II Timothy 4:8:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing..

One of the most outstanding and highlighted characteristics of Jesus was his righteousness. He is described as the Righteous One (I John 2:1, NIV), the Righteous Branch (Jeremiah 23:5), the Righteous Judge (II Timothy 4:8), the Righteous Servant (Isaiah 53:11) and the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2). It was his righteousness that qualified him to be the lamb without spot and the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Jesus is affirmed as righteous at his trial before Pilate as Pilate found no fault in him (John 19:6). Pilate’s wife also besought her husband to have nothing to do with that righteous man.

Matthew 27:19:
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just [dikaios, righteous] man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

At the crucifixion the centurion also responded to what he saw declaring, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” Both Pilate’s wife and the centurion used “righteous” in the sense of guiltless or innocent of charges. However, following Christ’s resurrection, Jesus’ followers also called him the same. He was blameless and guiltless.

In Acts 7:52, just before Stephen was stoned, he proclaimed Jesus as “the Just One” (translated the Righteous One in the ASV, NIV, NRSV and ESV). In Acts 22:14 Ananias explained to the newly converted Paul that “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.” (This was also translated the Righteous One in the ASV, NIV, NRSV and ESV.) After Peter and John healed the crippled beggar at the temple in Acts 3:14 Peter proclaimed to the assembled crowds that they denied the Holy One and the Just [One], and desired a murderer to be granted unto them.

Jesus was the Righteous One. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:22; quoting Isaiah 53:9). He alone is worthy to die for the sins of all mankind (Revelation 5:12). Isaiah prophesied that “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11)

The Righteous One substitutes himself on our behalf. He is the righteous sacrifice who takes our place to atone for our sins. He bears our sins in his own body on the tree.

I Peter 2:24:
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

I Peter 3:18:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.

Malachi 4:2 describes Jesus as the Sun of Righteousness who shall “arise with healing in his wings.”

There is another theme in messianic prophecy that points to the righteousness and justice of the Messiah. He was called the tsemach, the shoot or offspring of David.

Jeremiah 23:5:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

Jeremiah 33:15:
In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.

Because Jesus is the Righteous One, he alone is fit to be our Judge. Indeed, Paul calls Jesus, “the Lord, the righteous Judge” (II Timothy 4:8). Jesus is righteous in judicial terms; it is he who justifies us, that is, declares us righteous. He thus calls us to be righteous in our dealings and live with honesty, truthfulness and fairness

By Wayne Clapp