Righteousness means a life that is completely good and right.
Godís righteousness, therefore, means the life that God accepts to be completely good and right. The only person who has ever lived like that, perfectly, is Christ (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19). Therefore, the only way that God can accept us is by means of Christ (John 14:6; Philippians 3:9).
On the other hand, our own righteousness is what we ourselves consider good and right. It is not therefore true righteousness, because it depends on our opinions. Everyoneís opinion differs, and we choose our opinions to suit our circumstances. So, we complain about other peopleís behaviour while we make excuses for our own actions (2:1-11).
The problem is that we are afraid to accept Godís standards for our lives. We know that God is good and perfect; and we are guilty in front of him (3:23). We cannot be perfect; so we try to satisfy ourselves that we are good enough. We choose which of his laws we are willing to obey. We follow the form of religion that suits us. In other words, we replace Godís standards with our standards; we follow our idea of righteousness instead of Godís righteousness.
However, God wants us to accept his righteousness, which we will find in Christ. By means of Christís death (5:8), God can give us his righteousness as a free gift (5:17). We are guilty people, but God can accept us because of Christ (5:19). When God forgives us, he accepts us as good, not because of our own deeds, but because of our relationship with Christ.
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© 2017, Keith Simons.