Paul prays for the Philippians that they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness (Phil. 1:11). Therefore righteousness is a fruit, every bit as much as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are. What does this aspect of the term mean?
What is the fruit of righteousness?
Imputation or Credited Righteousness
Before we answer what the fruit of righteousness, let’s look at righteousness as a free gift.
1.. God’s righteousness is apart from the law and comes through faith in Christ and saves us.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Rom. 3:21-22)
25 God presented him [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25-26)
23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom. 4:23-25)
30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” (Rom. 9:30-32)
3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. … (Rom. 10:3-4)
In that passage in Rom. 10:3-4 God saves or rescues us through our faith energized by the gospel.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal. 2:21)
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:21-22)
9 … not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Php. 3:9)
2.. God’s righteousness is built into the gospel, from faith to faith.
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)
3.. Abraham shows God’s righteousness can be credited or imputed to our account.
1 We say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works … 10 We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. (Rom. 4:1-6, 10, emphasis added)
That long passage clarifies that when we work, we earn money. The employer owes it to us. When we don’t work, but get money anyway, that’s a gift. It has been freely credited to our account.
23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Rom. 4:23-24)
4.. God’s righteousness is therefore a gift by grace.
17 … How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17)
5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:5)
5.. God’s righteousness means grace reigns and brings eternal life through Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Rom. 5:18)
21 … Grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 5:21)
6.. God’s righteousness means that Christ is our righteousness.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Cor. 1:30)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
Fruit of Righteousness
Now that we have received the gift of righteousness, the Spirit can work it out in our lives. So Paul prayed for the Philippians that they would grow the fruit of righteousness (Phil. 1:11)
This process is known as sanctification or growing up in Christ. Here’s how we grow in the fruit of righteousness–or watch God grow righteousness in us as a fruit, as it manifests itself in our righteous behavior..
1.. Righteousness means we can offer our body, our whole person, as instruments or even slaves of righteousness.
13 and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom. 6:13-14)
18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Rom. 6:18-19)
24 And to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. (Eph. 5:8-10)
2.. Pursue righteousness.
11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim. 6:11)
22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)
3.. Righteousness can become our weapon and armor.
4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: … 7 with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left … (2 Cor. 6:4, 7)
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place (Eph. 6:14)
4.. Righteousness is not compatible with wickedness.
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:8-11)
5.. Righteousness can lead to a further harvest of righteousness or good deeds.
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Cor. 9:10)
9 And this is my prayer: that [you may be] 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Php. 1:9, 11)
6.. The kingdom of God is righteousness, as we serve others.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Rom. 14:17-18)
7.. A crown of righteousness awaits us; it is in the future.
5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Gal. 5:5)
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
First, righteousness is imputed or credited to our account, as a free gift. This process is begun by God’s grace, and then we respond in faith. Faith is the channel through which we receive his righteousness. This is declaratory righteousness, when God declares us not guilty. How can he do that and not deny justice? We still do feel, after all, guilty. He can do this because we have repented and asked for his forgiveness. We are now in union with Christ. He is in us, and we are in him. Jesus puts a white robe of righteousness on us, invisible to us, but visible to him. So in God’s heavenly tribunal he grants us mercy when we repent and seek his forgiveness. This is not a “legal fiction” as some critics of this doctrine claim, saying it is cheap grace. No, it cost Jesus his entire life to begin this process. He died in our place.
Second, after we are declared righteous or acquitted or not guilty, he imparts or infuses us with his righteousness, as a fruit grows out of an apple tree, with its roots embedded in the soil of grace. Then we manifest righteousness in our behavior. If we don’t improve our conduct, the church has the right to question whether we have repented and received the free gift or righteousness. But it is a process, and the church is (or should be willing) to work with us.
This process of watching the Spirit grow his righteousness in us is called sanctification, literally the act or process (-ion) of making (fic-) holy (sanct-).
So how does this post help me grow in Christ?
One more time: first righteousness is imputed or credited. That’s our legal standing. Second, righteousness is imparted. That’s what we apply in our living. Righteousness affects our conduct. Both imputation and impartation (sanctification) can happen at the same time, but imputation is logically prior or impartation; otherwise, Paul would teach us that we are confusing his message of the gospel.
Please don’t confuse the logical order. Imputation first, impartation second, The crediting produces in us the fruit of righteousness, It grows in us as we grow in Christ and walk in the Spirit.