Truth about righteousness
July 17, 2014
As a layperson, there are many theological concepts, such as justification, sanctification, reconciliation, etc., that are difficult to understand, much less explain. Some of these are spiritually thought provoking; however, few may or may not have much impact on our daily Christian lives. We all struggle with everyday temptations, and trying to live a Christian life is demanding for the soul. Thus we tend to leave these deep theological concepts to the theologians to discuss. Yet one of these does affect our everyday lives and has a direct manner on how we interface with God, and that is righteousness.
Within the New Testament, Judaism, as taught by the Pharisees and Sadducees, was defined largely in terms of conformity to the Torah, that is, to the Law of Moses and to the oral scribal traditions. Jesus and the Pharisees had many a conflict about this issue. There are dozens of verses that narrate this dispute, but Mark 7:1–23 depicts clearly that the religious leaders were concerned with traditions of the elders and specifically concerned with details of ritual. Romans 3:21–26 essentially states that true righteousness as revealed in Christ rests not upon obedience to law but on faith in God’s act of redemption in Christ.
Thus righteousness is not primarily an ethical quality but a right relationship. George Eldon Ladd in “A Theology of the New Testament” explains this best: “To seek the Kingdom means to seek God’s righteousness (Matt. 6:33) and to receive the Kingdom of God means to receive the accompanying righteousness.”
Righteousness is simply a “right” relationship with God. You cannot make yourself righteous. Nothing you can do by yourself can make you righteous in God’s eyes. Only God can make you righteous through having a relationship with Him.
Retired professor emeritus