What does the word ‘righteous’ really mean?

What does the Bible say about righteousness?

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Psalms 37:16 Better the little that the righteous man has than the abundance of many wicked people. (HCSB)

What is true righteousness? Believers should know what that word and concept means and refers to, in practical terms. And yet, in the “world of religion” that matter has become vague and nebulous and is not clear at all. To a part, this has been caused by confusing wordings and inconsistencies in bible-translations, and to a part by dogmas which have made things obscure.

The words “righteous” and “righteousness” come from the Old English rihtwis and rihtwisnes which meant “right-wise” and “right-wise-ness” (right-ways-ness). But then, one must know what the right ways really are, in regard to the New Testament and the New Covenant. And, there are many other things to consider, such as the relevant words in the Greek text of the NT.

Righteousness is something tangible, down-to-earth and real and practical. It has nothing to do with some ethereal “piousness” or “spirituality”. This article takes a closer look at what the Bible says about the matter of righteousness.

Some talk about “imputed righteousness”. Even that concept will be sorted out here.

‘In a nutshell’.

Here are two bible-passages which in a way “summarise” the matter of righteousness, in just a few words:

Micah 6:8 I will shew thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee: Namely, to do right, to have pleasure in loving-kindness, [a] to be lowly, and to walk with thy God (TRC, note sign added)

Matthew 22:36 Master, which is the chief rule in the law? [b] 37 And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest rule. 39 And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself. (BBE, note sign added)

a Micah 6:8, “loving-kindness” – some bible-versions have “love goodness”, some “love mercy”, some “love kindness”. Obviously, this refers to acts of love and mercy – goodness, including good works; doing such is one of the practical expressions of the matter of loving one’s neighbour as oneself, Matthew 22:39.

b Matthew 22:36, “Which is the chief rule in the Law?” – here, as often in the biblical context, the phrase “the Law” refers to the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. So, it appears that the question really was, “What is the most important precept in the books of Moses?” Jesus answered by quoting two passages in those books, parts of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

As you perhaps can see, Micah 6:8 and Matthew 22:36–39 say basically the same thing. But, even though it can be said that those verses in a way “summarise” the matter of righteousness, there is much more to it, of course. There are many other things that believers should know about being righteous and living in a righteous manner.

The present-day word-form “righteousness” does not make things very clear. Again, in Old English the spelling was rihtwisnes. In modern-day language that means “right-wise-ness”, the part “wise” referring to “way”, “manner”. – And yes, the Old English words rihtwis and rihtwisnes carried also the meanings “just” and “justness”. That is in harmony with the relevant words in the Greek text of the New Testament, such as dikaios and dikaiosunê; even they refer to justness. In the Vulgate version, those Greek words are often translated into Latin as iustus and iustitia, which is quite correct.

Honesty is an important part of righteousness.

A part of righteousness or right-ways-ness is that a righteous, just person does not lie or deceive but is honest, dependable and trustworthy. Lying and deceitfulness are not reconcilable with righteousness.

Proverbs 13:5 The righteous hate lying, but the wicked act disgustingly and disgracefully. 6 Righteousness guards people of integrity, but wickedness undermines the sinner. (HCSB)

Psalms 37:30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks what is just. 31 The instruction of his God is in his heart; his steps do not falter. (HCSB)

Being honest and dependable and not deceiving others, of course also means that one is faithful – towards God, and towards men. The latter part must begin in one’s closest family, including what one promised when one was married. But, one must be honest and keep one’s word, towards all people, even at work and elsewhere. – Those things belong to righteousness, along with love and good works and much more.

Again, lying and deceiving are not reconcilable with righteousness.

Righteousness and good works.

A righteous person will live in a just and fair and morally upright manner. That includes doing good works; the Scriptures make this very clear.

Now, one cannot become righteous, by doing good works. Righteousness is something that comes from the inside; it cannot be produced by doing things. But yes, a person who is righteous, will do good works.

Consider Cornelius, the first non-Jewish person who received the Holy Spirit (together with his family). His good works were especially mentioned. – Several passages in the New Testament make it clear that no one can become righteous though “works”. And still, we have Acts 10:35 where some bible-versions contain such phrases as “works righteousness”. That refers to good works. – Note the slightly different ways the below-quoted translations render the highlighted part:

Acts 10:35 But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him. (AKJV, highlighting added)

Acts 10:35 But in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh justice is acceptable to him. (DR1899, highlighting added)

Acts 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (ESV01, highlighting added)

Those were translations of something the apostle Simon Peter said. This was in connection with the non-Jewish man Cornelius whose prayers and good works were noted so that God sent a message to him. And, what were the righteous, just and right things that he had done? Well, we read:

Acts 10:2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (ESV01)

Verses 2 and 4, “alms” = aid given to the poor = good works. The NLT04 makes this more clear, by the translation “he gave generously to the poor”, verse 2, and “gifts to the poor”, verse 4. And indeed, this with good works, helping people who are in need, is an important part of righteousness (right-ways-ness, justness).

Cornelius prayed to God, and he did good – good works – by aiding the poor, and probably in other ways as well.

Philippians 4:8 mentions a number of good and just things.

Let us consider something the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Philippi.

Philippians 4:8 For the rest, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright, whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, give thought to these things. (BBE)

In that verse, where the above-quoted BBE has “upright”, the Greek text has dikaios which meant “righteous”, “just”. And, all of that passage is regarding good, just, righteous things.

That translation renders the last part of that verse as “give thought to these things”. But of course, this with righteousness is not merely a matter of “thinking” about good and just things. For instance the JB translates that part as “exercise yourselves in these things”. And indeed, it is clear that the apostle Paul meant that the saints were to be doing and practicing those things – “whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright [righteous], whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise”. – Being righteous includes that one makes things of that kind a part of one’s daily life.

Does new-covenantal righteousness consist of living according to ‘the spirit of the law’ instead of ‘the letter of the law’?

Many people have been caused to think that 2 Corinthians 3:6 talks about a “spirit of the Law” versus a “letter of the Law”, as if that passage referred to two different ways of applying the rules of the Old Covenant. But, that verse does not contain such phrases or concepts. We read:

2 Corinthians 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (NASB95)

Clarification: When the apostle Paul wrote “the letter”, he referred to the Old Covenant and its written rules. And, when he wrote “the Spirit”, he referred to the Holy Spirit and the New Covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:3 – the New Covenant is written,

“not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (NASB95).

That “writing” – the Holy Spirit – can make men righteous. If and when a person is led by God’s Spirit, then that person will act righteously (living in a just and morally upright way). – The article nca110.htm has more on 2 Corinthians 3:6–8, and also Romans 7:6.

Is it the Decalogue that defines what righteousness is?

Have you ever wondered where the word “decalogue” comes from? It is derived from the Greek text of the Septuagint version (LXX). It has in Exodus 34:28 the phrase tous deka logous which means “the ten words”.

The actual “ten words” are recorded in Exodus 20, but it is in Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 that they are given a “name”. Here is the first of those three passages, as the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation has it:

Exodus 34:28 And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten words. (JPS1917, highlighting added)

Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 contain the shorter form “the ten words” (JPS1917).

The highlighted phrases above are correct translations of the Hebrew text. The English wording “the ten commandments” which came into use in the Middle Ages, is in fact a mistranslation. The Hebrew text of Exodus 34:28 talks about “the words of the covenant, the ten words”. Consider this: Words – of which covenant? Why, the one that was made by Mount Sinai. The Old Covenant.

A note: There was nothing bad about those “words of the covenant, the ten words”, but one must keep in mind that they were not alone or separate. They were an integral and inseparable part of the Sinaitic covenant – the Old Covenant. That covenant did not provide the Israelites a way to everlasting life. That might be the reason why the apostle Paul wrote, “the letter kills” and “the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stones”, 2 Corinthians 3:6–7.

And again, the New Covenant is written,

“not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3, NASB95).

No law-text has ever been able to make men righteous. But, if and when God through his Holy Spirit dwells in a person, and that person follows the instructions and guidance which God gives through his Spirit, then that person will live in a just, righteous manner.

The article nca050.htm contains a deeper study on the matter of the Decalogue.

Is there a connection between new-covenantal righteousness, and the rules of the Old Covenant?

First, let us note the fact that Jesus and his apostles, including Paul, taught the importance of living in a just and morally upright manner. That is a central part of righteousness. Those who have carefully studied all of the Bible, know that much more was expected, in the way of just and pure and holy life, of the saints [c] who were under the New Covenant, than was ever demanded of the Israelites when they were under the Old Covenant.

[c] In this article, the word “saints” refers to those who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier.

Let us also note that in the New Testament, it is in the apostle Paul’s letters that we find most occurrences of such words as “righteous” and “righteousness”. Whatever some may have claimed, Paul certainly upheld the importance of righteousness. Unfortunately, many things in his letters have been turned upside down, by various dogma-makers and to a degree even by bible-translators.

For understanding what true righteousness (justness) really is, one must also understand the matter of the two covenants, old and new, and whether believers should have “works” of the old-covenantal type, such as performing rituals and observing days and so on.

That is a large subject, and all of its details cannot be discussed here. Right here, let us consider Romans 3:21 which talks about “justification which is of God, without law”. That is, without the Old Covenant and works and rituals of the kind it required.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and that all the world may be liable to punishment before God. 20 Wherefore, by works of law there shall no flesh be justified [d] in his sight; because through law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, a justification [d] which is of God, without law, is exhibited, attested by the law and the prophets: [e] 22 even a justification [d] which is of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, for all, and upon all, who believe; for there is no difference. (LO, highlighting and note signs added)

d Verses 20, 21 and 22, “justified” and “justification”: The context shows that the apostle was comparing the two covenants, old and new.

(Many translations have in verse 21 “righteousness” instead of “justification”, but a closer study of the context indicates that in this particular case, the apostle used the old Greek word dikaiosunê in the meaning “justification”. Cf. dikaios, “just”, and dikaioô, “to justify”.)

e Verse 21, last part: In the phrase “attested by the law and the prophets”, the expressions “the Law” and “the Prophets” refer to two specific sections in the Old Testament. – In other words: The phrase “attested by the Law and the Prophets” simply means that the Old Testament had prophetically foretold the coming of a new and better covenant. A covenant which led to justification, instead of condemnation.

Important: The fact that the saints were justified – that their sins were forgiven (through Jesus’ Sacrifice), and that they then were pronounced “not guilty” – did not in any way rule out the need to live in a righteous manner.

Romans 3:24 states that the saints were “justified freely by his favor, through the redemption which is by Christ Jesus” (LO). But, those words must not be misunderstood or misapplied. Let us not forget the other parts of that letter. Such as, these verses:

Romans 6:1 What do we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that favor may abound? 2 By no means. How shall we, who have died to sin, continue to live in it? […] 15 What then do we say? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under favor? 16 Do you not know, that to whom you present yourselves servants, by obedience; his servants you are whom you thus obey; whether of sin into death, or of obedience into righteousness? (LO)

Here, one must keep in mind that under the New Covenant, “sin” is not defined by the rules of the Old Covenant. The “technicalities” regarding the matter of sin in the light of the New Covenant are something for a separate study, but in short: Sin is the opposite of righteousness. In other words: Sin is simply the same as wrong-doing, wickedness, injustice, immorality. Righteousness is the same as doing what is good and right and just, and keeping away from what is bad and wrong and evil.

Some notes.

Many people may have misunderstood certain passages in Paul’s epistles, partially because of confusing translations. This includes 1 Corinthians 6:12 where a number of bible-versions have such wordings as “all things are lawful”, and Titus 1:15 where some have the wording “all is pure unto the pure”. The articles noa111.htm respectively nea050.htm have more on those verses and their translation and meaning.

Casual bible-readers might misunderstand certain NT passages, such as Romans 6:14 which records how the apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Rome, “you are not under law but under grace”. They might think that that verse means that “nothing matters”, so that one does not have to care about any norms of conduct. But, that is not what the apostle meant. The article nca100.htm has some notes on that passage.

Some talk about “imputed righteousness”. That subject, including Romans 4, is discussed in an appendix at the end of this present article.

Some important things, not to be forgotten.

Again, the adjective “righteous” comes from the Old English rihtwis (“right-wise”) which meant something like “fair”, “just”. The noun “righteousness” comes from the Old English rihtwisnes which simply meant “right-wise-ness”, that is, justness. – That is in harmony with the relevant words in the Greek of the New Testament.

So, being “righteous” means that one is just and fair, and lives in a morally upright manner. – One could also say that being righteous is the same as seeing the difference between right and wrong, followed by doing the right things and keeping away from the wrong things. Doing good, and keeping away from evil.

Let us not forget these passages in Paul’s and John’s letters:

2 Timothy 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (ESV01)

1 Timothy 6: […] 10 for the love of money is the root of all these evils. And there are some who, coveting it, have erred from the faith, and brought themselves into many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee from these things; and follow after righteousness, and rectitude, and faith, and love, and patience, and humility. (MUR)

1 John 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. […] 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (ESV01)

(Regarding 1 John 3 – the article nca120.htm sorts out the translation and meaning of verse 4 in that chapter.)

True righteousness goes hand in hand with love and good works. Again, when someone asked Jesus, “what is the most important rule in the Law” (that is, in the five books of Moses), he answered by citing two passages in those books, parts of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest rule. 39 And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbour as for yourself. (BBE)

Regarding verse 39 above – let us read a passage in James’ letter.

James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (NKJV)

As you can see, when James wrote, “what does it profit, my brothers, if someone says that he has faith, but does not have works”, he referred to good works – aiding people in need.

Those are important things which must not be forgotten. They cannot be left out or omitted. Failing to do good when one is able and when that is needed, is to fail to do righteousness. One must love and serve God, without forgetting this with loving one’s fellow humans and helping and aiding them when they are in need. As and when that is fitting, and as and when one is able. (One’s own family first, including the older generation, but even others.)

A note: The kind of good works, loving-kindness and “acts of mercy” that we are talking about here, are more than giving an occasional dollar to some beggar on the street.

What about ‘worship’? Is it an ‘act of righteousness’ if one ‘goes to church’?

When one serves one’s fellow humans by aiding them when they are in need, one actually serves God. Cf. Matthew 25:40, “And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (That was quoted from the BBE. See all of verses 31–40 in your own bible.)

But, what about the kind of “serving” that is practiced in churches – “worship services”? Is it an “act of righteousness” to go to church and take part in such things?

That subject is too large to be included here, but in short: No, going to church is not an “act of righteousness”. The article naa040.htm has some notes on new-covenantal worship and service of God.

Is it an ‘act of righteousness’ to give money to a church or a preacher?

Here, one must keep in mind that the word “offering” is simply a synonym for “sacrifice”. When Jesus through his Sacrifice made it possible for the New Covenant to be launched, that was a sacrifice “once and for all”. There is no adding to it. The New Covenant does not have any sacrifices, except that which Jesus made when he gave his life in place of others.

But, many churches and preachers ask people to give “offerings” and “tithes”. Some even cause people to think that that is connected to righteousness. For some reason, they often fail to mention that the tithe was only on the Promised Land’s agricultural produce, and that for instance craftsmen and wage-workers did not tithe. (The concept of exacting a tithe on wages was introduced by the Catholic Church, in the Middle Ages.) The article nma010.htm sorts out the “tithe question”.

Some preachers love to quote the words “it is more blessed to give than to receive” in Acts 20:35 – but somehow, they fail to mention that the context shows that the apostle Paul was talking to elders, reminding them that they knew that he (Paul) had supported himself through manual work and been on the giving side, including providing aid to the infirm, and that he told those elders to copy his example in that regard. The article nma020.htm has more on Acts 20, including verse 35 and its actual meaning.

Some have even quoted 2 Corinthians 9:7, the words “God loves a cheerful giver”, and caused people to think that those words mean that it is a righteous thing to give money to some church or preacher. But, that passage refers to a collection of aid to poor saints in Judea/Jerusalem. The article nma020.htm, which is about Acts 20, includes some notes on 2 Corinthians 9:7.

See also the appendix below, and the “recommended reading” section which follows after it.


Appendix – On dogmas regarding ‘imputed righteousness’.

Some writers have said that God “freely imputes righteousness to believers”. Someone might think that to mean that one can live as one wants, without any norms of conduct.

(That has to do with certain passages in the apostle Paul’s letters, such as Romans 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 23 and 24, Romans 5:13, 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Galatians 3:6. Some bible-versions have the word “impute” in some of those passages.)

Those who have studied Paul’s letters in more depth, have probably noticed that he laid great stress on the importance of living in a just, righteous manner. In fact, Paul repeatedly wrote even about holiness. So, really what is it that Paul was talking about, in the case of the above-mentioned verses?

First, regarding the word “imputed”: It is copied from the Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version. It has in those verses such words as inputabit, praeputio, praeputium, reputatum, reputetur, reputabitur, reputans and reputatum. In eight of those nine verses, the corresponding word in the Greek NT text is the verb logizomai which referred to “counting”, “reckoning”. In the case of Romans 5:13, the verb is ellogeô, with the same meaning.

It is enough that we consider the first two of those verses, Romans 4:6 and 8. A closer study of them makes it clear what the apostle meant. Some bible-versions have in them the Latin-based word “impute”, but some others translate the Greek text into proper English and have for instance “reckon”. Consider this translation:

Romans 4:6 Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works 7 saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, And whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom, the Lord will not reckon sin. (ASV)

Here is the Old Testament passage which Paul referred to:

Psalms 32:1 Davidic. A Maskil. How happy is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! 2 How happy is the man the Lord does not charge with sin, and in whose spirit is no deceit! (HCSB)

Note the words “whose transgression is forgiven”, Psalms 32:1, and “whose iniquities are forgiven”, Romans 4:6–8. So, there is transgression and sin, but such things can under certain circumstances be forgiven. Further: Consider for instance these words, in that same letter:

Romans 6:1 What do we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that favor may abound? 2 By no means. How shall we, who have died to sin, continue to live in it? […] 15 What then do we say? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under favor? 16 Do you not know, that to whom you present yourselves servants, by obedience; his servants you are whom you thus obey; whether of sin into death, or of obedience into righteousness? (LO)

Again, the word “impute” which some bible-versions have in Romans 4:8, is copied from the Latin text of the Catholic Vulgate version. It has in that verse the verb inputabit (inputare). The Greek text has in verses 6 and 8 the verb logizomai which referred to counting, reckoning. Even the Latin inputare (imputare) referred to counting, reckoning, but in early Calvinism-Lutheranism-Protestantism, dogma-makers built around that word a concept regarding “imputed righteousness”.

Apparently, some have claimed, in effect, that God “credits believers with the righteous acts that Jesus performed while he lived on the Earth”, and that believers because of that do not need to be bothered by any norms or ethics but can live as they want. What should one think of such claims?

One part of the matter is that the saints put their trust in Jesus and his Sacrifice, and so, their sins were forgiven, and they were then reckoned “not guilty”, and were in that way “justified”. Freely. No one can “earn” the justification that is needed for salvation.

But at the same time, the New Testament makes it clear that the saints were to live in a just, righteous manner. Those who study all of the NT, can see that Jesus and the apostles, including Paul, taught the importance of righteousness, which is to say, living in an upright and morally respectable manner, and doing good works.

A side-note: Some have come up with the strange claim that “Jesus kept the rules of the Old Covenant, in place of others”. That is tied to a concept where the New Covenant is thought to be a continuation of the Old Covenant, however so that transgressions against its rules are no longer punished. But, that is a fallacy. The Old Covenant with its rules came to its end, and the New Covenant is something new and separate. Clarification:

The articles nca090.htm and nca080.htm have more on this, but in short: The Old Covenant with its rules came on the scene “because of transgressions”, and it was to last until Jesus came. We read:

Galatians 3:19 To what purpose, then, was the Law? It was imposed later for the sake of transgressions, until the “Offspring” should come to whom the promise had been made. […] (CT)

In other words: The Old Covenant was a temporary arrangement. When Jesus the prophesied Offspring of Abraham came and then made his Sacrifice by giving his life in place of others, it became possible to launch the New Covenant. When that happened, the temporary thing had served its purpose and was set aside. – The article nca080.htm has more on Galatians 3:19 and its context, including verse 21.

It is true that Jesus through his Sacrifice paid even the penalty for offences against the rules of the Old Covenant, on behalf of the Jewish saints who had been under that covenant. But, the concept that the Old Covenant and its rules would continue to be in force, and that believers would for that reason need forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice, is not correct. Again, as was noted above, the Old Covenant lasted until Jesus came.

What about Romans 4 and Abraham?

Was Abraham justified by “works”, as some say, or, did he receive “imputed righteousness” as some dogmas and bible-translations might cause people to think? Or, how should we understand Romans 4?

In that chapter, a number of bible-versions confuse things, by not translating the Greek word logizomai in a consistent manner. An example: The 1991 edition of the NKJV translates that word in different ways within that one and same chapter – five times as “accounted”, one as “counted”, and then five times as “impute”, “imputed” or “imputes”.

Some other bible-versions are more consistent in how they translate the verb logizomai in that chapter. Let us view how one of them renders Romans 4:2–10 and 23–25. Below, the places where the Greek text has logizomai, are highlighted in bold style. Note also the word-comments in brackets, and keep in mind that the Greek noun dikaiosunê can also be translated as “justness” and in some cases even as “justification”.

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified [Greek dikaioô] by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness [dikaiosunê].” 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies [dikaioô] the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness [dikaiosunê]. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness [dikaiosunê] apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” 9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness [dikaiosunê].” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. […] 23 Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification [dikaiosis]. (NRSV, comments and highlighting added)

Abraham’s “works” consisted of that he put his faith (trust) in the Lord, and that he because of this did what the Lord told him to do. – Please note that that had nothing to do with the Old Covenant or its rules; they came on the scene a long time after Abraham’s death.

(In the main part of this article, it is explained what new-covenantal righteousness is and consists of.)

A note: Some have misunderstood certain passages in Paul’s epistles, partially because of confusing translations. This includes 1 Corinthians 6:12 where some bible-versions contain such wordings as “all things are lawful”, and Titus 1:15 where some have the wording “all is pure unto the pure”. For more on those verses and their translation and meaning, see the articles noa111.htm respectively nea050.htm.

The article nba091.htm contains a study on the matter of faith.

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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

Many talk about “the spirit of the law” versus “the letter of the law”, but those expressions are not found in the Bible. On the meaning of the phrases “the Spirit” and “the letter” in 2 Corinthians 3:6–8 and Romans 7:6. → nca110.htm

On the Decalogue, “the words of the covenant, the ten words”. → nca050.htm

The apostle Paul and his teachings. → noa111.htm

On Titus 1:15 and the translation “to the pure all things are pure”, and what that verse really means and refers to. → nea050.htm

Some notes on the phrases “not under law but under grace” and “released from the law”. → nca100.htm

On 1 John 3:4 and its translation and meaning. → nca120.htm

Worshipping God. What does the Bible say about worship, in connection with the New Covenant? → naa040.htm

What is the truth about tithing, the concept of giving “tithes” to a church? → nma010.htm

Acts 20:35 – what the apostle Paul meant when he reminded the elders from Ephesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. → nma020.htm

The New Covenant is indeed something new, and not a “renewal” or “modification” of the Old Covenant. → nca090.htm

On Galatians 3:17–19 and what the apostle Paul meant by “added law”. → nca080.htm

What does the word “faith” mean? What is true faith? → nba091.htm


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