We glean two significant facts about righteousness from the following scripture verses. They reveal that righteousness is a gift we receive by faith.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. . . .
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
Righteousness means “right-standing with God.” We receive right-standing with Him, not because of what we did, but because of what Jesus did for us in God’s great redemption plan. A newborn Christian has standing with God equal to a Christian who has lived many years for Him. And a babe in Christ can get answers to prayer just as quickly as a mature saint.
Too often we associate righteousness with good works. But our actions can never make us right with God. If they could, we wouldn’t need Jesus.
We’ve mistakenly thought we might grow into righteousness. Thank God, we can grow in the Lord and develop spiritually. But we can’t work to attain righteousness. We cannot grow into it; it’s a gift from God.
If you have been born again, you will never be more righteous than you are now. You won’t be any more righteous when you get to Heaven than you are at this moment.
When you were born again, you became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). At that moment, you were made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). In the new birth, you were reborn righteous!
21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: . . .
In His plan of redemption, God made provision for all who believe in Jesus to have right-standing before Him. Believers need to understand that they have been made righteous in Christ. Not understanding righteousness holds more people in bondage than perhaps anything else.
Not understanding righteousness almost cost me my life. When I was 16 years of age, five doctors gave me up to die. But my spirit kept telling me I didn’t have to die. My heart told me there was hope and help in God’s Word.
While I was bedfast, I studied the Word and began to see truths about faith and prayer. Eventually, I came across these verses:
But I saw in the New Testament that we have a better covenant. Our sins are not covered. We are cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus.
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
When I read that I had to call for the elders of the church, tears sprang to my eyes. I didn’t know any church elders who believed in divine healing.
Then the Holy Spirit brought something to my attention. He said, “Did you notice that verse 15 says, ‘the prayer of faith shall save the sick’? You can pray that prayer as well as anyone.”
I began to believe what the Holy Spirit was telling me. But then I read my Bible a little further.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The devil took advantage of my lack of understanding. He knew I didn’t know the meaning of righteousness. He said, “You could pray the prayer of faith and receive your healing—if you were righteous.”
The devil put pictures of my past mistakes in my mind. “Can you really say you’re righteous?” he asked.
I examined myself from a natural standpoint. In light of my past sins and failures, I was not what I considered righteous.
“No, I can’t,” I answered.
Then I began to reason in my mind, “If I live long enough, maybe I can develop enough spiritually to become righteous. Then I’ll be a whiz when it comes to praying.”
I laid righteousness aside because I was certain I didn’t qualify. Months later, the next verses in James chapter 5 caught my attention.
17 [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
I thought, “If Elijah is an example of a righteous man, I’ll study about him. Then I can follow His example and get results to my prayers.” But the more I read about Elijah, the more he reminded me of myself. I couldn’t understand how God could call Elijah righteous.
As I continued studying the Word, I discovered a passage in the Book of Psalms.
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. . . .
I realized that under the Old Covenant, God set up a system whereby the shed blood of animals covered the sins of His people. But I saw in the New Testament that we have a better covenant. Our sins are not covered. We are cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7, 9).
2 Corinthians 5:17, 21
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. . . .
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
When I read these verses, I began saying, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I am a whiz at praying! And my prayers avail much!” I soon got off that bed and walked away healed!
If you are in Christ, take your place in prayer as a righteous believer in Jesus. God will hear your prayers just as quickly as He does anyone else’s. You have as good a standing with God as any minister or any other believer. God will hear and answer your effectual, fervent prayer of faith!
Kenneth E. Hagin
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