Job’s acceptance before God had to be by faith in substitutionary atonement, not his personal faithfulness to an ideal. The advent of suffering revealed that, though Job’s relationship with God began as a faith-based substitutionary atonement (1:5; 8), over time he switched to a works-based sanctification. God used suffering to bring him back to faith-based righteousness both in justification and in sanctification. But, before that occurred Job wrestled with the question of the source of righteousness.
Job ends his defense of righteousness before his friends with thirteen “if” statements. Job’s statements demonstrate his focus on himself for validation of righteousness before God and man instead of the substitutionary atonement gained by the death of the Innocent One on behalf of guilty sinners:
- Personal integrity – “If I have walked with falsehood…” (Job 31:5-6)
- Free from coveting – “If my step has turned from the way, or my heart walked after my eyes, or if any spot adheres to my hands…” (Job 31:7-8)
- Sexual purity – “If my heart has been enticed by a woman or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door…” (Job 31:9-12)
- Equitable in his dealings with others – “If I have despised the cause of of my male or female servant when they complained agains me…” (Job 31:13-15)
- Compassionate – “If I have kept the poor from their desire, or caused the eye of the widow to fail, or eaten my morsel by myself, so that the fatherless found not eat of it…” (Job 31:16-18)
- Philanthropic – “If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or any poor man without covering…” (Job 31:19-20)
- Innocent – “If I have raised my hand against the fatherless, when I saw I had help in the gate…” (Job 31:21-23)
- “If I have made gold my hope or said to fine gold, ‘You are my confidence’…” (Job 31:24-25)
- Free from idolatry – “If I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed…” (Job 31:26-28)
- Forgiving – “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil found him…” (Job 31:29-30)
- Hospitable – “If the men of my tent have not said, ‘who is there that has not been satisfied with his meat?’ (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler…” (Job 31:31-32)
- Honest – “If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom…” (Job 31:33-34)
- Responsible – “If my hand cries out against me, and its furrows weep together; If I have eaten its fruit without money or caused its owners to lose their lives…” (Job 31:38-40)
Right beliefs produce righteous behavior, but right behavior does not secure righteousness before God. Faith in the substitutionary death of the Innocent One on behalf of the guilty–not faithfulness in life–secures righteousness before God.