“Righteousness” is one of those big religious words we hear in church a lot. And usually wrongly used!
We been taught to associate the words “righteous” and “righteousness” with morality or moral character, or “uprightness,” to use an older English word.
So, by this understanding, the gospel shows God’s moral uprightness, of which we fall far short and, thus, stand in need of his mercy and forgiveness.
However, “the righteousness of God” in the Old Testament, where Paul gets it from, means “God’s passion to set all things right.” It’s what drives God to deliver, redeem, restore, forgive, discipline, heal, and make everything just the way he intends it to be.
The “righteous” person, who lives by faith, is one who shares and participates in God’s passion to set all things right.
That’s why Paul calls the gospel “the power of God”! The gospel tells us God is on the loose upsetting the way we in sin have ordered the apple carts of our personal and social, economic and political, sexual and family, and even church lives. From the bedroom to the boardroom, my house to the White House, God’s gonna set everything right.
And we get to help! Faith in Jesus connects to this world re-ordering God and he sends out fully equipped to “show and tell” the world what God is up to save it. And salvation is precisely the privilege of participating in God’s upsetting and resetting of the world.