Thursday, August 17, 2006

Righteousness and Justification

Having stated that “righteousness,” in its ordinary usage, is a moral concept referring to what one has as a result of performing the good that the law requires, I will now try to defend this from Scripture.

The fact that Paul contrasts righteousness with sin and its synonyms is very relevant in this connection. Though there are many passages that demonstrate this (Rom. 5:7-8; 6:18-19), I’ll quote one for the sake of space: when seeking to prove his thesis that both Jews and Greeks are “under sin,” Paul quotes the psalmist:

“As it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (14:1-3; cf. 53:1-3).

His point here in Rom. 3:9-10 is unmistakable—being “righteous” is the opposite of being “under sin,” thus placing both concepts in a moral category (at least in the passages cited).

When we turn, therefore, to the much-disputed Romans 2:6-13, we see that those who will be deemed righteous at the final judgment will be those who have done righteousness (which is in direct contrast to those are “self-seeking and obey unrighteousness”). And further, doing righteousness in this text consists of being a “doer of the law,” meaning that, for Paul, the law spells out the goodness required by God for justification.

“Righteous” in its ordinary usage, therefore, is a term that describes the one who does the righteousness that the law commands, and to be “justified” is to receive the treatment due to one who is indeed righteous and just.