The world is laden with those who feel they are righteous and yet do not know what is involved in the term. One thing that it is not is that determined by the individual. Often, self-righteousness is the downfall of many Christians. Of course righteousness means the state of being righteous, but the term ‘righteous’ is the part which needs clarification.
Even the dictionaries have difficulty in expressing the full meaning of righteous. Here are some of the efforts:
The American Heritage Dictionary has this to say:
• Morally upright; without guilt or sin: a righteous parishioner.
• In accordance with virtue or morality: a righteous judgment.
• Morally justifiable: righteous anger.
Then the Roget’s Thesaurus gives these as synonyms:
1. Having or marked by uprightness in principle and action: good, honest, honorable, incorruptible, true, upright, upstanding. Informal straight-shooting. Idioms: on the up-and-up up and up. 2.In accordance with principles of right or good conduct: ethical, moral, principled, proper, right, rightful, right-minded, virtuous.
The term does indeed incorporate all of those excellent traits. But even so, there is still things to be considered within it. Morals, ethics and virtue are covered in the word righteous, but let us see where this originated. And we find it is from God. Consider the scriptures.
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. (Isaiah 45:21-25 KJV)
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jeremiah 23:3-8 KJV)
In these scriptures, God is foretelling the day when Jesus shall come to the earth and establish a “righteous Branch” (Jer. 23:5 above), his spiritual kingdom, the church. There is to be no unrighteousness in this “righteous Branch”.
Therefore, righteousness is the following (obedience) of God’s word, and only those who do so will have a part in this kingdom. This kingdom, the church, is to be spotless and prepared for life in eternity with the Lord. It is recognized that man is incapable of living a totally sin-free life. However, the obedient will be in Christ and his blood which was shed on the cross of Calvary, will continue to cleanse them when they do err. This is his grace extended to those who strive to follow in his footsteps. Read John’s explanation here:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:5-9 KJV)
So righteousness, is being free from sin. And the only way man is capable of being so, is by being in Christ. In his kingdom, the church which he established and only through obedience to his commands can one be a part of that blood-bought kingdom. And no man can put you into it or remove you from it. Only Jesus the Christ. Walking in the light, is walking in His word.