Righteousness is vital because unrighteousness is present. We need right standing with God because we gained wrong standing with Him through sin. The good news of the Gospel is great news in light of the truth that the bad news of unrighteousness is the state of every human without Christ. The distance unrighteousness puts between humanity and God prevents access to the righteous Kingdom and all its benefits. Worse, it keeps us in a place of wrath and judgment from God (Romans 1:4, 18). God, in His kindness, offers the righteousness of Christ to us as a free gift that is given by His grace and accepted by faith.
Sadly, most of humanity does not agree that wrong standing with God is even an issue. Just as in Romans 1, sin is committed, then sin is omitted, then sin is ultimately celebrated. This is the slippery slope of unrighteousness unchecked. For the one caught in this bondage, quick repentance is a must. For the one viewing this reality in the culture, we now see a great purpose in the active work of the Righteous Kingdom of God that wars against depravity and brings hostages out of bondage into victory.
For those who at least mentally ascend to the problem of unrighteousness, there is a second problem. We oft try to gain or regain right standing with God thru means other than faith in Christ alone. There are many facets to this but possibly the biggest is that of Self-Righteousness. Counting upon some work or action of our own to gain favor with God is not only short-sighted, but it is also impossible. Our best work is known as a filthy rag. No one will be made right with God through work (Romans 3:20). Only Christ makes us right. Only Christ keeps us right. Our work doesn’t gain nor maintain our position with God. Our work flows out from our position of right standing with God as we serve His righteous Kingdom. Self-righteousness does not aid the Righteous Kingdom of God and actually can be used by Satan to inhibit progress in the lives of those that are touched by its pride.
You might feel that you have this all settled in your heart and mind. Good! If you can say with the Psalmist Paul quotes in Romans 4:6-8 that you are ‘blessed because your lawless acts are forgiven and your sins are covered’ then praise the One who has made you right with God. I expect many of the letter readers in Rome may have also been in that position (after all, he did write the letter to the church). However, the call still stands. Let your former unrighteous life fill you with daily gratitude for the grace of God. Let the warning of scripture hedge you from the slippery slope of self-righteousness so that nothing impedes the centrality of Jesus in your life. Let the gift of right standing with God so influence your story that you testify to God’s grace in bold new ways. Then, from a place of righteousness, you will be an active participant in this Righteous Kingdom for our Righteous King Jesus.