What is Righteousness Through Faith?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, January 20, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” ~Romans 1:17

A righteousness through faith: it is a concept that is a stumbling block for many different people groups. Some would say that the idea that we can be righteous through faith is easy believism. It is not fair that people who have lived a sinful life should receive salvation merely through faith in Jesus Christ. Most would say that something more must be required. That is why people have come up with additional doctrine to balance out the spectrum of righteousness.

Let me spell out the righteousness spectrum really quickly. On one end of the spectrum, we have the idea that this doctrine of faith-based righteousness is foolish and false; only good deeds can make us right with God. This is clearly heresy based on Romans 1:17. Next we have the idea that faith in Jesus is essential, but that our good deeds must outweigh our bad deeds. Those who reject this idea believe that we are saved through faith, but that we must confess our sins every time we transgress in order to receive true forgiveness of our sins. As we make our way to the other end of the spectrum we have those who believe that faith is sufficient to secure our righteousness, but that our lives ought to reflect the grace we have received. And on the far end of this side of the spectrum we have those who think that faith and only faith is sufficient and that no good deeds need to follow. In fact, even if you live a totally hedonistic life, it is okay, so long as you have faith. What is the correct doctrine of faith-based righteousness?

Regardless of your position, you must acknowledge the words of Jesus. In Matthew 7:16-20, Jesus tells his disciples that those who follow him will be recognized by their fruit, and those that do not follow him will bear bad fruit. In considering your theological position in this matter, you must remember the words of Jesus and of the Apostle Paul.

And yet, I tend to side more on the side of security of righteousness through faith alone. To me, it appears that good fruit is born through the spirit of one who has truly given his or her heart over to Christ. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus makes a statement that may sound confusing to you: that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. There are those who take this verse, and those following, to mean that we too must fulfill the Law of Moses. Considering the fact that “the righteous will live by faith,” Jesus cannot be saying that we too must fulfill the Law.

What Jesus has revealed to us is that he upholds a standard of righteousness that goes beyond the simple understanding of works-based righteousness. In fact, it targets the very ailment of the human condition, namely, the human heart. Even those who appeared outwardly to be fulfilling the Law were still condemned because their obedience was only an act. God knew their hearts and saw their hidden wicked deeds. Jesus’ standard is so high that the entire world falls short.

But he has fulfilled the Law. The world is still under the judgment of the Law, as Jesus makes very clear, but those who put their faith in Jesus are made righteous by the grace of God. Jesus took upon the sins of every human by being made into sin upon the cross. God the Father turned his face from him so that he may forgive you and me. Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, has alleviated the weight of sin from our shoulders.

Any other attempt at righteousness by one’s own efforts will fall flat. I have heard Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, and other religious leaders admit their occasional shortcomings, if not outwardly, inwardly at least. We need a righteousness that transcends our efforts. The only possibility is faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.