub who just found out he was a lion. Or a baby bird who had just found out he was an eagle !
Knowing who we are in Christ, holy, perfect, and glowing with His beauty and majesty, is like being an ugly duckling suddenly discovering we are Swans.
When Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness he is asking him to ‘set into flight’ the righteousness he has already received from God as a free gift.
So let us set into flight our righteousness, the divine righteousness we have received from God.
For we who trust in The Lord (and not in our own ability) will renew our strength.
We will rise on wings like eagles!