What is righteousness and how do I get it?
By Dr. Robert Owens
The first part is easy. Righteousness is the ability to stand in the presence of God as if we’d never sinned. When we stand in righteousness before God the Father it’s without any sense of fear, condemnation, or inferiority. We have this righteousness because we are now children of God through Christ and as children, we are members of the family and have a rightful place.
Just think of Buckingham Palace as heaven. If you walked up to the gate and said, “Let me in” the guards would turn you away. If King Charles walked up and said let me in the guards would open the door and bow as he walked past. It’s the same way with heaven. If we show up covered in our sin we will get turned away. If we show up in Christ, as a member of His body the gates will swing open and glory to God, we will at last be home.
This was promised to us through the prophet Isaiah long ago, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.”
As natural men we have a sin consciousness. We inherently know that we are not worthy to stand in the presence of God. We have knowledge of our own weakness to the sins which so easily overtake us. This has kept us slaves to sin. This consciousness of our own sin and weakness destroys our abilities and short-circuits our ability to live as God intends.
That is why we must be born again. For in our re-birth, our re-creation in Christ we acquire righteousness. Without it we could no more be children of God than an ant could be a man. For without righteousness the Father could take no pleasure in us as His children since we would shrink away from the fire of His love since it would then be the fire of His judgement, for it is the same fire.
This righteousness is the gift of God. It is not something we could have ever earned for ourselves. Before we’re born again, we were without Christ. We were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. We were bankrupt, sold out to sin, and without the ability to help ourselves.
This is why God laid our sins upon Christ. This is why Christ died upon the cross. He paid the penalty demanded by justice. Sin had to be paid for before a fallen mankind could be re-created and, in His death, the substitutionary death of the sinless for the sinful the penalty was paid in full. And not only did Christ pay our penalty He descended into Hell, defeated our advisory stripping of his authority over humanity. Then He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life re-created in union with Him through faith.
In the Old Testament Israel had righteousness reckoned to them but in the new creation it becomes our very nature because Christ Himself is our Righteousness.
He is the vine, and we are the branches. And since the vine is righteous so the branches. And so should the fruit of the branches be. We should produce the fruit of righteousness in this world and be a blessing as we are blessed. And we can bear a type of fruit that Christ could not when He walked this earth. He could heal the sick, raise the dead, and calm the storm. But He could not lead people to salvation for He had not yet paid the price. He had not yet opened the way for us to be re-united with God erasing the sin debt of Adam’s fall.
So that is righteousness, right standing with God, the ability to stand in God’s presence as if we had never sinned. We get it through confessing with our lips that Jesus is Lord and by believing in our heart that God has raised Him from the dead.
And once we have it, we are tasked by Christ to share our witness so that all mankind can have it too.