The doctrine of righteousness – this is a journey of discovery. Doubtless there will be more on this subject, as I continue to discover more and more about this subject.
The writer of Hebrews seems to tie an understanding of the doctrine of righteousness to spiritual maturity (Heb 5:13). Unfortunately, modern Christians seem to understand only about imputed righteousness. A quick comparison between 1 Thess 5:8 and the warrior’s clothing in Ephesians 6 tells us that the righteousness referred to as the breastplate is not simply imputed righteousness. I used to say that there are four aspects of righteousness described in the Scriptures, but now I’m thinking there may be five. Anyway, gone are the heady charismatic ecumenical days when we used to say that doctrine is not essential for Christian life. Pastors would go to Bible school and come back with everything they needed to keep us protected, by means of their knowledge, within a ‘hedge’ of pastoral covering. Yay! Happy days! That is until you start entering areas outside of the ‘hedge’, of which there are increasing numbers within our cities [immigrant communities, drug dependent communities, LGBTQ communities, Muslim and other religious communities, pseudo Christian sects, spiritists and pagans, migrant communities, the questionable halls of established religion, and the spiritual fringe of the marketplace]. Suddenly you find that soldiers on these fronts are dying like flies and you wonder why. Why? Lack of knowledge, that’s why! [Hos 4:6]
Is righteousness and justice the means by which the cosmos operates? I believe so, and Ps 89:14 gives us a clue to this. I believe that creation established a contract or covenant of existence for everything, with blessings for fulfilling the contract and curses (like death) for defaulting. Satan is a created being who knows about the clause about “destruction for contract default” and this is his principal interest. He has made a name for himself as the Accuser, and we overcome Him by the blood (Rev 12:11) – which gives us imputed righteousness. Being aware of what [absolute] righteousness looks like helps us to distinguish between the real Jesus and the counterfeits, a key thing we are encouraged to do in Matthew 24. By growth in (practical) righteousness we “assure our hearts before him” [1 John 3:9] and make sure we don’t “throw away our confidence”. In prayer we come before the throne of grace by means of imputed righteousness, and we appeal to the very essence of God when we demonstrate reasonable compliance with his righteous stipulations [absolute righteousness is not a factor in prayer, it is irrelevant since Christ is our righteousness]. An imparted love for righteousness is the evidence of being born of God [1 John 3:16]. The helmet, the breastplate, the shoes and the belt all relate back to righteousness. So the Eph 6 clothing of the Christian soldier can be seen to be the very “robe of righteousness” referred to in Isaiah 61:10.
Only mature sons go to war. This then ties in with a lack of understanding of righteousness being associated with immaturity. Pastors protect the sheep from wolves, roaring lions and bears, and in this way give account for every sheep. Pastors, however, do not, by themselves, define spiritual leadership. If the head people in the medical corps were the entire leadership of an army, then the contract of existence of that army would be violated. Churches can only avoid missions (local or overseas) for so long before their stewardship is called into question. Issues of righteousness must be urgently addressed if we are to be successful in missions.
We must see that the rule of God is synonymous with the rule of righteousness, and the Gospel message must include a call to repentance for all men. All men includes the church. We must be willing to repent for current (daily) unrighteousness (1 John 1:2) as well as for historical unrighteousness in the church. We must approach salvation as grateful clients reaching new clients [there, but for the grace of God go I]. We must not compromise on the rights of God as creator. We must understand how to face the enemy and refute his accusations, and we must understand that we are targeted by the enemy PRECISELY because we have been raised to a position of authority he feels he should have had. Too bad he was never created in the image of God. We were. Salvation restores that, so our authority over Satan, and the authority of all the little ones that come to faith, are inherent in salvation.
Departing from the image of God is unrighteousness (Rom 3:23). Salvation restores us to that image by saving us FROM SIN. We need to relook at the Gospel and grasp this fact. Let me say it again – salvation is salvation FROM SIN – it’s power, it’s consequence and eventually it’s very presence. It’s the restoration of righteousness to a person – absolute righteousness imputed, a love for righteousness imparted, practical growth in righteousness experienced, and the practical possession of absolute righteousness now our passionate ambition. When such a person enters the enemy’s territory, he ransacks his house, and he himself is not ransacked (Jn 14:30). This is the covering we need as we advance in missions. This is the knowledge we need in order to make the big fight [of faith] a good one [1 Tim 6:12].
The Scriptures are intended for workmen 2 Tim 3:17 and 2 Tim 2:15. They happen to be given for INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, so that we will do a good job. Eph 4 tells us that we are meant, in our cities, to work TOGETHER. It is not enough for us to support evangelistic missions together, to pray together, and thank God we now worship together. We must go one step further, and WORK together. This requires unity of faith, which in turn comes from a shared doctrine of righteousness.
Too much to ask for, on account of history? Think of the alternatives. Let us not forget that He who committed our stewardship to us, is coming. Let us prioritize the Kingdom (righteousness in peace and joy)