The Difference One Righteous Person Makes
1. There is a thought-provoking paradox about the Gospel of Matthew.
a. Matthew tells the story as it takes place with the crowds always present (cf. 4:25; 9:36; 14:13-14).
b. But it is also in Matthew’s account that the influence of the individual is illustrated and emphasized most memorably (5:13-16; 13:33).
c. I wonder if it isn’t designed this way at least partly because of Matthew’s own background (9:9-13).
2. It would be so easy for most of us to feel just like him – and to benefit from thinking along with him.
a. I know one Christian can feel insignificant, perhaps even helpless, in the midst of this society.
b. But, based on the example of Matthew, I want to say to you that a righteous person has more influence than we may ever have realized.
c. In fact, many times God has blessed the ungodly, or held off judgment on those who deserved it, because of the presence of his servants.
3. The difference one righteous person can make is illustrated repeatedly in the lives of Biblical characters.
a. Because of the intercessory pleas of Abraham, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah could have been spared by the presence of just ten righteous persons (Genesis 18:32).
b. Laban, the father-in-law of Jacob, recognized that the Lord had richly blessed him for the sake of Jacob (Genesis 30:27).
c. From the time that Joseph was overseer over Potiphar’s household, God blessed all that the Egyptians had because of Joseph (Genesis 39:4, 5).
d. In Jeremiah’s day, even though God had determined to judge Jerusalem for her wickedness, he would have been willing to spare the city if just one righteous person could have been found (Jeremiah 5:1).
e. All of those who were aboard the ship to Rome with Paul when it was caught up in a terrible tempest were saved alive because of the presence of the man whom God had determined would stand before Caesar (Acts 27:24).
4. We can begin to see that the truth Matthew had in mind when he spoke of the influence one righteous person can have is not just a passing, personal thought; it is a powerful spiritual principle.
a. F. B. Meyer applied it this way: “Ungodly men little realize how much they owe to the presence of the children of God in their midst. Long ere now had the floods of deserved wrath swept them all away; but judgment has been restrained, because God could not do anything while the righteous were found amongst them. The impatient servants have often asked if they should gather out the tares. But the answer of the righteous Lord has ever been: ‘Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat also with them.’ Ah, how little the world realizes the debt it owes to its saints, the salt to stay its corruption, the light to arrest the re-institution of the reign of chaos and night!”
b. If you notice, in making that statement, Meyer made reference to two passages from Matthew’s gospel record.
i. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
ii. Matthew 5:13-16
c. A righteous servant of Christ, then, has a powerful influence within, and upon, this world, whether he realizes it at the time or not.
5. But a closer look at the teaching of Jesus that Matthew records reveals that this doesn’t just happen. There are at least three things the Lord assumes about the kind of person who has such an influence.
a. He must be righteous (Matt. 5:13). In this context, this has to do with living in the way the Sermon on the Mount instructs us to live.
b. He must be righteous out in the open (Matt. 5:14-15). Here this means not hiding what he really believes and what he stands for.
c. He must, as a righteous person, be doing some things (Matt. 5:16). There are to be good works which allow him to exert his influence purposefully.
6. In our camp book, at the end of two pages of “general rules,” Robb wrote: “Really, we have only one rule. It is Philippians 1:27: ‘Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ...’ Everything else is commentary on, and application of, that rule.”
7. One humble individual, if he, as a disciple of Lord, does that, will have an influence upon the world so far-reaching that no one but God Himself will ever know just how far it extends.