Righteousness, The Pharisees, and You - Part 2
Part 2: What is Righteousness in the New Testament
You may have heard somewhere in your past, that our righteousness comes from, or through Christ, not obedience to the law. Let’s see if God redefines righteousness for us in the New Testament. Many people will point to Paul in his letter to the Romans.
for it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law will be made righteous.
Here it appears that Paul is confirming what Moses said in Deuteronomy; our righteousness before God comes from doing/obeying, God’s Law/Torah. However, there appears to be a possible contradiction by Paul, even in the same letter to the Romans!
But the righteousness of God is by the faith of Jesus the Messiah unto every person, also upon every person who believes in him, for there is no distinction,
So is this telling us that we are actually made righteous by God through faith in the Messiah? If so, it doesn’t seem to equal what we saw in Deuteronomy 6; did God change His mind even though He does not change? Surely Peter’s warning to us that Paul is hard to understand must apply here.
It’s important to keep digging in order to ensure we are not misunderstanding God’s perfect Word. Keeping in mind how our righteousness has to surpass the Pharisees, it’s wise to make sure we understand what righteousness is. Back to Paul, we may ask “why the apparent discrepancy?” We must be misunderstanding something somewhere if Paul appears to be contradicting himself within the same letter! So, let us go back and reread Romans 3:22 more carefully. There is a key difference in the phrasing used versus the way the verse is commonly understood. Note where it states ”…righteousness of God is by the faith OF Jesus, the Messiah…” This is saying it is through HIS (Christ’s) faith, not our own, that God’s righteousness comes to those who believe in Christ. This takes us back to the question of What is Righteousness. We take what we know, Christ was perfect, and sinless, meaning he never broke God’s Law, and apply the Deuteronomy definition of righteousness to Christ, we find that he is perfectly righteous! He was made righteous by perfectly obeying God.
Christ had the righteousness of God because he was faithful, part of which means being obedient just as Abraham was considered righteous through his faith because he believed and was being obedient to God. So, now we know that God has a righteousness that is available to us through Christ’s faithfulness. Did you get that? The righteousness of God is available to us through Christ! It does not say Christ’s righteousness is mine! We each have our own righteousness which comes from following the law as stated in both Deuteronomy 6 and Romans 2. We have not been given a new definition of righteousness in the New Testament. What we have is a practical application of the original definition and the method by which we may partake of God’s perfected righteousness through Messiah.