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Righteousness and "getting right" with God
Justification and righteousness. We have to explain a little Greek - and explain some English as well. In the English language you can "be justified" and you can "become righteous." You can't say that you can "be righteous-ized." It's also a bit awkward to say you've "become just."
The problem is that the words "justify" and "righteousness" suggest different things to us. Righteousness is more of an inner quality, our morality. On the other hand, "justice" and to be "justified" has more to do with law and courts and judges.
But in the Greek, all the words translated as either "justified" or "righteousness" in this chapter are the same, one Greek word. As you read the chapter notice how your Bible uses these words.
In the CEV translation, words like "be acceptable to God" are used instead to try to get this point across. Paul is talking about something much more important just "getting off the legal hook:" God is not the "hanging judge," God is the friend we have offended and alienated. God is love, but God is also holy and just. When a friend does something that offends you, it puts a strain on the relationship.
Paul is talking about our relationship with God. You can't really be friends with someone if there is "bad blood" between you because you have not been righteous, or have done something unjust. The problem is not a legal guilt, but an separation or alienation. If you fail to live up to what you know you should do for a friend, you can feel guilty or ashamed. Because you feel that way, you may avoid your friend, convinced that they can't want to be friends with you any more. If your friend comes to you to renew the relationship, or has even done something great for you, you will be relieved and won over.
Thus Paul is trying to show that more is going on here than a narrow acquittal of a legal charge. Our actions have disrupted our relationship with God. That is why here, and in the rest of this chapter, Paul uses phrases like "at peace," "have peace," "access to grace," "undeserved kindness," "admitted to God's favor," or "reconciliation." (Slightly different words may be used in your Bible translations.)
It is knowing that our relationship with God is secure that gives us confidence and hope (see verse 3-5)