11 Characteristics of the Self-Righteous

Self-righteousness is rampant in our churches. Pews are packed every week with Pharisees, who think they are doing everything right. Scripture, however, paints a woefully different picture. Far from thinking, we have arrived or that we are superior to others, we should see a need for and dependence on the righteousness of Christ.

Instead of raising our spiritual noses at those struggling with sin, we should humbly bow before the Savior knowing we too are sinners saved by God’s grace. Instead of thinking of ourselves as self-righteous, we should thank and praise God for sending His Son to die for our sin.

Even though we should humble ourselves before our Savior, we often don’t. We have a tendency to act like we are the ones who make ourselves righteous by our own efforts, instead of relying on Christ’s work. When we rely on our own efforts we acting self-righteous. We can fall into self-righteousness without even knowing it.

In an effort to keep us out of the trap and create self-awareness here are 11 characteristics of the self-righteous adapted from Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling.

11 Characteristics of The Self-Righteous

1. They do not see their walk with God as a community project.

2. They do not work well with others.

3. They consistently believe they are right and know best.

4. They are resistant to change.

5. They do not respond well when reminded they need to change.

6. They do not desire others exhortation or admonition, even getting angry at times.

7. They are not patient with those who mess up, struggle with sin or have lost their way.

8. They do not deal well with opposition or accusations.

9. They will consistently wonder why God has singled them out for difficulty.

10. They do not see a need to admit or confess their sin.

11. They consistently point out the sin of others with an air of superiority.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do your actions or attitudes reflect any of these characteristics?


Characteristics in post adapted from Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, 73-74.


Scripture Memory Challenge – Week 8

How did you do with memorizing Scripture last week? If you did not do so well, or you did not know what Scripture to start memorizing, I invite you to take up the Scripture Memory Challenge with me. You can read more about it, and get started with week one’s memory verses, by clicking here.

Memory Verses

This last week, I memorized Psalm 103:17-19. I challenge you to do the same.

Psalm 103:17-19

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments. The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.  


Fighter Verses Set 2 Week 10


The Proper Motivation for Christian Obedience | Part 1

In my next few posts, I want to cover what drives our obedience to God. In this first post, I need to lay the theological foundation before talking about what does and does not motivate our obedience.

In John 15:4-5 we are told that the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine. In this parable, Jesus represents the vine and we represent the branch, which means we cannot bear spiritual fruit unless we abide in Christ; we cannot obey His commandments unless we abide in Him.

What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ?

In means that we are His disciples; that we believe His gospel message and in so doing, we enter into a relationship with Him. But more than that, it means that we are in union with Christ. We are joined together with Him, so that who He is we are.

Two types of Unions with Christ

There are two ways in which we are in union with Christ. The first is a representative union and the second is a living union. In order to understand the living union, we must first discuss the representative union. Today, we will look at our representative union with Christ and in a future post I will discuss our living union with Him. My hope is that a proper understanding of our representative and living unions will be what drives, or motivates, our obedience to God’s commands.

Representative Union

Romans 5 is especially clear in that both Adam and Jesus are representatives (Rom. 5:12-21 especially 18 & 19). What do they each represent?

Adam represents all that is:

  • Sinful
  • Corrupt
  • Imperfect
  • Unrighteous

As a representative, all those whom Adam represents are also sinful, corrupt, imperfect, and unrighteous. As such, their relationship with God is hindered because a holy God cannot have a relationship with sinful man.

Jesus represents all that is:

  • Holy
  • Sinless
  • Perfect
  • Righteous

As a representative, all those whom Jesus represents are also holy, sinless, perfect, and righteous. As such, they have fellowship with God, whereas those whom Adam represents do not.

Who Do They Represent?

If Romans 5 tells us both are representatives, who then does Adam represent and who does Jesus represent?

  • Adam represents all those who are not redeemed by the blood of Christ. In other words, he represents the entire human race apart from those in Christ (Rom. 5:12, 17, 19)
  • Jesus represents all those who profess Him as their Lord and Savior (Rom. 5:18-19, 21).


2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that Jesus’ righteousness is credited to us. The verse reads as follows:

For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God. 

So we see that Jesus, the one who knew no sin, took our sin on Himself, so that those who are “in Him” who are in union with Him, who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior, will become righteous. In theological terms, we would say that Jesus’ righteousness is imputed or attributed to us on the basis of our belief in Him as our Lord and Savior.

When we enter into union with Jesus, He becomes our representative instead of Adam. When God looks down on us, instead of seeing what Adam represents – sin, death, unrighteousness, rebellion, etc – He sees what Christ represents – sinlessness, perfection, righteousness, obedience, etc. As a result, we are reconciled to God and we experience fellowship with Him (2 Cor. 5:20b; 1 Jn 1:2-3)

Implications of the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness to Us

If we are made righteous by Jesus’ righteousness being attributed to us and by no other way, what are the implications?

(1) We are not saved by our works

Only through Jesus’ work on the cross are we saved because sinful man can never do enough to make himself holy. It took the perfect sacrifice of Christ being credited to our account to make us holy. In other words, we are only holy because Christ’s blood covers our sins. Since we cannot offer a perfect sacrifice, nor are the works of sinful man seen as worthy, we cannot ever work our way to God.

(2) Our works cannot earn us favor with God 

God accepts Christ based on His righteousness, and Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us, when we believe in Jesus as our Savior. This means God doesn’t love us anymore than He does right now and always no matter what we do for Him because God loves Christ perfectly and His account has been credited to us. There is nothing more we can do to earn His favor or earn more of His Grace. We are given Christ’s righteousness, and Christ’s righteousness is perfect.

However, we often live as if we can earn God’s favor. What are some things we do that we might believe will earn favor with God?

  • Show more love to our wife
  • Not have a lustful thought
  • Participate in Foreign Missions or Home Missions
  • Serve the church
  • Give away money, time, or resources
  • Read Bible, Pray, Come to Church
  • Volunteer in the city
  • Etc.

Try as we might, these things do not earn us favor with God. The only way we earn favor with God is through our union with Christ. Since Christ is perfectly favored and accepted by God, we are perfectly favored and accepted by God.

(3) We are fully accepted by God in Christ

We do not have to earn God’s acceptance. God perfectly accepts Christ, and being in union with Christ as our representative means God perfectly accepts us as well.


We learn from these three implications of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us that our works do not earn our salvation, our works do not earn us favor with God, and our works do not earn us acceptance with God.


The Gospel tells us that in Christ, there is nothing we can do that would make God love us more, and nothing we have done that would make Him love us less. Only by abiding in Christ are we made righteous because only then is He our representative head and only when He is our representative are His attributes and works attributed to us.

In my next post, I will discuss how our obedience to God is motivated out of a sense of gratitude, which stems from a proper understanding of  and reflection on our salvation.


Jerry Bridges, The Transforming Power of the Gospel, Ch. 1, 4, 5