The words “righteous,” “righteously,” “righteousness” and “righteousnesses” appear in the Bible about six hundred times, their opposites such as “unrighteous” and “unrighteousness” also appearing a number of times.
A term so largely in use indicates its importance in God’s message to us. Just what does it mean?
In the broad sense it means being right in conduct and attitude while in the theological sense it means being accepted in God’s sight and on God’s terms. From the Bible it is obvious that sin is the antithesis of righteousness. Our Lord’s coming into this world, and the Gospel message which has resulted from his redemptive work, centers on the fact of the sinfulness of man and the righteousness of God which is made available to man in and through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, says: “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3).
Paul was speaking of his own nation, Israel. But he is also speaking to a worldwide situation having to do with men of all races and of all generations. Within the human heart there is an almost universal sense of need. This is expressed in multitudes of ways but the Bible makes it plain that man cannot make himself righteous by anything he does. It is God offering man the righteousness of his Son that is the supreme evidence of his love, his concern and his mercy.
Within the Bible there are repeated incidents of men employing their own devices to make themselves acceptable in God’s sight. Adam and Eve are pictured making aprons of fig leaves to cover their shame. Cain made an offering much more esthetic than ...1
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