What does it mean that God is Righteous?
Do you know the law completely? Your local laws, state laws, national laws? More importantly God's laws? God is righteous and will always do what is right according to His perfect standard So, what does it mean that God is righteous? God always acts in accordance with what is right and that He is the final standard of what is right (Deuteronomy 32:4, Romans 9:20-21, Daniel 4:37, Psalm 89:14). God has set the standard in His goodness, by telling us what He approves of. His righteousness says that He will always do what is right according to this standard. God will not allow any sin, transgression, or iniquity to go unpunished (Proverbs 11:21). He will always do what is right, judging according to His standard set of what is good (Genesis 18:25). This is a big topic, with big implications. Let's focus more on these truths.
Foundation: Righteousness and Justice?
Our culture is very ambiguous. People live and act according to their judgments. Sure, in almost every place there is a law. Yet, even with the law people judge and say this is right or this is wrong. People pick and choose which standards to live by and which to ignore. Thus, we can say people live their lives by what is right in their own sight. Some say gun control is right, others say it’s wrong. Some say freedom of speech is right when it comes to what they believe and wrong when it comes to what others believe. Everyone has their opinions and everyone’s opinions are right in their own eyes. The very judges of the law who are to judge rightly according to the standard that has been set are guilty of doing what is right in their own eyes. They don’t judge according to the strictness of the law and enforce its punishments perfectly. They judge according to their understanding, convictions, compassions, standards. With this system, it is difficult to understand righteousness and justice. Quite frankly most people can’t articulate what true righteousness and justice are if they were asked. This is why it is vitally important in all forms of communication that our terms are defined. Our English vernacular separates righteousness and justice as if they are two different things. This is not how the Bible interacts with these words. Righteousness and justice come from a singular word group. The two terms cannot be understood apart from one another and function separated from each other.
The Righteous Judge
What He wholly approves of is perfection according to His character and nature. His standard of approval is given in His law and fulfilled in His Son. God always does that which is right this means that all who break His law, which is good, are guilty and will be punished according to His justice. “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. (Deuteronomy 32:4, bold added) Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Daniel 4:37, bold added) There is never a time, nor will there ever be a time when God doesn’t do what is right. Nor is there ever a time when God is not administering righteous justice. God doesn’t lessen the bar of justice according to the person. He judges with equity. Administering justice according to the perfect standard of righteousness. God will never justify the wicked nor condemn the righteous, He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 17:15) When God says that something is an abomination to Him, He is essentially saying that this thing is so disgusting and despicable to Him that there is no adequate word to describe it. Those who justify the wicked and condemn the righteous are not considered good, but wicked and abominable. God cannot act contrary to His character and His standard of goodness.
Demonstration of Righteousness
God will NEVER justify the wicked and condemn the righteous. This is why the Apostle Paul says the on the cross God demonstrated His righteousness. being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:24-26, bold added For years upon years, decades upon decades, it seemed as if the wicked were going unpunished. There are plenty of lament psalms of God’s people crying out for God to act and administer justice. It could seem and has seemed to some that God is not righteous and just. This is a lesson for us to be careful not to judge incorrectly. God was, is, and will never be allowing the guilty to go unpunished. He was waiting for the fullness of time to come to send the Savior, our Substitute. To pour out the punishment that is due to all men everywhere for our sins. In this God has demonstrated that He is righteous. That He always does what is right and always administers perfect justice. However, this doesn’t mean that all men everywhere get to escape the justice due to them. Those who are justified or legally declared righteous before God are only those who have faith in Jesus Christ. It is to them that the just and righteous judge can distribute mercy. The others, all who remain in their disobedience and disbelief will pay for their crimes against the Lord. When the Lord God’s kindness towards them runs out and they have not repented and believed unto life in Christ. Then they will enter eternal torment where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. God’s righteousness tells us that He will always do what is right according to His standard of right. His standard is not subjective but is and will always be perfection because He is perfect. Since man is wicked and has sinned, in our own strength and merit we have only earned death and condemnation. Yet, God says that those who believe in His Son will be justified. This is only possible because God had expensed His holy hatred and wrath towards sin upon the Son of God, Jesus. Christ Jesus is then the propitiation, the divine substitute for all who would believe in Him.
None can say
No one can say that God is wrong to do this. For, the clay cannot tell the Potter what is right, On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? Romans 9:20-21 No man can nor will they be able to condemn God’s righteous judgment that they would be justified in themselves, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.” Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm and said, “Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me. “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? “Or do you have an arm like God, And can you thunder with a voice like His? Job 40:1-9, bold added God is the final authority. He defines what is right. We, mere men, are only able to affirm what He has already declared. To do otherwise is to commit iniquity, to do what is right in our own eyes (Isaiah 53:6). For this, we will pay the price which is only wrath and condemnation. No man will escape God’s righteous justice. It will pour forth like rushing water that fills every crack and crevice of the earth. Just as the floodgates were opened and the rain poured down covering all the earth in the days of Noah. Destroying every living thing that took breath. None shall escape this justice unless they like Noah and those on the ark hide in the refuge of God, who is Jesus Christ. (Most of the content on this page is taken out of my book: Knowing the God We Proclaim) (To discover more about God, see our page, Who is God?)