From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

God the Father is righteous (just); Jesus Christ his Son is the Righteous (Just) One; the Father through the Son and in the Spirit gives the gift of righteousness (justice) to repentant sinners for salvation; such believing sinners are declared righteous (just) by the Father through the Son, are made righteous (just) by the Holy Spirit working in them, and will be wholly righteous (just) in the age to come. They are and will be righteous because they are in a covenant relation with the living God, who is the God of all grace and mercy and who will bring to completion what he has begun in them by declaring them righteous for Christ's sake.

The noun righteousness/justice (Gk. dikaiosune [Δικαιοσύνη]) bears meanings in the New Testament related to two sources. The major one is the Hebrew thought-world of the Old Testament and particularly the sdq [צָדַק] word group, which locates the meaning in the sphere of God's gracious, covenantal relation to his people and the appropriate behavior of the covenant partners (Yahweh and Israel) toward each other. The other is the regular use of the words in everyday Greek as spoken in New Testament times, which fixes the meaning in the sphere of a life in conformity to a known standard or law—thus honesty, legality, and so on. This latter meaning in terms of doing God's will is of course also found in the Old Testament.

When we translate the Greek words based on the stem dikai- into English we make use of two sets of words based on the stems, just and right. So we have just, justice, justify and right, righteous, righteousness, rightwise (old English). The use of two sets of English words for the one set of Greek words sometimes causes difficulties for students of the Bible. This is especially so when the verb "to justify, " describing God's word and action, is used with the noun "righteousness, " pointing to the result of that action.

The Gospels . The appropriate background to bear in mind for understanding the teaching of both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ on righteousness/justice are two of the dominant ideas of the Old Testament. First, Yahweh-Elohim, the Lord God, is righteous in that he speaks and Acts in accordance with the purity of his own holy nature; further, what he says and does for Israel is in accordance with his establishment of the covenant with this people (see  Psalm 22:31;  40:10;  51:14;  71:15-24;  Amos 5:21-24 ). Micah declared the righteousness of God as his faithfulness to keep and act within the covenant and thus to save Israel from her enemies, as well as to vindicate the penitent.

Second, the covenant people of God are called to live righteously, that is, in conformity to the demands of the covenant and according to God's will (see  Psalm 1:4-6;  11:7;  72:1;  Isaiah 1:16-17 ). Having within the covenantal relation with God the gift of salvation, they are to behave as the people of the holy Lord. Hosea, the prophet of divine love, ties righteousness with mercy, loving kindness, and justice (2:19; 10:12).

John the Baptist called for repentance and righteous behavior such as is pleasing to God ( Luke 3:7-9 ). Further, it was because of the demands of such righteousnessfulfilling the will of Godthat he actually was willing to baptize Jesus ( Matthew 3:15 ). Likewise Jesus presents righteousness as conformity to the will of God expressed in the Mosaic law ( Matthew 13:17;  23:29;  27:4,19 ,  24 ) and also conformity to his own teachings concerning the requirements of the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 5:17-20 ). However, conformity to his own teachings presupposes that he is the Messiah, that he fulfills the Law and the Prophets, and that what he declares is the morality of the kingdom of God relating to the totality of life, inward and outward, seen by God. Further, Jesus does allow that conformity to the norms of the scribes and Pharisees is a certain kind of (inferior) righteous living, but he contrasts it with the proper righteousness he exhibits, proclaims, and looks for ( Luke 5:30-32;  15:7;  18:9 ) in the disciples of the kingdom. So in a fundamental sense, in the four Gospels righteousness as a quality of living is intimately related to the arrival and membership in the kingdom of God and is only possible because God has come to his people as their Redeemer.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that from the beginning Jesus' mission is to fulfill God's righteousness (3:15). This is brought to realization in his words and ministry so that the kingdom and salvation of God are in him and come through him. Alongside this is the righteousness in the new covenant, which is right thinking, feeling, speaking, and behavior on the part of disciples of the kingdom, who do what God approves and commands. This moral substance is very clear from the detailed contents of the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5-7), where the will of God is set forth by Jesus and is contrasted with a mere legalism. Yet what Jesus proclaims and outlines is certainly not a self-righteousness, for it is portrayed as the outflowing of a life that is centered on submitting to, worshiping, and seeking after God and confessing Jesus as the Messiah (see especially 5:17-42).

In the Gospel of Luke, we read of Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Joseph of Arimathea being called righteous (1:6; 2:25; 23:50) because they embody genuine religion according to the norms of the Old Covenant. They trust in and obey God. Further, Jesus himself as the Servant of Yahweh is the righteous or innocent one (23:47), even as the centurion confessed at the cross. The righteousness of the kingdom of God is practical and reverses the standards of the regular social order (3:11,14; 6:20-26). At the last day it will be those who have been genuinely righteous in terms of doing the will of God who will be declared just (14:14).

In the Gospel of John, God is righteous (17:25) and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, has a specific role with respect to righteousness (16:8,10). It is the unique work of the Spirit, who comes into the world in the name of Jesus the Messiah, to convince/convict the world of righteousness. The Spirit both vindicates Jesus as the Righteous One, whom the Father has raised from the dead and exalted into heaven, and also makes clear what kind of righteous life is required by, and, in grace, provided by God.

The Letters of Paul . The uses the noun dikaiosune [   Isaiah 46:13 ).

Thus God's people are righteous when they are in a right relation with him, when they enjoy his salvation; they are considered by God as the Judge of the world as righteous when they are being and doing what he requires in his covenant. So it may be said that the concept of righteousness in Paul belongs more to soteriology than to moral theology, even though it has distinct moral implications.

God's righteousness is, for Paul, God's saving activity in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Son. It is activity that is directly in line with the saving activity of God in the Old Testament. The acceptance of the unique saving deed of God at Calvary by faith in the person of Jesus Christ is that which God has ordained to be the means for sinners (the unrighteous and the disobedient ones) to enter into the right with God, the Father, and receive the forgiveness of sins. God as the Judge justifies believing sinners by declaring them righteous in and through Jesus Christ; then he expects and enables these sinners to become righteous in word and deed. Faith works by love.

The righteousness of which Paul speaks, especially in the letters to Galatia and Rome, stands in contrast to the righteousness that is based on the fulfillment of the law by man as the covenant partner of God. It is "the righteousness of faith" and "the righteousness of God" ( Romans 10:6;  Philippians 3:9 ), and is most certainly the gift of God. From the human standpoint what God looks for in those who receive the gospel is "faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" ( Galatians 2:20 ). God's gift to those who believe is a righteousness that exists and can be given only because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners and his resurrection from the dead as the vindicated Lord of all.

So God as the righteous Judge justifiesplaces in a right relation with himself within the new covenant of gracethose who believe the gospel of the Father concerning his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And he justifies Jew and Greek alike on precisely the same basis, by faith alone without works, and he makes no distinction whatsoever between the people of the Old Covenant and the Gentiles. Abraham, says Paul, was himself justified by faith alone ( Genesis 12:3;  15:6;  18:18;  Romans 4:3;  Galatians 3:8 ). In fact, Paul confessed that the power of the gospel to be the word of salvation to both Jew and Greek was based on the revelation of the righteousness of God thereinof God the Father acting justly for the sake of his Son ( Romans 1:16-17 ).

The gift of a right relation with the Father through the Son in the Spirit, which is justification, creates a relationship for believers both with God and fellow believers that they are to dedicate to righteousness in the sense of obeying Christ ( Romans 6:12-14; cf.  2 Corinthians 6:7,14;  9:10;  Ephesians 4:24;  Philippians 1:11 ). Though they could never become righteous before God by their efforts to conform their lives to his will, out of gratitude and love they are to serve him because he has given them the gift of salvation through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has pronounced them righteous, he has reconciled them to himself and removed their alienation, and he has transformed their relation to him into that of friendship. Therefore, since God has made them his own and given to them his righteousness, their duty and privilege is to be righteous in conduct. And he promises that on the last day and for the life of the age to come he will actually make them to be truly and effectually righteous in all that they are, become, and do.

The word "eschatological" is often used with reference to this gift of righteousness. The reason is this. It is in anticipation of what God will do for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ at the last day that he pronounces guilty sinners righteous now in this evil age. At the last day, God the Father will be vindicated and all will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Those who believe will become and remain righteous in their resurrection bodies of glory. Now and before the new age arrives, by the proclamation of the gospel and by the presence of the Spirit, that which is not yet (the fullness of righteousness of the age to come) is actually made available by the will and declaration of the Father, through the mediation of Jesus Christ the Lord and by the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit. Already there is the provision of a right relation with God through the preaching of the gospel, but there is not yet the experience of the fullness of righteousness as an imparted gift. Now believers merely have the firstfruits of that which awaits them in the age to come.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that Paul does not use the word "righteousness" in its more familiar meaning as a virtue. In fact he does so particularly in 1,2Timothy. He commends striving for righteousness ( 1 Timothy 6:11 ) as the right motivation of a person of God; and he sees the use of the inspired Scriptures as being to train Christians in righteousness ( 2 Timothy 3:16 ). Further, as a reward for his efforts for the kingdom of God he looks for "the crown of righteousness" ( 2 Timothy 4:8 ).

Other New Testament Books . Righteousness in terms of the actual doing and completing the will of God is found outside the Gospels in various places. It is found in  Acts 10:35 in terms of fearing God and doing righteousness. In   Hebrews 12:11 we read of the peaceful fruit of righteousness. In 1Peter Christians are to die to sin and live to righteousness (2:24) and be prepared to suffer for righteousness' sake (3:14). In 1John the doing of righteousness in terms of following Jesus Christ, the righteous One, who came in flesh and will come again in glory, is what vital Christianity is all about. Believers who act righteously in word and deed proclaim their righteous Lord and show the error of the false teachers (2:29; 3:7-10).

The most discussed passage outside the Pauline corpus with respect to righteousness and justification is  James 2:14-26 . Here, at least on the surface, it appears that James is disagreeing with Paul. In fact the truth is that they have different starting points and are facing different missionary and pastoral situations.

A faith without works is said by James to be a dead faith, and Abraham is presented as being justified by his works because he was prepared to sacrifice his beloved son. For James, faith comes to completion in practical works and it was this completed faith of Abraham, says James, which was reckoned to him for righteousness ( Genesis 15:6;  James 2:23 ). Thus for James a person is placed in a right relation with God by a faith expressed in works. It is possible to reconcile Paul's approach and that of James if it is remembered that Paul himself spoke of "faith expressing itself through love" ( Galatians 5:6; cf.  James 2:1,8 ).

Peter Toon

See also Ethics; God; Justice

Bibliography . B. Przybylski, Righteousness in Matthew and His World of Thought  ; J. Reumann, et al., Righteousness in the New Testament  ; P. Stulmacher, Reconciliation, Law and Righteousness  ; J. A. Zeisler, The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]


I. In OT.

‘Righteousness,’ ‘righteous’ (except in a few passages) stand in EV [Note: English Version.] for some offshoot of the Semitic root tsdq which is met with as early as the Tell el-Amarna letters in the sense of ‘to be innocent.’ The Heb. derivatives are the adjective tsaddîq and the nouns tsedeq and tsÄ•dâqâh (which seem to be practically indistinguishable in meaning), and the verbal forms tsâdaq, hitsdîq , etc. This group of words is represented in EV [Note: English Version.] in about 400 passages by ‘righteousness,’ ‘righteous,’ etc.; in the remainder, about one-fifth of the whole, by ‘just,’ ‘justice,’ ‘justify,’ ‘right.’ Whether the primary notion was ‘straightness’ or ‘hardness’ is uncertain, and quite immaterial for the present inquiry.

The material can be conveniently arranged under two heads: (1) righteousness in common speech; (2) righteousness in religious terminology. The order is not without significance. It has been justly remarked that the development of the idea of righteousness in OT moves in the opposite direction to that traversed by the idea of holiness. Whilst the latter starts from the Divine and comes down to the human, the former begins with the human and ascends to the Divine.

1. Righteousness in common speech . ( a ) It is perhaps safest to begin with the forensic or juristic application, The plaintiff or defendant in a legal case who was in the right was ‘righteous’ (  Deuteronomy 25:1 ,   Isaiah 5:23 ); and his claim resting on his good behaviour was ‘righteousness’ (  1 Kings 8:32 ). A judge who decided in favour of such a person gave ‘righteous judgment,’ lit. ‘judgment of righteousness’ (  Deuteronomy 16:18 ), judged ‘righteously’ (  Deuteronomy 1:16 ). The Messianic King, who would be the ideal judge, would he ‘swift to do righteousness’ (  Isaiah 16:5 ), would ‘judge the poor with righteousness’ (  Isaiah 11:4 ), and would have ‘righteousness for the girdle of his loins’ (  Isaiah 11:5 ). A court of justice was, in theory, ‘the place of righteousness’ (  Ecclesiastes 3:16 ). The purified Jerusalem would be ‘a city of righteousness’ (  Isaiah 1:26 ). On the other hand, corrupt judges ‘cast down righteousness to the earth’ (  Amos 5:7 ), and ‘take away the righteousness of the righteous from him’ (  Isaiah 5:23 ). ( b ) From the forensic use is readily developed the general meaning ‘what is right,’ ‘what ought to be’ [some scholars invert the order of a and b , starting with the idea of ‘rightness’]. In   Proverbs 16:8 we read: ‘Better is a little with righteousness ( i.e. , a little got by right conduct) than great revenues with injustice.’ Balances, weights, and measures which came up to the required standard were ‘just balances,’ etc., lit. ‘balances of righteousness’ (  Leviticus 19:36 ), whilst their converse were ‘wicked balances,’ lit. ‘balances of wickedness’ (  Micah 6:11 ) or ‘balances of deceit’ (  Amos 8:5 ). ( c ) Righteous speech also, i.e. truthful speech, came under the category of ‘righteousness.’ ‘Righteous lips,’ lit. ‘lips of righteousness,’ ‘are the delight of kings’ (  Proverbs 16:13 ).

2. Righteousness in religious terminology . ( a ) For the ancient Hebrew, ‘righteousness’ was especially correspondence with the Divine will . The thought of God, indeed, was perhaps never wholly absent from his mind when he used the word. Note, for this conception of righteousness,   Ezekiel 18:5-9 , where ‘doing what is lawful and right ( tsÄ•dâqâh )’ is illustrated by a number of concrete examples followed up by the general statement, ‘hath walked in my statutes and kept my judgments to deal truly,’ The man who thus acts, adds the prophet, is ‘just,’ rather ‘righteous’ ( tsaddîq ). The Book of Ezekiel has many references to righteousness thus understood. ( b ) As the Divine will was revealed in the Law, ‘righteousness’ was thought of as obedience to its rules (  Deuteronomy 6:25 ). Note also the description of a righteous man in   Psalms 1:1-6 (cf. v.   Psalms 1:1 f. with   Psalms 1:5 b and   Psalms 1:6 a). The expression was also used of obedience in a single instance. Restoring a pledge at sun-down was ‘righteousness’ (  Deuteronomy 24:13 ). The avenging deed of Phinehas was ‘counted to him for righteousness’ (  Psalms 106:31 ). So we find the word in the plural: ‘The Lord is righteous: he loveth righteous deeds’ (  Psalms 11:7 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). ( c ) In most of the passages quoted, and in many places in Ezk., Job, Prov., and Eccles., the righteousness of the individual is referred to; but in others Israel (  Psalms 14:5;   Psalms 97:11;   Psalms 118:20 etc.,   Isaiah 41:8-11 , and other parts of Deutero-Isaiah,   Habakkuk 1:13 etc.), or a portion of Israel (  Isaiah 51:1;   Isaiah 51:7 etc.), is represented as ‘righteous.’ ( d ) Since righteousness is conformity to the Divine will, and the Law which reveals that will is righteous in the whole and its parts (  Psalms 119:7;   Psalms 119:62;   Psalms 119:75;   Psalms 119:172 etc.), God Himself is naturally thought of as essentially righteous (  Deuteronomy 32:4 where ‘just’ = ‘righteous’;   Jeremiah 12:1 ,   Isaiah 42:21 ,   Psalms 7:9 (10) 11 (12), His throne is founded on righteousness and judgment (  Psalms 89:14 , (15)), and all His ways exhibit righteousness (  Psalms 145:17 ). As, however, Israel was often unrighteous, the righteousness of Jehovah could then be revealed to it only in judgment (  Isaiah 1:27;   Isaiah 5:18;   Isaiah 10:22 ). In later times it was revealed in judgment on their heathen oppressors (  Psalms 40:9 f.,   Psalms 98:2 etc.). ( e ) So in a number of passages, especially in   Isaiah 40:1-31;   Isaiah 41:1-29;   Isaiah 42:1-25;   Isaiah 43:1-28;   Isaiah 44:1-28;   Isaiah 45:1-25;   Isaiah 46:1-13;   Isaiah 47:1-15;   Isaiah 48:1-22;   Isaiah 49:1-26;   Isaiah 50:1-11;   Isaiah 51:1-23;   Isaiah 52:1-15;   Isaiah 53:1-12;   Isaiah 54:1-17;   Isaiah 55:1-13;   Isaiah 56:1-12;   Isaiah 57:1-21;   Isaiah 58:1-14;   Isaiah 59:1-21;   Isaiah 60:1-22;   Isaiah 61:1-11;   Isaiah 62:1-12;   Isaiah 63:1-19;   Isaiah 64:1-12;   Isaiah 65:1-25;   Isaiah 66:1-24 , ‘righteousness’ is almost synonymous with justification, salvation (  Isaiah 45:8;   Isaiah 46:13;   Isaiah 51:6 f.,   Isaiah 58:6;   Isaiah 59:9;   Isaiah 61:11;   Isaiah 62:1; many passages in Psalms [  Psalms 22:31 (32)   Psalms 24:5 etc.],   Malachi 4:2 [  Hebrews 3:19 ]). For more on this subject cf. art. Justification.

II. In NT.

The Greek equivalents of tsaddîq, tsedeq , etc., are dikaios (81 times), ‘righteous,’ ‘just’; dikaiôs (5 t.), ‘justly,’ ‘righteously’; dikaiosynç (92 t.), ‘righteousness’; dikaioô (39 t.), ‘justify’; dikaiôma (10 t.). ‘righteousness’ (4t. [AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ] ‘righteous act,’ ‘judgment,’ ‘ordinance,’ ‘justification’]); dikaiôsis (2 t.), justification’; dikaiokrisia , ‘righteous judgment’ (  Romans 2:5 ).

In the teaching of Jesus ( Matthew 5:6;   Matthew 5:10;   Matthew 5:20;   Matthew 6:1;   Matthew 6:33;   Matthew 21:32 ,   John 16:8;   John 16:10 ), and in NT generally, ‘righteousness’ means, as in OT, conformity to the Divine will, but with the thought greatly deepened and spiritualized. In the Sermon on the Mount righteousness clearly includes right feeling and motive as well as right action. In   Matthew 6:1 (where dikaiosynç is unquestionably the true reading) there may be an echo of the later meaning acquired by tsÄ•dâqâh , its Aramaic equivalent, the beginnings of which can be traced in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] (  Deuteronomy 6:25;   Deuteronomy 6:8 other passages) and the Heb. Sirach about b.c. 200 ( Sir 3:14; Sir 40:17 ) ‘benevolence,’ ‘ almsgiving .’ If, as cannot be reasonably doubted, the Sermon on the Mount was originally in Aramaic, the word for ‘righteousness’ can hardly have been used in such a connexion without a side glance at a common popular application of it. Still, it is not safe to find more than a hint or echo.

In  Matthew 3:15 , Zahn has observed, dikaiosynç seems to be used in the sense of dikaiôma , ‘ordinance.’ In the Pauline Epistles, where dikaiosynç and dikaioô are most frequently used (85 times out of 131), the former in a considerable number of cases describes not the righteousness required by God, but the righteousness bestowed by God and accepted by faith in Christ (  Romans 1:17 etc.).

For fuller treatment cf. art. Justification.

W. Taylor Smith.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

sedaqah, sedeq dikaiosune euthutes

Old Testament The starting point is the Hebrew notion of God's “righteousness.” The Hebrew mind did not understand righteousness to be an attribute of the divine, that is a characteristic of God's nature. Rather, God's righteousness is what God does in fulfillment of the terms of the covenant that God established with the chosen people, Israel (  2 Chronicles 12:6;  Psalm 7:9;  Jeremiah 9:24;  Daniel 9:14 ). God's righteousness was not a metaphysical property but that dimension of the divine experienced by those within the covenantal community.

Most especially, God's righteousness was understood in relation to the image of God as the Judge of created order ( Psalm 96:13 ). God's judgments are consistently redemptive in nature, God's judgments protected, delivered, and restored Israel ( Isaiah 11:4-5 ). At times God's righteousness was experienced in God's delivering Israel from enemies and oppressors ( Psalm 71:1 ); at other times, in God's delivering Israel from the nation's own sinfulness ( Psalm 51:19 ). Such deliverance involved God's righteousness of wrath against the persecutor and the wicked ( Psalm 106:1 ). Salvation and condemnation exist together as the two sides of God's righteousness; the leading side is always deliverance: God condemns only because He also saves ( Psalm 97:1 ).

Righteousness is a religious concept applied to humans because Israel had entered into a covenantal relationship to God. Because God had chosen Israel, the nation had the covenantal responsibility of fulfilling the terms of the covenant. Precisely here, serious misunderstanding frequently flaws thought about Israel's desire for righteousness. The Old Testament did not call on the people of Israel to attempt to earn God's favor or to strive to merit God's graces ( Psalm 18:1 ). Indeed, the Old Testament teaches that God's gracious favor had been poured out on the nation in God's choosing of Abraham and his descendants. God acted to establish the covenant and in so doing bestowed salvation on Israel ( Exodus 19:1 ). The law was given as an act of divine mercy to provide Israel with guidelines for keeping the nation's own portion of the covenant ( Leviticus 16:1;  Psalm 40:1 ). Rather than being a ladder that Israel climbed to get to God, the law was understood to be a divine program for the maintenance of a healthy relationship between Israel and God (  Leviticus 16:1 ). God expected Israel to keep the law not to earn merit but to maintain the status God had already given the nation. As Israel kept the covenant law, the nation was righteous. Thus human righteousness in relation to God was understood as faithful adherence to the law ( Leviticus 19:1 ). Even so, God did not leave humans with the hopelessly impossible task of performing the law perfectly: the law God gave contained provision for atonement through repentance and appropriate acts of contrition ( Leviticus 19:1 ).

The concept of righteousness as faithful fulfillment of the provisions of a covenant was also meaningful in strictly human terms. The person who met the demands of a variety of social relations was thought to be righteous, to have done righteousness, though the requirements of righteousness varied with the covenantal/relational context. Some of the prominent areas were those of family ( Genesis 38:1 ), friendship ( 1 Samuel 24:1 ), nation ( Proverbs 14:34 ), and even in relation to servants and certain foreigners ( Job 31:1 ).

New Testament Greek philosophy understood righteousness to be one of the cardinal virtues, but New Testament authors show that they understood the word in terms of Old Testament thinking about covenantal relations. Human righteousness in the New Testament is absolute faith in and commitment to God ( Matthew 3:15;  Romans 4:5;  1 Peter 2:24 ). The one who in faith gives oneself to the doing of God's will is righteous, doing righteousness, and reckoned righteous by God ( James 2:23 ). The focus of faith in God is the saving activity of God in Jesus Christ ( Romans 3:21-26 ). The human-to-human dimension of righteousness observed in the Old Testament is present in New Testament thought ( Philippians 1:3-11 ), but it seems less prominent, perhaps because of the importance of the New Testament concept of love.

At the heart of New Testament thinking about righteousness is the notion of God's righteousness ( Matthew 6:33;  Acts 17:31;  Romans 1:17;  Ephesians 4:24;  James 1:20 ). Interpreters debate whether the phrase “righteousness of God” is a subjective genitive , meaning “God is righteous,” or an objective genitive , meaning “God gives righteousness.”

This grammatical distinction is more than a point about subtle linguistic nuance. In the New Testament, especially in Paul's letters, “the righteousness of God” is the key to understanding the salvation of humanity.

Interpreters who take “the righteousness of God” to mean “God gives righteousness” see salvation as a God-created human possibility. Righteousness is that which God requires of humanity and which God gives as a gift to the person of faith. In this line of thought, faith is the condition for the reception of the gift of righteousness from God. God acts in Christ, and, in turn, humans react by having faith. Then God gives them righteousness or reckons them, on the basis of their faith, as if they were righteous.

On the other hand, interpreters who understand “the righteousness of God” to mean “God is righteous” contend that salvation is purely the work of God, God's saving activity in keeping the divine side of the covenant of creation. God acts in Christ, and part of that action is the creation of faith on the part of human beings who otherwise have no faith. Thus “the righteousness of God” is the power of God at work saving humanity (and the whole of creation), through the creation of faith in sinful persons.

The line between the camps of scholars holding these different interpretations of “the righteousness of God” is sharply drawn, and the debate over the validity of these interpretive options continues with intensity. See Ethics; Grace; Law; Mercy; Salvation .

Marion Soards

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness’ are found much more in biblical language than in everyday language. Both words, however, are concerned with everyday matters, and for this reason some modern versions of the Bible prefer to use such words as ‘right’, ‘fair’, ‘just’ and ‘honest’. A righteous person is one who, among other things, does right or is in the right.

The source of righteousness

Perfect righteousness is found in God alone. He is perfect in goodness and has a perfect knowledge of what is right and what is wrong ( Deuteronomy 32:4;  Psalms 145:17;  Isaiah 45:21;  Romans 9:14;  Hebrews 6:18). Since God made human beings in his image, they also have a sense of righteousness. If they are characterized by proper behaviour and moral uprightness, the Bible may speak of them as righteous ( Genesis 7:1;  Psalms 15:2;  Proverbs 12:3-10;  Luke 1:6;  2 Corinthians 9:9-10).

This righteousness is not a moral perfection that people achieve by their own efforts, but a right relationship with God that people enter into through faith and obedience ( Isaiah 50:9;  Habakkuk 2:4;  Romans 3:4-5;  Romans 9:31-32;  Romans 10:3-4;  Galatians 3:11-12). It is a righteousness that pleases God and guarantees his help ( Psalms 45:7-8;  Isaiah 56:1;  1 Peter 3:12).

The legal setting

Righteousness is not simply a private affair; it is a matter also for social concern. God’s righteousness demands social justice ( Isaiah 5:7-9;  Amos 5:6-7;  Amos 5:24). Justice, in fact, is a prominent characteristic of righteousness in the Bible (see Justice ).

The Bible commonly uses ‘righteousness’ and related words in a legal setting, where a judge must administer justice righteously. The judge in some cases is God ( Genesis 18:25;  Psalms 96:13;  Ecclesiastes 3:17;  Acts 17:31;  2 Timothy 4:8;  Revelation 19:11), in other cases a civil official ( Leviticus 19:15;  Deuteronomy 4:8;  Ezekiel 23:45; cf.  John 7:24). The innocent and the guilty are respectively the righteous and the wicked. In acquitting the innocent, the judge declares him to be in the right, or righteous; in condemning the guilty, the judge declares him to be in the wrong, or wicked ( Deuteronomy 25:1;  1 Kings 8:32;  Job 32:1;  Malachi 3:18;  Matthew 13:41-43;  Matthew 27:19;  Romans 2:5-8).

This legal sense of righteousness gives meaning to the biblical teaching of justification by faith. (In both Hebrew and Greek the words ‘righteous’ and ‘justify’ come from the same root.) To justify means to declare righteous. Justification is God’s act of declaring righteous those who put their faith in Christ and his saving work. God does not make believers righteous in the sense of improving them to a standard of behaviour that satisfies him, but rather he declares them righteous. Christ has met God’s righteous demands by paying sin’s penalty on behalf of sinners. God can therefore declare repentant sinners righteous, yet himself remain righteous in doing so ( Romans 1:16-17;  Romans 3:21-26;  Romans 4:1-3;  Romans 5:1-2;  Galatians 2:15-16;  Galatians 3:21-22;  Philippians 3:9). (For details of this aspect of the believer’s righteousness see Justification .)

Though righteous deeds, or good works, cannot save anyone, once people are saved their lives should be full of righteous deeds ( Ephesians 2:8-10;  Philippians 1:11). Once God has declared them righteous, they must make it true in practice by living righteously ( Romans 6:13;  Romans 6:18-19;  Ephesians 4:24;  Ephesians 5:9;  Philippians 3:8-10;  1 Timothy 6:11;  1 Peter 2:24;  1 Peter 3:14).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [5]

Righteous, Righteousness

It is very highly important and interesting to have clear apprehensions of the Scriptural meaning of the term righteous. What notions we annex to it is of little consequence if the word of God decides other wise. Certain it is, that in the world's dictionary the term righteous is very freely and commonly bestowed, and upon characters that call in question many of the Lord's declarations concerning sin, and the sinfulness of our fallen nature. It is highly important therefore to hear what the word of God saith on this point, and not lean upon the human opinion of vain men.

Now the Scriptures with one voice, and in the most unqualified and unaccommodating manner, declare that when the Lord looked "down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God," the result of that enquiry was, that "they were all gone aside, and altogether become filthy, that there was none that did good, no not one." ( Psalms 14:2-3) And the apostle Paul quotes this passage, and confirms it by enlargement. (See  Romans 3:1-19)

It is in vain for any man to make an appeal against this decision. No comparative statement can, in the least, alter the case. No man, not a single man of the whole race of men sprung from Adam, can be an exception to this universal decree of God.

What then is the righteousness of the Scripture, and who is the righteous man before God? The answer is direct. None but the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and he only, is set forth under this title; and he alone is the Righteousness of his people. It is high treason to talk of any other; and it is equally high treason to talk of any comparative statement between man and man concerning righteousness. The account from heaven is, "All have sinned, and come short of God's glory. The whole world is become guilty before God.%And by the deeds of the law can no flesh be justified before God." Hence, therefore, it undeniably follows that Christ is the only righteousness of his people; and he is what Scripture declares his name is, and shall be, JEHOVAH our Righteousness. ( Jeremiah 23:6)

Now then the conclusion from this statement of Scripture is evidently this—if Jesus be the only righteousness of his people, either this is my right eousness, or I have none at all. Wholly sinful in myself, and wholly righteous in him I must be; or I have no part nor lot in this matter. If there be not in me a total renunciation of every thing the mistaken calculation of men calls righteousness, yea, more than this, if there be not a full and unreserved confession of universal sin and unworthiness in me, I cannot be wholly looking for acceptance to, and living wholly upon, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lord my Righteousness. And the gospel knows no mixture, no mingling the righteousness of the sinner with the righteousness of the Saviour. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Blessed and happy souls who, from a deep conviction of the total corruption and depravity of their own nature, are resting all their high hopes of acceptance and justification before God in the perfect and complete righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; who behold him, and accept the authority of Jeho Vah for this well-grounded confidence of beholding him, and rest with full assurance of faith in him, as the Lord their righteousness; and to whose spirits the Holy Ghost bears witness that "he is made of God to them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, that, according as it is writ ten, he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord." ( 1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [6]

1: Δικαιοσύνη (Strong'S #1343 — Noun Feminine — dikaiosune — dik-ah-yos-oo'-nay )

is "the character or quality of being right or just;" it was formerly spelled "rightwiseness," which clearly expresses the meaning. It is used to denote an attribute of God, e.g.,  Romans 3:5 , the context of which shows that "the righteousness of God" means essentially the same as His faithfulness, or truthfulness, that which is consistent with His own nature and promises;  Romans 3:25,26 speaks of His "righteousness" as exhibited in the Death of Christ, which is sufficient to show men that God is neither indifferent to sin nor regards it lightly. On the contrary, it demonstrates that quality of holiness in Him which must find expression in His condemnation of sin.

 Matthew 5:6,10,20 John 16:8,10 Matthew 3:15 21:32 Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:1  Matthew 6:2-4 Matthew 6:5-15 Matthew 6:16-18 James 1:20 3:18 2—Peter 1:1 Hebrews 5:13 Romans 6 Ephesians 6:14 2—Corinthians 5:21 Romans 4:3 Romans 4:6,11 Romans 4:3,5,9,22

2: Δικαίωμα (Strong'S #1345 — Noun Neuter — dikaioma — dik-ah'-yo-mah )

is the concrete expression of "righteousness:" see Justification , A, No. 2.

 Hebrews 1:8

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

A term frequently occurring in scripture expressing an attribute of God which maintains what is consistent with His own character, and necessarily judges what is opposed to it — sin. In man also it is the opposite of lawlessness or sin,  1 John 3:4-7; but it is plainly declared of man that, apart from a work of grace in him, "there is none righteous, no, not one."  Psalm 14:1-3;  Romans 3:10 . But God has, independently of man, revealed His righteousness in the complete judgement and setting aside of sin; and of the state with which, in man, sin was connected. This was effected by the Son of God becoming man and taking on the cross, vicariously, the place of man as under the curse of the law, and in His being made sin and glorifying God in bearing the judgement of sin. Hence grace is established on the foundation of righteousness. The righteousness of God, declared and expressed in the saints in Christ, is thus the divinely given answer to Christ having been made sin. On the other hand, the lake of fire is an eternal expression of God's righteous judgement. At the present moment God's righteousness is revealed in the gospel and apprehended by faith.

This is an entirely different principle from that on which the Jew went, namely, that of seeking to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting to the righteousness of God.  Romans 10:3 . Their father Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness; and the faith of the believer is counted to him for righteousness, apart from works.  Romans 4:3,5 .

Christ Jesus is made unto us righteousness from God.  1 Corinthians 1:30 . He is the end of the law for righteousness to all those who believe.

Besides the above, there is the practical righteousness which characterises every Christian. By knowing God's righteousness he becomes the servant of righteousness. The bride of the Lamb is represented as "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white:" which is "the righteousnesses of the saints."  Revelation 19:8 .

The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, though largely acknowledged in Christendom, is not found in scripture. The explanation generally given of the doctrine is that Christ having perfectly kept the law, His obedience has formed a legal righteousness that is imputed to the believer as if the latter had himself kept the law. One passage of scripture proves this view to be incorrect: "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."  Galatians 2:21 . The force of the doctrine is to maintain the validity of the law in application to believers; and it stands in the way of their apprehending their death to the law by the body of Christ, so as to be married to Christ raised up from the dead, to bring forth fruit to God.  Romans 7:4 .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [8]

The small group of words connected with righteousness in the specific sense of the term is as follows: δικαιοσύνη or ‘righteousness’ is the state or those who are δίκαιοι (‘just’)[Note: But St. Paul prefers to call them δικαιωθέντες rather than δίκαιοι. He does not even call Abraham δίκαιος.]because they have been ‘justified’ (the verb is δικαιοῦν, -οῦσθαι) by God, and their acquittal or Justification is δικαίωσις. The declaration of this verdict is sometimes taken to be the meaning of δικαίωμα, but in  Romans 5:16 it is probably equivalent to δικαίωσις, and in  Romans 5:18 it means the ‘act of redress’ which makes acquittal possible. The latter sense develops the Greek usage, which, according to Aristotle (Nic. Eth. v. vii. 7), employed

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Bibliography Information Hastings, James. Entry for 'Righteousness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/r/righteousness.html. 1906-1918.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [9]

Justice, holiness. The righteousness of God is the absolute and essential perfections of his nature; sometimes it is put for his justice. The righteousness of Christ denotes not only his absolute perfections, but is taken for his perfect obedience to the law, and suffering the penalty thereof in our stead. The righteousness of the law is that obedience which the law requires. The righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ as received by faith. The saints have a threefold righteousness.

1. The righteousness of their persons, as in Christ, his merit being imputed to them, and they accepted on the account thereof,  2 Corinthians 5:21 .  Ephesians 5:27 .  Isaiah 14:24 .

2. The righteousness of their principles being derived from, and formed according to the rule of right,  Psalms 119:11 .

3. The righteousness of their lives, produced by the sanctifying which no man shall see the Lord,  Hebrews 13:14 .  1 Corinthians 6:11 .

See Imputation, Justification, Sanctification; Dickinson's Letters, let. 12; Witherspoon's Essay on Imputed Righteousness; Hervey's Theron and Aspasio; Dr. Owen on Justification; Watts's Works, p. 532, vol. 3: oct. ed; Jenks on Submission to the Righteousness of God.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [10]

Rectitude, justice, holiness; an essential perfection of God's character,  Job 36:3;  Isaiah 51:5-8;  John 17:25; and of his administration,  Genesis 18:25;  Romans 3:21,22;  10:3 . It is the wonder of grace that as the righteous guardian of the law, he can acquit the unrighteous. "The righteousness of Christ" includes his spotless holiness, his perfect obedience the law demands; and "the righteousness of faith" is that imputed to the sinner who believes in Christ. With reference to personal character, righteousness is used both for uprightness between man and man, and for true religion,  Genesis 18:23;  Leviticus 19:15;  Isaiah 60:17;  Romans 14:17;  Ephesians 5:9 .

King James Dictionary [11]

RIGHTEOUSNESS, n. ri'chusness.

1. Purity of heart and rectitude of life conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it is chiefly used, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections in short, it is true religion. 2. Applied to God, the perfection or holiness of his nature exact rectitude faithfulness. 3. The active and passive obedience of Christ, by which the law of God is fulfilled.  Daniel 9 . 4. Justice equity between man and man.  Luke 1 . 5. The cause of our justification.

The Lord our righteousness.  Jeremiah 23 .

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( n.) The quality or state of being righteous; holiness; purity; uprightness; rectitude.

(2): ( n.) A righteous act, or righteous quality.

(3): ( n.) The state of being right with God; justification; the work of Christ, which is the ground of justification.

(4): ( n.) The act or conduct of one who is righteous.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [13]

justice, holiness. The righteousness of God is the essential perfection of his nature; sometimes it is put for his justice. The righteousness of Christ denotes, not only his absolute perfection, but, is taken for his perfect obedience unto death, and his suffering the penalty of the law in our stead. The righteousness of the law is that obedience which the law requires. The righteousness of faith is the justification which is received by faith.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [14]

See Justification

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

rı̄´chus - nes ( צדּיק , caddı̄ḳ , adjective, "righteous," or occasionally "just" צדק , cedheḳ , noun, occasionally = "riahteousness," occasionally = "justice"; δικαιος , dı́kaios , adjective, δικαιοσύνη , dikaiosúnē , noun, from δίκη , dı́kē , whose first meaning seems to have been "custom"; the general use suggested conformity to a standard: righteousness, "the state of him who is such as he ought to be" (Thayer)):

1. Double Aspect of Righteousness: Changing and Permanent

2. Social Customs and Righteousness

3. Changing Conception of Character of God: Obligations of Power

4. Righteousness as Inner

5. Righteousness as Social

6. Righteousness as Expanding in Content with Growth in Ideals of Human Worth


1. Double Aspect of Righteousness: Changing and Permanent:

In Christian thought the idea of righteousness contains both a permanent and a changing element. The fixed element is the will to do right; the changing factor is the conception of what may be right at different times and under different circumstances. Throughout the entire course of Christian revelation we discern the emphasis on the first factor. To be sure, in the days of later Pharisaism righteousness came to be so much a matter of externals that the inner intent was often lost sight of altogether ( Matthew 23:23 ); but, on the whole and in the main, Christian thought in all ages has recognized as the central element in righteousness the intention to be and do right. This common spirit binds together the first worshippers of God and the latest. Present-day conceptions of what is right differ by vast distances from the conceptions of the earlier Hebrews, but the intentions of the first worshippers are as discernible as are those of the doers of righteousness in the present day.

2. Social Customs and Righteousness:

There seems but little reason to doubt that the content of the idea of righteousness was determined in the first instance by the customs of social groups. There are some, of course, who would have us believe that what we experience as inner moral sanction is nothing but the fear of consequences which come through disobeying the will of the social group, or the feeling of pleasure which results as we know we have acted in accordance with the social demands. At least some thinkers would have us believe that this is all there was in moral feeling in the beginning. If a social group was to survive it must lay upon its individual members the heaviest exactions. Back of the performance of religious rites was the fear of the group that the god of the group would be displeased if certain honors were not rendered to him. Merely to escape the penalties of an angry deity the group demanded ceremonial religious observances. From the basis of fear thus wrought into the individuals of the group have come all our loftier movements toward righteousness.

It is not necessary to deny the measure of truth there may be in this account. To point out its inadequacy, however, a better statement would be that from the beginning the social group utilized the native moral feeling of the individual for the defense of the group. The moral feeling, by which we mean a sense of the difference between right and wrong, would seem to be a part of the native furnishing of the mind. It is very likely that in the beginning this moral feeling was directed toward the performance of the rites which the group looked upon as important. See Alms .

As we read the earlier parts of the Old Testament we are struck by the fact that much of the early Hebrew morality was of this group kind. The righteous man was the man who performed the rites which had been handed down from the beginning ( Deuteronomy 6:25 ). The meaning of some of these rites is lost in obscurity, but from a very early period the characteristic of Hebrew righteousness is that it moves in the direction of what we should call today the enlargement of humanity. There seemed to be at work, not merely the forces which make for the preservation of the group, not merely the desire to please the God of the Hebrews for the sake of the material favors which He might render the Hebrews, but the factors which make for the betterment of humanity as such. As we examine the laws of the Hebrews, even at so late a time as the completion of the formal Codes, we are indeed struck by traces of primitive survivals (Nu 5:11-31). There are some injunctions whose purpose we cannot well understand. But, on the other hand, the vast mass of the legislation had to do with really human considerations. There are rules concerning Sanitation (Lev 13), both as it touches the life of the group and of the individual; laws whose mastery begets emphasis, not merely upon external consequences, but upon the inner result in the life of the individual ( Psalm 51:3 ); and prohibitions which would indicate that morality, at least in its plainer decencies, had come to be valued on its own account. If we were to seek for some clue to the development of the moral life of the Hebrews we might well find it in this emphasis upon the growing demands of human life as such. A suggestive writer has pointed out that the apparently meaningless commandment, "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk" ( Exodus 23:19 ), has back of it a real human purpose, that there are some things which in themselves are revolting apart from any external consequences (see also Lev 18).

3. Changing Conception of Character of God: Obligations of Power:

An index of the growth of the moral life of the people is to be found in the changing conception of the character of God. We need not enter into the question as to just where on the moral plane the idea of the God of the Hebrews started, but from the very beginning we see clearly that the Hebrews believed in their God as one passionately devoted to the right ( Genesis 18:25 ). It may well be that at the start the God of the Hebrews was largely a God of War, but it is to be noticed that His enmity was against the peoples who had little regard for the larger human considerations. It has often been pointed out that one proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures is to be found in their moral superiority to the Scriptures of the peoples around about the Hebrews. If the Hebrew writers used material which was common property of Chaldeans, Babylonians, and other peoples, they nevertheless used these materials with a moral difference. They breathed into them a moral life which forever separates them from the Scriptures of other peoples. The marvel also of Hebrew history is that in the midst of revoltingly immoral surroundings the Hebrews grew to such ideals of human worth. The source of these ideals is to be found in their thougth of God. Of course, in moral progress there is a reciprocal effect; the thought of God affects the thought of human life and the thought of human life affects the thought of God; but the Hebrews no sooner came to a fresh moral insight than they made their moral discovery a part of the character of God. From the beginning, we repeat, the God of the Hebrews was a God directed in His moral wrath against all manner of abominations, aberrations and abnormalities. The purpose of God, according to the Hebrews, was to make a people "separated" in the sense that they were to be free from anything which would detract from a full moral life ( Leviticus 20:22 ).

We can trace the more important steps in the growth of the Hebrew ideal. First, there was an increasingly clear discernment that certain things are to be ruled out at once as immoral. The primitive decencies upon which individual and social life depended were discerned at an early period (compare passages in Leviticus cited above). Along with this it must be admitted there was a slower approach to some ideals which we today consider important, the ideals of the marriage relations for example ( Deuteronomy 24:1 ,  Deuteronomy 24:2 ). Then there was a growing sense of what constitutes moral obligation in the discharge of responsibilities upon the part of men toward their fellows ( Isaiah 5:8 ,  Isaiah 5:23 ). There was increasing realization also of what God, as a moral Being, is obligated to do. The hope of salvation of nations and individuals rests at once upon the righteousness of God.

By the time of Isaiah the righteousness of God has come to include the obligations of power ( Isaiah 63:1 ). God will save His people, not merely because He has promised to save them, but because He must save them ( Isaiah 42:6 ). The must is moral. If the people of Israel show themselves unworthy, God must punish them; but if a remnant, even a small remnant, show themselves faithful, God must show His favor toward them. Moral worth is not conceived of as something that is to be paid for by external rewards, but if God is moral He must not treat the righteous and the unrighteous alike. This conception of what God must do as an obligated Being influences profoundly the Hebrew interpretation of the entire course of history (  Isaiah 10:20 ,  Isaiah 10:21 ).

Upon this ideal of moral obligation there grows later the thought of the virtue of vicarious suffering ( Isaiah 53:1-12 ). The sufferings of the good man and of God for those who do not in themselves deserve such sufferings (for them) are a mark of a still higher righteousness (see Hosea , Book Of ). The movement of the Scriptures is all the way from the thought of a God who gives battle for the right to the thought of a God who receives in Himself the heaviest shocks of that battle that others may have opportunity for moral life.

These various lines of moral development come, of course, to their crown in the New Testament in the life and death of Christ as set before us in the Gospels and interpreted by the apostles. Jesus stated certain moral axioms so clearly that the world never will escape their power. He said some things once and for all, and He did some things once and for all; that is to say, in His life and death He set on high the righteousness of God as at once moral obligation and self-sacrificing love ( John 3:16 ) and with such effectiveness that the world has not escaped and cannot escape this righteous influence ( John 12:32 ). Moreover, the course of apostolic and subsequent history has shown that Christ put a winning and compelling power into the idea of righteousness that it would otherwise have lacked ( Romans 8:31 ,  Romans 8:32 ).

4. Righteousness as Inner:

The ideas at work throughout the course of Hebrew and Christian history are, of course, at work today. Christianity deepens the sense of obligation to do right. It makes the moral spirit essential. Then it utilizes every force working for the increase of human happiness to set on high the meaning of righteousness. Jesus spoke of Himself as "life," and declared that He came that men might have life and have it more abundantly ( John 10:10 ). The keeping of the commandments plays, of course, a large part in the unfolding of the life of the righteous Christian, but the keeping of the commandments is not to be conceived of in artificial or mechanical fashion ( Luke 10:25-37 ). With the passage of the centuries some commandments once conceived of as essential drop into the secondary place, and other commandments take the controlling position. In Christian development increasing place is given for certain swift insights of the moral spirit. We believe that some things are righteous because they at once appeal to us as righteous. Again, some other things seem righteous because their consequences are beneficial, both for society and for the individual. Whatever makes for the largest life is in the direction of righteousness. In interpreting life, however, we must remember the essentially Christian conception that man does not live through outer consequences alone. In all thought of consequences the chief place has to be given to inner consequences. By the surrender of outward happiness and outward success a man may attain inner success. The spirit of the cross is still the path to the highest righteousness.

5. Righteousness as Social:

The distinctive note in emphasis upon righteousness in our own day is the stress laid upon social service. This does not mean that Christianity is to lose sight of the worth of the individual in himself. We have come pretty clearly to see that the individual is the only moral end in himself. Righteousness is to have as its aim the upbuilding of individual lives. The commandments of the righteous life are not for the sake of society as a thing in itself. Society is nothing apart from the individuals that compose it; but we are coming to see that individuals have larger relationships than we had once imagined and greater responsibilities than we had dreamed of. The influence of the individual touches others at more points than we had formerly realized. We have at times condemned the system of things as being responsible for much human misery which we now see can be traced to the agency of individuals. The employer, the day-laborer, the professional man, the public servant, all these have large responsibilities for the life of those around. The unrighteous individual has a power of contaminating other individuals, and his deadliness we have just begun to understand. All this is receiving new emphasis in our present-day preaching of righteousness. While our social relations are not ends in themselves, they are mighty means for reaching individuals in large numbers. The Christian conception of redeemed humanity is not that of society as an organism existing on its own account, but that of individuals knit very closely together in their social relationships and touching one another for good in these relationships ( 1 Corinthians 1:2;  Revelation 7:9 ,  Revelation 7:10 ). If we were to try to point out the line in which the Christian doctrine of righteousness is to move more and more through the years, we should have to emphasize this element of obligation to society. This does not mean that a new gospel is to supersede the old or even place itself alongside the old. It does mean that the righteousness of God and the teaching of Christ and the cross, which are as ever the center of Christianity, are to find fresh force in the thought of the righteousness of the Christian as binding itself, not merely by commandments to do the will of God in society, but by the inner spirit to live the life of God out into society.

6. Righteousness as Expanding in Content with Growth in Ideals of Human


In all our thought of righteousness it must be borne in mind that there is nothing in Christian revelation which will tell us what righteousness calls for in every particular circumstance. The differences between earlier and later practical standards of conduct and the differences between differing standards in different circumstances have led to much confusion in the realm of Christian thinking. We can keep our bearing, however, by remembering the double element in righteousness which we mentioned in the beginning; on the one hand, the will to do right, and, on the other, the difficulty of determining in a particular circumstance just what the right is. The larger Christian conceptions always have an element of fluidity, or, rather, an element of expansiveness. For example, it is clearly a Christian obligation to treat all men with a spirit of good will or with a spirit of Christian love. But what does love call for in a particular case? We can only answer the question by saying that love seeks for whatever is best, both for him who receives and for him who gives. This may lead to one course of conduct in one situation and to quite a different course in another. We must, however, keep before us always the aim of the largest life for all persons whom we can reach. Christian righteousness today is even more insistent upon material things, such as sanitary arrangements, than was the Code of Moses. The obligation to use the latest knowledge for the hygienic welfare is just as binding now as then, but "the latest knowledge" is a changing term. Material progress, education, spiritual instruction, are all influences which really make for full life.

Not only is present-day righteousness social and growing; it is also concerned, to a large degree, with the thought of the world which now is. Righteousness has too often been conceived of merely as the means of preparing for the life of some future Kingdom of Heaven. Present-day emphasis has not ceased to think of the life beyond this, but the life beyond this can best be met and faced by those who have been in the full sense righteous in the life that now is. There is here no break in true Christian continuity. The seers who have understood Christianity best always have insisted that to the fullest degree the present world must be redeemed by the life-giving forces of Christianity. We still insist that all idea of earthly righteousness takes its start from heavenly righteousness, or, rather, that the righteousness of man is to be based upon his conception of the righteousness of God. Present-day thinking concerns itself largely with the idea of the Immanence of God. God is in this present world. This does not mean that there may not be other worlds, or are not other worlds, and that God is not also in those worlds; but the immediate revelation of God to us is in our present world. Our present world then must be the sphere in which the righteousness of God and of man is to be set forth. God is conscience, and God is love. The present sphere is to be used for the manifestation of His holy love. The chief channel through which that holy love is to manifest itself is the conscience and love of the Christian believer. But even these terms are not to be used in the abstract. There is an abstract conscientiousness which leads to barren living: the life gets out of touch with things that are real. There is an experience of love which exhausts itself in well-wishing. Both conscience and love are to be kept close to the earth by emphasis upon the actual realities of the world in which we live.


G. B. Stevens, The Christian Doctrine of Salvation  ; A. E. Garvie, Handbook of Christian Apologetics  ; Borden P. Bowne, Principles of Ethics  ; Newman Smyth, Christian Ethics  ; A. B. Bruce, The Kingdom of God  ; W. N. Clarke, The Ideal of Jesus  ; H. C. King, The Ethics of Jesus .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

( צֶדֶק , Δικία , the quality of Being Right morally). The righteousness of God is the essential perfection of his nature, and is frequently used to designate his holiness, justice, and faithfulness ( Genesis 18:25;  Deuteronomy 6:25;  Psalms 31:1;  Psalms 119:137;  Psalms 119:142;  Isaiah 45:23;  Isaiah 46:13;  Isaiah 51:5-8;  Isaiah 56:1). The righteousness of Christ denotes not only his absolute perfection ( Isaiah 51:11;  1 John 2:1;  Acts 3:14), but is taken for his perfect obedience unto death as the sacrifice for the sin of the world ( Daniel 9:24;  Romans 3:25-26;  Romans 5:18-19;  Jeremiah 23:6;  John 1:29). The righteousness of the law is that obedience which the law requires ( Romans 3:10;  Romans 3:20;  Romans 8:4). The righteousness of faith is the justification which is received by faith ( Romans 3:21-28;  Romans 4:3-25;  Romans 5:1-11;  Romans 10:6-11;  2 Corinthians 5:21;  Galatians 2:21). Righteousness is sometimes used for uprightness and just dealing between man and man ( Isaiah 60:17), also for holiness of life and conversation ( Daniel 4:27;  Luke 1:6;  Romans 14:17;  Ephesians 5:9). The saints have a threefold righteousness:

(1.) The righteousness of their persons, as in Christ, his merit being imputed to them, and they accepted on the account thereof ( 2 Corinthians 5:21;  Ephesians 5:27;  Isaiah 45:24);

(2.) The righteousness of their principles, being derived from, and formed according to, the rule of right ( Psalms 119:11);

(3.) The righteousness of their lives, produced by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, without which no man shall see the Lord ( Hebrews 13:24;  1 Corinthians 6:11). See Dickinson, Letters, let. 12; Witherspoon, Essay On Imputed Righteousness ; Hervey, Theron And Aspasio ; Owen, On Justification ; Watts, Works, 3 , 532, 8vo ed.; Jenks, On Submission to the Righteousness of God. (See Justification); (See Sanctification).