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Righteousness in Romans (2) Wrong Use

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The Pharisees focussed on personal righteousness. They studied the Torah intently to identify its standards for personal righteousness. They strived to adhere to these standards as much as they could in their personal lives. Unfortunately, this limited their focus, as much of the Torah is guidance for community life, whereas they had to concentrate on the standards that an individual could apply to their own situation.

Using a manual for the wrong purpose is a risky practice. If I look in a limousine manual for instructions about how to operate my kitchen refrigerator, I might get a few hints about how it works, but I will miss most of what I need to know about the operation of my refrigerator. The manual explains how the limousine should be operated. It might have a little bit of information about the limousine’s drinks refrigerator, but it will not be a good source of information about household refrigerators.

The problem is not with that manual, but with using the manual in a way that it was not developed for. This was the mistake that Paul and the Pharisees made when they tried to use the Torah as a manual for personal righteousness.

The problem with seeking personal righteousness through the law is that the Torah provides guidance to people in a community/society that allows them to live together in peace without needing to be perfect. The Torah does not define personal righteousness; it is specifically designed to allow unrighteous people to live together in relative harmony.

The Torah does not provide a standard for personal righteousness. If you look for it seriously, you will not find it. I explain this in an article called works righteousness. Most of the virtues taught in the New Testament are not even mentioned in the law. Providing a standard for personal righteousness was not the purpose of the Torah. Until the Holy Spirit was poured out, it would be pointless because it would be setting people up to fail.


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