SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. Not a Biblical term as such, but a concept derived primarily from a negative picture of the Pharisees found in the gospels (cf. the Fr. pharisaïsme, which is the equivalent of the Eng. self-righteousness and the Ger. Selbstgerechtigkeit). It refers to an attitude whereby a religious person considers himself either morally upright or in right standing with God because of his adherence to the letter of legal requirements without regard to their spirit.
Technically, the term may be applied in a religious sense to the person who tries to make himself right with God by his own “rightness,” or by keeping the divine statutes. Thus Paul speaks of the Jews as “being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own” (
Thus the self-righteous person is righteous neither in the religious nor the moral sense. He does not have right standing with God through self-effort or adherence to the law; nor is he morally upright, since only his conduct is affected and not his attitudes.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
self-ri’-chus-nes: A term that has come to designate moral living as a way of salvation; or as a ground for neglecting the redemptive work of
See also SANCTIFICATION.