“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.”
“Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”
“To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. … Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.“
Daniel 9: 7, 14
The righteousness of God is one of the most frequently referenced attributes found in Scripture. It is tied closely to God’s justice, and the word “just” is sometimes used where other translations will say “righteous” in reference to God’s character. When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right. We know that God is holy, and righteousness is His holiness in action.
The transliteration of this Hebrew word is tsedaqah and its pronunciation is tsed·ä·kä’. This Hebrew word is translated as justice or righteousness. Strong’s concordance says this in its definition:
- righteousness (in government), such as a judge, ruler or king, of the law, and of the Davidic king Messiah
- righteousness (of God’s attribute)
- righteousness (in a case or cause)
- righteousness, truthfulness
- righteousness (as ethically right)
- righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation
- righteous acts
This is the Greek word for righteousness. The transliteration of this Greek word is dikaiosynē and its pronunciation is dē-kī-o-sü’-nā. Strong’s concordance defines this term in the following manner:
in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God. A) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; B) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
Now, let’s consider some of the examples and scripture passages dealing with God’s righteousness.
Consider, for example, that God deals righteously with humanity. Abraham expressed God’s righteousness in Genesis when he was speaking with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
God expresses His righteousness when He loves the things that are good and hates the things that are evil. This attribute leads God to do only those things that are right. Thus, because He is righteous, He must judge evil and sin cannot come into His presence.
Righteousness is like goodness and holiness, but this attribute differs from others because it requires works to establish it. God is good and God is holy, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works the good as well.
This connection between works and righteousness is seen in the very first book of the Bible. God was speaking to Abram and promising to make him a great nation, notwithstanding the fact that his wife was barren. After delivering this promise, scripture says:
“And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness.”
A multitude of other scriptures reference the connection between our works and righteousness. Consider these as examples:
“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”
“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
The Old Testament is not the only place where righteousness is discussed and commanded from God’s people.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Then Paul wrote to the Romans and said:
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The connection between righteousness and action was expressed by James like this:
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness“–and he was called a friend of God. … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
James 2:21-23, 26
While Christians are called righteous, we do not receive that commendation because of any ability to accomplish good works in ourselves. Rather, we are considered righteous by our holy God because we reside in the righteousness of Christ. In other words, Christ’s obedience is imputed to us and when we stand before God, God sees not us but the righteousness of His Son.
Paul expressed it like this:
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–“
Righteousness. It is an attribute of God and we are commanded to follow God’s lead in doing works of righteousness. Not to earn our own salvation, but to praise Him for the gift of grace and mercy in the atoning work of our Savior and Lord.
Father, I praise You for Your righteousness. Through Your Son’s sacrifice, You have imputed His righteousness to us, and have covered our sins with His atoning blood. Thank You for Your righteousness and mercy.