“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17, NIV). “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21, NIV). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).
One of the most life-changing revelations for the believer is to discover that God through Jesus has taken our sin and given to us the gift of righteousness. You will often hear people quote the Scriptures that declare that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and there is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). But these Scriptures actually refer to righteousness that is before and without Christ. They refer to our fleshly attempts to earn our own righteousness, not receive his, and therein lies the difference. When Jesus told the people their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (who by the way were purported to be the most moral people of their day) he was speaking of a righteousness that can only come from God and cannot be earned by human effort (Matthew 5:20).
Righteousness can be defined as the God-given ability to stand in the presence of a holy God without a sense of guilt, shame, inferiority, or condemnation. We understand from Scripture that there is no way that this can happen in and of ourselves. That means that the only way to tap into the righteousness of God is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It also means that on the day you received Christ you were “made righteous” not based on your past, present or future behavior, but based on the right standing you have been given through Jesus Christ.
More often than not, people confuse righteousness and holiness. Righteousness is a gift and force of the born again spirit that pushes us toward right thinking, speaking, and acting, but holiness refers to the result of that force on our lives. Holiness is separation from sin and separation unto God for his purposes. We are not righteous because we live holy (for that would be a gospel of works), we have the capacity to live holy because the force of sin has been neutralized by the blood of Jesus and we have been given the gift of righteousness. This means that when we sin as Christians, we do so by choice, and not because we had to or because the Devil made us. No, the dominant force in the believer’s life is now righteousness and not sin. This is a great gift but it comes with great personal responsibility and a great need for personal revelation.
The more you understand righteousness the more your thinking and conduct will change. Rejoice and be glad because a great exchange has been made (your sin for his righteousness). You don’t become righteous when you get to heaven one day. You have already been made righteous through the grace, love, and mercy of God. Follow along in the coming weeks to discover just how powerful the righteousness of God is in the life of the believer. Learn to stop saying, “I’m just a black-hearted sinner” and start saying boldly, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” and don’t stutter, make excuses, or apologize for the gift of God.