What Is Righteousness?

Author: Tim Ahlman

Words matter. Fully understanding our faith requires a deeper understanding of the words of our faith found in God's Word.

What in the world is righteousness? It is a right standing before God by faith in Christ.

Remember being a kid? I remember the carefree nature of life. I had passion and energy and creativity and hope for my future. I tried and failed and tried again. I remember moments of so much joy…saying funny words like, “totally righteous, dude!”, trying out different accents…and I knew it all came from God. I wasn’t afraid. It was all the Holy Spirit!  

I knew I was righteous. It wasn’t because I was perfect. It was because I knew my status as a son of my parents…and a son within God’s family. Nothing I could do, or fail to do, would change my status. I felt righteous before I ever fully knew how to deeply understand my righteousness of God through faith.

Time and sin and suffering and the lies of Satan attempt to snuff out faith. Satan lies that we're not loved, seen and known by God. We can't be. We've sinned too much. We've fallen too far.

Go back to the Garden. For a time, prior to their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit, they were carefree. Innocent. Faith-full. They rejoiced in their creatureliness. They ran like kids. They openly walked and talked with God. They were totally righteous and they rejoiced in their status.

Genesis 3 is so true to life. This chapter displays how we lost righteousness. Genesis 3 displays about how through one man, Adam, and his disobedience, sin came to us all.

Here is the scenario. The snake is deceiving Eve. Adam was sitting like a bump on a log, silently watching the entire scene unfold. Adam does nothing. She eats the fruit. He eats it, too. This is unrighteous behavior. Then immediately both know, “We’ve made a huge mistake.” They feel and notice their nakedness. They are filled with shame.

How does Adam attempt to make up for his before Eve? It’s the oldest play in the book. What do husbands typically do when they’ve screwed up big time? Adam comes home and essentially says, “Honey, I brought you some flowers!” Adam brings Eve a bouquet of fig leaves so that they can cover up. The flowers fall woefully short of actually making things right. Adam can't make things right. Our right actions cannot cover up our unrighteous actions.

Enter God. He always comes through. One of the first things God did for Adam was shed the blood of an animal, and make clothing for Adam and Eve. This did a lot more for protection and hiding their shame than a few fig leaves stuck together.

Even in THAT act, God was showing his continued love for Adam. God was also showing us that it would take the act of bloodshed to remove our shame. This blood would not come from an animal, but from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His blood on the cross blotted out all our unrighteous iniquities. ONLY through His blood do we have the righteousness that comes through faith.

What in the world is Righteousness? Righteousness is a change in status, not a change in character. We can't behave our way into a right relationship with God. God must declare us righteous. That, in fact, is what He's done. By faith, given in your baptism, you are declared righteous.

Believe it. Just like a little child.