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“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

Everywhere we witness the consequences of sin, from the falling leaves of the trees to all the sickness, crime and disasters taking place around the world. Man has been deprived of knowing what it means to be part of the kingdom of God. Through rebellion, man has separated himself from God and brought sin and its effects into this world. Fortunately, due to the grace of God, this was to be only a temporary existence and even in this world, we have been given the promise and assurance that all our needs will be supplied by our heavenly Father. However, in order for this to take place, we ourselves have to have the desire to know God and seek His kingdom and His righteousness. But what is righteousness? We already learned that all unrighteousness is sin. Thus, it is only logical to conclude that righteousness is the opposite of sin. And if sin is the transgression of the law, wouldn’t righteousness be the keeping of the law? If we don’t have the proper understanding of righteousness, then how can we exercise proper faith to receive it? In this presentation, we are going to allow the 1888 messengers themselves to define righteousness. We are not going to elaborate on how to obtain it, for this will be the subject of another presentation.

Knowing the principles of the Gospel is essential for our faith. Every misunderstanding will pervert our faith and lead us further away from God. These biblical principles were set out clearly at the Minneapolis Conference back in 1888 and they hold true even today.

Here is what Ellen White, Jones and Waggoner thought of righteousness:

“Jesus loved righteousness and hated iniquity. What is righteousness?—It is the satisfaction that Christ gave the divine law in our behalf. He bore the test on every point on which the sinner must bear it. He was tempted in all points as we are tempted, and through all the temptations that it was possible for the synagogue of Satan to bring upon him, he did not yield in the least degree to the power of the enemy.
Righteousness means being good and doing good. As children of God, are we developing a character that is Christlike? Are we individually working daily at the vocation of being a Christian? and through the rich impartation of the gift of the Spirit of God, are we making straight paths for our feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way? The lame are those who are not firmly established in the truth, who are spiritually halting, having defects of character and needing the help of a correct example. If we make crooked paths, others make our errors an excuse for deviating from the path of righteousness. It is not enough to believe sound doctrine; we must put it into practice. A religion built on selfishness is worthless. It is a deplorable, sleazy fabric.” {RH August 21, 1894, par. 6}

“In Hebrews it is stated of Christ that He was exalted above His associates because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity. [Hebrews 1:9] Righteousness is simply loving and doing that which is just and right to every soul with whom we have to do. Iniquity means perverting the right. Crooked practices, selfish plans, are instituted, [so] that self and certain ones may be benefited, while in order to secure these ends, others are oppressed. All this is robbery toward God and toward man.” {Lt31a-1894.25}

“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the Devil; for the Devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil.” He was manifested to destroy, not the royal law of God, but “the works of the Devil.” “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” “And he that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the spirit which he hath given us.” “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” {RH July 24, 1888, par. 13}

“Our righteousness is found in obedience to God’s law through the merits of Jesus Christ. We cannot afford to offend in one point; for if we do, we are pronounced guilty of all; that is, we are recorded in heaven as transgressors, as disobedient children, unthankful, unholy, who choose the depravity of Satan rather than the purity of Christ. An infinite sacrifice has been made that the moral image of God may be restored to man, through willing obedience to all the commandments of God. Exceeding great is our salvation, for ample provision has been made through the righteousness of Christ, that we may be pure, entire, wanting nothing.” {RH February 4, 1890, par. 3}

“The Gospel of Christ is a blessing which all may possess. It takes men as they are, poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked. The only condition Christ presents to those who come to Him to be clothed with His righteousness is obedience to His commandments. And by the obedient soul the law is found to be a law of perfect liberty, liberty to lay hold by faith on the hope that is sure and steadfast. When we render back to God His own, when we wash our robes of character, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb, then we shall be entitled to a celestial crown.” {ST December 15, 1898, par. 3}

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Righteousness is right-doing. It is obedience to the law of God; for in that law the principles of righteousness are set forth. The Bible says, “All Thy commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172. That law Christ, by His example, taught men to obey. The righteousness of the law is seen in His life. We hunger and thirst after righteousness when we want to have all our thoughts, our words, and our actions, like Christ’s. And we may be like Christ if we really desire to be. We may have our lives like His life, our actions in harmony with the law of God. The Holy Spirit will bring God’s love into our hearts, so that we shall delight to do His will. {SJ 61.3}

“Righteousness is right doing, and it is by their deeds that all will be judged. Our characters are revealed by what we do. The works show whether the faith is genuine. It is not enough for us to believe that Jesus is not an impostor, and that the religion of the Bible is no cunningly devised fable. We may believe that the name of Jesus is the only name under heaven whereby man may be saved, and yet we may not through faith make Him our personal Saviour. It is not enough to believe the theory of truth. It is not enough to make a profession of faith in Christ and have our names registered on the church roll. “He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” “Hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 3:24; 1 John 2:3. This is the genuine evidence of conversion. Whatever our profession, it amounts to nothing unless Christ is revealed in works of righteousness.” {COL 312.3}

“All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John 5:17. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Sin is the transgression of the law, and it is also unrighteousness; therefore sin and unrighteousness are identical. But if unrighteousness is transgression of the law, righteousness must be obedience to the law. Or, to put the proposition into mathematical form:—

Unrighteousness = sin. 1 John 5:17.
Transgression of the law = sin. 1 John 3:4.

Therefore, according to the axiom that two things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other, we have:—

Unrighteousness = transgression of the law

which is a negative equation. The same thing, stated in positive terms, would be:—

Righteousness = obedience to the law.

Now what law is it obedience to which is righteousness and disobedience to which is sin? It is that law which says, “Thou shalt not covet;” for the apostle Paul tells us that this law convinced him of sin. Rom. 7:7. The law of ten commandments, then, is the measure of the righteousness of God. Since it is the law of God, and is righteousness, it must be the righteousness of God. There is, indeed, no other righteousness. Since the law is the righteousness of God—a transcript of His character—it is easy to see that to fear God and keep His commandments is the whole duty of man. Eccl. 12:13. {E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness pg. 48}

“First note the words “justice” and “habitation.” The first is rendered from the Hebrew word for “righteousness.” Righteousness is God’s character, which is His law; for He rules by Himself; His own being is the law of the universe. Of this righteousness the law of ten commandments is the summary. “All Thy commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172. “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), and “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Therefore all righteousness is obedience to the law. So we may read that righteousness, or law, is the habitation of God’s throne.” {E. J. Waggoner PTUK March 5, 1896, p. 145.4}

“But what is it to be good, and to do good deeds? The last part of this question answers the whole. To be a good man is to do good deeds, “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” 1 John iii. 7. Not that doing good deeds makes one good. Far from it. It is the being good that makes one do good deeds. The good deeds are the natural, inevitable result of the goodness that is within. But the good deeds are the measure of the man’s goodness. To be good is to do good, for goodness is active. Righteousness is right doing. Just as a man cannot do good unless he is good, so a man cannot be good without doing good.” {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK October 27, 1898, p. 675.6}

“Righteousness means right doing, and the law is the standard of right doing. The only question before us is how this desired object is to be attained. How is the sinner to be made righteous-to be made a doer of the law? Not by the law itself, for that does nothing; it simply points out the right way; but we ourselves are “without strength.” Righteousness therefore must come from without, from some living thing, and when attained in genuineness will be “witnessed by the law and the prophets.” Rom. v. 21. {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK March 3, 1898, p. 131.7}

“How plain the Sabbath of the Lord makes the fact that there can he no such thing as a man making himself righteous by his own works. For instance, a man who does not know this fact, is striving to make himself righteous. Righteousness is right doing, and the righteousness that is required is the righteousness of God. Therefore only God’s doing, God’s work, can be counted righteous. So the man is trying to do God’s work. We say to him, “My dear friend, you are working for nothing. How foolish in you to be trying to do a work that is already finished. The works were finished from the foundation of the world; and the proof of it is found in the fact that God rested the seventh day from all His works. Moreover, the work is that which only God could do, and that is why He has finished it. Leave off your own work, accept God’s finished work, and thus be at rest.” In the Sabbath of the Lord we find the fulness of the fact that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Rom. iv. 5.” {E. J. Waggoner, PTUK December 8, 1898, p. 775.13}

“Morality, as defined by Webster, is “The relation of conformity or non-conformity to the true moral standard or rule; … the conformity of an act to the divine law.” The true moral standard is the law of God—the ten commandments. The keeping of the ten commandments is morality; the breaking of any one of them is immorality. The keeping of the ten commandments is righteousness; the breaking of any one of them is sin.” {A.T. Jones, AMS April 1888, p. 25.3}

“That salvation has reference solely to sin, is shown in the fact that it is the revelation of the righteousness of God that saves. Now, since unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17), and sin is the transgression of a law (1 John 3:14), it is evident that righteousness is obedience to the law of God.”
{A. T. Jones, The Present Truth, Vol. 8, No. 2, January 28, 1892, pp. 24-26}

“All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17), and as sin is the transgression of the law of God, it follows that that law is the expression of the righteousness of God, that is, it is the expression of the supreme idea of right. Accordingly, it is written, “My tongue shall speak of thy words for all thy commandments are righteousness.” Psalm 119:172. And “hearken unto me ye that know righteousness; the people in whose heart is my law.” Isaiah 51:7. Therefore, as the law of God, the ten commandments, is the expression of the will of God, in respect to character, and is the expression of the supreme idea of right doing, it stands demonstrated that the ten commandments are the basis and the expression of all true morality or ethics. {A.T. Jones, AMS May 21, 1891, p. 161.5}

THUS the word of God is self-fulfilling, and of itself accomplishes the will of God in every one who receives it as it is in truth the word of God. “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Thus to receive the word of God; to yield the heart to it that thus it may work in the life; this is genuine belief, this is true faith. This is the faith by which men can be justified, made righteous indeed. For by it the very will of God, as expressed in his own word, is accomplished in the life by the creative word of him who has spoken. This is the work of faith. This is the righteousness—the right doing—of God which is by faith. Thus “It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Thus the character, the righteousness, of God is manifested in the life, delivering from the power of sin, to the saving of the soul in righteousness. {A.T. Jones, AMS May 31, 1894, p. 169.6}

“What is that raiment? [Congregation: “Righteousness.”] Whose righteousness? [Congregation: “Christ’s.”] Whose is that? [Congregation: “The righteousness of God.”] Whose are we to seek? [Congregation: “The righteousness of God.”] What is righteousness? [Congregation: “Right doing.”] Is righteousness right doing? [Congregation: “Yes.”] [Voice: “All thy commandments are righteousness.”] What are they to us? What do they say? [Voice: “Do.”] Do they? The commandments require doing, do they? [Congregation: “Yes, sir.”] The first of all the commandments is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength,” and the second is like unto it. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Righteousness is right doing, then; that’s plain enough.” {A. T. Jones, GCB/GCDB 1893, p. 242.2}

The principles of the Christian life are, Repentance and confession of sin, and faith in Jesus Christ. The power of God operating through faith, produces in the life of the believer the “fruits of the Spirit,” which are, “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Galatians 5:22, 23. In the Christian life the ever present, overshadowing fact in each case is, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20); and Christ living in the believer conforms the life perectly [sic.] to God’s standard of righteousness, the Ten Commandments. {A.T. Jones, AMS May 20, 1897, p. 317.2}

It is evident that the righteousness which the 1888 messengers presented was a righteousness directly linked to the commandments, the law of God; and it cannot be otherwise, for the Bible itself says “All Thy commandments are righteousness”. The highest standard of morality is the keeping of the commandments. In fact, man cannot reach any other standard of righteousness than the one that God has put into place which is the keeping of His holy law as there is no righteousness apart from it. Is this the righteousness we seek? Or do we go about trying to create our own righteousness? If we redefine righteousness, if we distort what God Himself has ordained, so clearly stated, and asked us to follow, though we may claim to want to be like God, we are preventing Him from giving us His righteousness.

“The law of God is the only standard of moral perfection.” {Ellen White, 4SP 299.1}

May God help us to understand His righteousness, for it is the foundation of His kingdom and the essence of His character of love.

“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:2