Peninsula Community Church
What is Righteousness?
May 22, 2016
Today we will look at the question of what is righteousness? To do so we will look at the one of the great fathers of our faith, Abraham. The Bible tells us that Abraham receive righteousness not by working for it but as an act of faith when he believed and acted on God’s word. Look at this pasta with me.
Romans 4:22-25 – That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
As we begin, let me ask you a question this morning? How good are you? How righteous is your righteousness? Are you holy? If so, how holy are you? If righteous, then what makes you righteous? Is it your works or your actions? When it comes to sin, how many sins do you have to commit to be no longer righteous? Is it one, or two, or three? Does the level of the sin or the kind of sin we commit make a difference in whether or not we are righteous?
These might be questions you have asked or at least have considered at some point in time. In fact, I would suggest that one of the big issues we face as Christians is the question of how good is good enough. In attempting to deal with this question, there is a tendency to strive and work hard at being good as if our works make us righteous. I know the struggle as I have attempted to be good enough to please God and gain His favor. There is a problem however when I attempt to be good by my own works and by my own efforts. You see, I can believe that if I act right, do right, and keep all of the rules, I will be accepted by God but the problem is that too often I strive to become something I already am. I am not righteous by my works, I am righteous because of the work of Christ in me.
The question of righteousness and good works is not just an issue in the church but it also an issue in the communities we live. Many around us believe that if they are only good enough they will be accepted by God. They believe that if somehow, at the end of their life, that if they have more checkmarks in their good deeds column and less in their bad deeds column they will end up in heaven. They do not realize what is needed is a relationship with Christ to enter Heaven. Sometimes, we are at fault here in that we do not intend to but we put church attendance above a relationship with Christ. We present a gospel that says if you only go to church or if you do the right things then you will be good enough. But the question has to be asked, how many times do you have to go to church to be righteous? Once a month, twice a month, or every Sunday. What if I miss a Sunday? Does that mean that I am no longer good enough?
In its purest form, the word righteousness means being presentable or good enough to please. It means to be in right standing and and to do the right thing. As believers in Christ, righteousness is not just about doing right or wrong, it is about our position in Christ and what Christ has done for us. You see, we are presentable and good through the work of Christ. Am I perfect? No! But I am growing in grace and in the knowledge of God. The problem too often is that apart from the work of Christ we struggle to do right and be right, but God considers us to be righteous and holy because of His work on the cross and our corresponding faith in Him. It is not what we do that makes us righteous. We are righteous because He has made us that way through salvation.
To understand righteousness let me make a couple of observations about what the Bible has to say about self-righteousness. First of all, we have to know that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6.) The problem with filthy rags is that there is not much to be done with them other than to throw them out or burn them. Here is the point that is being made; no matter how good our acts or actions might be they cannot be compared to the work of grace in our hearts. The problem is that when we compare our righteousness to the righteousness of Christ we all fall short. But that is the very reason why we have to see ourselves righteous in His eyes. We are all sinners, the only difference is that we have been given the gift of righteousness so that we can live in freedom from sin and the power of sin over us.
Secondly, the Bible tells us that none are righteous. Listen to Romans 3:10-12. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” When we are left to our own devices the tendency is to live life by our own measure of righteousness. When left to our vices we have a huge inclination toward sin because we are motivated by the carnal nature that is alive and well in us. Apart from God it is impossible to live godly and righteous lives. Without the drawing of the Holy Spirit we cannot possibly be righteous.
Thirdly, we must understand that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all sin and we have all sinned, past tense. There is no-one that is perfect but that does not mean that we do not live righteously. We have all come short of manifesting God’s presence in our life. We may not commit one of the big sins of life but we do sin when we respond to people with a bad attitude or heart that is motivated by anything but God’s word. When it comes to those in our community we cannot approach them with pride but with a humility that bows before our God who has graciously saved us and redeemed us. Except for the grace of God, we would be right where they are spiritually.
Even though we fall short, and fail so often, the Bible reminds us that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. We are also reminded that we can say we have no sin but that makes us a liar. Here is the beauty of this passage. While we might sin, he does not cast us off but rather He accepts us through the work of the cross. The community around us needs this message. No sin, no wrong keeps us from Christ’s grace and His love and the best way to share this is is by way of our personal testimony.
With that said let us now look at the Biblical description of Godly Righteousness. First, Godly righteousness is an act of faith. We find that Abraham’s faith was the channel by which righteousness came to him. He acted on what God commanded by faith and then righteousness was imparted or given to him by faith. His righteousness was not based on his works but on his faith. While circumcision was important to Abraham, his righteousness was imparted to him before he was circumcised. This is important because it was not the act of circumcision that made Abraham righteous, it was his faith in God. In Romans 4, listen to what Paul said. For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
Secondly, Godly righteousness is a gift of God. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). While death came as a result of one man’s transgression grace and righteousness came through the gift of God. Just as His grace is a gift so is His righteousness. We don’t deserve it but He makes us righteous because He loves us and because of who He is. Our acts do not make us righteous we are righteous because of the gift of God. Listen again to Paul’s words.
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: – Romans 4:1-6. Righteousness is a free gift from God.
Thirdly, Godly righteousness is a guide to keep the law. He gives righteousness so we can live free and holy. The teaching of righteousness in the book of Romans served to give a blow to the Jewish the way of thinking. They were living under the false pretense that by living right they were made right. The key here is the order of things. We do not do acts of righteousness to be righteousness but rather we do acts of righteousness because we are righteous. There is a difference. When we do things to become righteous we begin to live a lifestyle oriented toward works and pleasing others. The result is that we find ourselves striving for results and doing things solely so that we will look good. With that said we must understand that while the law does not make us righteous, we do need to follow the law and its commands. Otherwise, we end up doing whatever we choose rather than basing our life in the truth of the gospel.
So what is the application of this? First, we need to accept God’s gift of righteousness. Just as we received God’s gift of grace we must also accept the gift of righteousness. Don’t strive to be righteous. Rest in the work that has already been done on our behalf. Secondly, we must grasp the fact that we are already righteous as believers. We do not work for righteousness, it is a free gift. Because it is a gift we stand righteous because of Christ. Therefore, we don’t work for righteousness we are already righteous through the work of Christ in us.
Thirdly, we must obey and follow God’s commands. To show our love and respect for God’s work in our life we obey and follow God’s commands. We do so because we are righteous and not the other away around. You see we live righteously because we are righteous. This means that we go to the Lord with those areas in our life where we are falling short and failing to keep His commands. He forgives and we are renewed in holiness and righteousness.
Finally, we need to share the power of righteousness with those around us. Remember people can never be good enough they simply need to receive the righteousness of God and His gift of grace. We do that by accepting Christ as our Savior.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom