What the Righteousness of God Is

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : June 24, 1897

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
The righteousness of God, says Jesus, is the one thing to be sought in this life. Food and clothing are minor matters in comparison with it. God will supply them, as a matter of course, so that anxious care and worriment need not be expended on them; but to secure God’s kingdom and His righteousness should be the only object of life.
In 1 Corinthians 1:30 we are told that Christ is made unto us righteousness as well as wisdom; and since Christ is the wisdom of God, and in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9), it is evident that the righteousness which is made life to us is the righteousness of God. Let us see what this righteousness is.
In Psalm 119.172 the Psalmist addresses the Lord: “My tongue shall speak of Your Word; for all Your commandments are righteousness.” The commandments are righteousness, not simply in the abstract, but they are the righteousness of God. For proof read the following:—
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished. Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law: do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults.” Isaiah 51:6, 7
What do we learn from this? That they who know the righteousness of God are those in whose heart is His law, and therefore that the law of God is the righteousness of God.
This may be proved again, as follows: “All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John 5:17. “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Sin is the transgression of the law, and it is also unrighteousness; therefore sin and unrighteousness are identical. But if unrighteousness is transgression of the law, righteousness must be obedience to the law. Or, to put the proposition into mathematical form:—
Unrighteousness = sin. John 5:17
Transgression of the law = sin. 1 John 3:4
Therefore, as two things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, we have:—
Unrighteousness = transgression of the law = sin
which is a negative equation. The same thing, stated in positive terms, is:—
Righteousness = obedience to the law.
Now what law is it obedience to which is righteousness and disobedience to which is sin? It is that law which says, “You shall not covet;” for the Apostle Paul tells us that this law convinced him of sin. Romans 7:7. The law of Ten Commandments, then, is the measure of the righteousness of God. Since it is the law of God and is righteousness, it must be the righteousness of God. There is indeed no other righteousness.
Since the law is the righteousness of God - a transcript of His character - it is easy to see that to fear God and keep His commandments is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13. Let no one think that his duty will be circumscribed if confined to the Ten Commandments, for they are “exceeding broad.” “The law is spiritual,” and comprehends a great deal more than can be discerned by an ordinary reader. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. The exceeding breadth of the law of God can be realized only by those who prayerfully meditate upon it.
This righteousness can be “fulfilled in us” only by the power of the indwelling Christ. By faith Christ dwells in the heart, and thus faith establishes the law in the life (Romans3:31). This righteousness is the first thing to be sought for. It is the one object of Christ’s work to bring men to the obedience of faith. His name is called Jesus Saviour, for “He shall save His people from their sins.” When men traduce[1] the law of God and refuse to acknowledge it as the standard of righteousness, they cast reproach upon the character of God, and frustrate the Gospel of Christ.

[1] Traduce: To expose to shame by means of falsehood and misrepresentation; to violate or betray.