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Imputed vs Practical Righteousness

Lyn Mize

Every born-again Christian has the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, but every Christian is exhorted to seek after the Practical Righteousness of God. The Imputed Righteousness of Christ is that righteousness that is credited to one based on his spiritual rebirth. This Imputed Righteousness of Christ is addressed in the following verse:

(Gen 15:6 KJV) And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.  

The Christian enters heaven based on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ.

The Practical Righteousness of God is that righteousness worked out in a Christian’s life resulting in integrity, virtue, purity of life and rightness or correctness in feeling, thinking and acting. Practical righteousness is addressed in the following passage of Scripture about the righteousness of David as he sought after practical righteousness:

(2 Sam 22:21-25 KJV) (21) The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me (22) For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. (23) For all his judgments were before me: and as for his statutes, I did not depart from them. (24) I was also upright before him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity. (25) Therefore the LORD hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight.  

The Christian will be rewarded in the future kingdom of heaven based on his practical righteousness. 

The following verse also addresses practical righteousness:

(1 Ki 3:6 KJV) And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  

Even though the Christian has the imputed righteousness of Christ, he is commanded to seek after the practical righteousness that comes through crucifying the flesh nature and walking according to his redeemed spirit nature. The Scriptures describe this as putting off the old man and putting on the new man, or walking according to the spirit and not according to the flesh.

Every Christian gets to heaven because of the imputed righteousness of Christ. This same Christian will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ according to his success in walking before God in truth, in righteousness and in uprightness of heart. It is a grave mistake for the Christian to settle for the imputed righteousness of Christ and to fail to seek after the practical righteousness of God.

The Imputed Righteousness of Christ is an absolute righteousness, whereas the Practical Righteousness of God is a relative righteousness. Every Christian has the imputed righteousness, but he must seek after the practical righteousness. Imputed righteousness gets one into heaven, but practical righteousness gets one into the kingdom of heaven. Heaven is a place for Christians, but the kingdom of heaven is a position of authority, which is a reward for faithful Christians. Every Christian enters into heaven, but faithful Christians enter into the kingdom of heaven.  

The following verses in the Sermon on the Mount are speaking of the practical righteousness of believers:

(Mat 5:6 KJV)  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

(Mat 5:10 KJV)  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 5:20 KJV)  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  

The following verses that are in the middle of the context of the above verses show that the righteousness addressed in these verses is the practical righteousness that results in reward:

(Mat 5:11-12 KJV) (11) Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (12) Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  

It is a common mistake in the church today to quote the following verse and assume that the Christian can do nothing that is righteous:

(Isa 64:6 KJV)  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  

In this verse Isaiah was lamenting the falling away of Israel from the ways of the Lord. The Christian operating in the power of the Holy Spirit can and does perform many righteous acts or deeds. These righteous acts and deeds represent the practical righteousness of Christians. The more of these acts and deeds that the Christian performs, the more righteous he is. This is the reason that practical righteousness is a relative righteousness. Some Christians are more righteous than others, and this is why some Christians will have greater reward and responsibility in the coming kingdom of the heavens. Christians that do not seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness will lose their inheritance completely. These are the Christians that fail to “enter the kingdom of God”.

The following Scripture passage confirms that the inheritance in the kingdom of God is a reward for faithfulness in performing acts and deeds of practical righteousness in the power of the Holy Spirit:

(Col 3:22-24 KJV)  (22) Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: (23) whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (24) Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

The following Scripture confirms that Christians who are poor in the things of this world, rich in faith and love the Lord are the ones that will receive the inheritance of the kingdom:

(James 2:5 KJV)  Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

Those Christians that are rich in faith and love the Lord are the ones that abound in practical righteousness. All Christians have the imputed righteousness that qualifies one for heaven, but many do not abound in practical righteousness—a prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God. WORKS DO COUNT AND ARE IMPORTANT!!!