Two Kinds of Righteousness

by David Servant

The teaching that follows will be included in the next issue of The Awakening! Magazine, which will be mailed to about 62,000 Amish households across North America. My intention is to expose them to what Paul referred to as “the gift of righteousness,” something that stands in contrast to feeble human efforts to be righteous—a phenomenon that tragically defines Amish culture. Very few Amish people understand what the Bible teaches about God’s gift of righteousness. Surprisingly and sadly, many Evangelical Christians are also in the dark, but from a different perspective, on this very important biblical topic. I hope this article remedies that for many.

What follows could be the best news that some readers have ever heard in their entire lives. (I am not exaggerating.) For other readers, it could be of significant help to their spiritual understanding and life as a Christian. If you are blessed in any way by what follows, please don’t keep it to yourself!

Two Kinds of Righteousness

The word righteousness, and the related words, righteous and righteously, as well as the negative versions, unrighteous and unrighteousness, are found over 180 times in the New Testament. I’m sure you agree that righteousness is certainly not an obscure concept in Scripture. So what does it mean to be righteous or to possess righteousness?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the primary definition of the English word righteous is “acting in accord with divine or moral law.” That definition is certainly affirmed by how the word righteous is used in the New Testament. Here are seven quick examples:

1.) Jesus said that at the end of the age, the angels “will come and separate the evil from the righteous” (Matt. 13:49). So, righteous people aren’t evil.

2.) Jesus also said that He did not come “to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). So, righteous people are not characterized by sin.

3.) Luke wrote that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth “were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:5). So, righteous people obey God’s commandments.

4.) Paul wrote: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). So, righteous people are not characterized by lawlessness, but rather by obedience to law.

5.) Paul also wrote: “Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).

So, righteous people are not lawless, rebellious, ungodly, sinners, unholy, profane, murderers, immoral, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars or perjurers. And, incidentally, Paul stated that all those unrighteous behaviors are contrary to the gospel. The gospel is not a license for unrighteous behavior.

6.) Peter wrote: “And if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:7). So, righteous people are very troubled by the unprincipled behavior of unrighteous people.

7.) John wrote, “The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). So, righteous people behave righteously, imitating Christ, who is righteous.

I encourage you to investigate all 180 references in the New Testament to the words righteousrighteousnessrighteouslyunrighteous and unrighteousness. Together, they affirm everything that is affirmed in the seven examples I’ve just cited. Indeed, to be righteous is primarily “to act in accord with divine or moral law.” [1]

Two Sources of Righteousness

The New Testament tells us that there are two sources of righteousness: human and divine.

That should not surprise us. Obviously, humans can “act in accord with divine and moral law.” They can obey God’s commandments. They can do righteous deeds. When they tell the truth, for example, that is “an act that is in accord with divine and moral law.” So, again, one source of righteousness is human.

The other is divine. God, of course, can also act in accord with divine and moral law, and He always does. In His case, “divine law” is His own law. He is repeatedly spoken of in the Bible as being righteous. For example, Psalm 145:17 declares, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways.” Jesus called His Father, “righteous Father” (John 17:25). Paul mentioned “the righteousness of God” six times in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 1:17; 3:5, 21; 10:3). I have already cited 1 John 3:7, which declared that Jesus is righteous.

Divine righteousness is perfect, whereas human righteousness falls on a spectrum that ranges from awful to impressive (but never perfect). We can read in the Bible of some folks who, on the scale of human righteousness, scored very low or very high.

Scoring on the low side are folks like Ahab, his wife, Jezebel, and Judas, who betrayed Jesus for financial gain. But even two of those villains possessed some small degree of righteousness. Ahab, for example, eventually demonstrated some remorse for his evil. And even Judas returned the money he was paid for betraying Jesus.

Scoring on the high side of the spectrum of righteousness, I have already mentioned Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, of whom Luke wrote, “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:5, emphasis added). But even righteous Zacharias doubted the words of an angel, and he was disciplined for it.

God Himself said of Old Testament patriarch, Job, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8, emphasis added). Although Job was the most righteous person on the earth at the time, if you’ve read his story, you know he wasn’t perfect. Near the end of his story, God rebuked him.

The apostle Paul, when he was still known as Saul of Tarsus, attained an impressive degree of human righteousness. He wrote of his former self: “[I was] a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless (Phil 3:4b-6, emphasis added). Paul testified elsewhere of his former life: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1:14).

If you had asked any of Saul’s fellow Pharisees during his former life to give you their opinion of him, they would have said something like, “Wow! Saul really stands out among us! No one can find any fault with him!”

But Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he soon discovered that he was not nearly as righteous as he’d imagined. Struck down by a blinding light, he learned that, by persecuting Christians, he had been persecuting the Lord Jesus. Saul would eventually look back and see his former self as the “foremost sinner” (1 Tim. 1:15).

A Closer Look at Paul

Paul, in particular, is an interesting person when it comes to understanding the two kinds of righteousness, because he experienced both. Read carefully his words to the Philippian believers, and particularly the words I’ve italicized:

[I was] a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:5-9).

Did you notice that Paul contrasted two kinds of righteousness? The first kind—which he at one time highly esteemed but ultimately considered “rubbish”—was “a righteousness of [his] own derived from the [Mosaic] Law.” The second kind—which was initially foreign to him but which he ultimately cherished—was a righteousness “which is through faith in Christ” and “comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Clearly, Paul considered the latter kind of righteousness to be far superior to the former. The former was of no value by comparison to the latter. And why? One reason is because the source of the former righteousness was Paul himself, whereas the source of the latter righteousness was God. Obviously, God-granted righteousness would be far superior to human-generated righteousness.

Paul declared that he gained that far-superior, God-given righteousness “through faith in Christ.” I will have more to say on that later, but what was true for Paul is true for anyone and everyone who would like to possess God-granted righteousness. It is received by faith in Christ. There is no other way to receive it. The moment one truly believes in Christ, God gives that person divine righteousness. And that is part of the reason Paul elsewhere referred to God-granted righteousness as “the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17). It is an unearned, undeserved gift that is received by faith!

The Blessings of God-Given Righteousness

In other places in his letters, Paul revealed more information that helps us understand how God-granted righteousness actually works in the lives of those who have faith in Christ. For example, Paul explained that, when someone believes in Christ, all his former sins are forgiven (Col. 1:14). How wonderful is that? But forgiveness is just the first part of the superior gift of righteousness that God gives to those who believe in Christ.

God also transforms believers inwardly and spiritually, giving them a new spiritual nature. They are “born again” (John 3:1-16; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23). It is a dramatic transformation on the inside that soon shows up on the outside. It is so dramatic that the New Testament repeatedly compares it to a death and resurrection. And that is why Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added).

Therefore, the righteousness that God grants is not a brand-new start given to an old person, but rather a brand-new start given to a brand-new person! I hope you are beginning to understand why, of the two kinds of righteousness, the one that God gives as a gift is far superior to any righteousness that any of us could generate by our own efforts.

Regarding being born again and becoming a new person, here’s a letter from an Amish woman who wrote to me in April after receiving the first issue of The Awakening. In her letter, she describes how she was born again:

“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).

“I was encouraged with the letters about being born again in The Awakening, to know I’m not alone. I have a wonderful testimony to share with what God has done for me.

“My journey began with church conflict. The enemy was destroying family relationships because of the shunning some people believe in. I went through an extremely dark journey of depression. Where all seemed helpless to me. I couldn’t sleep for about two months due to fears and anxiety. I felt condemned. I knew I can never be good enough. I’m a sinner and have fallen short.

“Praise God for the ‘true Christians’ or angels in disguise that God brought into my life. I found the light! After removing the unforgiveness from my heart, I asked the Father [and] Lord Jesus Christ to forgive all these people, for they knew not what they were doing.

“After searching and reading my Bible, I’m seeing truth instead of confusion. It happened one evening before falling asleep. I felt peace flood over my soul. The Holy Spirit took over and the enemy had to leave. Praise God! Oh the joy and peace I’ve found is indescribable. The next morning I woke up…and starting singing ‘Amazing Grace’!

“Thank you for sending us this encouraging letter. Let’s keep the fire burning. To God be the glory, great things He has done!”

Still More…

But I still have not described everything that is included in God’s gift of righteousness that He gives to all who believe in Christ. God also delivers believers from their former slavery to sin and Satan, so they are no longer bound by the shackles that once held them in bondage to do what they hated but could not stop. Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin…. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36). That includes freedom from addictions to drugs, alcohol and immorality, as well as the shackles of bitterness and hatred, and even mental illness.

Here’s the testimony of an Amish man who communicated with me who was set free from both sin and mental illness when he was born again:

Two-and a half years ago…I was a miserable wreck, trying to overcome sin by myself. l was on medication for mental illness, which I know now is simply demons coming against us. Many times I cried out to God, ‘Oh God, show me what a true Christian is!’ I told God, ‘It’s like I’m being torn in two, because my parents said that my brother-in-law and my sister, who had been born again, were deceived, but when I visited my brother-in-law and sister’s house, I felt something powerful, something beautiful. ‘Oh God, who is right?’ I asked. ‘Please show me, because I am hurting so much and in so much emotional pain!’

“Oh the healing that my Savior has granted to me in the last 2 and a 1/2 years! Oh the freedom he has given me, freedom from bondage, from sin!! O Lord Jesus!! I love you!! I will praise You through all eternity! You died for me while I was your enemy. I deserved eternal damnation, and yet You gave your life for me, that if I believe in You, that your blood was shed for my sins, and if I repent towards You for my sins, l have eternal life!!

Of course, God’s deliverance from the power of sin and Satan does not mean that God no longer allows believers to be tempted to sin. He does, however, limit the degree that believers are tempted. Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).

Limiting our temptations is just another part of the superior gift of righteousness that God gives to believers in Christ.

Even More…

But there is still more to God’s wonderful gift of righteousness that He gives to those who believe in Christ. Amazingly, God Himself comes to live inside of them! Their bodies actually become “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). Obviously, if you have the HOLY Spirit living in you, He is going to help you be holy and live righteously.

Although there is some mystery to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we know the Bible teaches that they are one. So, if the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, so does the Father and the Son.

Jesus affirmed this fact when He promised, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).  And this is also why Paul could write to the Galatians:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20, emphasis added).

Obviously, if you died, but your body came back to life with Christ living in it, your capacity to live righteously would increase dramatically! That is a picture of what happens to people who are genuinely born again. They are “filled with the fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11).

And speaking of the “fruit of righteousness” with which believers are filled, when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside those who believe in Christ, He brings some fruit with Him! Paul enumerated nine of those fruit in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” When you are truly born again, all that good fruit is inside you wanting to bubble out.

The Grace that Makes Righteousness Possible

All of these wonderful things that none of us deserve are made possible by Jesus, because He died on the cross for our sins. When you begin to understand God’s gift of righteousness, you can begin to understand why the New Testament affirms that the basis of salvation is grace, rather than works. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6). “Works” is a reference to trying to be righteous purely through human effort, something Paul did before his Damascus Road experience, whereas “grace” is a reference to the undeserved favor God show believers in granting them the gift of righteousness, which Paul experienced during and after his Damascus Road experience.

Of course, as free moral agents, we must cooperate with God’s work, as He does not and will not force us to obey Him and live righteously. He does not make us into “holy robots.” This is why Paul wrote to those in Philippi who had already received God’s gift of righteousness:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).

God’s grace does not nullify righteousness! Rather, it results in righteousness, which is why Paul also wrote:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Tit. 2:11-14, emphasis added).

Paul similarly wrote to the believers in Ephesus that God’s intention in saving people by His grace is to produce good works through them:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10, emphasis added).

A Strange Twisting of God’s Righteousness

When God’s grace is presented, not as a means to righteousness but as a license to sin, it is being presented in a perverse, unbiblical way. Heretical is not too strong of a word for that kind of teaching.

You have, perhaps, heard of a strange twisting of the New Testament’s teaching regarding God’s gift of righteousness that is being promoted in some “Christian” circles. It advocates the idea that God grants a “legal standing” of righteousness to those who believe in Jesus that may not result in any change of behavior. So, God allegedly declares people righteous who continue to live unrighteously. From then on, when He looks at them, He supposedly only sees “the righteousness of Christ,” and never their sin.

Not only does that strange twisting contradict scores of plain biblical passages, it also redefines the very word “righteousness” as it is repeatedly used in the New Testament. Anyone who reads all 180 New Testament references to righteousness could never arrive at the conclusion that someone could be righteous in God’s eyes who doesn’t live righteously. Nor could they conclude that God never sees the sins of those who believe in Christ. Anyone who has read Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Asia, found in Revelation 2-3, knows that. Jesus said to five of those churches, “I know your deeds” (Rev. 2:2, 19; 3:1, 8, 15), and He then pointed out things He had against them.

Paul declared, more than once in his letters, that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s kingdom, and it is clear that when he used the word “unrighteous,” he was not speaking of those who don’t possess an alleged “legal standing of righteousness” but those who don’t possess actual, practical righteousness. Here is one example:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11; see also Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:1-5).

Just imagine Paul, who declared that he was “found blameless” in regard to “the righteousness which is in the Law,” then counting his former righteousness as “rubbish” by comparison to an alleged “legal righteous standing” that might not result in any righteous behavior! The idea is patently absurd.

If you are Amish, perhaps you have observed other Amish people who have left the Amish because they claimed to be born again, but their lifestyle did not reflect righteousness. That is, they did not “act in accord with divine or moral law.” (I am not referring to their not keeping their former community Ordnung, but rather their not keeping Christ’s commandments.)

Their unrighteous behavior is a sure sign that they were not actually born again, but rather that they have embraced the strange twisting of the New Testament’s teaching regarding righteousness that I’ve been talking about. They believe that they are righteous in God’s eyes without actually living righteously. The apostle John addressed that same twisted teaching in his day:

If you know that He [Jesus] is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him [that is, “born again”].

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God [“born again”] practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God (1 John 2:29 – 3:4-10).

John’s words make it very plain that truly born-again people live righteous lives. And those who are not born again are actually spiritual children of Satan. Whereas people who are born again are spiritual children of God. Good reasons to be born again!

What Kind of Righteousness Do You Possess?

Perhaps you can identify on some level with Paul. Like he was once doing, you are trying your best to live righteously, following God’s commandments—at least to some degree. If you are Amish, you may be also doing your best to follow your community’s Ordnung, which are “fence laws” that are supposed to help you obey God’s commandments and help you stay clear of disobeying them.

If so, I have wonderful news for you. You can receive God’s gift of righteousness that I’ve been writing about and experience all of the blessings that it promises. The source of your righteousness will not be from your own feeble efforts, but from the righteous God Himself, who will come to live in you by the Holy Spirit, through whom He will produce righteous fruit in you. It is absolutely wonderful! Paul wrote, “Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17, emphasis added).

How do you receive the gift of righteousness? By believing in Jesus:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom. 10:9-10, emphasis added).

Who is Jesus? Scripture says that He is many things, including the Son of God and Savior. But more than anything else, He is mentioned in Scripture as Lord. Within the 21 New Testament epistles, Jesus is mentioned as “our Lord” 68 times. So, if you truly believe in Jesus as He is presented in Scripture, you will believe in the “Lord Jesus.” If you believe in the Lord Jesus, you will repent of your rebellion against Him and start to submit to Him, “taking His yoke” (Matt. 11:28-30) upon yourself, which means making Him your Master from then on.

Many people claim to believe in Jesus but actually don’t. I once was one of those people. When I was “confirmed” at age 12 in the church my family attended, I publicly stated that I believed in Jesus and that He was the Son of God. Looking back, however, I realize that I really didn’t believe in Jesus. If I would have believed in Him, I would have been hungry to learn all I could about what He did and said so that I could please Him by obeying Him and be ready to stand before Him in judgment. It was not until I was about 17 or 18 years old that I actually believed in Jesus. That is when I was born again. That is when Jesus became the center of my life and my Lord, and that is when I started to strive to obey Him.

Perhaps you have made a similar public profession of faith in Jesus at one time, just as I did, in connection with your church. But, if you are honest, you will have to admit that you really didn’t repent of your rebellion or make Jesus your Lord at the time, and thus you really didn’t believe in Him or experience a transformation. If you have not experienced a transformation, that is a sure sign that you have not been born again.

If you are still breathing, however, there is still hope! You can repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ right now. When a jailer in Philippi asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Being “saved” is another way of saying, “be forgiven, be born-again, become a spiritual child of God, be set free from sin’s bondage, and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and filled with the fruit of God-granted righteousness!”

Amish Jews

Paul, of course, was a Jew. Although his primary calling was to take the gospel to Gentiles, he naturally was concerned about “his people.” He lamented that so many of his fellow Jews were just like he was previously, that is, trying to be righteous through their own efforts to keep the Law of Moses, plus keep all the fence laws that were piled on top of that by the scribes and Pharisees. Concerning his fellow Jews, Paul wrote:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them [my fellow Jews] is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Rom. 10:1-4, emphasis added).

The way Paul felt about his fellow Jews is very similar to how I feel, and all born-again Amish people feel, about their Amish friends and family members who are not yet born again. We admire Amish folks for their zeal to live righteously. But we are heartbroken that they have not yet discovered or experienced the wonderful gift of God’s righteousness. And that is why many of us have given sacrificially to print and mail this magazine to you, something that costs tens of thousands of dollars. That price, however, is a small one to pay in comparison to what Jesus paid so that we can all experience the gift of God’s righteousness. He suffered 39 lashes and a cruel death on a cross, bearing your and my sins, so we could become children of God and act like God’s children. Now He is waiting for you to believe in Him. Will you?

Note that Paul wrote in the above-cited passage that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). The reason that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes is because Christ comes to live in believers to empower them to live righteously. He grants them a righteousness that is potentially far superior to what they could generate on their own.

What Paul wrote is true for every genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit who indwells true believers leads and empowers them to live righteous, holy lives. That is why Paul wrote elsewhere, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Gal. 5:18). Genuine believers in Jesus do not need any list of laws or rules to follow, because they have the righteous law-giver, God Himself, the Holy Spirit, living in them. That very blessing was a promised benefit of the new covenant:

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,” says the Lord; “I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them…and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:16-17, emphasis added; see also Jer. 31:33-34).

Every time I think about or encounter Amish folks, including my Amish friends, my heart is heavy. Many seem to have attained an admirable degree of human righteousness, but most are lacking God’s gift of righteousness that comes with being born again. Twice a year, at Ordnung church services, all Amish people publicly declare their agreement with their community’s list of rules. And although everyone says that they agree, many do not actually agree, but they say they do in order to “keep the peace.” Many subsequently move from community to community all their lives, all due to Ordnung issues. Everyone is trying to do what is right, but they all know that what is portrayed on the outside is quite different from what is happening on the inside, both individually and corporately.

Here are the words of a former Amish man that I suspect will resonate with many Amish readers:

I was an Amish church member for over 30 years and it is so true that the week of Easter is a very high-pressure week in the Amish communities, because it is the week they have their spring communion. And they have Ordnung Church two weeks prior, and that is when a lot of rules get tightened and restricted, because in order to survive, the Amish have to constantly figure ways out to do things to get around the rules, and the ministers are constantly figuring ways to tighten the loop holes. It’s a constant battle and strain, and a lot of Amish people become public liars that week because they know if they don’t say they agree they will be shunned. OH, HOW I DREADED TO SEE EASTER ROLL AROUND WHILE I WAS AMISH. IT WAS A HORRIBLE TIME OF HORROR (capital letters his).

I don’t know if what he wrote describes every Amish community. Regardless, what he describes is an example of people trying to establish their own righteousness through conformity to social pressure, rather than people who have received God’s gift of righteousness, for which no rules are actually needed. Amish bishops and ministers are trying to fence their people into a corral of righteousness, but it is like trying to herd cats! I don’t say that to be critical or make anyone feel badly, but out of love and compassion for sincere people whom I hope to help see that there is something so much better that God is offering them…His wonderful gift of righteousness. Will you receive it by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Thank you for reading this article. If you would like more information about what the Bible says about being born again, please write and request it. I have written several relevant articles titled, Born Again and AmishWhat Does it Really Mean to be Born Again? and Amish or Ahamish? Any are free for the asking.

[1] It is also helpful to know that the Greek words that are often translated in the New Testament as either justify, justifies, justified and justification—which are found 34 times—are all derived from the same root words as those translated righteous, righteousness, righteously, unrighteous and unrighteousness. Notice the similarity between all five Greek New Testament words which, together, are found over 215 times in the New Testament:

Righteous or righteouslydikaios (dik´-ah-yos)
Righteousnessdikaiosune (dik-ah-yos-oo´-nay) or dikaioma (dik-ah´-yo-mah)
Unrighteous or unrighteousnessadikia (ad-ee-kee´-ah)
Justifyjustifies, or justifieddikaioo (dik-ah-yo´-o)
Justificationdikaiosis (dik-ah´-yo-sis).

Because they all contain the same root, whenever we read any forms of the word justified in the New Testament, we could safely paraphrase it as “made righteous.”