A Voice in the
Wilderness

site navigation

free newsletter

September 28, 2008

Return to: Q/A's
Q/A Topics:
  • Righteous vs Holy

Righteous vs Holy

READER QUESTION:
In my sunday fellowship, a brother asked if one can be holy and not be righteous and vice-versa.

Another brother said they are both one and the same. I disagree that holiness and righteousness are the same. I believe they are different.

I want some other brethren in faith to give us soem notes on the matter. I shall discuss in our bible study.

VW ANSWER:
This understanding comes with proper definition of terms. A standard English dictionary will define "righteousness" pretty well, but it muddles up the word "holy", and I suspect therein is also the confusion as to their 'sameness' or not.

RIGHTEOUS: in the Hebrew/Greek lexicons and English dictionary, all share the same concepts as "conforming to law, justice, morality; in accordance with fact, reason, truth, etc." The lexicons speak of conformity to "Divine" law. As Paul also speaks of "lawful" And the Bible speaks much of "obedience" (to God). Obedience to the Faith, etc. A person can be obedient (works) unto righteousness. (Rom6:16) And also be declared (imparted) righteous. (Rom5:19) But what is that "work" of righteousness? As Jesus said, to "believe into Him whom [God] sent" (Jn6:29) Thus, it is the "righteousness of faith" (Rom5:5) And John speaks a lot about Truth.

Without getting into a protracted theological discussion, righteousness has two aspects: 1) position and 2) obedience. Through faith into Jesus Christ God declares a person (positionally) righteous (in good/favorable standing) before God. And a person thus declared righteous will also do righteous deeds "befitting repentance" (Ac26:20, Eph2:10) But the first 'obedience' is that of "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ac20:21)

HOLINESS: on this the dictionary muddles things up, and gives the idea of what most people picture with halos, piously upturned fluttering eyelids, folded hands in prayer; and speaks of divine power, worthy of worship and veneration, deserving of respect, etc.; and the Biblical meaning gets lost.

The Hebrew word "qodesh" means to "cut apart" and speaks of "apartness, separateness, dedicated, set-apartness"

The intention of holiness can apply to what Israel was to God,

    Ex 19:6 And you shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
A people -separated- from the surrounding idolatries, unto God.

It can also apply to what Israel was supposed to do,

    2Ch 23:19 And he stationed the gatekeepers at the gates of the house of Jehovah, so that no one who was in any way unclean could enter.
The word "holy" can indicate something clean and righteous being separated from evil unto God. It can also, in the most technical terms, indicate the removing of the unclean, or keeping the unclean out. Thus, in their own respective circumstances, the righteous can be holy; but also evil and filth can be considered holy, when it is removed from the midst of that which is clean and righteous.

True Believers into Jesus Christ are holy unto God. But satan worshipers are also holy unto satan.

One Scriptural example of this 'evil' side of holiness is when Israel conquered Jericho. Any of the riches (and idolatrous objects) of gold and whatever, were to be "devoted" (Josh6:18) and were called "holy unto Jehovah" (vs19) In vs18 the word is one of destruction. In vs19 of dedication. They both include the aspects of "setting aside". The riches of Jericho, representing its evil and idolatry were "devoted" (set apart), just as those who vowed the vow of a nazirite also "devoted" themselves and set themselves apart to their vow. Different words are used for these various things...but they all share the commonality of something that is 'separated' and "set-apart", which is the root concept of the word "holy".

There are those who "set-apart" themselves by doing rituals, observing good works, and such things. In that set-apartness, by definition, they are "holy" unto those vows. But such a holiness does not make them righteous. As Jesus said,

    Mk 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men; the dipping of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.
They were keeping their traditions. They were "holy". But they had laid aside the commands of God. By definition: they were not "righteous"

It is also possible for a "carnal" Christian (1Co3:3), to be (positionally) righteous, but not be living holily. They might be holy positionally, because they have the promise of Eternal Life, and as such they are (set aside) in the Book of Life; but they might be covered with the world's dirt. Thus the exhortation to "be holy in behavior and godliness" (2Pt3:11) If such an exhortation is given to those of "like precious faith" (2Pt1:1), by the fact of such an exhortation being given, is it not obvious that some might not be living such holy lives.

So.... have I rambled along enough here? Is it not obvious that the two (righteousness and holiness) are not the same thing. Although, a righteous person should be holy in behavior. But a holy person, by definition, depending on the object and target of that holiness, might not be righteous before God.

[Top]


Return to: Q/A's