What is righteousness?
For me, in my day-to-day life, to practice righteousness is to do the will of God as He works in me.
Righteousness is everything done in the right way, with no sin to taint it. True righteousness is. Everything done in the right way; the perfect way to do it.
Does that make righteousness unattainable for us? No! Peter says: “… by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature …” 2 Peter 1:4. In other words, it is promised to us that we ourselves can have divine nature – we ourselves can become righteous! So we have something to pursue, and it will take a lifetime for us to pursue it until it becomes full in us. But in the meantime, we can be righteous as far as we have light, revelation from God, and understanding. All we have to do is live in obedience to the faith.
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
The Holy One of Israel:
‘I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you by the way you should go.
Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’”
For me, in my day-to-day life, to practice righteousness is to do the will of God as He works in me. How do I know what the will of God for my life is? Through the Holy Spirit, who is my Helper and Guide. I am to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In other words, I am to be obedient to the Spirit, and that will lead me to do not my own will, but the will of the Father. Then the fruit of the Spirit grows in my life. And what is the fruit of the Spirit? Personal righteousness. When I empty out my own lawlessness – the sin in my flesh – the result is that personal righteousness replaces it.
“For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” Ephesians 5:9.
What God requires is only that I am faithful to the extent that I have light, and to the extent that I understand. God doesn’t require more of me than that I am faithful to the light that I have. But then, as I am faithful to walk in the light, the area of light for me can grow and increase, and I can have a glorious development in that which is good. “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18.
But aren’t there none who are righteous?
“There is none righteous, no not one.” Romans 3:10. This doesn’t mean that is how we have to remain. We are born unrighteous by nature, full of egotism and self-will. We have lusts and desires in our flesh that drive us to fulfill our own will, rather than to seek and do the will of God. That is precisely the reason that we have to pursue righteousness with all of our hearts so that we can become righteous. That is the gospel of Christ – that we can be sanctified and transformed and be made righteous.
This is not to suggest that we do it ourselves. It is only by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we can do anything to become righteous. He convicts us of sin that we have to give up and overcome, and then He gives us the power to do so. And as the unrighteousness is conquered in our lives, we ourselves actually become more loving, more patient, more just, gentler, humbler, more selfless. In other words, righteousness increases! All of this is through the power of the Spirit, but we ourselves must by faith agree when the Spirit convicts us. We ourselves have to be obedient to His promptings and lay down our own lives, giving up our own will so that’s God’s will can be done. This is a work of faith. (Romans 8:12-14.)
Faith has nothing to do with my own strength or my own human works. It is God who works in me both to will and to do, and the glory goes to God. He can be glorified by my faith and the resulting righteousness. (Philippians 2:13.)
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about righteousness. The following articles may also be of interest:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.