According to David, to be with God we must be blameless and righteous. But we’re not. We’re sinners, rotten to the core, as he reminds us so vividly in Psalm 14. “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
Fortunately, there are passages in Scripture that explain the solution to our sin problem. God has told us how to obtain the perfection required for entrance into His presence: by grace through faith, the repentant sinner can receive forgiveness of sins and a clean slate. When God declares us righteous through the merciful act of justification, the death of Christ satisfies God’s wrath against us. Praise be to God . . . we can have a right relationship with God the Father through God the Son!
But what about the rest of Psalm 15? Starting in verse 2, David offers a description of a “blameless” and “righteous” person that goes much further than the justification and forgiveness of the sinner. He says there is a certain set of behaviors that are required for fellowship with God. We must not only be declared righteous, we must also do what is righteous.
We must speak the truth and refrain from slander. We must do no wrong to our neighbor. We should be disgusted when wicked people hold sway and we should honor those who fear God. We should keep our word regardless of the consequences and our financial dealings with others should be characterized by compassion and integrity.
This is a high standard indeed. Is it possible to live this type life, a life of moral uprightness? According to the Bible, it is.
There are many references in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, to a group of people known as “the righteous.” If these people did not exist, why would Scripture speak of them so often? Here are two specific examples of “the righteous,” one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament:
“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright: he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).
“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose [Mary] to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
So it is possible to be blameless and righteous. First, by receiving the gift of righteousness through justification, we become holy in a positional sense; we stand before God wearing the robe of righteousness provided by Jesus Christ.
And second, also by the grace of the Father and power of the Spirit, we can live a life of practical holiness, a life of increasing Christ-likeness and decreasing habitual sin. Obviously, we will never be morally perfect in either thought, word or deed this side of heaven, but God can enable us to experience a measure of spiritual maturity that pleases Him and demonstrates the genuineness of our faith.
True saving faith and godly repentance will result in a radically changed life. We’re not speaking of a sinless perfection but a godly direction. This is the type of life that David was describing in Psalm 15. It’s also the lifestyle described in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles. It is the path of discipleship, following our Master on the road of humility, self-denial and personal sanctification. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).