Just finished reading your book, Turn and Live: The Power of Repentance.
Exegetically sound and insightful. A masterful work. THANK YOU so much.
Just one question: on page 115 you state that the righteousness of Zacharias and Elizabeth spoken of in Luke 1:6-7 is not speaking of imputed righteousness.
How does this reconcile with “none is righteous” (Rom 3:10)?
That is a very good question.
The answer is that Rom 3:10 is talking about being righteous in the sense of absolute righteousness. No human, other than the God-Man, has ever been righteous in that sense (Gal 3:10; Jas 2:10).
The word righteous (dikaios) is used 79 times in the NT. It is used over a dozen times in an absolute sense to refer to the Lord Jesus and to God the Father. Jesus is often called the just Man/One (e.g., Matt 27:19; Luke 23:47; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; see also 1 Pet 3:18; 1 John 2:1, 29; Rev 16:5). He also referred to God as righteous Father (John 17:25).
But most of those 79 uses refer to a relative righteousness, that is, righteousness that is less than perfection, but that manifests that the person in question is abiding in Christ and in His Word. The following people are called righteous in the NT: Joseph, husband of Mary (Matt 1:19), the Gentile believers who survive the Tribulation (Matt 25:37, 46), John the Baptist (Mark 6:20), Elizabeth and Zacharias (Luke 1:6-7), the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25), Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50), Abel (Heb 11:4), and Lot (2 Pet 2:7-8).
Consider the example of the parents of John the Baptist. Luke reports, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). Notice that he indicates the sense in which they were righteous before God: “walking [or because they walked] in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” The word blameless (amemptos) means that they were above reproach.
Paul used that same word to indicate that all believers were to be blameless and without fault (Phil 2:15). Peter uses a related word (amōmētos) to say that believers should be diligent “to be found by Him…blameless” (2 Pet 3:14). He is referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Some believers will be found by Christ to have been blameless in this life. Likewise, elders are required to be blameless (anenklētos, Titus 1:6, 7).
Maybe an example would help. The problem is, I can’t think of a good one.
I’ll try some weak ones. When a police officer shoots and kills someone in circumstances that are judged to be above reproach, that is a called a righteous shooting. It does not mean that there was no other alternative or even that the officer made the best choice. It just means that he was justified under the circumstances in firing his weapon.
In terms of baseball, there is a Hall of Fame for the greatest baseball players of all time. Most would argue that Babe Ruth was one of the top five ballplayers ever. So, in that sense, he was a righteous baseball player. But if the Lord Jesus chose to play baseball, He would never fail to get on base, would never make an error, would always play flawlessly—assuming He wanted to do so. (Plus, He would live sinlessly off the field too, unlike Ruth who was often guilty of immorality.)
The people called righteous in the Bible are believers who lived exemplary lives.i Here are some other designations used in the NT to refer to exemplary believers: overcomers (e.g., Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26), those who are spiritual = pneumatikoi (1 Cor 2:15; Gal 6:1), and those who are approved (Rom 16:10; 1 Cor 11:19; 2 Cor 10:18; 2 Tim 2:15). All of those designations mean the same thing. There are some believers who are mature and godly. They are rightly called righteous.
i We might wonder about Lot. However, he was tormented by the wickedness around him in Sodom. Besides, if God in His Word calls Lot righteous, then he was indeed righteous. In some sense, Lot underscores the relative sense in which the word righteous can be used.