“Appetite” can be described as a strong desire or craving. We understand what it is like to have an appetite for food, but what about an appetite for God’s righteousness?
Many people have a certain religious hunger within them, but Jesus reminds us that desire for the feeling of righteousness or even religious human traditions is not necessarily the same as hungering and thirsting for righteousness. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt. 23:23). And again, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9).
Concerning the zeal that some had for this self-made righteousness, the apostle Paul wrote, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:2-3).
This is what happens when we set up our own standard of rules and behaviors in a vain attempt to be right without any real change; when we ignore the plain teachings of God’s word in favor of more abstract (read unscriptural) reasoning. We manifest this same character when we change the meaning of words and read into the Bible what we want it to say. When we declare ourselves to be right based on such standards, then we have established our own righteousness.
This is in essence what Jesus was referring to when He said in His sermon on the mount, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Righteousness that is from God
Righteousness that is from God is what we have when we rely on Him to make us right. We recognize that without Him we are as souls lost in a baron and desolate land unable to sustain ourselves. While many seek to satisfy their longings by their own devices (worldliness and/or self-righteousness), we must rely on the Lord to satisfy our hungering and thursting.
Consider, if we already feel full or satisfied in ourselves, then when we come to God what is left that He can fill? “Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger” (Luke 6:25) If we empty ourselves and set our affections on Him, on His promises, and on the things that He says are good and right, then what craving is there that He cannot satisfy? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
When we truly long for the righteousness that is of God, we will recognize that the gospel is our answer. “for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed” (Rom. 1:16-17). That is, the gospel reveals how God makes men righteous. How does it do that?
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:3-6).
To obey the gospel by being baptized is to believe in the power of God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. For one is “raised through faith the working of God” (Col. 2:12). Baptism is our appeal to God to make us righteous (1 Pet. 3:21). When we are raised with that faith, we are raised to “walk in newness of life.” That is the righteousness that comes from God.
Those who have joined Christ in the likeness of His burial and resurrection can call themselves Christians. To walk in this new life in Christ is to be transformed outwardly according to the inner change effected by God in Christ. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
The question we wish to leave the reader with is this. Do you hunger and thirst for a righteousness that is from God? If you do, will you obey the gospel?