← Back

How is holiness compared and contrasted with righteousness?

Holiness and righteousness are of paramount importance to any Christian. Where do the two connect? How does each (holiness and righteousness) complement the other? What are the similarities between the two, and what are the differences?

Romans 6:19

ESV - 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Clarify Share Report Asked September 29 2014 9aa51e4b447252291b959c696fb96539 400x400 Jeremiah Kaaya

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

David 2011 David Robinson Army 1SG, firefighter, consultant (CFPS) - retired from all!
Wow! Great question! I don't think justice can be done to it with a mere 4000 characters, but I'll throw out some ideas that I hope will be helpful. As your question rightly indicates, although holiness and righteousness are not the same, they are complimentary and they do connect. Lets look at them individually to get an idea of what each involves.

Righteousness is the easier of the two to understand. It simply means a state or condition of "rightness" in a moral sense and/or "right standing" in a relational sense. The Bible often speaks of someone as righteous because of the life they lived (Job 1:1, Gen 5:22-24, etc.). This doesn't mean they were perfect or sinless, but that they were doing all they were capable of doing to live "blameless and upright" before the Lord. They "feared God and turned away from evil." Others were declared righteous because they believed God's promises (Gen 15:6, etc.). God declared them to be in right standing (righteous) with Him because of their demonstrated faith. In other words, they became His friend because they believed what He said (James 2:23). So, righteousness can mean behaving in a morally right manner and/or being in right standing (or favor) with God.

Holiness, on the other hand, is a much more difficult concept to grasp. The Bible speaks of the holiness of God as being that attribute of God under which all other attributes are subsumed. It is closely related to His aseity (having the power of being in Himself) and His transcendence in that there is no higher being, no outside law that governs Him, and nothing outside Himself that holds any claim or power over Him. He is the apex of all that exists or ever could exist. He is holy unto Himself (Isa 46:9-10, Psalm 99:1-9, Lev 19:2, Hab 1:12, Isa 43:3, etc.).

We know from scripture and from nature (creation) that God has many attributes we can recognize and appreciate (Rom 1:19-20). We can even share His communicable attributes though we can never approach His perfection. He is eternal, infinite, and perfect while we are contingent, finite, and flawed. But, being created in His image, we can (imperfectly) reflect some aspects of His character and attributes. Holiness is one of those communicable attributes (Lev 21:6-7, 1 Pet 1:15-16).

There is a common thread in scripture regarding holiness that can bring some understanding to its meaning. In every mention of holiness and every time God calls something or someone holy, there is either a stated or an implicit element of ownership. God belongs wholly (completely) to Himself. No one or nothing has any claim to or right of ownership over Him. He is "holy" to Himself. In a similar sense, we are holy to God as stated in the texts cited above.

We (true believers) belong exclusively to God. No one else or nothing else has any claim or right of ownership over us. We belong to Him in "fee simple" to use a legal term meaning absolute ownership with unencumbered rights of use and disposition. This wonderfully describes our legal (not personal) relationship to God - He owns us in fee simple! Therefore, we are holy. Our holiness is not an inherent attribute, but a reflection of the attributes and character of the One who owns us.

While the concept of holiness goes beyond mere legal ownership, the ownership element is always present and is the key to understanding what holiness really is. When God says that we are "holy," it means that we belong exclusively to Him with all that that entails. When God says we are "righteous," it means He considers us sinless, in utter compliance with His law, and in perfect fellowship with Himself.

To be clear, our righteousness is what Luther called an "alien righteousness." That is, it comes from outside of us. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us which puts us in right standing with God. Having been given the "righteousness" of Christ, God has adopted us as His children which means we now belong to Him in fee simple, "Holy" unto to Lord.

September 30 2014 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

9aa51e4b447252291b959c696fb96539 400x400 Jeremiah Kaaya Pastor at Springs of Power Church, Teacher by professional
I believe to be able to get a clear picture of each of the two, it would be prudent to define each.

Holiness is uniqueness in talk and deed/action which is solely in honor of or to God. To be holy is to be set apart. To be consecrated, sanctified, or hallowed. A holy person is faultless and pure. God is holy because He is not subjected to any faults and impurities.

Where is holiness sourced?

Holiness is sourced in righteousness. Holiness is the fruit of righteousness. Thus holiness are the fruits of righteousness which are mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. Holiness is therefore living with and belonging to God.

On the other hand though, righteousness is the mind of God. Righteousness is God's way. For it is exclusively of God to be righteous. On this account therefore, no human is counted righteous besides God. For it is only granted to any man who comes to God by declaring their faith in and submission to the authority of Jesus Christ.

Why is it only through Jesus Christ that we are counted righteous?

When the first man sinned (and it is counted on all of us by way of being his descendants), he lost his right of righteousness. For man had been created in God's image by way of having been counted righteous. For God is righteous, we ought to be righteous. But man lost it by way of disobeying God. It is on this account that man lost his sense of identity and belonging.

But God in His provision, He gave His Son for a holistic sacrifice so that by Him (Jesus Christ), we can regain the image of God which is righteousness. Having been created in God's image, righteousness is the true identity and belonging of man. An upright heart and a rightful mind is our true origin which is only of God. How we therefore should look like God is not our flesh and the physical attributes, for it is our heart and mind. The state in which these two are is what connects with or separates us from God. For if there is anything that God wants from us, it is our heart (Jeremiah 17:10), (Luke 16:15), (Psalms 44:21).

Why we are only counted righteous by Jesus.

Jesus is the Son of God. The blood of Jesus is therefore the blood of God. Only the shedding of the blood of God could save man. All the human blood was infested with sin. The blood of animals could only cover upon. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away entire sins. 

Jesus willingly offered Himself for a truthful sacrifice which made it possible for sin to be washed away. Jesus was blameless, there shouldn't have been one reason therefore for Him to indulge Himself in the affairs of man. Yet His innocence is the very reason it had to be Him. For His innocence makes His offer just the perfect one for the remission of the human sin. Thus, Jesus had a choice not to do what He did, yet He chose to do exactly what was required for a perfect sacrifice. On this account therefore, it is only through Jesus any human can be declared righteous.

How does righteousness compare or contrast with Holiness?

Well as righteousness is solely sourced in God Himself, holiness is a fruit of righteousness. For righteousness is the upright heart and a rightful mind, but holiness are our actions and talk. On this account therefore, righteousness can't be seen by the human eye, for it is about the inner man, but holiness can be observed. As that, well as we can manipulate each other to appear holy, we can't do the same of righteousness. For righteousness is only examined and granted by God. 

There is no true holiness without righteousness. For all we manifest in the literal sense is a product of what we have decided in our heart and mind, except for reflex actions. Impurity is a fruit of a faulty heart, so is purity a fruit of an upright heart and a rightful mind. What we do therefore is not what counts, but the intent (Proverbs 4:23), (Matthew 12:34), (Luke 6:45). GUARD THEREFORE YOUR HEART, NOT YOUR ACTIONS. God is not interested in our humanism, for He is interested in our obedience.

October 02 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Nathan Toronga Christian Elder.
Holiness and Righteousness, great question.

I will follow the order of the questions, but before I do, I must attempt to define and describe each. I believe it will put the matters into perspective.

A. Righteousness
This is blamelessness. Biblically, this is achieved by complying with God's standard - the Torah. Deut 6:25, Phil 3:6.

As it turns out, this has not been achieved by the human race. 2 Chronicles 6:36, Rom 3:23.

We therefore look up to the Messiah for imputed righteousness, provided we follow the way He gave us.

B. Holiness
'Holy' simply means 'set apart, separate'. For instance, if you have ten chickens and you specifically identify one for a special purpose, like to slaughter it for a guest, then that one is now holy. It has been set apart. This is the original, grammatical meaning. However, in Scripture, we now talk of being set apart from the world, and being with our God.

That is all that 'holy' means. It is not synonymous with righteousness, although many people confuse the two. You hardly have to 'sweat' to be holy. God actually makes you holy, if you simply follow His easy prescription.

Therefore this one is achievable. It requires that we stand at the right place.

Consequently, without holiness no one will see the Lord. Heb 12:14.

To be holy, we observe the Sabbath, and God makes us holy. Eze 20:12
We then avoid being polluted by those things that can make us unclean. Lev 11:43-47, Acts 10:14

1. Where do the two connect?
Well, both are required by our God. And the connection is one way - a righteous man is automatically holy, but the converse is not always true. That is the connection.

2. How do they compliment each other?
Both require obedience, faith-driven obedience. Hence as you pursue one, you find yourself pursuing the other. 

3.What are the similarities between the two, and what are the differences?
I'm sure from the definition, the differences are manifest. Holiness is attainable, because God grants it once we do what He says we need to do. And it is not burdensome. Righteousness, on the other other, requires a life of faith, guided constantly by the Holy Spirit. And Scripture has shown that we shall remain short, and God will redeem us. 1 John 2:1-4

I have tried to keep this as short as possible. I hope you find this useful.


October 15 2014 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Data Bruce Lyon Elder: Restoration Fellowship Assembly
How is holiness compared and contrasted with righteousness?

To be holy is to be separate from evil and that is the same as righteousness, which is simply doing what is right. One cannot do what is right without being separate from evil. We do that by walking according to the direction of the spirit and not according to the direction of the flesh!

March 06 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining