What is the Righteousness of God?

For the Christian, especially the new Christian, the righteousness of God may be both mysterious and intimidating. Now let me go ahead and state that even to the seasoned Christian the righteousness of God is mysterious on some level, simply because we cannot fully know and understand the nature of God. That being said, scripture is very descriptive regarding the righteousness of God and is helpful in our beginning to understand what it is and why it is important. So to help you in your journey of knowing our loving and gracious God, here are 10 simple, but important, things to remember about the righteousness of God.

1. What is the righteousness of God?

The righteousness of God is referenced throughout scripture. It is described as the attribute of both God’s justice and rightness. In order to be both just and right, evil and sin cannot be present. 1st John states,

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. ~ 1 John 1:5

“No darkness at all” is referring to the absence of sin and evil. Also, if righteousness has to do with justice and rightness then there must be a presence of love to drive it, right? How can you adequately seek and act justly without loving those for whom you are seeking justice? 1 John 4:8 tells us that God himself is love. So, if he is love, then of course he practices righteousness. In fact, it is from him that all righteousness flows. Which leads us to our next point. 

2. Only God is righteous.

Psalm 145 tells us that,

The Lord is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. ~ Psalm 145:17

As we learned previously, God is sinless. But what about us? In his letter to the Romans, Paul says,

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~ Romans 3:23

So, the righteousness of God belongs to God alone. We are unable to obtain it on our own. However, as we will discuss in a bit, we have help to obtain it. 

3. The righteousness of God is manifested through Christ.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; ~ Romans 3:21-22

Jesus is the God-man. When we want to see an earthly representation of God, we need to look to Jesus. He too was sinless, thus carrying the title of righteous. He lived a sinless life because he was God in the flesh, and also because he came to complete the work of salvation which could only be done by one who was able to fully keep the law.

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 10:4.

Christ is the end of the law, because in him the law was complete through his ability to fully obey it. 

4. The righteousness of God is revealed through the Gospel.

Paul tells us in Romans,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed [a]from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:16-17

In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. So, the more we understand the gospel, the more we understand the righteousness of God. The gospel is the good news of Jesus, of his life, death, and resurrection. That is how we are justified (through Jesus) and made right before God!

10 Things To Know About The Righteousness Of God.

5. The righteousness of God is imparted to us through Christ.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

Basically this verse tells us that there was an exchange made. Jesus exchanged our sin for his righteousness. He absorbed all the sin of humanity on the cross and bore the punishment for it completely, so that by faith in him we could be made right in the sight of God. 

6. We cannot obtain the righteousness of God on our own.

So, we know that only God is righteous and that His righteousness is imparted to us through Christ. That is foundational to understand when we say we cannot obtain the righteousness of God on our own. Scripture has much to say about this. Philippians says,

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, ~ Philippians 3:9

And as stated previously in Romans 3:10, we know that none are righteous. But thankfully, we also know that despite our poor efforts at righteousness, Christ obtained it for us who believe on him.

For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~ Romans 10:3-4

7. The righteousness of God is dependent on faith.

Faith is an integral part of obtaining the righteousness of God. Christ did the work to impart righteousness to us, however, we must do our part in acting in faith and receiving the salvation He freely gives. We want the righteousness that comes from Christ because it is true righteousness, not any righteousness we try to get from following the law.

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, ~ Philippians 3:9

8. We must boast in God’s righteousness, not our own.

Our efforts at righteousness pale in comparison to the righteousness of God. Paul is the perfect example of this. Check out what he says in Philippians.

although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, ~ Philippians 3:4-9

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 says specifically to boast in the Lord because it is through Him we become righteous: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 

9. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce righteousness.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:10-11

What good news that is for us! That the same Spirit that raised Jesus is the same Spirit that God gave us upon salvation! That is mind blowing! The work of the Spirit in us is a wonderful thing. Think about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are attributes of God’s character that he imparts to us through the Holy Spirit at work in us. We can pursue righteousness because we have the ability to practice the fruit of the Spirit by the Spirit’s help.

10 Things To Know About The Righteousness Of God.

10. We must take joy in the work of righteousness.

The work of righteousness is the daily work of loving God through personal devotion and putting away fleshly desires, as well as loving others and working out our faith; it’s the work of actively pursuing sinlessness in our thoughts and actions. It is not easy work. It isn’t perfect work either. We will fail, we will still stumble and sin, as long as we live in this fallen creation. The Bible is clear on that. However, we can still find joy and not condemnation in the pursuit of righteousness and the fact that it is a process that will only come to completion in heaven. Isaiah 64:5 gives us encouragement in our work of righteousness, stating that God is with us in it: “You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness​” And in Romans we are promised,

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1

This is all good news! Yes, we are to joyfully pursue righteousness, and we can do that knowing that when we do fail, there is no condemnation for us. We can repent, and ask our heavenly Father, who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), to empower us with the Holy Spirit to continue in the joyful work of righteousness.

So, friend, as you learn and work toward righteousness, be encouraged! It is a task we can take on because of that which was already accomplished through Christ. It is Him working in and through us to do the good work “which God prepared beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10). He will bring to completion all the good work He began (Philippians 1:6), including the work of righteousness in us!

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