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Righteousness - “Its Meaning”

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A politician from the UK’s Marxist party, Labour, said on radio that ‘righteousness’ means a ‘right relationship’. In essence he was correct, though his morality is non-existent. It is probable that his party will use that definition to describe any relationship – and thus make ‘homosexuality ‘righteous’! But, his statement was divorced from a biblical context, and so it is meaningless.

To be ‘righteous’ is to be in a particular state or condition before God. That state is one of acceptance by Him. And acceptance/justification is obtained by repentance and obeying His commands. This acceptance is, in fact, rooted in God’s election of souls, through predestination. If ‘righteousness’ only meant a ‘right relationship’, then ANY relationship could potentially be ‘righteous’, whether man with man, dog with man, dog with dog… anything you like!

So, righteousness is a condition reflective of being approved and accepted by God. Bear in mind that the word is not exclusive to scripture and can be found in many writings and philosophies. Thus, a Christian must say that ‘in scriptural terms, righteousness means a right relationship with God’. Of course, those who are unsaved will not bother with this definition but will use one that coincides with their sinful desires, because it is more convenient. It is why the majority of people ‘search’ for a religion that ‘suits them’.

Therefore, when arguing your case with unbelievers, you must always use the biblical definition, which will probably be rejected. Even so, you can justly point out that biblical righteousness includes many tenets and actions that do good for society as a whole, whereas the ‘righteousness’ of unbelievers is relative, shifting, and generally bad for society. What, then, is the biblical definition of ‘righteousness’? There is the definition of the state or condition of righteousness, and there are the various associated acts and beliefs that arise from it. These are shown in the scriptural texts dealing with righteousness.

The State or Condition of Righteousness

Matthew 23:28 speaks of those who are outwardly righteous, but are, really, wicked: “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” This is the condition of many who attend our churches, as well as those who are unsaved and pretend to be good. Of these Christ says: “[Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (verse 33). They are not, then, truly ‘righteous’ or accepted by God.

The opposite of these fake righteous people are those who are accepted by God: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” (Luke 1:6 concerning Zacharias and his wife, Elisabeth). Note that both were righteous, because they obeyed the commandments of God. Their condition (‘righteous’) was both a result of, and a prompter to, obeying God. To be righteous, dikaios, means to obey divine laws, to be righteous and virtuous; to be innocent and without guilt – only those who are saved/believers can claim this guiltlessness, through Christ and His salvation, which justifies.

‘Righteous’ also includes thoughts, feelings, emotions and acts that are fully conformed to God’s will. There is also a specific meaning - to be approved or accepted by God. And this leads on to being able to pronounce just judgments on others. These are the direct translations of ‘righteous’ from the Greek, so no man can tamper with them, without deserving the title ‘liar’. The root, dikē, just and right, reinforces these meanings. The righteous are right – everyone else is wrong.

As you can see, to be ‘righteous’ is to live in complete accord with God/Christ. It is a right relationship with God. All unsaved men are lawless and unrighteous (1 Timothy 1:9) and so God is against them (1 Peter 3:12). Therefore the sign of someone who is righteous is that he acts righteously (1 John 3:7). This tells us that the unsaved, especially the wicked such as homosexuals and other atheists, can never be righteous or accepted by God. Indeed, they are filthy (Revelation 22:11). They will not enter Heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9; note that this text refers to homosexuals and other sexual miscreants amongst many sinners).

In the Old Testament we see a variety of attributes of the righteous and unrighteous – the latter equated with ‘wicked’. For example, Job 27:7 and Psalm 71:4. Isaiah 10:1 even warns homosexuals and atheists of their fate: “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness [which] they have prescribed”. They are not, and cannot, ever be ‘righteous’, unless they are elected, penitent, and obedient to God. If they are not, they are unrighteous.

In the Old Testament we see that the righteous are tsaddiyq – just, lawful, right, correct, vindicated by God. This means firstly that God elected them to salvation, and then, when they repented and were saved (in any age) they began to do what God demanded. In effect, the salvation, actions and thoughts coincide at once.

The ‘cause’ of the righteous is tsadaq: just, righteous, right; it dispenses justice and judgment, which cleanses ourselves and cleanses the nation. This is why the just must oppose evil in their day. Righteousness, then, includes acts of righteousness: there are no ‘back seat drivers’ in the divine mind and Christian life!

© November 2011

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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