Q: Question: Dear Sir, as we know that in God''s sight no one is righteous. But still we find in the Bible that many servants of God were righteous before God like Job and many more....would you please explain how come it’s possible or what the Bible wants us to say about their righteous. Thanks
A: This is a fine question. You are right to see that there is not one righteous. Romans 3:11 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is on one who understands; there is no one who seeks for God.” This is a powerful statement, setting everyman under the condemnation of God: the saddhu, the philosopher, the pundit, and the pilgrim. The following verse then continue to explain this in even greater detail, insisting on the point that there is no one who is righteous. This passage comes to a point and then says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” No matter what law you pick—what set of rules and good deeds, if they reflect any sense of common goodness, everyone falls short.
This universal condemnation of all men is a little shocking. We respond, “Surely there is someone who has been consumed with doing the right thing and has attained it!” I am convinced that Paul is reflecting on the not only the recorded words of the Old testament (which he quotes in Romans 3),, but also the teachings of Jesus. Jesus says that we are easily deceived and care blind to our own failings. We are great at seeing the faults of others—in particular when they affect us. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) Jesus points out this human penchant for blindness to our own sins. This may account for why there are some people who consider that they are righteous and even proclaim it to others. The closer we are to people, the more the pressures of relationships and strain on our character come upon us and are shown through to other people. If a person lives a solitary existence, sits in a cave, and never is involved in the struggles of relationships, then it is easy for this person to imagine that they are perfect. If we could get this person on equal terms to live in relationship with a group of people, it wouldn’t be long before this image of perfection would be shattered.
The other reason that we might think some people are perfect is that we redefine perfection as merely an outward or superficial or ritualistic thing. A person might say to themselves, “I have never killed someone or practiced sexual immorality.” A person may tell themselves, “I have never killed someone!” Jesus says this: In Matthew 5: 21-30
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Jesus is getting at the inner issue of the thoughts and motives of the heart and the ideas of the mind which flow through every man. In these things is measure of righteousness as well as a strict outer definition of righteousness.
So you are completely correct in asserting that the New Testament insists that there is no man righteous, that every man stand guilty before God.
Here is you main question then: How can the Bible refer to someone as righteous or even as good? In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he continue aftger saying that all men have fallen short of God’s standard and says in verse 21, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known.” He explains that this is the entire promise and purpose of God in Jesus—to offer Him as a way for men to find forgiveness and to be proclaimed as righteous. This righteousness, however, is not their own—not because of what they have done. It is through what the Bible calls “grace”—a gift from God. The only requirement is for a man to accept this gift. In order to do this a man will have to reject his own claim at righteousness and know his need for this gift; in or to do this, a man will need to humble himself before God; in order to do this, a man will have to trust God.
When a person does this—trusts God for forgiveness through Christ Jesus—then God views him as a righteous man. He is even called righteous, rightly so, because if God has forgiven him and therefore there are no outstanding grievances against him of any kind, he is righteous. And so we have men like Lot and Job and others throughout the Bible who are called this, as they understood their need to trust God for the forgiveness of sins. Never do we encounter a person of whom it says, “He was a perfect man and was self-righteous and did not need to trust God for his grace.” The righteousness they are spoken of having assumes the foundational biblical idea of this righteousness from God which is granted through forgiveness.
Wyatt, for Karma to Grace