Definition of RighteousnessThe word “righteous” is defined as, “characterized by uprightness…morally right or justifiable…acting in an upright, moral way.” The definition of “righteousness” is the state of being righteous. In other words, a righteous person is someone who does the right things. As Christians, we desire to do what is right. However, as human beings, with imperfect minds and bodies, we don’t always behave in a purely righteous manner. Throughout the Bible, you find descriptions of righteous people. Scripture says the righteous will receive blessings from God. The Old Testament declares that you will be blessed when you obey the Law and that if you disobey the Law, you’ll be cursed. Yet, in the New Testament it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, how can any of us be considered righteous? And if we aren’t righteous, how can we believe to receive any blessing from God at all? There is a difference between the world’s definition of righteousness and the true definition of righteousness. According to the world, a person’s external behavior determines his or her righteousness. Is someone consistently making good choices, helping others, trying their best? If so, they are judged righteous, and if not, they are judged unrighteous. But the true definition of righteousness isn’t based on behavior at all! On the contrary, righteousness is based on two things: what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross and our faith in what He did.
Jesus Purchased Our RighteousnessFor He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21, brackets added for clarityBut this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.
Hebrews 10:12, emphasis addedAnd you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Matthew 5:17). Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life so that He could become the one sacrifice that could provide forgiveness for all sin, for all time (Hebrews 10:12). This is why on the cross He said, “It is finished!” His work of providing our redemption was fulfilled at the moment of His death.
Spirit, Soul & BodyAs mentioned above, we often disqualify ourselves from receiving God’s best because we know we’re far from perfect. We look at the mistakes we make and think, I’m unrighteous because I do this and that. I can’t expect God to bless a sinner like me! However, God determines our righteousness differently. So, how can we be righteous and still display unrighteous behavior? Humans are three-part beings. We are a spirit, we have a soul (mind, will and emotions), and we live in a physical body. When we are born again and put our faith in Jesus, our spirit is made 100% righteous! We exchange our unrighteous with the righteousness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. What part became new? Our bodies? No, that can’t be. When we are born again, our bodies don’t instantly change. Do our souls become new when we are born again? No, our thought processes don’t change overnight. The part of you that became new was your spirit. The spirit man is the real you, the part of you that lives forever. When you put your trust in Jesus and accepted Him as your Savior, your spirit was made brand new! This is why when you are born again, your old behaviors may not change right away, but you are still considered the righteousness of God in Christ.
Made Righteous By FaithThe righteousness that we receive when we are born again comes through our faith in what Jesus did at the cross. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Receive By FaithOur qualifications to receive blessings from God have never been dependent upon our behavior, under any Covenant. Even Abraham, who was far from perfect, was considered righteous because of His faith, not because of his actions. And he [Abram] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
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