Are you righteous? The word “righteous” (dikaios) appears 79 times in the New Testament. I offer this composite from a study of the original word: (a) a righteous person is one who fulfills his duty toward God and men, (b) a righteous person is one who observes divine and human laws, (c) a righteous person is one who acts in accordance with right, and (d) a righteous person is one who is such as he or she ought to be in character and behavior.
This word (dikaios) appears six times in the book of 1 John. A study of these passages is most insightful.
The first passage acknowledges that the Lord is righteous. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). Here the word translated “just” is the Greek word for “righteous” (dikaios). Here we learn how we are forgiven and cleansed of our unrighteousness so that we can be righteous.
The second passage again acknowledges that the Lord is righteous. John wrote, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1). Jesus Christ is referred to as “the righteous.” His people do not want to sin. When righteous people do sin, they seek forgiveness. How wonderful that Jesus Christ the righteous is our Advocate! It is through Him and only through Him that we are righteous.
The third passage combines the ideas of Jesus’ righteousness and our righteousness. John wrote. “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (3:1). Powerful points! We know that He is righteous, and we know that a righteous person, one born of Him, “practices righteousness.”
The fourth passage is the most succinct of all: “Little children. Let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (3:7). One is not righteous unless he or she “practices,” “practices,” “practices” righteousness. Don’t be deceived!
The final passage in 1 John where the word “righteous” is found in 3:12. Here John contrasts the wickedness of Cain with the righteousness of Abel. Cain was wicked because “his works were evil.” In contrast “his brother’s (works were) righteous.” Put these thoughts together! A righteous person is one who is “born of Him” (2:29), who has Jesus as his or her Advocate (2:1), who is forgiven and cleansed (1:9), who practices righteousness (3:7) and whose works are righteous (3:12). John would later write, “he who is righteous, let him be righteous still (Revelation 22:11).
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