We are not righteous because of what we have done, we are righteous because of what Jesus has done.

Is there a difference in meaning between righteousness, and holiness? Don’t they effectively mean the same thing? The answer to that question is that they do not mean the same thing. This confusion as to what these words mean, has caused many Christians to doubt how they could possibly be considered to be righteous. 1 Corinthians 5:21 says, “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“. If, however, you do not understand the difference between righteousness and holiness, you will look at that verse, then look at your faults and struggle to believe that it can really be true for you. The New International Readers’ Version sheds some light on this issue, “Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made him become sin for us. So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us“. That is the meaning of righteousness, it simply means being made right with God. It is the free gift of salvation – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God is able to accept us. We have never done anything that could make us righteous and likewise Jesus never committed any sin. However, on the cross an exchange took place, and so we are not righteous because of what we have done, we are righteous because of what Jesus has done. Jesus received our sin, and we in turn, received His righteousness.

Does the truth that we have already been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus mean that holiness is not important?

We now have a working knowledge of what the Bible means by ‘righteousness’, which leaves the question: So what exactly is ‘holiness’ then? Strong’s Concordance describes the word ‘holy’ – which is the Greek word ‘hagios’ – as meaning pure, morally blameless, consecrated. It goes on to say that ‘hagios’, “fundamentally signifies separated, and hence in Scripture in its moral and spiritual significance, separated from sin and therefore consecrated to God“. Is this relevant to us though? Does the truth that we have already been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, mean that holiness is not important? Absolutely not! Further in its definition of the word ‘holy’, Strong’s Concordance says, “Believers are called to sanctify themselves consistently with their calling, cleansing themselves from all defilement, forsaking sin, living a holy manner of life and experiencing fellowship with God in His holiness“. Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 1:15, “But be holy now in everything you do, just as the Lord is holy” (The Living Bible). Pursuing holiness means that we need to deal with the sin in our lives – all of it. It cannot be allowed to remain – which is for our own benefit, not God’s. If you have time, take at look at this excellent post (not by me) on ‘The Poison of Secret Sin‘.

To pursue holiness was never meant to be an optional extra.

It is certainly true that a person can live their whole Christian life, not pursuing holiness at all, and they will still go to Heaven. But if they do that, they are firstly being disobedient to God and secondly they are missing out on God’s best by a long way. To pursue holiness was never meant to be an optional extra, it is an essential part of Christianity. Our focus needs to be upwards, on the things of God, not on the sinful things of this world. In his second letter, Peter details some of the benefits of pursuing holiness, although Peter uses the word ‘godliness’. Let’s look at the some of benefits that Peter mentions, for those who pursue holiness:

  • That we might be partakers of the divine nature“, 2 Peter 1:4
  • That we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ“, 2 Peter 1:8
  • That we will not be blind, forgetting that we were purged from our old sins“, 2 Peter 1:9
  • To make our calling and election sure: because if we do these things, we shall never fall“, 2 Peter 1:10

Everything we receive from God is because of His grace.

The bottom line is this: If we want God’s best, we have to give our best. This is not about works instead of grace though. Everything we receive from God is because of His grace, without Jesus we do not deserve anything, neither can we earn anything. It is all about His grace – His unmerited favour. But James 2:20 shows that despite this, works are important, “Faith without works is dead“. If you want live a life that is different from the mundane, average lives of those around you, then you need to pursue holiness. It is only in this pursuit of holiness, that you will be able to experience complete victory over the devil, and over all his evil schemes and plans. It is only in this pursuit of holiness, that you will experience being the overcomer that you already are. You will not just be an overcomer in theory,  but you will actually overcome! You will experience the abundant life that Jesus promised us in John 10:10. 

If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.


If you have never received Jesus as your Lord & Saviour, if you have gone away from God, or if you have any doubts regarding your salvation. I encourage you to click on the link below. Clicking on the link will not secure your salvation, but praying the prayer you find, from your heart, will.

For the salvation prayer, please click here.

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