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What is Righteousness?
by Clifford Tate 
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Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (NKJV)

Romans 14:17 “For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (NKJV)

Some may view this perhaps as a simplification of what the Kingdom of God here on earth truly is right now, but we know that God the Holy Spirit with these words inspired Paul and therefore this must give us an accurate picture of what the Kingdom of God is right now on earth. It almost sums up the entire book of Romans to let us know that when we have truly become one with Jesus Christ, that we will know and experience righteousness in our individual and daily lives in a mighty way. Let us dive into the question of what righteousness truly means. Praying that with the help of God the Holy Spirit we may gain a better understanding of what we are to be and to experience daily in our walk with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Righteousness appears at first read or glance to be a big complicated word, but it is not. Now as far as our human definition of this word goes we human beings think we fully understand it. Our human definition of the word means to adhere to moral principles. Hey! How could anyone argue with that it seems to be correct? However, is it what the Holy Spirit inspired writing of the Apostle means in our subject text? It is true that to be righteous means that one must live by certain moral principles, but what are these principles and how shall any person apply them?

Well we seemed to have created more questions for ourselves than discovered answers, but I submit that the true meaning of righteousness Paul meant here is simply given to us in the text itself and that is “in the Holy Spirit.” True Righteousness is only possible when a person recognizes they are a sinner and repents (changes their minds and turns from their sin) and by faith receives Jesus Christ into his/her heart. God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us or sets us apart from the world unto our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and continues this sanctifying or cleansing process for the remainder of our lives down here on earth.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship, product, the thing that is made), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. (Quick Amplified Bible)

He pardons our sin and He makes our hearts clean which changes the things lived out in our daily lives. Now as we read in our other subject text we now begin for the first time to hunger and thirst (as a starving or thirsty man does for earthly food and water) to do what is right as the Word of God daily reveals to us. You remember way back when the Lord Jesus Christ said through the Prophet Jeremiah 31:33-34 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law within them, and on their hearts will I write it (my law); and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will no more teach each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they will all know Me [recognize, understand, and be acquainted with Me], from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will [seriously] remember their sin no more.” The desire to obey the law of God lives within us by Jesus Christ Himself dwelling in our hearts through faith. Christ has fixed our hunger, thirst for that which is wrong and given us a hunger, and thirst for that which is right and pleasing to Him.

1 John 1:9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. (Quick Amplified Bible)

What happened when every person repented of sin and by faith received Christ Jesus into his or her hearts was the very thing Christ spoke of concerning Israel, but it was not just, what would literally happen to the remnant of Israel, but it pictures the redemption for every Gentile that would be born again of the Holy Spirit. Before Christ wrote His law in our hearts and upon our minds we had no true conviction of our wrong doing and thinking that would make us turn or repent of such things, but now we cannot think or do wrong without the Holy Spirit convicting us in our heart and mind that we have sinned against Jesus Christ our Lord and offended Him in the thing we did or did not do, thought or said.

For he who knows to do good but does it not to him it is sin. Christ himself is now within each of us and this is what makes us righteous and makes us holy. He said, “I have not come to destroy the law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.” This is what He has done and continues to do in each one of His born ones. The Kingdom of God emanates where God rules and reigns (by the way this is everywhere in His Universe) but it is where Jesus Christ rules and reigns in the hearts of individual men and women. Now Colossians 1:27 says this, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

1 John 3:6 No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him--deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him]. (Quick Amplified Bible)

1 John 3:9 No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God's nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. (Quick Amplified Bible)

You see when we look to man's definition of righteousness it is only half true but it does not have the answer to the other half and that is where does the strength or power to adhere to moral principles come from, it is perfectly correct to say that in order for a person to be righteous he or she must conform to certain principles, but if there is nothing or in reality no one in them to enable them to carry out those principles then you have nothing, you have no righteousness but only unrighteousness still.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord (Jesus Christ) is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord (Jesus Christ) is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom). (Quick Amplified Bible)

Example, you can build the finest racecar ever known to the world of racecar driving. I mean the engine can be made of the best steel parts available on the market and have the best fiberglass, chrome, etc. throughout the vehicle but if no one ever puts fuel/gasoline in its tank it will never go anywhere or accomplish anything it will just sit and collect dust until finally the 2nd law of thermodynamics will take affect and the fine race car will decay, rotten, and be destroyed. This is a picture of man yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The human spirit, soul and body are the finest thing ever built but it is corrupt, rotten, and continually decaying with every passing moment of time. Therefore, like the fine racecar, it is worthless without fuel inside it and the only fuel that can give a human being worth, purpose, and meaning is Jesus Christ living in the heart. Are we getting a clearer picture of what it means for us to be righteous on this earth? Well let us continue in our analysis or definition.

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God consists of and is based on not talk but power (moral power and excellence of soul). (Quick Amplified Bible)

You see this is what truly happens when Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is dwelling in a believer’s heart by faith. He makes that person (any person) righteous and by being, a partaker of His Divine Nature that person will now practice righteousness. Righteousness will be the primary aim and objective of his daily life. Where in the past sin was our master, now righteousness should be our master.

Romans 6:13-14 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (KJV)

However, each of us drifts off course periodically as a ship sailing on the high seas does. For example, the young teenage girl (16 years old I believe) that set out to sail around the world solo in her sail boat had every intention to finish her voyage but she ran into troubled waters, a terrible storm capsized her boat and she was stranded until she could be rescued. Well, this is what happens to us as followers of Jesus Christ, through trials, test, tribulation, persecution, distress, wants, etc. we sometimes get capsized or thrown off course by these things and sin in our lives, but through our comforter the Holy Spirit (the one who stands along side of us) we are strengthened to continue practicing what is right and not that which is wrong. You see the ungodly hold down or smother the truth about God in unrighteousness and go on continually in their sins.

Romans 1:19 For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. (Quick Amplified Bible)

This means they sit on the truth or try to destroy the truth revealed in their conscience and the Scripture in the gospel all together so that they can continue in doing that which is evil within and their seared consciences will produce no judgment or no negative consequences to their unrighteous ways. However, we are to eschew that which is evil, but we are to do good to our fellow man and especially to those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul said in Ephesians 5:9 that “The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness (here it is once again), and truth.”

1 John 2:29 If you know that He (Jesus Christ) is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (NKJV)

Now let me conclude my analysis/definition of righteousness with these edifying but piercing words from Albert Barnes (1798-1870), would you listen to this wisdom given to him, “He that is a righteous man, whose characteristic it is to lead a holy life, is a Christian. If his great aim is to do the will of God, and if he seeks to discharge with fidelity all his duties to God and man, he is renewed. On that righteousness he will not “depend” for salvation Philippians 3:8-9 , but he will regard this character and this disposition as evidence that he is a Christian, and that the Lord Jesus is made unto him” wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption;” 1 Corinthians 1:30 Or rather, is begotten of Him; is truly a child of God. This truth is everywhere taught in the Bible, and is worthy of being often repeated. No one who is not, in the proper sense of the term, a righteous man, can have any well founded pretensions to being regarded as a child of God. If this be so, then it is not difficult to determine whether we are the children of God, if we are unjust, false, dishonest, we cannot be His children, if we are indulging in any known sin, we cannot be His child, if we are not truly righteous, all visions and rapture, all zeal and ardor, though in the cause of religion, all that we may pride ourselves on in being fervent in prayer, or eloquent in preaching, is vain, if we are righteous, in the true and proper sense, doing that which is right toward God and toward people, to ourselves, to our families, to our neighbors, to the world at large, to the Savior who died for us, then we are true Christians; and then, no matter how soon he may appear, or how solemn and overwhelming the scenes that shall close the world, we shall not be ashamed or confounded, for we shall hail him as our Savior, and rejoice that the time has come that we may go and dwell with him forever.” We must put on this breastplate (righteousness) every morning as we pray before we proceed into our daily spiritual warfare.

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners, morals, and character. Awake to righteousness [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God's presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame. (Quick Amplified Bible)

Here is one final quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

“Such is the language of the believer panting after present fellowship with Jesus, he is sick for his Lord. Gracious souls are never perfectly at ease except they are in a state of nearness to Christ; for when they are away from him, they lose their peace. The nearer to him, the nearer to the perfect calm of heaven; the nearer to him, the fuller the heart is, not only of peace, but of life, and vigor, and joy, for these all depend on constant intercourse with Jesus. What the sun is to the day, what the moon is to the night, what the dew is to the flower, such is Jesus Christ to us. What bread is to the hungry, clothing to the naked, the shadow of a great rock to the traveler in a weary land, such is Jesus Christ to us; and, therefore, if we are not consciously one with him, little marvel if our spirit cries in the words of the Song, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.” This earnest longing after Jesus has a blessing attending it: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness”; and therefore, supremely blessed are they who thirst after the Righteous One. Blessed is that hunger, since it comes from God: if I may not have the full-blown blessedness of being filled, I would seek the same blessedness in its sweet bud-pining in emptiness and eagerness till I am filled with Christ. If I may not feed on Jesus, it shall be next door to heaven to hunger and thirst after him. There is hallowedness about that hunger, since it sparkles among the beatitudes of our Lord. But the blessing involves a promise. Such hungry ones “shall be filled” with what they are desiring. If Christ thus causes us to long after himself, he will certainly satisfy those longings; and when he does come to us, as come he will, oh, how sweet it will be!”

Sincerely in Christ,

Clifford D. Tate
Author, Silent Assassins of the Soul (not yet published; coming soon)

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