I think reading a few verses that contain both righteousness and holiness might help us understand the difference in these two words.

  • Ephesians 4:22-24, “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in RIGHTEOUSNESS and true HOLINESS.”
  • Luke 1:74-75, “That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In HOLINESS and RIGHTEOUSNESS before him, all the days of our life.”
  • Romans 6:19, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to RIGHTEOUSNESS unto HOLINESS.

Immediately, we can see that these two words do not have the same meaning, since the Lord uses them together at times. Let’s look at the differences in the meanings of these two words.

RIGHTEOUSNESS – The Greek word for righteousness is “DIKAIOSUNE” and means to be justified or vindicated. To be righteous or just, means much more than just being declared innocent. It means that we have been declared right and vindicated before God. This speaks to the truth that we become brand new when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a NEW CREATURE: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” We also read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For he (God, the Father) hath made him (God, the Son) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in him.” What a gift from God! He, Himself, has made us brand new and declared us to be justified and vindicated in His sight.

HOLINESS – The Greek word for holiness is “HOSIOTES” and means to be pious, pure, and godly. This is also an important thing for us to consider. Indeed, by faith in the Lord Jesus, we have become Godlike in nature. Because we are ‘new creatures in Christ’ we have a new nature…a nature that cannot sin. We read in 1 John 5:18, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not…” This new nature is Godlike and does not sin. How is it then that Christians sin if this new nature is incapable of sin? It is because we do not walk in the truth of what we know and who we are. At times, and at times too often, we do not walk after the Lord, we walk in the flesh…or we follow that old nature, the ‘old man’.

This is where the practical truths of both righteousness and holiness need to be meditated upon. WE ARE RIGHTEOUS, yet, we are told in 2 Timothy 2:22 to, “Flee also youthful lusts: but FOLLOW RIGHTEOUSNESS, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” WE ARE HOLY, yet we are told in 1 Peter 1:15, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so BE YE HOLY in all manner of conversation.” As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called upon to walk, or live, according to what the Lord has now made us. My brothers and sister in Christ, you are righteous and holy. Live righteous and holy lives! (235.1)