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But now God has shown us a different way to heaven – not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us – declare us ‘not guilty’ – if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like…our acquittal is not based on our good deeds: it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in him.” Romans 3:21-22, 29 NLT

There are more verses in this passage, Romans 3:21-31, about, as the NIV’s language says, “the righteousness of God.” The words above are from the New Living Translation (NLT), a paraphrase, but they are used here because they help to make this somewhat complicated idea of the “righteousness of God” simpler.


righteousness of God

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What Does it Mean to Be the Righteousness of God

A “new way to heaven” as the NLT translation calls it, is just a different way of naming the concept, “the righteousness of God.” The writers of the Bible tell us that we must have the righteousness of God to “see,” that is, to relate to God and eventually, to be with God forever in heaven. It is the only way to be connected to God. We hear this stated in the book of Hebrews where righteousness is called by one of its synonyms, holiness:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 NIV 

So, righteousness, or holiness, is the most essential thing we can ever gain. Without it, we remain forever disconnected from God.

But what else can be said to define what righteousness is? Is it only godly behavior or holiness? No, it is more than that. This word also holds the idea of a fully connected, unobstructed, restored, right, intimate, loving relationship with God. It is that too. According to the verses above, however, what keeps us from having the righteousness of God, is our sin.

Stated in the verses above is the solution for our dilemma and it is found in Jesus. Only through Him, can the blockage of our sin be removed, the righteousness of God become ours, and a relationship with God be created. This is very different from the earlier Biblical idea of trying to observe/keep the Law in order to be righteous, which was the path laid out in the Old Testament. And which, by the way, no one could accomplish.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10 NIV

As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'” Romans 3:10 NIV


In Galatians 3:24, we learn that the purpose of the Law was that it was to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” until Christ came. The Law helped us to see right from wrong but unfortunately, also revealed our helplessness in trying to keep it. We needed something beyond our own strength and flawed determination to obey God. Human life was marked by failure to be righteous until Jesus Christ came. Then He made righteousness, through receiving His help, possible. What He provided for us is called righteousness by faith.

What defines this new way of righteousness?


 More From Romans:


Righteousness by Faith Definition

 We know that the only thing that satisfies God and causes Him to “open the door” to us is that we become perfectly righteous.

Who can ascend the mountain of God? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Psalm 24:3-4a

But from our creation, as has been stated, we have been separated from God, life after life, generation after generation, by our rebellion, by wanting to do things our own way, and by finding satisfaction in things other than God.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6 NIV

 This verse, Isaiah 53:6 puts it “in a nutshell,” “we all…have gone astray.” How will we ever have the righteousness that is required to enter into God’s presence?

But the verse points to the GOOD NEWS, Jesus, on the cross, took all our iniquity, or sin on himself. He is the One to whom Isaiah was pointing. In this act of dying on the cross and being a substitute for us, Jesus solved our problem. We deserved the punishment. We deserved eternal estrangement from God. The human race has done too much wrong. But Jesus took our sin and gave us His pardon. And more than this, He gives us His righteousness if we put our faith, or trust, in Him and in this exclusive process of the work of the cross that God has provided for us.

It is a Great Exchange. Our sins were absorbed and rectified by Jesus. Our faith in this and Him causes us to receive and be “clothed” in His righteousness. In receiving what Jesus did as being for each one of us, we become brand new people.


Righteousness is a Gift

 Righteousness, then, is a GIFT. It cannot be earned by our good deeds as it says in verse 29 above. “Our acquittal is not based on our good deeds; it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in him.” We are made righteous in God’s eyes by God the Son’s work. No amount of good deeds will ever accomplish this because we could never be good enough. And, trying to win God’s approval through our own deeds only puts us in competition and a boastful posture with others – which is more sin! It is faith alone in the finished work of Jesus, His paying for the sin, that makes us righteous in God’s eyes. We, in fact, receive the righteousness, the sinlessness of Jesus and His relationship with the Father as a gift in which we get to share through believing in Jesus as our Savior.


Righteousness is For All Who Believe

This gift is not just for the privileged, the “sort of good,” or reserved for certain people groups. It is for every human being all over the world. It is for those people who are obviously lost and depraved. It is for those who appear to be upright. We all must receive this gift. Christ died for the whole world and wants to “clothe” every single one of us in His righteousness.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world.” 1 John 2:2 NIV


The Righteousness of Jesus Helps Us to Continue to Overcome Sin

 The beauty of coming to understand that this righteousness is a gift and that we can have it if we will have faith in Jesus, is that we learn just how much it can continue to transform our lives. This righteousness of Jesus Christ is not given to us and then taken away if we make a fresh mistake. When we sin as a believer, one who continues to trust in Jesus, we remain covered by His righteousness.

God knows we struggle at times and have fresh failures, but He continues to see us clothed in this righteousness. Why? Because it is ours by faith not as a result of our efforts.

When we sin again, we simply can pray, “Father, forgive me. I repent of this sin.” We remain “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”

Knowing this, that we remain clothed in Christ’s identity, that He is in us, changes everything for us in how we approach the areas in which we still need to grow.

Instead of feeling bad, worthless, and ashamed when we continue to have weaknesses, we can remember who we have become by our faith in Christ and through His forgiveness for us on the cross. We can say with confidence, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am a child of God.” Believing we have continuing worth and value in God’s eyes, many of our flaws simply melt away under His love and grace.

Pastor Joseph Prince recently posted on his blog, the story of a woman, Linda Popelack from New Jersey, who longed to leave her thirty-year addiction to heroin behind. She prayed and asked for help but had some failure as she tried to get free. She said,

When I used heroin again, it didn’t work, and I felt worse. I kept saying there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus and I am righteous through Jesus. It wasn’t an instant healing. But my thinking started to change. I knew no matter what, Jesus could heal me. When I wanted to give up, He gave me strength to believe. I started to stay in His love for me.

And she was successful. She did, she says, eventually walk out of addiction.

What made it possible? Her hard work, self-hatred, personal grit? No, she clung to the truth that if her faith was in Jesus, her sins had hung on the cross with Him, and now she was covered with His righteousness. He would fill her and help her and supernaturally provide as she held on to Him and tried to do the next right thing.

This is what His righteousness does for us. He helps us to be transformed daily more into His likeness by His power at work in us. He draws us closer to His heart, the heart of God. We become established; rock-solid in a relationship with Him. This is the righteousness that comes by faith and what it does for the believer.

Author Bio

pam morrisionPam Morrison is a pastor who, in this season of her life, primarily works with recovering addicts.  She is the author of Jesus and the Addict: Twelve Bible Studies for People Getting Free from Drugs which is available as paperback and ebook and is about to be released in Spanish.
Her website is and her blog can be found at

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