But now apart from the Law the dikaiosune of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the dikaiosune of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His dikaiosune, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His dikaiosune at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard gives the history of the word righteousness. The same word appear four times in today’s Blue Book passage. It seems appropriate to pass on a few of Willard’s thoughts on dikaiosune (or righteousness). They are simply too rich to pass over.
He writes, “People deeply hunger to be good but cannot find their way…but the centuries-long attempt to devise a morality from within merely human resources has now proven itself a failure.” In this, Willard includes what the scribes and the Pharisees did with the Law, “which until the coming of Messiah, was the most precious possession of human beings on earth.” In his clarification of its purpose, he says that “the Law of God marks the movements of God’s kingdom, of his own actions and of how that kingdom works. When we keep the law, we step into his ways and drink in his power… To be sure, law is not the source of dikaiosune, but it is the course of it.”
Willard continues: “Jesus knew that we cannot keep the Law by trying to keep the Law. To succeed in keeping the Law one must aim at something other and something more. One must aim to become the kind of person from whom the deeds of the law naturally flow. The apple tree naturally and easily produces apples because of its inner nature… It is the inner life of the soul that we must aim to transform, and then behavior will naturally and easily follow. But not the reverse. There is a special term used in the New Testament to mark the character of the inner life when it is as it should be. This is the term dikaiosune.” (Vines Dictionary even used the word “rightwiseness.”)
Willard says that the best translation of dikaiosune “would be a paraphrase: something like “what it is about a person that makes him or her really right or good.” For short, we might say “true inner goodness.””
Willard makes the case that this true inner goodness is precisely what God is doing as He disciples us—establishing dikaiosune, or a “rightwise” kingdom heart. Keep in mind, the essence of the New Covenant is this: the Law will then be written in their hearts. Christ lives in us—He who is the fulfillment of the Law.
With this key in hand, Willard goes on to unlock some of the deepest truths ever spoken to man in Jesus’ Sermon on the Hill. While an evangelist tends to highlight the dikaiosune that leads to what most western Christians have come to think of as “being saved,” that transaction that insures the life-after-death aspect of eternal life, Willard highlights the fuller dikaiosune that leads to saving us in our daily, hour by hour, intercourse with Him, where in the normal course of life, dikaiosune hearts sprout and bear dikaiosune fruit. Willard proposes that the kingdom of God grows only from the source: the kingdom-dikaiosune heart that Christ inhabits.
Father, please expose any lies in our hearts that would fuel our own efforts to live acceptably before you. Destroy these lies, which unintentionally create sad parodies of inner goodness. Don’t let up until, by your grace, we all rest in your great love with childlike security and rightwise hearts. Amen.