The meanings of righteousness and holiness are sometimes considered to be somewhat the same, but both are distinct parts of God’s character. Ryrie’s comments in meaning help us to distinguish which is which. He says “Holiness relates to God’s separateness; righteousness, to His justice.”
Holiness is the perfection in which God lives, acts, and operates. Heaven is the place of perfection which sets God apart from the sin and imperfections of time and space where man is. God cannot live in or allow imperfections and this sets Him apart from sinful man and evil forces. Heaven is in a state of perfect purity.
His righteousness is what determines lawful conditions. Since God is righteous His justice is never wrong. God never makes mistakes. God laid out the operating parameters in the OT for the Israelites to follow in their relationship with Himself and with their fellow man. To violate any of these standards is unrighteousness and God prescribed punishments for each. As Paul said in the NT no human being can live in perfect compliance with God’s law.
This is the reason why we need an atoning sacrifice and God sent His son Jesus to be that sacrifice. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Because of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, sinful man can become righteous through the blood of Jesus. Each person must consciously admit he is a sinner (unrighteous) and accept Jesus’ leadership in his life. Only in this way can a person be acceptable to God in heaven.
In yesterday’s post, we ended with this “Only in this way can a person be acceptable to God in heaven.” If we are to be “acceptable” to God then how important is “righteousness” in that acceptance? This question has at least a threefold application, if not more.
First, we are righteous when we admit our sin and look to Jesus for forgiveness for our shortcomings. His blood covers that lack. Second, when we accept his leadership and guiding hand, we come under His mantle of righteousness. Three, both of these statements require us to be obedient to Jesus guiding hand and leadership by His indwelling Holy Spirit. This means we subdue our personal goals and motivation so we can please Jesus and be His obedient servant. We should be doing all possible to obey and follow what Our Lord wants and if we fall short, the words of 1 John tells us (verse 9) to “confess our sins and he will cleanse (purify) us from all unrighteousness.” The condition of righteousness is vitally important to us as believers. Don’t be slack in this area.
The words of scripture inform us of how important this concept is to our God. We have seen this in the two prior posts. Again, Ryrie states this for us under his point 2 with his comment that God’s absolute righteousness is declared in Psalm 11:7; “For the Lord is righteous.” Also we see this restated in Psalm 119:142 “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” We see this verse adds an additional fact, i.e. thy law is the truth.
We see in the Psalms above that God’s righteousness is not only to be taken as an absolute, but it is linked to “law” and “truth.” With these scripture references, it sets for us as believers, a vital condition and standard for us to live by, which is righteousness. Does this condition and standard put us in chains and hinder us? I think not! The Apostle Paul wrote the following to the Ephesians: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph 4:24 KJV) When we become believers, we are “created” with this new condition.
This “new man” according to Paul must be put on. We must have a spiritual awareness of what this new condition means and how it affects our daily lives. Our next question then should be “what does this mean and how do we do it?” Here we might pick up a quote from SpiritQuest: Our War with Choices on page 148: “With these precepts, our spiritual armor (as Paul outlines in Ephesians 6:10-20), and the model Jesus left for us in his sermon on the mount (Mt. 5, 6, and 7) we will be prepared to stand firm and walk in His righteousness.”
This quote lays out for us a plan of action. 1) we should daily put on our spiritual armor, 2) refer often to the model that Jesus left with His sermon on the mount. With this plan, we will be able to keep the “new man” on the right track most of the time. God did not leave us with an impossible standard. He also gave us the plan on how to live as He wants, and for us to walk in His righteousness. He is our guide!
In the past posts, we have looked at the importance of righteousness in the life of believers. We have yet to illustrate what happens to the unbeliever because of his lack of righteousness. It is not pretty. The writer of Acts (Luke) writes the following words for the unbeliever “because he (God) hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 31)
Jesus’ resurrection is the thing that will judge the righteousness or unrighteousness of the unbeliever. God will not accept any excuse for the unrighteousness of an unbeliever. It will be the basis for the penalty that the unbeliever receives at God’s judgment. Do your unsaved friends know this? They need to know!
For a believer, one thing that we have and can depend upon is peace. Isaiah writes an interesting thought about peace: There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. (Is. 48:22; 57:21 KJV). One internet commentator wrote the following point about these verses in Isaiah “There can be no real peace without righteousness.”
As believers we receive Jesus’ righteousness when we accept him. The unbeliever has no righteousness unless he becomes a believer, until that point, he is an unrighteous, carnal being with little real peace. This is the reason that we are given the charge to be witnesses to all that do not know Jesus. One thing that many unbelievers desire, but do not have is peace. We need to do all we can to help them find peace.
This last post on righteousness will change direction somewhat. For believers, our righteousness comes by the grace of our Lord Jesus. However, the Apostle Paul makes the following point(Gal. 2:21b): “for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Righteousness does not come by the law.
It is a gift from our Lord Jesus. Look at what Paul says in verse 20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” As believers, we are to live as if our carnal nature is dead and live as one who is alive by the Holy Spirit. In and of ourselves, we cannot live Christ-like or in His righteousness unless we are totally committed to Our Lord. This one thing is what should motivate most believers to live in Christ-like faith. Many times we are torn between our carnal desires and lust and knowing that we are to live for Christ. Just crucify the desires of the flesh and be done with it.