Are You Sure There Are
None Righteous?

Dan Corner

Are There Really None Righteous?

The none righteous not even one phrase has been horribly misused and the image of a Christian has been distorted thereby. This teaching came as the result of obeying the command to contend for the faith against those who change grace into a license for immorality (Jude 3,4), such as the woman who told me there are none righteous. The person I dialoged with was a Baptist minister's wife. While I was talking about the defiling, corrupting and deadly effects of sin for the righteous and mentioning that Paul told Timothy to keep himself pure (1 Tim. 5:22) because he knew Timothy could sin and become impure and even die spiritually, she interjected the frequently quoted verse from Romans 3:10 which states that there is no one that is righteous. That verse reads:
As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one ....
Because this verse is so universally known among those who profess salvation and claim to believe the Bible, it is important to examine this carefully. Another Scripture sometimes used for the same cause is Eccl. 7:20 such as what the so-called great theologian George Whitefield used against John Wesley in A Letter from Mr. George Whitefield in 1740 to the Rev. Mr. John Wesley in answer to Wesley's sermon entitled Free Grace. Whitefield wrote:
And since the Scriptures declare that there is not a just man upon earth (no, not among those of the highest attainments in grace) that doeth good and sinneth not (Eccl. 7:20), we are sure that this will be the case of all the children of God.

Actual Named People Who Were Righteous

To ascertain the meaning of any Scripture we must check all related verses and draw our conclusions from all of these together. When this is done, it becomes apparent that there are numerous examples of actual named people who were righteous. Please note the following Scriptures:
This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. (Gen 6:9)

Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Mat 1:19)

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. (Luke 2:25)

And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Mat 23:35)

and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) (2 Pet 2:7,8)

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21)

According to these Scriptures, Noah, Joseph, Simeon, Abel, Zechariah, Lot and Abraham are all clearly cited as being righteous. If we had no other Scriptures except any one of these we should know something is terribly wrong with the eternal security idea that there are none that are righteous and that we are all sinners, even Christians. (Since we have a whole article devoted to the false concept that we are all sinners, even Christians, it will not be dealt with here.)

Besides the above, there is also another important Scripture:

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. (1 Th 2:10)
The pronoun we refers to Paul and his companions (Silas and Timothy). They too are specific examples of righteous people by name. So now we have Noah, Joseph, Simeon, Abel, Zechariah, Lot, Abraham, Paul, Silas and Timothy.

The Unnamed Righteous

Besides the actual people that are labeled righteous, there are scores of other Scriptures which refer to the unnamed righteous. Please ponder just some of these many Scriptures. The following list is only from the New Testament:
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mat 5:45)

But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.(Mat 9:13)

Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. (Mat 10:41)

For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Mat 13:17)

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mat 13:43)

This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous (Mat 13:49)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. (Mat 23:29)

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" (Mat 25:37)

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Mat 25:46)

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17)

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:14)

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)

and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (Acts 24:15)

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Rom 1:17)

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Rom 2:13)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom 3:20)

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. (Rom 5:7)

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:19)

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." (Gal 3:11)

We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, (1 Tim 1:9)

to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect (Heb 12:23)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Pet 3:12)

And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (1 Pet 4:18)

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

Remember This About None Righteous

To say that there are none righteous is the same as saying that all are unrighteous. If that was true, then every person, with no exception, will not inherit the kingdom of God:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9,10, KJV)
To not inherit the Kingdom of God is to be thrown into the lake of fire.

The Meaning of Romans 3:10

The meaning of Romans 3:10 is that all people without salvation are unrighteous, that is, not even one is righteous. This pertains to both Jew and Gentile alike as Paul was stressing in that chapter. Please note some other details about those that are not righteous from the context:
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Rom 3:9-18)
The people that are not righteous are also mentioned with the following:

Paul was referring to the following Scriptures when he gave us Romans 3:9-18:

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.(Psa 14:1-3)

An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good.(Psa 36:1-3)

In other words, Paul was not referring to the follower of Christ, but all wicked people if they are Jew or Gentile, even the fool, who doesn't even think there is a God.

The Righteous

One becomes righteous at the point of a trusting-submitting faith in Jesus, which includes repentance. Basic characteristics of the righteous include the following:

(1) they don't have anything to repent of (Lk. 15:7);
(2) they are not doing evil (1 Peter 3:12);
(3) they do what is right (1 John 3:7).

It is also clear from multiple Scriptures that the righteous will live because of his faith:

See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright - but the righteous will live by his faith (Hab 2:4)

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Rom 1:17)

Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." (Gal 3:11)

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. (Heb 10:38)

If one is not righteous, then he is in the only other group possible. Sometimes that group is referred to as wicked, unrighteous, ungodly, unholy, sinners, evil, unsaved or the like. In other words, if one is not righteous he is on the road to hell at this very moment and is in a desperate need to repent. We must never forget that only the righteous will go to eternal life:
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Mat 25:46)

You Can Become Righteous

Again, one must repent (turn from his sins) or he will perish. Hence, the faith in Jesus that is needed to be considered righteous is a trusting and submitting faith - one that obeys. Furthermore, it is imperative to endure to the very end of your life to enter God's paradise kingdom (Mt. 10:22; Heb. 3:14 and Rev. 2:10,11). If you are a real Christian now, you are righteous, but sin can change that righteous standing and bring you to your spiritual death, just like it did for both Adam and Eve. Because of this truth, Paul told Timothy (who was righteous) to keep himself pure (1 Tim. 5:22). This is under the umbrella of the grace that Paul preached and by which we are saved. We read this multiple times in Ezekiel:
Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself. (Ezek 3:20, 21)

But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. (Ezek 18:24)

If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. (Ezek 18:26)

If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. (Ezek 33:13)

If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. (Ezek 33:18)

For much more information regarding this whole issue and the believer's security, please consult our books, The Believer's Conditional Security and The Myth of Eternal Security. Remember, the erroneous belief that there are none righteous cannot be backed with Scripture.

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