The Difference Between
Holiness and Righteousness
Written by Bill Burkett
When I sent each issue of Hagios magazine to Leonard Ravenhill he always replied
with his critique of that issue. His critiques of this issue of the Hagios
“A masterpiece!” – Leonard Ravenhill
A Subtle Threat to Pure Doctrine
Lifting Up The Sheepskin -
We have placed the charts at the top of this study for you to view upon entering the page. Please scroll downward and you will find the two studies corresponding to these two charts. This will be a help to those who want to hand out the charts and teach from the charts. The text is available here for the teacher and the charts for copying and handing out. All we ask is that you be kind and ethical and include the name of actsion.com on the handout sheets you make copies of . Thank you.
Holiness Unto the Lord
is our VERTICAL relationship to God
Is Our HORIZONTAL Relationship With Mankind
Christians should be warned that there are many men who preach righteousness and then viciously slander those who live by traditional Bible holiness standards. It seems they want us to believe that theirs is a message of holiness when actually they are preaching a message of righteousness without holiness.
Jerking On The Sheepskin -
For those who may wonder what we mean by jerking on the sheepskin, we would explain that the prophets, our Lord, and the apostles all warn us about the great number of false teachers that are always among us. Jesus describes them in these words:
So, we give the sheepskin a little jerk to see if it’s loose. Sometimes we even lift it up and look under it to take a peek at the wolf. If you fool with a sheepskin and it growls at you, then you know that what you see is not what you get! When we speak of Jerking on the sheepskin, it’s our way of saying we are going to Scripturally examine and expose false teaching.
A Wrong Impression - Some men want to be thought of as men of holiness because they take a firm position against social sins or they are vocal about the popular evils of the day. It is easy for some Christians to confuse this hard preaching against sin as being holiness. “It stands to reason that any man who preaches righteousness is a holiness preacher.” In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth!
We Must Rightly Divide The Word Truth - To teach that righteousness and holiness are synonymous or that worldliness can coexist with holiness in the Christian experience is liberal heresy! Letting righteousness pass as holiness is a corruption of the apostles’ teaching.
To confuse righteousness with holiness (many times not realized by brethren who do it) is: A subtle attempt of the enemy to replace holiness of life with good works. This has been the pattern of apostasy with historical churches that were once fervent holiness movements.
1. It attempts to remove the supreme truth of Biblical separation, from the doctrine of salvation. And what has been the result of our passive thinking toward sloppy liberal theology regarding the doctrine of sanctification? We have a whole church generation on our hands that has come to think of holiness as being evil and worldliness as being good. Contemporary church leaders show a high tolerance for worldliness and a very low and reactionary intolerance for traditional holiness teaching. This is the sad state of spiritual affairs at the very brink of Christ’s coming.
HOLINESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS IN CONTRAST
Scripture distinguishes holiness and righteousness as being two very distinguishable qualities in Christian experience.
Two Different Words - While these two words are both moral terms and refer to Christian conduct, to use them interchangeably leads to some very serious errors in doctrine as cited above.
Notice how they are used together by the apostles as two different qualities in the Christian life:
Luke 1:74-75 - “That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, (75) In holiness [hosiotes; piety] and righteousness [dikaiosune] before him, all the days of our life.”
Romans 6:19 – “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness (dikaiosune) unto holiness (hagiosmos).”
1 Corinthians 1:30 – “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness (dikaiosune), and sanctification (hagiasmos), and redemption:”
1 Timothy 6:11 – “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, (dikaiosune) godliness (Eusebeia, piety, devoutness, devotion, holiness), faith, love, patience, meekness”.
HOLINESS: The Vertical Pursuit - The Greek word for holiness is hagiasmos which denotes a moral nature in pursuit of God’s likeness, i.e., godliness, or the state of possessing a nature of holy character befitting those who profess godliness. This speaks of a nature given us by God at the time of new birth (justification) and which we continue to cultivate and perfect as holiness is pursued, and so long as we remain in obedience, or in “the way”. (Matthew 7:14; Acts 16:17; 18:25; 2 Peter 2:15,21)
Righteousness: The horizontal pursuit - The Greek word for righteousness is dikaiosune; to deal justly and honestly with others.
Two Very Different Words - You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to see that there is a vast difference between these two words. While they are both moral terms and refer to Christian conduct, they cannot be used interchangeably. If they are, doctrinal error results.
1. Righteousness - Manifests itself in the form of good manners, being fair, courteous and thoughtful of others. It pertains to Christian casuistry.
2. Holiness - Keeping the mind upon God, carrying His presence, pleasing Him, fearing Him and reverencing Him in all things. It is to hold His Word in high regard. It embraces the virtues of prayer, meditation and the practice of His presence.
(Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 2:12)
Holiness is UNTO THE LORD and not unto man. It cares only to please God, not caring what men may think. (Exodus 28:36) Righteousness is unto all men. It is vicarious living (for others). It does matter that men see us as considerate, kind and thoughtful toward their well being. All of God’s commandments teach consideration of others. (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 5:21)
Righteousness is a horizontal relationship with others.
Holiness is a vertical relationship with God.
Righteousness can be learned from men.
Holiness is learned only from God.
Righteousness is my responsibility toward people.
Holiness is my devotion to God
Righteousness treats people as they like to be treated.
Holiness is treating God as He likes to be treated.
Righteousness is essential to human government.
Holiness is essential to divine government.
Righteousness produces social order.
Holiness produces personal perfection
Righteousness is my right experience with people born out of my relationship with God.
Holiness is my personal experience with God that affects my right relationship with people.
AFTER THE CROSS THERE ARE TWO OBJECTIVES IN SALVATION:
The vertical study of the Holiness chart
1. GOD: To love and enjoy Him in holiness of life Forever.
Holiness: the vertical life
The nature of holiness in man - Holiness in man differs from righteousness in man in that holiness is communion between my heart and the heart of God. It is more than just prayer time…it is a broken and a contrite spirit humbling itself in His awesome presence.
Holiness..that is, the state of being holy (hagiasmos) is required beyond simple faith in Christ to enter the Kingdom of God. The blood of Christ starts us on the way and makes heaven possible, but holiness is required to see God! “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” Hebrews 12:14
The Word does not say, Follow…righteousness (dikaiosune), without which no man shall see the Lord: But it does say, “Follow…holiness (hagiasmos), without which no man shall see the Lord:” Hebrews 12:14
The Holiness Of Man And The Holiness Of God - Holiness in man (not the same in quality or quantity as the holiness of God) is only possible through man being affected by the presence of God.
When we speak of holiness, we must be careful to qualify whether we are speaking of the holiness of God or the holiness of man. These are two different moral natures.
Holiness In Man - Holiness is the cultivation of the divine nature, a supernatural morality, a divine sensitivity to right and wrong. Holiness involves devotion to God, a desire to please Him and separate from the world value system. It is a level of morality the world or those who are worldly within the church cannot comprehend.
THE HOLINESS OF GOD is the state of moral excellence.
THE HOLINESS OF MAN is the state of being morally perfected.
“Be ye holy as I am holy” implies two things; (1 Peter 1:15-16)
1. We are not holy as He is.
2. We are called to be like Him in holiness.
The source of the holiness man
Holiness Without A Prayer Life Does Not Exist - A Christianity that advocates Biblical holiness apart from a secret life of prayer and communion with God is a religion of standards but not holiness. Scripture reveals holiness as being a way of life with prayer and communion with God at it’s heart.
Holiness Christians without a prayer life are in just as much in jeopardy of the judgment of God as all other apostates. Holiness is the effect of His holy nature upon my nature when we are alone together.
In the very final analysis, holiness comes only through intimacy with God, through a love of lingering in His presence until we come from the closet softly singing, “Let my will be lost in Thine.”
The Horizontal Study of the
2. To love and serve OTHERS according to God’s law.
RIGHTEOUSNESS: THE HORIZONTAL LIFE
RIGHTEOUSNESS AT AND AFTER THE CROSS
Righteousness is both imputed and imparted, representing two conditions:
1. Imputed righteousness – AT THE CROSS
Obedience to the commandment to repent – the righteousness of Christ given to me through the legal act of justification. (Romans 3:24; 5:1,9)
The person who approaches Christ as a sinner receives the righteousness of Christ upon repentance, having been reborn spiritually and having identified with Christ and His atonement. (Romans 10:9-11)
2. Imparted righteousness – AFTER THE CROSS
Continuing in obedience to the commandments. Righteousness that is imparted to me as faith and obedience produces good works through me. Righteousness through obedience to His prescribed word. Righteousness after the cross is through an obedient relationship to the Word of God. (Psalm 19:7; Matthew 7:21-23; John 17:17)
3. The Highest Kind Of Righteousness - Righteousness is more than being just and good toward others…it goes far beyond that…It is the JOY of being just and honest toward others. (Romans 12:17)
4. Righteousness That Is His And Not Ours - Good works acceptable in God’s sight are not those things we choose to do or personally feel to be good works but rather obedience to His commandments! The only good works that come out of salvation are those works done in loving obedience to Christ as Lord. Obedience to His commandments bring glory to the Father because He is the author of those commandments and that makes the righteousness His and not ours! (Read Philippians 3:9 with Romans 8:4; See also Matthew 5:16; 6:3- 4,6)
5. Righteousness That Produces Holy Character - For good works to be valid, they must be based on pure doctrine which is after godliness! Titus 1:1 – “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;” (1 Timothy 6:3-6) There is something cosmetic about a gospel of righteousness that is without personal holiness of life and separation from the world!
THE THREE KINDS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
1. Holy Righteousness
This righteousness was probably best described in Galatians 5:22-23 in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a righteousness based on being perfectly just in all of one’s dealings with others.
Holiness speaks of the moral excellence of divine nature. It is the word which God chooses to describe character of the divine kind which we have all been called to.
Righteousness that issues from supernatural character is also supernatural. In fact, righteousness that issues from holiness is unattainable by natural man. Holiness people are despised and persecuted more for their testimony than for their faults. (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Timothy 3:12)
Righteousness That Loves – Righteousness that issues from the holy life is inspired and channeled through agape love. Read Romans 13:8-10 carefully. It will be seen that the righteousness that is according to agape love is defined by the moral commandments…only. (Romans 8:4; 1 John 2:3-4; 5:2-3)
Christ came to modify the nature of the internal man by His indwelling. (John 3:3; 2 corinthians 5:17) He abides where there is a desire on our part to dwell in Him. There must be a new nature born within us to walk with God. Only new birth provides that new holy nature that loves God and desires communion with Him. (1 John 3:24; Genesis 6:9; 17:1; Amos 3:3; John 14:21-23; 2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
2. Religious Righteousness
Unregenerate man has a consciousness of God and a sense of obligation to worship God. This sense of moral obligation to God often manifests itself by identifying with and associating with social causes and good works in the community or holding membership in a modernist church.
This is commendable but constitutes a religion of works apart from becoming a new creation and being born again God’s way. (Isaiah 64:6;John 3:3) This is called self-righteousness. It is the belief that one will go to heaven by good works. It’s about as sensible as lifting yourself off the ground by pulling up on your bootstraps.
3. Humane Righteousness
God created man with a conscience, a sensitivity to right and wrong that determines moral values which is greatly aided by moral teaching. It is a human concern for others.
Righteousness is natural and universal. Though it is not identical to God’s moral law, natural righteousness resembles holy righteousness. Even barbarians have laws and simple forms of government. The only humans who have no sense of righteousness are the insane and the demon possessed!
Social justice and a personal sense of righteousness was woven into the very fabric of man’s nature (conscience) by God in the beginning.
To disregard the rightness of order is to guarantee unhappiness and self-destruction. There are many unregenerate men who abide by these natural principles. The natural man, aided only by his conscience and intelligence has enough sense to see the ultimate demoralizing effect of social evils. Christ has come to give us the power to execute the righteousness of God.
Now we can see that it’s a small step from worldly (natural) righteousness to holy righteousness. They often are so similar that we find ourselves in the same camp, busy doing the same good works. By now we should be able to understand that while holiness is always righteous, righteousness is not necessarily holy. It is possible to be righteous and not holy but it is impossible to be holy and not righteous! Worldliness can coexist with good works, but it cannot coexist with holiness! (Psalm 97:10; Hebrews 1:9)
Christians Are The Salt Of The Earth - Christians who profess holiness should be actively involved in some way against threatening social evils that endanger the happiness of man and violate the laws of God. They should be resisted and acted against in a peaceful Christian manner.
Righteousness Doesn’t Always Please Man - Righteousness is not a goodness that pleases men, but rather a goodness that pleases God! In fact, the righteousness of God often displeases man. Ultimate good often conflicts with man’s desire for immediate pleasure. (Galatians 1:10)
Holiness Versus Animalism - The Christian society believes in moral transformation and that is why true and pure Christianity excels morally! The world system depreciates morally in spite of science. It believes it is evolved from the animals and behaves accordingly. This is the devilish and insidious thing about worldliness, which God hates! Christians who become entangled in the world, change with it and are dragged with it in it’s demoralizing spiral downward. It seduces and then it destroys. (1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:6,12; 3:18-19; 7:31; 11:32; Galatians 1:4; 6:4; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 2:8; Titus 2:12; James 1:27; 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4; 2:20; 1 John 2:15-16; 4:5; 5:4,19.)
The Church And The World Have Righteousness - The world has its own form of righteousness, and many times its moral concerns correspond with those of Bible Christians. Drug abuse is a problem that is commonly opposed by both the world and the church. Prostitution and pornography are two other big problems in society that both the civil and church authorities oppose.
On and on we could go with a list of mutual concerns that both the church and the world leaders share. But there are also conflicts between church and state as to what methods to be used. A good example is the issue of abortion.
So, unregenerate man also places importance upon justness and right dealings with others, but his constraint comes from without in the form of laws determined by the consensus of lawmakers. If social conscience becomes conditioned to immorality, as in the matters of abortion and homosexuality being legalized, then the laws are rewritten to accommodate the lowered standard. Not so with the moral laws of God’s Kingdom! God’s system of holiness and moral purity are determined by His own never-changing holiness! The moral excellence of God does not change, and therefore the moral standards of the true church shall never change! (Hebrews 13:8)
THE WORD OF GOD MAKES IT VERY CLEAR…
RIGHTEOUSNESS IS THE EFFECT OF GOD’S WORD PRESENCE
Righteousness: The joy of a just relationship with Others.
HOLINESS IS THE EFFECT OF GOD’S SPIRIT PRESENCE
Holiness: My heart in communion with God’s heart.
Holiness is my walk before God. It is the effect of God’s presence on my life and my lifestyle. It is in His presence that transformation of the mind is most greatly affected. It produces a standard of moral excellence, moral behavior, moral sensitivity that only God imparts and the world cannot attain to. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
~ End ~
Ministers and Bible teachers will find the charts handy to teach from directly. They contain the same material as the written material only in a highly condensed form to use as
1. Pulpit outline easily viewed to preach from;
2. Teaching outline for Bible teaching on Sunday or midweek services and
3. To copy onto transparency or make quick-copy prints for distribution to classes.
HAGIOS charts are only starters to define doctrinal truths we all have our own material on. The HAGIOS Letter material is foundational. There is much material to be added.
Greek for righteousness is dikaiosune pronounced dik-aye-yoe-soon-aye.
The righteousness chart reveals the practical side of Christian life. It is our relationship to people and spiritual ministry we have to people.
Practical ministry includes
1. Witnessing, sharing the testimony of Christ with others.
2. Opportunities to do good works in everyday life; traffic, emergencies, sickness, Active in community and social issues such as abortion and pornography (see list of virtues on chart – each one worthy of study).
Practical, Vicarious, Altruism, Honesty, Kindness, Courteous, Polite, Mannerly, Impartial, Gracious, Considerate.
Also study Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is the visible product of the tree. The tree exists for the fruit. The purpose of the tree is to produce fruit. Fruit is the practical end product.
Greek for holiness is hagiasmos pronounced hag-ee-ah-smos. (We are fully aware these are not the phonetic spellings contained in Strong’s, but, hopefully, here it is made easier for the common reader.)
The holiness chart with all lines running up and down (vertical) represents my secret life with God. Where righteousness represents the practical expression of life in Christ, Holiness represents the deeply spiritual part of my life in Christ. The one (righteousness) is practical while this holiness life is spiritual.
See the parallels between holiness and scriptures which speak of being led of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, prayer, godliness.
Righteousness and Holiness charts together
Reveal the sharp difference between these two words and what they are to the Christian experience. The best affect is realized when these two words in chart form are seen together. Instantly we see that:
1. They are two distinct words.
2. They are two distinct experiences.
3. That they should not be used together as being the same.
4. That it is the source of holiness.
5. That holiness and separation are learned from this relationship of fellowship with God and secret prayer.
6. That godliness and separation are part of holiness
7. That righteousness is born out of my relationship to the Word of God, while holiness is born out of my relationship to the God of the Word.