CLAIM: Luke writes that Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6). However, the rest of the Bible teaches that none are righteous (Rom. 3:10, 23).
RESPONSE: God’s commandments are not a comprehensive list for sin. In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), Jesus states that God’s standard for salvation is actually higher than merely externally obeying the Ten Commandments. Instead, even the motives of our heart are judged by God. Therefore, even if these two obeyed the external “commandments and requirements,” they still did not obey the internal commandments.
OT figures were considered righteous, as well, but this was a relative expression. For instance, Genesis states that Noah was righteous, but this is quickly qualified by stating that he was “blameless in his time” (Gen. 6:9). In other words, he was relatively righteous compared to his surroundings (Gen. 6:5, 11-12). Job was considered righteous; however, this was a relative expression, which stated that there was “no one like him on the earth” (Job 1:8). Similarly, when a woman escapes a wife-beating husband, we might call her the righteous party in the divorce. By this, we do not mean that she is perfect. Instead, she is righteous relative to her spouse. In Luke 1, Zacharias and Elizabeth are righteous relative to those around them. Even in the same chapter, Zacharias is rebuked for his unbelief (Lk. 1:18-20).