What is righteousness?

One of the biggest problems the world faces, especially the believer, is that it is possible to attain a certain standard of righteousness outside of the finished work of the cross. You see, according to the word of God we have two types of righteousness. The first type we have, is the righteousness that we attain by our own works. This is demonstrated in the Old Testament and the outline for this was found in the law, it was literally a list of rules and regulations that the person must follow perfectly to be found righteous.

A better righteousness

Thankfully, we also have a much better and more complete righteousness that comes as a gift, from an extravagant Father whose Son did all that work for us, in living that perfect life and then dying for us, and as us! This one requires something of us as well faith. And, the beauty of this faith is that God gives us that to us as well, He truly is abundantly gracious. It is a righteousness we rest in.

Paul outlines it best in Philippians 3:9 when he 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, – NASB

Paul is very clear, as is Isaiah when he states that God considers “all of our righteousness as a filthy rag”. The truth is, that it is possible for us to have a righteousness of our own effort, however our righteous acts when done out of our our own effort, apart from God, disgust God; it is only when righteousness is an attribute of who we are, not what we’ve done will we truly bring pleasure to God.

It’s who you are, not what you do

This is why Jesus had to die, because it was all about our nature. You see, your right standing before God in light of your works has nothing to do with you being saved or not. Rather, it is your sanctification (to be declared holy/righteous) which sees you being saved. You have been renewed by the power of the Spirit into a spotless perfect new creation.

Paul again explains this really well in Romans 5. I’m not going to quote the whole chapter but I strongly urge you to read it. Paul builds a great case here; he states (lets start in v12) that because of one man’s sin death entered the world, and all men have sinned since. He then states in v13 that without the law there was no sin imputed. He seems to have tied himself in a knot here so he goes on in v14 to ask a good question of his own argument… how is it then that everyone from Adam to Moses (who brought the law) died, if their sins were not imputed to them? The rest of the chapter then brilliantly breaks down the real issue that was introduced through that one man’s sin. What was that issue? It was his nature, his nature went from being in the state of having a righteous nature to a sinful nature. He lost sight of the truth that he was made in the image and likeness of God and fully embraced the lie that he must try to become like God. When we buy into the deception of unbelief, believing anything that God does not believe – the fruit is always sin. It’s impossible to be in unbelief and bring for righteous fruit.

You see God’s problem is not about what we do, but rather who we are. We became sinners as a race. That is why there can be redemption for man but not for angels, they fell individually each by choice, we fell as a race, not of our own choice but that of Adam’s. Paul is very clear again in Romans 5 that we were once in the bloodline of Adam but now we have been removed and placed in the line of Jesus. We truly are new creations! Guess what, if you love Jesus and believe He died for you then you are righteous by nature!

You need to choose

So which righteousness do you want? Your own righteousness, with effort and striving and no fruit or acceptance? Or do you want to receive Jesus’ righteousness as a free gift with no effort, no striving, bringing forth glorious fruit and complete acceptance by the Father as you just believe with childlike faith?

I’ll be talking in the near future about some of the effects of this topic and also welcome any questions on the subject if you want me to flesh out anything I have said.

Love you all!

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  1. It’s a great one!
    I was thinking about this the other day.
    We don’t have to keep ourselves “clean”, but to “agree” God has put His righteousness in us.

    I remember you did a survey about “faith”, what was the finality of it?

  2. Sorry I didn’t reply to this Victor – I don’t recall the survey you are talking about, can you refresh my mind?

  3. Phil I am so delighted I came across this teaching on righteousness. I never really understood it. I can’t wait to bear good fruit in my life because of Jesus Christ. I’m so excited and I’m grateful to God for people like you showing people like me the way.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know you found it Linda! I’m so glad it helped. It’s actually a really old post, I had forgotten it exists :) You might really like my free ebook that goes into this a bit more if you haven’t downloaded it already. You can get it here – phildrysdale.com/sinfulnature

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