Things Christians Need to Talk About: Righteousness

There's many buzzwords and bywords thrown about in Christendom. I think to the point where they either get watered down, or take on negative connotations because people don't understand or want such words to apply to how they desire to live. One such word is "Righteousness." It's a word we've all heard, and when applied to Jesus or the Father is good, but when applied to individual believers comes down to calling someone "self-righteous," which means that they think they're holier than everyone else. Yet, as I look throughout Scripture, Righteousness is so much more, and doesn't simply apply to the Father or to Christ alone, but to all who hear and obey the voice of God. So what is righteousness, according to the Bible? We first see the definition (which will be repeated throughout the rest of Scripture) in Genesis 15:6" "And he [Abraham] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness."


Consider what this means. Taken by itself, it means little to nothing; many use it as "Abraham heard God, and believed what He said." This is true, but only a part of the truth. What, exactly, did Abraham believe? After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.(Genesis 15:1-5)


Abraham, childless and old, believed that what God said, He would do. He took God at His word. This led Abram (who would later be called Abraham), to go where God told Him and to do what God said, even going so far as to offer, in sacrifice, the Son God had promised. When it says that he believed God, it was far more than acknowledging what God said: Abraham acted upon it. Before circumcision, before any signs of covenant between God and Abraham, he believed, and trusted that God said what He would do. Though Abraham was by no means perfect, he trusted God, did as God said, and this was credited to him as righteousness. Does this mean our works make us righteous? By no means. Do they save us? Not at all. Yet, if Christ is in our lives, there will be proof of that love within our actions. In the Great Commission, Jesus even tells His disciples, when making disciples, that they should be “teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” Obedience is the highest form of Love. When we love God, we will obey Him. We can learn that obedience through Jesus Christ. Jesus even tells His followers “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” Righteousness comes when we hear and obey, not to look good or avoid punishment, but because of His love leading us. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’


“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


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