Spiritual Weapons, Part III: The Weapons of Righteousness

christ-righteousness

The Weapon of Righteousness

We began this exploration of Spiritual Weapons by looking at the Sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God, emphasizing how powerful this weapon is in our lives.  Of course, all words carry a tremendous capacity for good or evil, love or strife, edification or destruction.  But as we speak the Words of God, an awesome power is released, for God’s Word is alive and powerful.  From Hebrews 11:3 we understand through faith that the worlds were framed  by the Word of God, and if the Holy Spirit chooses to speak through us, the power and authority is no less great.  He has designated us and sent us forth to speak His Word in the world, using the speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is also important that we guard our thoughts and tongues to make sure that no unclean thing comes out of our mouths, for it’s not what goes in our mouths but what comes out that makes us unclean (Matthew 15:11-18).

Let us continue, therefore, to examine other spiritual weapons whereby we may successfully engage the enemy in warfare, in the fullness of God’s power and under His authority.

In his second letter to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul strongly exhorts the believers not to be bound together with unbelievers.  He explains his present conditions to them to reinforce his message, for he is not speaking to them as one who does not have experience in dealing with the evils of this world:

But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left…  (II Corinthians 6:4-7)

The weapons in this passage, therefore, are the “weapons of righteousness” given by God in order to fight both offensively and defensively, one for each hand.  To be righteous means “to be worthy, guiltless, acceptable, and acquitted” in the sight of God through faith in Christ.  Jesus Himself is our righteousness, for as Paul writes, “You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30 NIV).

What Does It Mean to Be Righteous?

The word “righteous” sounds especially “religious” doesn’t it?  It’s right there with “sanctification” and “justification.” We have often heard, and perhaps grown up hearing, these words, but we may never have bothered to learn what they mean. 

What do the words “righteous” or “righteousness” mean?   The Hebrew root צדקים , or  tzedek, in the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek word δίκαιος , or dikaios, in the Greek New Testament are both translated “righteous.”  It essentially means “right-standing,” or as the song lyrics say, “Clean before my Lord, I stand.”  It is a state of being that indicates a completely new creation has come into being, for we are new creatures in Christ.  

This word  is not just a religious-sounding adjective but a word that means we may come boldly to God into the “Holy of Holies” in the Heavens. Even in the earthly temple, the High Priest under the Old Covenant could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement, and even he had a cord tied to his leg to pull him out if need be.  Righteousness is not a condition we may obtain through our own works, all of which are as “filthy rags” in the sight of God.

This puts us in a difficult position.  It’s like a “mystery,” for it has confounded many Christians since the early Church.  Perhaps a short explanation will suit our purposes.  

We cannot obtain right-standing with God through our own works, for “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We can only obtain our right-standing before God through the atonement of Christ, who was our sacrifice to God for sin (atonement means we are “at-one” with God.)  We receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself, for He was both the sacrifice and the High Priest, having sacrificed Himself with His own blood on the cross.  

Therefore, we may enter into the presence of God with Christ’s righteousness.  He took our penalty for sin Himself, for the wages of sin is death, and because He overcame death through His resurrection, we may enter into the very presence of God through Jesus.

As a result of our new “right-standing” with God, we are born again, and we have come to new life in Jesus.  Old things have passed away, and all things have become new.  We are new creatures in Christ Jesus, for we have died to our sinful lives and come into a new life in Jesus.  

The worst approach we can taketo living this new life in Christ, therefore, is to keep seeing ourselves as unbelieving sinners.  Yes, we are unworthy, but that’s why we needed the righteousness of Jesus, and His righteousness is a gift of God that we receive by faith.   By faith, we need to accept our righteousness as a gift, one that is not earned or worked for.   And what God has cleansed we should not call unclean.  In other words, we should not continue to label ourselves as “worms,” as appears in the lyrics of the hymn”Amazing Grace.”     Instead, we need to see ourselves as former worms that have been transformed, or “metamorphosized,” into a whole new creation, the same way a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

Can you imagine a butterfly continually referring to itself as an ugly worm? Yes, we once were ugly, no-good sinners.  But we are no longer sinners in Christ Jesus.   Do we sin?  Yes, but what must we do when we sin?  The Apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous  to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Boy_in_Bow_Tie

The Way Righteousness Works

Particularly when I was much younger, I tended to act and behave according to how I was dressed.  I didn’t even think about running the hills and getting muddy or infected with poison oak if I had on my white shirt and bow-tie to go to church on Sunday morning.  (This was a long time ago!)

Likewise, when dressed in a tuxedo before singing in the Madrigal Singers group in my high school, my fellow singers and I were above reproach in our demeanor and behavior before and after taking the stage.

Therefore, by faith we need to see ourselves as sinless in the eyes of God, whether we feel like we are or not, as the praise chorus relates:

I am covered over with a robe of righteousness
That Jesus gives to me, give to me
I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus
And He lives in me, lives in me
What a joy it is to know my heavenly Father loves me
And He gives to me, my Jesus
When He looks at me He sees not what I used to be
But he sees Jesus

http://www.higherpraise.com/lyrics/elder/elder_0068.html

 

Breastplate-of-righteousness

The Power of Righteousness in Spiritual Warfare

But what is the importance of righteousness in spiritual warfare?  It is seen as not only a “breastplate” that covers our hearts (Ephesians 6:14) but also as defensive and offensive weapons that we hold in our hands.

  The Apostle John writes, 

We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. (I John 3:20-22)

If our hearts do not condemn us, if we know we are righteous in God’s sight, then we have confidence in His presence to approach His throne of grace and mercy, and we have faith that He hears our prayers and will answer.  By following His commandments in humble obedience, we continue to be righteous as the blood of His Son continually cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness.  As a result, we have faith that we shall receive from our Father what He has promised and what we have asked Him for. We are righteous through the “right standing” we have in Him who saved us, and therefore we may go forth in the power of His might to do the mighty exploits of God, all in spite of the accusations or objections of the enemy.  We have been made to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5:21)  

In other words, since we are in Christ, and He is in us, when the enemy sees us, he sees Jesus.  After all, we are wearing Christ’s armor and carrying His weapons. In addition, if our hearts condemn us, then we are vulnerable to the accusations of the enemy, who is the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).  Feeling guilty, we may be hesitant to confront him because of our own sin. 

The Resources of Righteousness

Have you ever been led to believe that you had failed so miserably that there was no way God would hear your prayer?  Or that in order to get any kind of answer from God you just might have to cry for two hours, or fast, or live in a tent of the top of a mountain, or at the least grovel at God’s feet while telling Him all about how unworthy you are?

Doesn’t all that sound ridiculous when you think about it that way?  Especially when we acknowledge the fact that God has provided a way into His presence, not based on what we have done, but on what Jesus has done! Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  

If Jesus is the Way, where does this way lead?  

We know from the Book of Acts that the life of the believers at the time of the Apostles was referred to as the “Way.”  The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Roman governor Felix, says, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14, see also 18:26, 22:4, and other references).  Also, the “Way” is not merely the “way of salvation,” although this meaning is certainly implied.  

Notice what it says in Hebrews 10;19-22:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

You may remember that the “veil” of the temple was “rent” and torn apart as Jesus hung on the cross and gave up His life for us.  Through this curtain the high priests under the Old Covenant entered into the very presence of God in the Holy of Holies,  

When the veil was torn, significantly from top to bottom, God was indicating that such a veil was no longer necessary to separate sinful humans from a righteous and holy God.  But primarily it was to signify that the new “Way” into His presence is through the veil of the blood and the person of Jesus Christ, Who said,

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. (John 16:23-24)

This is the supreme confidence that we have in Him!  If we ask anything according to His Word and His will, in the name of Jesus Christ, then we are assured that He will hear us.  And if He hears us, then we may be assured that we will receive what we ask for (I John 5:14).

When Jesus hung upon the cross, and when He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  The fellowship was broken, and the intimate communion between the Father and the Son was cut off.  Jesus, as sin, was cast out of God’s presence, taking our sin upon Himself, taking the curse of death and spiritual absence from God upon Himself.  In this sense, Jesus was our substitute.  He took our penalty of separation from God, being shut out of God’s presence.

But just as certainly as Jesus took our place in taking death as the penalty for sin, He was raised from death and seated at the right hand of the Father.  The fellowship between Father and Son was restored, the communion re-established, and  Jesus became  our substitute, our identification.  Just as His relationship was restored with the Father, our broken relationship with the Father is restored as we identify with Jesus by faith.  We too have been raised up to sit together with Him in heavenly places.

The Mystery of God’s Will 

Read Paul’s description of our right-standing with God through Jesus Christ, which he calls “the mystery of His will.” First, notice that we have been given every spiritual blessing!  Think about what this means.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  (Ephesians 1:4)

We have received not only a familial relationship with our Father through Christ.  We also have the inheritance due to the children of God, as well as redemption, which means we who have been enslaved by sin have been redeemed, bought and paid for by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, even though we did not deserve it.

In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight  (Ephesians 1:5-8)

We have been given insight into the “mystery” of God’s will, a secret that has been revealed to us about the culmination of all things in Christ.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

Again, Paul reiterates that we have received an inheritance as children of God:

 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.   (Ephesians 1:11-12)

Finally, we can look forward to the future with hope to the future, for what we experience of God’s love and grace in this life is only a down payment of what He has for us eternally.  We have been given the Holy Spirit not only as our Teacher, the one who reveals God’s will to us, but also the “pledge,” or “good faith promise” that we will be eternally redeemed into God’s presence for all eternity.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:13-14)

 

Walking in Faith

How do we take act on these promises and see them fulfilled?  We act like they are true.   The writer of the Book of Hebrews relates (in Chapter 11:1) that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” or the assurance  that what we will see fulfilled in the future is already ours because of God’s promises to us.  In the same verse, we learn that faith is also the “evidence,” or “conviction,” of what we do not yet see.   

This is indeed a mystery, for what we do not yet see or experience now is nevertheless factually ours because of God’s promises to us.  God’s Word is true whether we see its fulfillment in our lives or not.  Thus, we need to believe and act like it is true regardless of our own experiences and what we know according to our five physical senses, which only tell us what is true physically, not spiritually.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

WordPress Themes