Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6
In the Greek language, the word for righteousness is δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosýnē), which means equity of character or act, especially Christian justification or righteousness. In a broad sense, it means the state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God, the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God, integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling, and acting. In a narrower sense, it is justice or virtue.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. Genesis 15:6
In the Hebrew language, the word for righteousness is צְדָקָה (tsᵉdâqâh). It means rightness, rectitude, justice, virtue, right, righteous acts or righteously.
Webster defines the word righteousness as morally good or right, acting in accord with divine or moral law, free from guilt or sin, justifiable. The Bible describes the bride of Jesus Christ arrayed in her fine, white linen, wedding dress which is the righteousness of the saints.
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. Revelation19:7-8
It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see that the Word of God calls Christians saints, which means holy ones. It is also clear, according to the Word of God, that saints or holy ones are righteous ones. With all the aforementioned definitions of the word righteous, we can see that it means “in right standing with God,” from a relational point of view or it means “right living” from a works or a behavioral point of view.
For us to be truly and completely righteous would mean that we need to be morally perfect, because God is righteous, perfect, and holy. This desire to be holy or righteous is an admirable quality as millions of people around the world in various religions strive to live a righteous life. There is something deep within the human heart that believes in order to have a relationship with God we must live right to earn or gain God’s acceptance and approval. But as we try with all our might to live a perfect, holy, and righteous life we always fall short. We can never quite measure up to the standard of righteousness because the Bible says that if we break the law in one point we are guilty of breaking all the law.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10
Most people come to the realization that perfect living is impossible, so they transition over into what I call comparable living, which is seeking comparable righteousness. This is simply comparing yourself with others so you can feel like you are living a righteous life. Any of us can compare ourselves with the prison population of murderers, rapists, and child molesters to see we are much more righteous than they. Most people do a comparative analyst of their siblings, old school friends, and other groups they may feel morally superior to, and end up feeling pretty good about themselves.
Some people may think that their church is a better church with a better doctrine or better worship service, so they feel superior to other churches and comparably speaking, feel more righteous than their neighbors. Some try to achieve righteousness in how they dress; when they see Christians in the community not dressed the way their preacher has taught them to dress, they feel righteous comparably speaking. When I travel, I sometimes see Muslim women completely covered except for their eyes, with what looks like a black sheet, and it makes me wonder about their theology, their logic, and their pursuit of righteousness.
The Pharisee’s were the most religious people in the days that Jesus walked on this earth. They saw themselves as morally superior to all other humans. They studied the Law of Moses and all the Old Testament scriptures, spent a lot of time praying, dressed a certain way, observed the Sabbath rigidly, visited the Temple often and even paid tithes. But Jesus said that our righteousness would have to exceed their type of righteousness or we would not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Perfect living or perfect righteousness is impossible because we were all born with a sinful nature. No person has ever lived a perfect, sinless life except Jesus Christ. Therefore, even with good, clean living, we can never attain a perfect state of righteousness apart from God.
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: Romans 3:10
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness's are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6
To understand that we are born unholy sinners with deceitful hearts, incapable of living a righteous life apart from God is the great epiphany the overwhelming majority of religious people all over the world never experience. You can try as hard as you possibly can, but you will never live a righteous or morally perfect life. On the other hand, you can drop your standard to live a comparable righteous life which, depending on who you compare yourself to, may give you a false sense of righteousness. However, if you ever compare yourself to God who is totally, completely, and perfectly righteous, you will again realize that you come up short of true righteousness.
Understanding that we cannot live a perfectly righteous life, should not cause you to stop pursuing righteousness, but instead, you should seek it all the harder and more fervently. But realize that it is God’s righteousness that you are seeking and not your own.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
One of the reasons that we study the Holy Scriptures is for instruction in righteousness.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. II Timothy 3:16-17
Paul instructed his young student Timothy to flee the love of money, and instead pursue after righteousness.
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. I Timothy 6:11
All Christians should seek, pursue, hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. It should be our objective and chief aim in life. The Bible is filled with scriptures stating that God is holy and we should be holy. We know that sin separates us from God and because of sin, we were born aliens and strangers to God. The Bible even tells us that the carnal mind is an enemy of God. So, we realize that we desperately need to be made right with God.
The key is for us to finally give up on our own efforts to become righteous and turn to God for help. If we live a self-righteous life, then we are trapped like the Pharisees were, trying our dead-level best to live right and spending most of our energy comparing ourselves with others who are less righteous, putting them down to lift ourselves up. This foolishness will never produce a truly righteous life. The answer is for us to look at Jesus Christ and put our trust in Him alone to make us righteous. The reason that He alone can do this is because He alone was perfectly righteous. He was the only person that lived an absolutely perfect life. For 33 ½ years, He walked on this earth, was tempted, and tried in all points, yet without sin. Satan even personally tempted Him in the wilderness while He was fasting, yet He never broke His perfect union with the Father. This is really the most amazing thing about the Gospel: He never had an unrighteous thought, spoke anything other than perfect words nor did anything other than the perfect will of the Heavenly Father. Jesus Son of God, Son of man, was the perfect, sinless righteous one.
Jesus came to this earth to fulfill the law of God perfectly and then go to the cross to be crucified as our substitutionary, sacrificial offering for the sins of mankind. By the shedding of His blood, Jesus paid the price for our sins once and for all. When He cried out “it is finished” while on the cross, He was saying I fulfilled the law with my righteousness, and now I am nailing the law to the cross. The law that condemns man to die in his sins and suffer an eternal judgment is now nailed to the cross. He nailed sin to the cross and He nailed the law to the cross, so He could forgive our sins and make us righteous. By the obedience of Jesus, we are made righteous.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 5:19
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17
Righteousness does not come to us by us trying to live a perfect life, but instead, it comes to us by faith.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21
The Heavenly Father put Jesus on the cross and made Him to be sin for us. He was bruised for our iniquities and wounded for our transgressions. Jesus who knew no sin became sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5:21
In other words, when we call upon the name of Jesus Christ to save us, He comes into our hearts. When we confess and repent of our sins, He forgives us of our sins and cleanses us of all our wrong living, but He doesn’t stop there. At the same time Jesus comes into our hearts and regenerates us, we are born again as He gives us a new man, a new life, a new identity as we are positionally placed “In Him” or “In Christ.” The righteousness of God is imputed to us simply as we put our trust and faith in Jesus Christ.
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Romans 4:20-25
No longer must we strive for perfect righteousness, nor shall we need to deceive ourselves into thinking that comparable righteousness is enough. We can rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ, put our faith in what He has done at the cross and humble ourselves to allow God to place us “In Christ” so that we can be covered by His righteousness. Wow! The Gospel is so wonderful, it seems too good to be true.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; Titus 3:5-6
And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: Philippians 3:9
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: II Peter 1:1
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. I John 2:29
Understanding that I have the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ covering me, allows me to rest in the grace of God. This gives me hope, confidence and assurance that I am in right standing with God, not based on my behavior, but based on what Jesus did 2,000 years ago on the cross.
Think on the story of Job in the Bible. He was a good, clean living, morally upright person. Perhaps the best living person in all the world. Then Satan got God’s permission to test and afflict Job. During this ordeal, Job lost his children, all his possessions, and his health. The suffering of Job is hard to read in the Bible because the pain and agony he suffered almost don't seem fair to the average person. But, as we read the story, there are several instances where Job claimed that since he was righteous God should not be allowing so much pain and suffering to come his way.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. Job 27:6
Elihu spake moreover, and said, Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? Job 35:1-2
Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. Job 29:12-14
Job was proud of his righteous life. He helped the poor, the orphans and he even caused the widow's heart to sing. This way of self-righteous thinking was exactly what God was after in Job’s life. Job thought he was right and he could determine what was fair and just, and God was unfair, unjust, and unrighteous where Job was concerned. After much suffering and long conversations with Elihu and then one with God, Job finally saw his self-righteousness, and he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:5-6
Nothing is more important to your Christian walk than to understand who God is and who you are in relationship to Him. You are a whole person and possess a life of infinite meaning and purpose because of who you are in Christ, a child of God. The only identity equation that works in God’s Kingdom is you plus Christ equals wholeness and meaning. When God places us in Christ, we take on His righteousness and His holiness, as we become sons and daughters of God.
We should worship God for all He has done, resting in the finished work of Christ. We need to hear repeatedly the wonderful identity and position we already have in Christ; then we will be better prepared to receive the instructions and assume our responsibility for living the Christian life.
Remember, it is not what you do as a Christian that determines who you are; it is who you are that determines what you do. Once you know and believe that you are who God says you are, then you can start believing that you are righteous because Jesus made you righteous. There seems to be a great imbalance in the modern church world between the indicative and the imperative.
Indicative: (what God has already done and what is already true about us.)
Imperative: (what remains to be done as we respond to God by faith and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit.)
So much time is spent teaching Christians how to live their lives, yet so little time has been spent teaching Christians what God has already done for us. If we would spend more time seeking to understand what really happened at the cross, our behaviors would improve automatically. Once we realize who we are in Christ by believing we are who God says we are, then we will automatically begin to live a better Christian life. When we truly believe that we are righteous because Jesus made us righteous, then our belief will produce righteous living.
If the devil can distort the truth to the point that you don’t believe you are who God says you are, then you will believe a lie and live an unrighteous life. If you think you are a no-good bum, you will probably live like a no-good bum. If you think you are a loser, you will live like a loser. However, if you know you are righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ because He imputed His righteousness onto you, then you will live like a righteous one.
I know our tendency is to try to live right and make ourselves righteous, but believe me, that will never produce perfect righteousness. Furthermore, comparable righteousness is worthless. Give it up, it won’t work, you are wasting your time and effort on a losing battle. Instead, put your faith in Christ Jesus, and what He did for you 2,000 years ago, and rest in the finished work of the cross.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5:21