A careless understanding of righteousness in the New Testament will lead to the mistaken understanding that bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven. And, in reality, the Bible teaches no such thing. The idea that bad people go to hell and good people go to heaven fosters the idea that getting ready for heaven involves quitting bad deeds and piling up good ones. And in reality, it is precisely relying on good deeds that keeps people from getting to heaven. So this is no small, unrelated subject we're studying this morning.
So, after studying the first three steps for transformation in our text - teaching, reproof, and correction, I started out last week in our study of Paul's fourth benefit of the Word of God in our lives - what Paul calls "training in righteousness." We saw that the word "righteousness" is used three different ways in the Bible. The first was negative and has nothing to do with what Paul calls "training in righteousness." The negative use is described by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 64:6 - "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."
We fall so far short of the glory (and the glorious standards) of our infinitely holy, transcendent God that even the best things we do are about as appealing as polluted, moldering clothing. That because the good things we do to earn our merit - our standing - before God are always going to be tainted pride and self-accomplishment. It cannot be otherwise. And robbing God of all glory is the ultimate sin.
But we're not done yet with our study of Biblical righteousness. There are two more ways the word "righteousness" is used in the New Testament, and we need to have a good grasp of them both.