“Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
Throughout the Old Testament, righteousness before God is seen as an act, something that someone does. Why should we expect for the definition to change in the New Testament? The attribute of righteousness has been as misunderstood as the attribute of holiness. As we have explored in previous posts, holiness is something that we are commanded to live out. Holiness is not just a trite thing that we inherit, but something that is actually lived out consciously in the life of the believer.
Righteousness is likewise something that we not only receive by faith but live out daily by that same faith. We are told in Scripture that we are to put off the old self and take on the new self which was made to be like God in righteousness. The new self is radically different from the old, no longer in the Adam nature but in Christ Jesus. And becoming righteous like God is an act of this new nature. Like holiness, righteousness is not something trite we merely inherit, but something we must live out. This is possible only because the believer is in Christ.
If you are clinging onto the old self, you cannot be made new in Christ. If you are clinging to unrighteousness you cannot be made righteous like God is righteous. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16). What are you a slave to? Are you a slave to sin or a slave to true righteousness?