Definition: Righteousness is the state of moral perfection required by God to enter heaven.
However, the Bible clearly states that human beings cannot achieve righteousness through their own efforts: "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." (Romans 3:20, NIV).
People receive righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Christ, the sinless Son of God, took humanity's sin upon himself and became the willing, perfect sacrifice, suffering the punishment mankind deserved. God the Father accepted Jesus' sacrifice, through which human beings can become justified.
In turn, believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ's perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans.
The Old Testament tells us that because of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, have inherited his sinful nature. God set up a system in Old Testament times where people sacrificed animals to atone for their sins. The shedding of blood was required.
When Jesus entered the world, things changed. His crucifixion and resurrection satisfied God's justice. Christ's shed blood covers our sins. No more sacrifices or works are required. The Apostle Paul explains how we receive righteousness through Christ in the book of Romans.
Salvation through this crediting of righteousness is a free gift, which is the doctrine of grace. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus is the essence of Christianity. No other religion offers grace. They all require some type of works on behalf of the participant.
Pronunciation: RITE chuss ness
Also Known As: uprightness, justice, blamelessness, justice.
Christ's righteousness is credited to our account and makes us holy before God.
(Sources: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, edited by Stephen D. Renn; New Topical Textbook, by Rev. R.A. Torrey; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England; and The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, by Merrill F. Unger.)