Deciphering The Difference Between The Righteousness In The Old And New Testament




Let’s examine the word righteousness under the two Testaments and find out its standing in both Testaments. Righteousness in the Old Testament is regarded as the righteousness of the Law, which implies that it is righteousness obtainable by observing or keeping the law. So one is declared righteous based on his ability to keep the entire laws and as the system stipulates one is required to keep all and a failure to keep one means a failure to keep all (James 2:10, 4:17). In that case, the righteousness of the law is regarded as “the doing righteousness” (Romans 10:5) and as a matter of fact no one under the face of this sun was able to keep those laws at the same time until Jesus Christ came and became the end to the law (Romans 10:4).








He became the end to the law in that He came and fulfill the requirements of the law for us and in us (Matthew 5:17 – 18, John 19:30, Romans 8:4). Obviously, this kind of righteousness is placing a demand on people who do not have the ability to fulfill the laws hence the massive flaws in the system (Exodus 19:5). Instead of a blessing it became a heavy load on the side of the people (Acts 15:7 – 10), what was meant to produce right standing in the life of the people became a means for hypocrisy. One time, a certain fellow came to Jesus and asked rhetorically “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus listed out to him the things contained in the laws and he was proud to claim his mastery ability in observing them.







Then Jesus said to him “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22). This shows that those who practice the laws always lack one thing and in the case of this young man, his response to this statement shows that he does not love his neighbours though he claimed to love them. No one under the conduct of the laws was able to keep them and as a result of that, people were kept far away from God. The stiffness of the demands of the law made the people to become debtors before God (Romans 4:4). Because they depended on their effort to accomplish the requirements of the law, but the more they try harder in their effort, the more they find out that they are bankrupt and in fact needed help, because of the weakness in their flesh.




So the system produced a set of people who are hypocrites right from the top ranking officers (the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Scribes) to the lowest ranking among them. They were all pretenders parading themselves as righteous people whereas they are dirty in their inside. No wonder Jesus called them beautiful sepulchers (Matthew 23:25 – 28). Because the system makes them to worship or relate with God in a way people could see the cleanness of the outside but the rottenness in the inside isn’t known. Therefore, under this weak system, a man can commit a heinous crime and still standing before the people as a righteous man inasmuch as he was not caught in the act, this shows the level of weakness in the system (Romans 8:3).







And of course a system of this nature does not in any way epitomize the wisdom of God!

Righteousness under the New Testament is a gift, what is required of man is to believe in Him that came to fulfill the demands of the Law and it is given to him. That was how it is from the beginning, the men who lived in Genesis received righteousness by believing the gospel. God preached Christ to them and they believed (Genesis 22:7 – 13, John 8:56, Galatians 3:6, 8), the gift of righteousness was imputed on them. This is the Grace of God at work in humanity, righteousness is no longer a product of man’s ability rather a thing of believe in Jesus Christ and by this salvation is received (Romans 4:5, 10:5 – 6, Ephesians 2:8 – 9).




This kind of righteousness is called the righteousness of God and the vehicle or the ‘purveyor’ to convey it to people is the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16 – 17). The legal standing is that since Christ was able to keep and fulfill the demands of the Law, once one believes in Christ by right the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto him or her and as a result he or she start having the right standing before God (Philippians 3:9).







This however, implies a transition from the arena controlled by the Law to the arena controlled by Grace (Romans 6:14, 8:2). It also implies that a movement from death to life and not just life but eternal life has taken place in that individual. The righteousness is given because of the act of believe which signifies an identification with the death and suffering of Christ for mankind. The acknowledgement of this reality gives one the leverage to benefit in the substitutionary death of Christ and begin to live the life of Christ (Galatians 2:19 – 21). At this point in time, the life of the individual that has the life of Christ is immerse or imbedded in Christ and who he or she is no longer becomes visible to God, rather God sees him or her in Christ and through Christ.

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