A term that has come to designate moral living as a way of salvation; or as a ground for neglecting the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. The thought is present in the teaching of Jesus, who spoke one parable particularly to such as reckoned themselves to be righteous (Luke 18:9). The Pharisees quite generally resented the idea of Jesus that all men needed repentance and they most of all. They regarded themselves as righteous and looked with contempt on "sinners." Paul in all his writings, especially Romans 3; Galatians 3; Ephesians 2; Philippians 3, contrasts the righteousness that is God's gift to men of faith in Jesus Christ, with righteousness that is "of the law" and "in the flesh." By this latter he means formal conformity to legal requirements in the strength of unregenerate human nature. He is careful to maintain (compare Ro 7) that the Law is never really kept by one's own power. On the other hand, in full agreement with Jesus, Paul looks to genuine righteousness in living as the demand and achievement of salvation based on faith. God's gift here consists in the capacity progressively to realize righteousness in life (compare Romans 8:1).
See also SANCTIFICATION.
William Owen Carver
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". <http://classic.studylight.org/enc/isb/view.cgi?number=T7793>. 1915.