The Righteous Man And The Wicked
God pardons sinners because of Christ who bore in His death the penalty for human sinfulness.
Two men are presented to us in Psalm 1. One is said to be righteous and the other wicked. The righteous is the antithesis of the wicked, and vice versa. They represent two groups of people where all responsible persons on the face of the earth can be classified. Adults belong to either class.
The psalmist begins by showing the way of life of the righteous. He starts with what he avoids. He “walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful”. This line, found in verse 1, means that the principles that govern the actions of the righteous differ from those of the wicked. Wickedness involves walking, standing, or sitting in evil. But the righteous man does not do what the wicked does, and he does what the wicked man does not do.
The psalmist proceeds to positively talk about the course of action chosen by the righteous. He says in verse 2 that he continually meditates on the word of God and delights in it. The meditation is done “day and night.” So, the resolute will of the righteous is rooted in and guided by God’s truth. What that practically means is that the righteous casts his mind on the things of God and feeds it upon the Scripture regularly.
Doing what is contrary to God’s will is considered wicked. And so is shunning away from it. The idea of one being hostile to God’s will by their deeds is present in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Apostle said that they "once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21; cf. Romans 8:7).
Now, not only is God’s word central to the life of the righteous, but it is an absolute necessity to his character. Because this man makes the Scripture the care of his life, he has the vitality and stability of “a tree planted by a stream of water” (v. 3). Yet, this is no guarantee he will have a problem-free life. The only promise to him made by God is that His word can comfort and build him up (1 Thessalonians 4:18; Acts 20:32). The wicked, on the other hand, is as unstable as “the chaff which the wind drives away” (v. 4). He, for this reason, will be helpless before the judgment seat of God whose pronouncements will favor the righteous (verse 6; cf. Matthew 25:21).
Being righteous, here, is to be understood as a way of life that is governed by godly teachings. This concept, however, has more to it when we move over to the New Testament. There, it includes the status a sinner enjoys because of their faith in Christ (Romans 3:22; 5:1). Having faith in Christ, in this context, amounts to believing that Christ bore in His death the penalty for human sinfulness (1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21). And it is for this reason that God pardons sinners. The process by which the Lord thus makes a penitent believer righteous is also known as “justification” which equates to salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1-2). Becoming righteous in the sight of God is the same as being justified or saved.
For God to be consistent with His holy nature (Isaiah 6:4), He had to make sinful people holy before they could have a relationship with Him. Divine sanctification of mankind is done by means of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:12; 10:10). It becomes a reality for anyone who is baptized in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; cf. Mark 16:16). It is God who justifies, or makes righteous (Romans 8:33), and this profound truth has been revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).