“Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.You have done such wonderful things. Who can compare with you, O God?” – Psalm 71:19.
Righteousness is one of those religious words that has become in many ways a cliche. It is thrown around the church as if everyone knows what it means. But do we? What does it mean to be righteous? How do we become righteous? Does it mean simply “being good?”
The answer to the question in Psalm 71, who is righteous like God, is an easy one. No one. Only God is righteous because by definition righteousness means to be perfect. This means that God is always right, He is never wrong and everything that He does is justified. Every one of us is guilty of sin so none of us are righteous.
Nor can we ever live up to God’s standard of righteousness. Psalm 19: 7-9 says, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair.”
No human being is “good enough” to earn righteousness in God’s sight. The Bible confirms what we already know: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23). Because we all sin, it is impossible to be “right” with God based on our own merits. Our lives are so full of sins, shortcomings, and failures that the Bible says: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6). We sin far too often to be righteous before God on our own.
Jesus came to make us righteous. Romans 5:1 (TPT) says, “Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. This means we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us.” Romans 5:19 adds, “Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.”
Jesus took our sin, our shame, our broken fellowship and gave us His righteousness, His holiness and His perfect nature in the exchange. It is not based on anything we can do and have ever done, it is based solely on what Jesus did. Paul tells us, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It simply means that when God looks at us, He sees us through Jesus Christ and His finished work of the cross. We are completely accepted by God and are clothed with Jesus’ righteousness.
- How would you define righteousness?
- What are some advantages of righteousness?