What is the Difference Between Justification and Righteousness in the Bible?

Did you know that justification and righteousness have one important distinction? Understanding this difference could dramatically change your perspective in how God offers salvation to mankind!

Get a FREE copy of “The Shocking Biblical Truth About the New Covenant” by sending me a message at joshuainfantado@gmail.com.

The words “justification” and “righteousness” may sound almost the same when used in the Biblical context. The general understanding of most Christians is that when you are justified you are righteous and when you are righteous, you are justified. 

However, when we study these two words, there’s a crucial difference that we need to understand. Failure to do so could lead to the formation of wrong doctrines and beliefs that could distort the real teaching of the Bible.

Scholars would define justification as meaning “to impute righteousness” or “to be declared righteous.” This may be true, but it doesn’t give you the entire picture.

Let me explain.

What is justification in the Bible?

In the letters of Paul, you would read that the central focus of justification is the legal acquittal of guilt. On the other hand, righteousness is dominantly used in reference to the upright character of a person. 

Here’s what you need to understand and remember:

Being justified does NOT automatically make you righteous. It is what you do after you get justified that will determine whether you will remain righteous or not.

What is the Difference Between Justification and Righteousness in the Bible?

Consider this for a moment:

When you are charged for a traffic violation, you would need to pay the penalty. However, if the judge forgives you, then you are “justified” — meaning you are acquitted and free from all the penalties that you brought to yourself by breaking the law.

Now, when you were forgiven and justified, does it mean that you are free to commit traffic violations and you’ll not get punished for it? Of course not. You’ll surely get arrested or penalized for breaking traffic rules once again.

In the same manner, when we sin, we have earned the penalty of the law, which is death (Romans 6:23). 

We all should die in our sins, but here comes Yahshua (Jesus Christ) who says in effect, “I’ll die for you.” He suffered and died on our behalf. His death justified — acquitted — us of our sins. He freed us from the penalty of the law.

When we accept Christ’s shed blood for atonement, we are forgiven of our sins. We have been justified – made straight and perfectly lined up with God. In a way, justification also means reconciliation to our Heavenly Father. Because of our sins, we have alienated ourselves from the relationship we have with God. But through Christ, His death made it possible for us to be reconciled and start a relationship with Him.

To help you further in understanding what the New Covenant means, please request a free copy of my eBook, “The Shocking Biblical Truth About the Covenant.” Just message at Joshuainfantado@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy.

Justification and righteousness work together

Now, here’s the crucial piece of the puzzle: being justified does not automatically make you righteous. Your sins are only forgiven, but it doesn’t free you from following the laws of God.

So, after you get justified, you need to live a righteous life.

You may ask, how do you live a righteous life? Psalms 119:172 tells us:

My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness

So, it is by following God’s commandments and laws that will help us become righteous. Righteousness is not instantly bequeathed to you but rather it comes through a life-long spiritual growth process.

Justification happens when we repent, get baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. By this time, we start on a clean slate. All our sins have been forgiven through the sacrifice of Yahshua. That’s why Galatians 3:27 tells us that “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” 

Getting baptized is the only start of our Christian journey where we strive to attain the mature righteousness of Yahshua the Messiah (Ephesians 4:15).

For us to remain justified after our baptism, we must behave in a righteous and upright manner. We already have the faith. Now, we have to couple it with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

James explained in James 2:21-24:

21 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

James confirms here that after getting justified, you need to start living a new life under God’s authority. James isn’t saying that we can earn our salvation through our actions, but he is telling us that actions are an integral part of a person who has been justified through the blood of Christ.

To help you further in understanding what the New Covenant means, please request a free copy of my eBook, “The Shocking Biblical Truth About the Covenant.” Just message at Joshuainfantado@gmail.com and I’ll send you a copy.

Justification is a life-long process

Yes, there’s no doubt that we will still sin as long as we are still human beings (I John 1:8). However, we can be thankful that our sins can be forgiven when we repent. As long as we are doing our best, we might stumble, but the important thing is we keep on struggling and overcoming our human nature.

Every time we sin and repent sincerely, we are being saved and justified again. That’s why Paul said, “By grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5-8). 

God can see the heart and He knows our struggles in life and our struggles against our human nature. We will only fail when we give up and stop with our Christian walk. In fact, if we consistently neglect repentance and repeatedly sin, we can lose our salvation. 

Hebrews 10:26-27 tells us:

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there NO longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Justification is a life-long process. It starts when we get baptized. That’s when we are “saved.” However, since we are still humans and will sin, we are “being saved” as well every time we repent. 

With all these in mind, we can conclude that a person becomes justified when he accepts the sacrifice of Yahshua. Faith alone is not enough. We must couple it with acts of righteousness, which we can only achieve by following God’s laws and commandments. A person who is justified is expected to follow the will of God and strive to be like Yahshua in character, attitude, and wisdom.

(P.S. If this blog has inspired you or this website has helped you in any way, please consider supporting this noble work. Learn at least five easy and quick ways to help.)