Christ is our righteousness but what about Ez 14:20 and Lk 1:6?


Thanks for your question.  The idea of "righteousness" in the Bible can be a difficult one, especially for self-reliant members of western societies.  Another term, "justification" (which actually comes from the same Greek root word) causes similar difficulties in the book of James.  I'll approach this question from a few different angles:

First, the Greek word that is used in the New Testament for "righteousness" deals with a person's standing before God (similarly for the Hebrew term used in Ezekiel).  To say that Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous only indicates their standing before God.  It does not indicate how they arrive at that standing--simply that they are in right standing before God.  By context, we find that they arrived at that right standing by faith, and not by works.  Similarly, with the exception of Jesus Himself (because He is the only person who actually achieves righteousness according to the Law), every person described as righteous or blameless in the Bible is righteous by their trust in Jesus (whether before or after He comes), and not by their own performance of the Law.  Luke's description simply indicates that Zechariah and Elizabeth are observant Jews who trust in the coming Messiah (Jesus).

Second, in both verses, the author is talking about believers.  Elizabeth, Zechariah, Daniel, Noah, and Job are all forgiven people, and therefore completely appropriate to refer to as righteous.  In the case of the Ezekiel verse, the author's point is not that three saints have saved themselves by works of the law, but that their righteousness (which comes from faith in the Lord) cannot prevent the destruction which the people of Israel are bringing upon themselves.  Instead, the righteous is applied only to them (as believers) and not to the rest of the unbelieving people.

Third, on the few very rare occasions that the Bible does connect "righteousness" or "justification" with human obedience or good works (such as in the book of James), it is doing so in a "horizontal" (between people and other people) manner, and not a "vertical" (between a person and God) manner.  What that means is, that one is righteous in God's eyes (vertical) only by trust in Jesus, but one's works justify their trust in Jesus in the eyes of other people who observe them (horizontal).  If a Christian sins openly or acts inappropriately while also claiming to trust in Jesus, their faith appears unjustified in the sight of their unbelieving neighbors, but if their actions match their confession of faith, their faith appears justifiable in the eyes of their neighbors.  

The two links which follow (by Martin Luther and by a Lutheran seminary professor) elaborate on this third point:


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Rev. Jason P. Peterson


I welcome the opportunity to answer questions regarding the beliefs and practices Lutheran Christians, especially questions comparing Lutherans with other Christian denominations or questions which contrast between various kinds of Lutherans. I am especially familiar with the more conservative Lutheran denominations (LCMS, ELS, WELS, etc.). I also take a great interest in examining new Christian movements and popular trends in Christianity from a Lutheran perspective. In addition, I can answer most questions about the original Greek text of the New Testament and its meaning, as well as questions regarding liturgy, evangelism, and preaching. A special area of interest in my ministry is race track chaplaincy/ministry, and I would love to provide information and guidance for anyone interested in this area.


I have been a pastor in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod for the past six years at St. John's Lutheran Church in Burt, IA. I currently serve as chairman of the Commission on Ministerial Growth & Support of the Missouri Synod's Iowa District West and as Track Chaplain at Algona Raceway in Algona, IA. I also write as a religion columnist for two local newspapers.

Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Algona Upper Des Moines (newspaper) Bancroft Register (newspaper)

B.A. Concordia University - Ann Arbor, MI (Biblical Languages) M.Div. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (Exegetical Theology, Pastoral Ministry & Missions)

Past/Present Clients
Zion Lutheran Church (Columbia City, IN) Zion Lutheran Church (Altamont, IL) St. John's Lutheran Church (Burt, IA) Zion Lutheran Church (Lu Verne, IA) Algona Raceway (IA) Fairmont Raceway (MN) Hancock County Speedway (Britt, IA) Clay County Fairgrounds Raceway (Spencer, IA)

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