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Explaining the Concept of Righteousness


Dear Dr. Usher, 

I heard a TV preacher say that I can become righteous. Yet, I heard another preach say we can never become righteous. What is righteousness, and can someone ever attain or earn righteousness?


To explain the meaning of righteousness you will need to first come to a complete saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Once a person comes to a complete saving knowledge of Jesus Christ which explains the basics of salvation, then an in depth understanding of righteousness can be explained.

I think the most important thing about the word “righteousness” is actually explaining what the word itself means.  This can be easily done via transliteration of the word righteousness. If the word is broken apart, it will yield the word “right,” which means “to be correct.”  IF you add the rest of the syllables to the word right, it changes the meaning to  “one who is correct.”

A more traditional explanation of the word righteousness is explained as “to be in right standing before God.”  This translation most accurately describes the word righteousness.  

I should also let you know that righteousness is something that cannot be earned or purchased. Righteousness is something that believers automatically have in Christ.  Any attempts to earn righteousness is futile.  In fact the Bible states,   “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  (Isaiah 64:6) 

Anything a person does to earn salvation or righteousness is construed as worthless. There are attempts recorded in the scriptures that people have done to give themselves the appearance of righteousness.  The Bible uses the term self-righteous, or in other words self-made righteousness.  Self-made righteousness is truly worthless.  In fact, when the Bible mentions, “our righteousness is as filthy rags.”  It is actually talking about self-made attempts to become righteous.

Remember, it is imperative that righteousness is understood as equal as the gift of salvation, in that it is a free gift. This gift cannot be earned or purchased.

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