Most Christians make no distinction between righteousness and holiness. Let’s define the two and establish a difference, if one exists. Righteousness is a gift from God, no man can do anything by himself to attain righteousness. The Bible tells us that our righteousness is as “filthy rags”, true righteousness can only come from God. There is only one level of righteousness in God’s economy and it is the righteousness of God. Some Christians struggle with this but we are just as righteous as Christ! True righteousness is a gift of God and it is nearly impossible to lose. Every man that has received his gift of righteousness will forever have a good reason to give God all the glory.
2 Corinthians 7:1 Dearly beloved, let us purge ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Holiness is not a gift from God, it is a commitment to live in obedience to God’s Word. If we commit to live in such a way as to please God, we are living a holy life. In our text it refers to filthiness of the flesh and spirit, the spirit in this context is referring to the spirit and soul as one unit. The spirit of a man is made righteous, the soul and body are still subject to sin and death. When a believer dies, his spirit immediately appears in Heaven while his body is laid in the ground to await the return of Jesus. The righteous who choose to live a holy life are given an additional gift we all need.
1 Peter 5:5 God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
Grace is a gift from God that enables a believer to live a holy or dedicated life. Grace changes things; Christians can never change without grace. Saul of Tarsus was a Jew of high authority, but he was not a holy man. He hated Jesus and he hated Christians. Jesus saved him and gave him His grace. Saul became the Apostle Paul and wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. By the grace of God Paul became a very holy saint of God, today many churches are named after him. Our righteousness will place us on the right side of the great white throne, the unrighteous will be on the left for a short time. God will mete out all His rewards to those on His right according to their holiness.
2 John 1:8 Look to yourselves, that you lose not those things which you have gained, but that you receive a full reward.
When God receives a son, He expects the son to remain connected to Him forever. His sons remain righteous but some of them fall from grace and step off the path of holiness. All the Father’s sons will be in Heaven but some will have very few rewards. No one in Heaven will ever be punished for anything, but many will come to realize they could have done more with the gifts of righteousness and grace. I cannot honestly tell you what Heaven is like but I know this sure and for certain, every one there will be overwhelmed with the love of God. There will be no jealousy, no greed, no pride, no gossip, just a bunch of righteous people giving God all the glory that belongs to Him and Him alone.