October 1980

Righteousness Of God

Robert F. Turner

Righteousness not only involves a "right or just standing before God," but also refers to "whatever has been approved by God to be acknowledged and obeyed by man" (Vine). Man is righteous only to the extent that he is striving to conform to the will of God. The scribes and Pharisees, in Rom. 10:3, were neither just nor justified in God's sight because "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." It would be profitable to ask ourselves if we are truly "right-wise" (knowledgeable of God's standard of what is right or just). It may be that we seek to measure our righteousness by our own standard, as did the scribes and Pharisees.

For example, many of them conceived of a righteousness attained through external works. The self-righteous Pharisee of Luke 18 exemplifies this false notion. Fasting twice a week and giving tithes of all he got no more justified him than our attending services three times a week and partaking of the Lord's Supper would justify us. If we simply "go through the motions," we forget the very essence of obedience — faith in God. Yet the fact that we are justified by faith does not negate the importance of expressing that faith in acts of obedience. Unless our obedience (external works) is accompanied and produced by true heart submission, it will not be acceptable to God. (1 Sam. 15:22; Amos 5:21-24).

We may also deceive ourselves by assuming righteousness is determined by self-approval or by comparing self with others. The Judaizing teachers "knew of only one standard of measurement and comparison great and exalted enough to apply to themselves, and that was themselves" (Lenski- II Cor. 10:12). We dare not measure ourselves by ourselves, for as Prov. 21:2 states, "Every way of man is right in his own eyes" (emph. mine). Equally deceiving is the reasoning that we are righteous because we are "not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers" (1k.18:11). Many will be surprised in judgment when they learn that God's righteousness is determined by comparing each man's obedience, or lack of obedience, to God's word (John 12:48).

Finally, we may deem ourselves righteous because we are affiliated with a certain group or party. As the scribes and Pharisees based their righteousness on being a descendant of Abraham — many today feel justified because they are of a certain religious body. Their group's conclusions become the equivalent of truth — and a fatal switch has been made from God's standard to man's standard. We must remember that the church (those righteous in God's eyes) is composed of individuals who have responded to Gods will. We should note that these righteous individuals will be drawn together, but by something deeper than the name on the building or "party" acceptance.

Righteousness involves more than external works, self-approval, or church affiliation — it is attainable only as man submits his will to God's will in all things. Kevan O'Banion