The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

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Righteousness and the Bible

Through the years I have seen many Christians suffering from self-condemnation and guilt. Having suffered myself of the same I know firsthand what it means to feel self-condemned, guilty. But I don’t need to share my own experiences. The Bible makes it clear in 1 John 3:21-22 that when our heart does not condemn us we confidence towards God. In turn this means that if our heart does condemn us, we have no confidence towards Him.

The antidote of every illness is the medicine, the healing. The opposite of condemnation and guilt is the righteousness. Righteousness and condemnation are terms that are opposite to each other. If you are righteous then you are not guilty and if you are guilty then you are not righteous. The one is the opposite of the other. In addition, the way that somebody becomes righteous declares also how he could stop being righteous. For example, if somebody in order to be righteous before God he needed to do the such and such work, then it is obvious that failure to do these works would mean that he is no longer righteous, which in turn means that he is unrighteous, guilty, worthy of condemnation. What does then the Bible tell us about righteousness? How can somebody become righteous before God? I know you may have heard “by doing good works”. But is this really what the Bible says? The answer is NO! Gospel means good news and what we will read below such news is. Let’s read then:

Romans 3:20-28
“Therefore by the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? No: but by the law of faith. THEREFORE WE CONCLUDE THAT A MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY FAITH WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW.”

This passage, together with many others from the New Testament, is really revolutionary. Gospel means good news and what we just read such news is! As the passage makes clear from the outset, there is no way for somebody to be justified i.e. to become righteous, by the works of the Mosaic law (including the 10 commandments as they also are part of that law). As the Bible makes clear doing good works – even keeping all of the 10 commandments for example, though the law was much more than these - cannot make you righteous before God. This is not because doing good works is something bad but because good works were never enough and were never intended to make us righteous before Him. We cannot be righteous before God through works. If then your righteous is based on your works, this is no righteousness at all. Instead it is something self made that though it may satisfy your consciousness for a while, it has no validity before God. If you therefore feel guilty and condemned it is because you believe your works are not enough and you think that this has affected how God sees you. You may feel that He is angry at you because of what you did or you failed to do and you may feel that He looks at you and says: “how could you ever do this? You failed me. You are guilty”. This is not the voice of God dear brother and sister. God never expected that you will be righteous before Him through works. Instead He made you righteous right away, as a gift, (“being justified by His grace as a gift” (Romans 3:24)) when you believed in His Son. You are righteous NOW! Righteousness therefore is not something that we acquire gradually. Instead we become righteous at the moment we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His resurrection from the dead. It is a GIFT, not something we earned as exchange for our deeds (“a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28)).

 The same we can also see in 2 Corinthians 5:21 where we read:

2 Corinthians 5:21
“For he [God] has made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM.”

The first part of the passage speaks about an act and who did it, while the second part shows us the result of this act and the recipients of this result. What was the act? That God gave His Son for us; He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us. What was the result of this act? Why did God do this? The answer is so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him! Our righteousness therefore has nothing to do with our works and has everything to do with the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did all that was needed, He gave Himself for us so that we become righteous. And because His work is finished and complete, it is also our righteousness finished and complete. It is really a done deal!

As again Romans 8:29-30 tells us:

Romans 8:29-30
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Who justified us? Who made us righteous? Not we with our good works but God! See also that past tense is used: “and those whom he justified”, says the Word. Our justification is something that has already been done. It is not something that is completed little by little every day, according to our behavior, nor is it something that is evaluated every day on the basis of our works. In contrast, it is a gift that was made available to us through the sacrifice of Jesus and is given freely to whoever believes in Him as Son of God. Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah? If yes you have been born of God, you are a child of God; you are saved and righteous before God without works; and you are all this NOW!

1 John 5:1
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God”

Romans 10:9-10
“if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

John 1:12-13
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Galatians 3:26
“For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

To sum it up: we become righteous before God automatically at the time we believe and without any works. If therefore we feel condemnation and guilt, it is NOT God that condemns us. He made us righteous! As we read: we are [present tense] the righteousness of God! Therefore condemnation is not something that has any place in our life. This does not mean that we do not make mistakes. What it means is that condemnation should never be the answer to these mistakes. What the answer should be is to simply confess these to the Lord, renew our mind and move ahead.


Anastasios Kioulachoglou