What is righteousness by faith and is it possible to stand righteously before God? To understand this mystery of the Christian faith we need to understand what the righteousness of God by faith is and how it is attainable. We know that God is righteous, so to be righteous a person needs to be like God. That is, our attitudes, behaviours, thoughts and emotions need to emulate God.
To be righteous is to do what is right...always! But how do you define what is right When two people can have two quite different opinions about the one thing? It's a bit like asking a roomful of economists about where the economy is headed...you'll get a different answer from each one.
But there is a way to define what is right from wrong, and God has done that for us. He established the Law given to Moses as the standard by which men were to live. There is great wisdom in God's law, but no man has ever been able to keep it.
Which means that the answer to the question; can a man stand before God righteous under the law must be, no man cannot. The righteousness that comes through keeping the Mosaic Law provides forgiveness, but can never make a man perfect like God.
God is holy and perfect and cannot sin. Sin is breaking the Law of Moses and the best a man could achieve under the law is forgiveness of his sins. Under the law no man can become perfect because in the law there is always the reminder of sin, which convicts a person when they do wrong.
But to be righteous like God is to be without sin and to be perfect, and no man can be perfect of himself. Likewise no man can be righteous of himself. Now these words, "of himself" were very carefully chosen.
Keeping the law of God requires a person to do what is right. They must ensure they follow all the requirements of the law strictly so that they do the right thing. But this does not make them perfect like God. The Apostle Paul wrote that this would achieve a state where they could be righteous under the law and blameless (Philippians 3:6), but not perfect.
But there is a way for a man to stand righteous and perfect before God. We saw this in the example of Abraham where it was said, "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." His righteousness was not based upon keeping the law, but on believing in what God had told him. He was given righteousness, or proclaimed righteous as a gift by the grace of God.
What was the basis for receiving this gift? Faith! Abraham believed God that God would do for Abraham as he had promised: to make him the father of many nations. Did Abraham do anything or keep any laws to receive this gift? No, all he did was believe the words of God.
So again we ask, is it possible for a man to stand righteous before God? Yes it is, if God pronounces that person to be righteous.
Now was Abraham's case just a special one-off gift? No it wasn't, for in Abraham God was showing the first example of how a man can become righteous before God through faith. Abraham became the forerunner of those who were to be righteous by faith.
As noted above, Abraham was given something quite specific to believe: that he would become the father of many nations. In like manner today we are given something specific to believe, though quite different to Abraham. We are told to believe that as Jesus died and was raised from the dead in the resurrection, we too die and are raised through baptism into Jesus Christ. Through Christ we die to this world and are raised as new creations, set free from sin, set free from the Law of Moses and thus through our faith perfected in Jesus by the grace of God.
I hope that you found something here to help you or add to your own knowledge. If you have any questions, then please feel free to contact me.