Righteousness Through Jesus




Righteousness through Jesus Christ means becoming right before God through the perfectly right Jesus Christ.

Righteousness through Jesus refers to our being judged or declared right through Christ. Righteousness also means being made right through Him in regeneration, renewal and transformation by the Holy Spirit and shown to be right by God through the fruit of Holy Spirit-empowered post-conversion good works.




God is perfectly right or righteous in nature, character, thoughts, emotions, purposes and actions (see Psalm 11:7). He delights in treating others rightly (see Jeremiah 9:24). His perfect nature is the final standard by which all things can be judged as to whether they are right or wrong and just or unjust. What He has decided is right is right and just is just. Also what He has determined is wrong is wrong and unjust is unjust.

All of God’s decisions, commands, rewards and punishments are absolutely right. God never hypocritically acts contrary to His own standards of right and wrong. Because He is absolutely righteous, He can have only righteous humans live with Him eternally.

Because of the Fall and their own personal sins, all humans (except Christ) are unrighteous or wrong in legal standing before Him and in nature. To overcome this, God planned that believers could become righteous through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Through Christ, believers are declared righteous before God the Supreme Ruler and Judge, are given Christ's righteous nature and are given the Holy Spirit to enable them to live right.

Righteousness or “dikaiosune” has a broader meaning than the New Testament Greek words related to God-declared justification – “dikaiosis” and “dikaioo”. Legal justification means being declared right or righteous by God the Supreme Ruler and Judge. “Dikaiosune” includes God-pronounced justification but also relates to the impartation of God’s righteous nature in Christ and to the right (or righteous) actions resulting from justification and this righteous nature.[1]

Examples of verses which use “dikaiosune” to refer to legal justification and maybe also the righteous nature in Christ are Matthew 5:6, 5:20, 6:33, John 16:8, Acts 13:10, 24:25, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 6:14. 2 Corinthians 6:14 states: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” In fact, some may argue some of these latter verses also include the notion of the “fruit” of righteousness” which I will explain later.

A verse which uses “dikaiosune” to mean the righteous nature in Christ received in regeneration is Ephesians 4:24: “…the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” One view argues “dikaiosune” does not include regeneration, but agrees that in regeneration believers receive Christ’s righteous nature. This is one possible alternative to what I am saying here, but involves having to argue the use of “dikaiosune” in Ephesians 4:24 does not refer to regeneration.

“Dikaiosune” is also used in verses such as Romans 4:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 13 and 22, Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23 in relation to God-declared justification alone. Romans 4:5-6 says: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.”

“Dikaiosiune” is used in 2 Peter 2:5 in relation to God-declared justification and resulting righteous behaviour: “…Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness…” Remember in Noah’s time, no believer received a righteous nature in Christ. They only received credited righteousness and expressed this in right living.

Verses using “dikaiosune” to refer to right or righteous living through faith in God and/or Jesus Christ are Acts 10:35, Romans 6:13, 6:16, 1 Timothy 6:11, Philippians 1:11, Hebrews 11:33, 1 John 2:29, 3:7 and 3:10. Some of these verses use the expressions “works of righteousness”, “works righteousness” or “practices righteousness”. 1 John 3:10 states: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

In Philippians 1:11, Paul speaks of the “fruit of righteousness” and in James 3:18, James mentions “the fruits of righteousness”. In the original Greek, the word “righteousness” is “dikaiosune” in these two verses.

“Dikaiosune” is also used to mean righteousness by works of Law (see Galatians 2:21, Philippians 3:6) and God’s and Christ’s perfect righteousness which He has as an inherent characteristic of His nature, thoughts, words, emotions and actions (see 2 Corinthians 9:9 and Revelation 9:11).


Other aspects of righteousness through Jesus Christ


Righteousness through Jesus Christ:


·         a gift of God. Romans 5:17 refers to the “gift of righteousness” which is through God’s grace.

·         is given in New Testament times in regeneration or the new creation as an aspect of Jesus Christ living in us by His Spirit. So the regeneration feature of righteousness through Christ is not just a gift but is also a part of the Giver Himself. 1 Corinthians 1:30 refers to Christ Himself being our righteousness.

·         is an expression of God’s saving power. Romans 1:16-17 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith…”

·         is focussed on Jesus’ death (see Romans 3:21-26) and manifested throughout human history.

·         is received through trusting faith. This is seen in the expressions “righteousness of the faith” (see Romans 4:11), “righteousness of faith” (see Romans 4:13, 9:30 and 10:6) and “righteousness which is from God by faith” (see Philippians 3:9).

·         is an expression of God’s total faithfulness to His creation and covenants (see Romans 3:3-5). As a perfectly righteous Creator, God always does right things to and for His creation.


The relevant Greek word


In the New Testament, the Greek word for “righteousness” is “dikaiosune”. Bauer defines “dikaiosune” as “righteousness, uprightness as the compelling motive for the conduct of one’s whole life, the righteousness bestowed by God, righteousness based on faith”. [2] Vine defines “dikaiosune” as “the character or quality of being right or just”. [3]


The grace foundation with more than justification built on top


Romans 6:12-14 states: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” All righteousness in our lives must be by God’s grace – totally free and unmerited.

Romans 6:12-14 shows God’s grace leads to righteousness manifesting itself inwardly and outwardly in a believer’s life. God’s righteousness and not sin becomes the ruling feature of the person’s life, despite their falls.

No person enters a state of permanent sinless perfection at his conversion. But conversion does result in changes in the person’s life.

God’s grace is linked by an unshakeable bond to all aspects of His righteousness, not just to God-declared justification. A foundation of God’s grace in our lives will produce many though imperfect outward manifestations of Christ’s righteous, holy nature. This is unless believers suppress His nature within them.



Bible Study Questions


1.       What are the various meanings of the word “dikaiosune” or “righteousness” in the New Testament?

2.       What are the main features of our righteousness through Jesus Christ? Give verses as support of your answer.

3.       Does God’s grace result only in believers being declared righteous or does it result also in other aspects of righteousness in our lives?


[1] S.K. Williams argues that Paul used the expressions “righteousness” or “dikaiosune” and “righteousness of God” or “dikaiosune theou” to mean different things (Carson, pages 75-78). But Williams’ view needs further Biblical examination.

[2] Bauer, pages 196-197.

[3] Vine, page 535.



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