The following was written by the Apostle Paul about the Jews. Romans 10:2-3 “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” The Jews sought to be righteous before God by observing the law and their traditions. They were ignorant of God’s righteousness and did what they thought was right. There are numerous other groups today who try to be righteous before God through their own acts of righteousness. There are those who pray five times a day and appear righteous. Some take pilgrimages to certain cities. Some repeat certain prayers over and over as a sign of righteousness. Others take a vow of poverty to prove their righteousness. Some walk up stairs on their knees. And others are crucified just like Christ. Some go on two year missions or seek to be married in a temple to show their righteousness. And still others think they are righteous if they attend church three times a week. The list can go on and on.
But none of these acts make us righteous before God. Isaiah 64:6a “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” Anything we do to try to make ourselves righteous before God is insufficient – we can never earn our salvation. Whether it is the law of Moses or some law we devise, attempting to keep a law will not make us righteous before God.
Speaking of Abraham, we are told in Romans 4:20-25 “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” Jesus Christ was sinless; He was righteous. When we have faith in God and in Jesus Christ and obey the gospel, we are called righteous; we are imputed or credited with righteousness and declared to be just before God. The righteousness we have is not our own, but that of Jesus Christ; it is not based upon observing law.
We are saved by grace for good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We are saved and declared righteous before God by His grace based upon our faith – it is a gift of God. However we are created for good works or righteous acts. Therefore, we should seek to be as righteous as we can be – not because it saves us, but because we love our God and seek to please him in every way. Think of all the physical and spiritual blessings He has given us. Mark 12:29-30 “Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.’” Doing righteous works is what we were created for; it is also how we love and please our God.
I encourage you to live a holy, righteous life. But, be humble enough to admit that your acts of righteousness are insufficient. Luke 17:10 “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” Be knowledgeable about God’s righteousness and be thankful that God has credited you as righteous through Jesus Christ.