The word “righteousness” means “the quality of being RIGHT or JUST.” It is closely linked with the word “justification” or “justified,” for as we shall see, God has provided a way for sinners to be justified and the believing sinner is “JUSTIFIED before God.” Before we look at what God has done to “make the sinner RIGHTEOUS,” let us consider the fact that man cannot make himself righteous before God.

In Romans 3:10 God declares, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” This means that no one has ever been absolutely “RIGHTEOUS in His sight.” Verse 23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God has set before mankind a “standard of holiness and righteousness” and all men and women have fallen short of that standard. Some may not sin as often or as bad as others, but all have fallen short. Yet men still try to acquire this righteousness through good deeds, religious observances and keeping the Ten Commandments. But they ALL FAIL! Isaiah 64:6 states, “Bu WE ARE ALL like an unclean thing, and ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES are like filthy rags.” This simply means that all of our attempts to become “righteous before God” are futile, for all of our so-called good works are like filthy rags in God’s sight. Why? Because our “good works” are produced from the “sinful nature” that we were born with (see Psalm 51:5). God cannot accept them because they are done to glorify man instead of God. Men do good works and then they boast of what they have done and they believe they have earned salvation, but Scripture teaches us that one is “saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Men boast that they are keeping the Ten Commandments but God declares, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20).

So, what has God done to “make the sinner RIGHTEOUS?” The answer to that is given in that same chapter (verses 21-22, 24-26): “But now the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe….being JUSTIFIED freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith….to demonstrate at the present time His RIGHTEOUSNESS, that He might be JUST and the JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Are not these words crystal-clear? It is through “faith in Jesus Christ” that the sinner is JUSTIFIED before God. In 2nd Corinthians 5:21 we read, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” On the cross God laid the believer’s sins on Jesus Christ, as we read in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” God then treated Jesus as if He were the sinner (though He remained holy) and poured out His wrath upon Him that our sins deserved. Now God can look at the sinner who believes on Jesus Christ and treat us as if we were holy (though in and of ourselves we are not holy). Because He sees the believing sinner in all the value of Christ’s work on the cross (where He paid the penalty for our sins), he has now been “made the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in Him.” It is Christ’s WORK on the cross that makes it possible to be “RIGHTEOUS in God’s sight,” and it is our FAITH in Christ and His finished work that causes God to “declare us RIGHTEOUS.”

Has my reader believed on Jesus Christ as your Savior? If so, God has “declared you righteous.” Like Abraham of old, your faith has been counted for righteousness. We read of this in Romans 4:2-5, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, BUT NOT BEFORE GOD. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”  (DO)  (553.5)