A great difference

“Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:18).

In this passage from the scriptures it is not the prophet who speaks, but God himself. The previous verse shows this clearly: "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him" (Mal. 3:17).

This judgment is not of a man, that could pervert it, but from God himself that searches the mind and tests the hearts (Jer. 17:10). No one can stand straight before God as being righteous, because God has already searched amongst men and given testimony that he found no one. “…As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12).

In the original passage, God himself gives testimony that the difference between the unrighteous and righteous person would be visible, amongst those who serve God and those who do not. This shows us that this righteousness does not come from man, but from God himself, imputed to us. God tells us that this righteousness comes from faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:3-6).

The sinful man is foolish: "The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men" (Pr. 24:9), unrighteous: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18), profane: "Her priests have violated my law and profaned my holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy" (Ez. 22.26), and a slave: "…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34).

It is not in God’s purpose to make mends in a man, but to make him wise, righteous, holy, and free in Christ (1st Cor. 1:30). The work of righteousness for man began when Jesus was nailed to the cross. That death was the death of a sinner, a fool, an unrighteous, a profane, and a slave. When God gave life to Jesus, he gave us a new life together with him. Now the Spirit of God regenerates us and transports us from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of the Son he loves (Col. 1:13). In Christ, we present ourselves before God as wise, righteous, holy, and redeemed; not by what man can do, but by Christ who is our righteousness (Jer. 33:15-16).

When God sees the justified man, does he see Adam the sinner or the holy Christ? Here is the great difference that is found in the passage in Malachi. God does not seek to know if someone is member of a church, or a leader, if he serves the Lord with a given position, but he sees those who are righteous or ungodly. If the individual is righteous than he/she serves him; on the contrary, he/she will not serve him. How we judge ourselves is not important, but how God judges us.

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