“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16b (KJV)
“…for the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, if it be fervent.” James 5:16b (GNV)
Footnotes: James 5:16 He commendeth prayers by the effects that come of them, that all men may understand that there is nothing more effectual than they are, so that they proceed from a pure mind.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b (CJB)
“…for great is the power of the prayer which a righteous man prays.” James 5:16b (AENT)
All four translations have the word “righteous” in common. And 1 Corinthians 15:34 (KJV) tells us, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” The Aramaic English New Testament says it in a more intense manner: “Let your hearts be righteously excited, and sin not: for there are some, in whom is not the love of Elohim: it is to your shame, I say it.” Righteously excited!
So…what is a righteous person…what makes a person righteous? Faith? “Accepting Christ by faith” – the most common phrase meaning to be born again? No. Once carried out, that act does not equal the faith that makes one righteous. It is only the vital first step because without that, a person can never become righteous in God’s eyes.
A righteous person is: one who is the fragrance of Messiah because he/she has (strives to have) the “mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5) and is (striving to be) the “image of Christ” (Ephesians 5:1; Romans 8:29).
We know that when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount that He was teaching people who had been taught that the Pharisees were the most righteous of all because they kept the Torah perfectly – and added their own special touches to it also. So when Jesus taught He told the people: “For I say unto you, except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20 (GNV)
Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and He taught the same Torah the people had known since the days of Moses. But He taught it in its fullness, meaning He explained the spiritual aspect the Pharisees missed. The Pharisees lacked love and went through the motions of doing the right things without true faith. When Jesus taught that same Torah the Pharisees followed so meticulously, the people learned that a righteous person was much different than they had been taught. A righteous man was a citizen of heaven, would be comforted in his grief, his meekness entitled him to take inherit the land, and have his craving for righteousness satisfied. He would also experience great mercy, see God one day as His child, and be able to say that the kingdom of heaven will be his eternal home. The righteousness Jesus taught makes us “Christ-like” – the goal we should always be pursuing.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be ministered unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (GNV)
Philippians 1:11 (GNV)
“Filled with the [a]fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.”
1 John 3:7 (GNV)
[a]Little children, let no man deceive you, he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, as he is righteous.
The righteous way of life is clearly explained in the Bible, however, these things are to be made our way of life, not a social endeavor (Pharisees). In order for this to take place as it should, Bible study cannot be simply a hobby to occasionally indulge in. Rather, it needs to be taken very seriously, as if it were a matter of life or death (because it is!) so that the principles become part of our character. If we try to do “righteous” things (works) on our own without them really being a part of us, we are modern day Pharisees…or hypocrites. Certainly not “Christ-like”.
In order to become our way of life, our character, once we have that vital first thing –faith – and have the mindset that craves to be Christ-like, these things have to be practiced as deliberate actions at first. We must choose the right way because righteousness is contrary to human nature. When these things, these deeds or works of righteousness, become part of our nature/character, we become better able to fulfill YHWH’s plans for us.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1 (NASB)