Isaiah 63:1 (ESV)
It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.
Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
Righteousness is a powerful concept. The thesaurus offers synonyms such as just, true, good, virtuous, honorable, and blameless to name but a few. I like to think of righteousness as a quality of being straight, square, true, and landed. When a man is righteous he doesn’t need to explain himself, or qualify his comments. His answers are simple. When a righteous woman expresses even a subtle reason with many nuances she will not need to build a wall of words around her answer if she is righteous. She will be at peace with herself and her speech and demeanor will show that.
The power of that truth is seen in Jesus himself. He was righteousness incarnate. He stood before Pilate and said very few words, confident in God’s faithfulness, and committed to God’s ways. He spoke words of righteousness to sinners and called those who relied on their own righteousness to abandon their self-deceiving ways. We can never attain this ourselves. Because of our flawed sinful nature we can never find our justification in our own being.
But God has spoken righteousness to us. Jesus spoke words of grace to sinners – forgiving those who nailed him to the cross, freeing the woman caught in adultery from her sin, and welcoming tax collectors and prostitutes into his fellowship. His act of righteousness (perfect faith in God) justifies us. It frees us to love God and others, for we are not seeking to earn our place or redeem our past sins. It gives us a place to stand. It allows us to be; to exist without explanation or excuse. That is a gift I certainly want to embrace.