The Greek word for righteousness is “dikeaosune”. It means “Harmony”. Things working together toward a common purpose. It is about being a good steward of our individual gifts in a way that benefits the entire body to which we belong.
The Bible often calls the church The Body of Christ. Righteousness is not just about doing our part but doing it in conjunction with others around us. And righteousness comes through walking by faith, faith that God’s way is the right way to live. It is the goal at the beginning, middle and end of the Christian life: “from first to last.”
Paul might have been writing a parallel to Plato’s Republic. The type of reasoning his Roman audience would recognize. Plato and Paul both address the same question: ”What is dikeaosune (justice/ righteousness)?” And they come up with similar answers: Harmony.
Paul uses the metaphor of a body to illustrate the harmony of dikeaosune, with all the parts doing their job. Plato uses a city state, where everyone applies their gifts for the best interest of the body. But the big difference is the head. Paul’s head is Jesus. Plato’s is a group of capable people, the “Guardians”.
But Paul is writing about the good news of the power of God. That is the true source of unity. The energy of harmony. Christ is both the reason for righteousness and the ability to achieve it. The head is what holds and directs the body. Paul’s message is astonishing: through mutual trust in him we can live the righteousness God has called us to, because we have the resurrection power of Jesus. It is a spectacular assertion with the power to transform our lives. But it requires that we set aside false perspectives, and believe and act upon what is true.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
– Romans 1:16-17