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Righteousness in Romans (12) Righteousness (diakaiosune)

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Paul uses the noun “dikaiosune”, which means “righteousness”, in three main ways in his letter to the Romans. In the first part of the letter (1-3), he refers to the “righteousness of God”. In chapter 4, he explains how God considered Abraham’s faith to be “righteousness”. In chapter 6, he explains that we are now “servants of righteousness”.

1. Righteousness of God
Only God is righteous. Paul explains that the gospel is revealing his righteousness to the world (Rom 1:17; 3:21). He proved his righteousness by passing over sins that had been previously committed (Rom 3:26). God is the only being who has righteousness at the heart of his character.

2. Abraham and Righteousness
Paul makes his greatest use of the word “righteousness” when writing about Abraham, so we need to understand what he meant. His core message was, Faith was assessed to Abraham into righteousness (Rom 4:9). Most English translations say “for righteousness,” whereas the Greek text uses the preposition “eis”, which means “into” (also Rom 4:3,5 22).

The preposition “for” makes it seem like faith is swapped “for righteousness”, but it was not a swap of one for another. Rather it was a change in God’s assessment of Abraham. The different preposition was used to indicate that God had re-classified him from ‘unrighteousness “into righteousness”.

3. Serving RighteousnessIn Romans 6, Paul explains the changed position of those who trust in Jesus. Prior to the coming of Jesus, powerful cosmos controllers called Sin and Death ruled the world. Prior to trusting in Jesus, the Christians were slaves to Sin (unrighteousness) and Death. Paul explained that people are the servants/slaves of anyone they commit to obeying, whether Sin or Righteousness

You are slaves of the one you obey (Rom 6:16).

This was Adam’s problem. He chose to submit to the tempter in the Garden of Eden. When he obeyed Satan, he became a slave of Satan. The spiritual powers of evil gained dominion over everything that had been given to Adam and Eve. A child of a slave is born as a slave, so all the descendants of Adam and Eve are born into the same slavery to the spiritual powers of evil. In Romans 6, Paul spells the problem out clearly, along with the solution.


  • We were enslaved to Sin (Rom 6:6).
  • Death had dominion over us (Rom 6:9).
  • Sin reigned in your mortal body (Rom 6:12).
  • You obeyed Sin’s lusts (Rom 6:12).
  • You were weapons of unrighteousness to Sin (Rom 6:13).
  • Sin had dominion over you (Rom 6:14).
  • You were slaves to Sin (Rom 6:17).
  • You were slaves to impurity (Rom 6:19).
  • You were slaves of sin (Rom 6:20).
  • The wages of Sin is Death (Rom 6:23).


  • You have been freed from sin (Rom 6:7).
  • Reckon ourselves dead to Sin (Rom 6:11).
  • You were liberated from Sin (Rom 6:18).
  • You became slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18)
  • You have been liberated from Sin (Rom 6:22).

The problem is that we are dominated and controlled by the spiritual powers of evil. Jesus’ death on the cross destroyed their power and set us free. Paul says that we have been liberated to be slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:18). Of course, we do not become slaves of a concept like righteousness. In this context, righteousness is just a name of God. Paul uses the word “righteousness” to refer to God. We choose to be slaves/servants of God.


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