instruction in righteousness
So far in this Study, amongst all of this doctrine, reproof and correction, we may have neglected to consider properly the culminating ingredient in the furnishing of the man of GOD, that being his instruction in righteousness.
First to summarize some of what we have put forth at present: grace is for the most part the gift or favor from GOD, which is often in the form of HIS word. Thus, grace is the doctrine, reproof and correction of the Scriptures. Faith is the cyclical process of first hearing but then believing that which has been heard. This process continually fashions us on the potter's wheel into vessels chosen by GOD for particular tasks. Righteousness then, is faith's effect upon us. It is the nature or character which we begin to manifest as we continue in the faith. Righteousness is in essence the nature of the New Man, which is the new creation of GOD within us.
- EPHESIANS 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Howbeit, there are two different kinds of righteousness named in scripture, a righteousness of the law and a righteousness of faith. That righteousness of the law is when we try to earn GOD's favor outside of HIS will, something of our own making, "righteousness which we have done" (TITUS 3:5). Paul wrote to the Philippians concerning this "righteousness which is in the law", that he had done such a marvelous job achieving it, that he was measured by his piers as blameless. Yet he considered all that righteousness no better then excrement, human waste (PHILIPPIANS 3:4-9).
The other righteousness, the righteousness of faith, is something we do under the guidance of GOD, a work which is in harmony with HIS will. Prayer might offer a helpful example. If I make a grand prayer which is designed to tug at the heart strings of my listeners and gain their approval or admiration, this is a righteousness of the flesh. It wins no favor with GOD. Howbeit, if I go aside by myself and offer up prayers to my Creator, prayers heard by HIM alone, heartfelt words of need and thanksgiving, this is a righteousness of faith, a work in harmony with the spirit of GOD.
Giving might offer another example. If I give to win the praise and envy of my fellow man, and when I present my gift I find more satisfaction in others actually seeing my generosity than the need it provides for, then this is a carnal righteousness. But if I hide my gifts, if I give in secret so no one knows except my Maker, then this is a righteous act of faith.
Scripture defines for us the boundary lines within which we can work faith's righteousness. GOD's word plainly tells us if we have crossed the line into carnal works or if we are still operating within HIS will. We need HIS guidance, something to keep us on the straight and narrow. This is precisely what doctrine, reproof and correction does. It sets forth for us what is righteous action; then it confronts us if we fail to act in a righteous manner; and finally it shows us the way back to the righteous road. All of this is instruction in righteousness.
Righteousness is a gift because it originates with grace, which is when GOD freely offers HIS word for us to believe. But we aren't made righteous merely by HIS offering, HIS grace. We are made righteous by our believing the sent word. There is effort involved in becoming righteous, but all the efforts are contingent upon the free gift of the word of GOD.
Just because Yeshua was obedient to GOD, that in itself doesn't automatically make us righteous. That only made it available for many to be made righteous (ROMANS 5:19). We are made righteous by faith. Because of Adam's transgression, all those who followed in his steps of disobedience were likewise unrighteous. But others, like Noah and Job who were obedient to GOD's voice, were made righteous by their faith.
- HEBREWS 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
After Noah heard from GOD, he "prepared an ark". The hearing was by grace but the preparing was work. In fact it was a lot of work, for he toiled for over a hundred years building that boat. Why did he build it? Because believing GOD's word requires a response. This same principle can be seen with the woman with the issue of blood, who responded to what she had evidently heard, and was then made whole when she fought her way through the crowd to touch the hem of Yeshua's garment. She worked her way through the crowd, Noah worked to build an ark.
Both were saved by faith, but faith without works is dead. As James asked in his epistle, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" (JAMES 2:14). No, for if Noah hadn't built the ark, he would have been treading water for a very long time. As James continued, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (JAMES 2:17). Righteousness which is by faith, is our believing response to the words which have already been freely offered by GOD.
- ROMANS 10:6-8 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
The word can only be believed if it has previously been received. Howbeit, we mustn't think that we are believing GOD by merely doing what GOD told someone else to do. I am probably not going to be healed by simply touching the hem of somebody's garment. Nor have I been instructed to build an ark, offer my son as a sacrifice, offer myself as a sacrifice or walk on water. But, that which has been implanted within my heart is what I have been instructed to believe. In accordance with that, the hearing must give way to the doing.
- JAMES 1:22-25 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
As we do what we hear to do, we hear more. Each hearing is opening up a new way before us. Doing that which we have heard to do, prepares us for the next hearing. Otherwise, if we hear from GOD but then go our own way, eventually we will forget that which we have heard. But if we do what we hear to do, we see the results and thereby our faith grows. As the old saying goes, "use it or you will loose it". Perhaps it is said best in the epistle to the Hebrews.
- HEBREWS 5:13-14 For every one that useth milk is unskilful [inexperienced] in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use [practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
This experience, this practice, is our time on the potter's wheel. It is our "instruction in righteousness". It is our chastening which for the present may seem grievous, "nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (HEBREWS 12:11).
But if after we have been delivered from whatever afflicted us, and we then cease the instruction or quit the exercise, we very possibly will once again become re-entangled within the web of the world.
- 2 PETER 2:20-21 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
Righteousness is simply the way we are to become. It is the way we are instructed to seek (MATTHEW 6:33) and the way we are to hunger and thirst after (MATTHEW 5:6). It is the way we are to "follow after" (1 TIMOTHY 6:11 & 2 TIMOTHY 2:22) and it is the way that is revealed by faith (ROMANS 1:17). Not a physical way, with gates and tunnels and bridges, but a mental way. The quest for GOD's righteousness is began and finished in our minds, in our hearts, not in our boots. We must reckon as dead the old man with his old ways and renew or renovate our minds to think the thoughts of the new man, the new way, the new creation (PHILIPPIANS 4:8).
- HOSEA 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
What a graphic picture the prophet has painted so as to describe the mental process of faith. Break up your fallow ground! Like a plow slicing through the earth, our minds occasionally need to be ripped open and laid bare. Why? So that the seed can be sown and the fruit can be reaped. An inactive mind in a rubber head is much like an un-worked parcel of land. All the traffic across it just compacts the ground from which only thorns and thistles can then grow. The rains run off the crusty soil and it becomes parched. However, the ground which welcomes the sharp edge of the plow receives the seed which eventually bears fruit as did that which was sown on good ground. The highs and lows in life are a healthy way to keep the mental soil freshly worked.
- JAMES 1:18-21 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
"Swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." If we can just learn to let things be and not try to determine the outcome of every situation in our lives, we will discover that "all things work together for good to those that love GOD" (ROMANS 8:28). It is tempting to want to take the bull by the horns and try to insert our will upon a situation. However, the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of GOD. It is better if we learn to be "quick to hear" and receive with meekness that word implanted within our heart; but then slow to react to the cruel intentions of others. This is one way in which faith is able to save us from potential dangers.
- 1 SAMUEL 24:12 The LORD judge between me [David] and thee [Saul], and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
David refused to avenge himself in slaying King Saul, even when it appeared that Saul had been delivered into his hand. Saul had on more than one occasion sought to destroy David, but David was content to bide his time and let GOD handle the situation, which HE eventually did. The wheels of GOD's justice may grind slowly sometimes but they always grind finely. Righteousness relinquishes control of a situation unto GOD.
- 1 JOHN 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
Righteous works will be the natural outcome of being converted to discipleship by the word of truth, as we continue in the faith process. But contrary to what religion teaches, simply confessing some belief with our mouth will not magically make one righteous. We must exercise self control so as to be able to act as the word implanted in our mind directs us. We must learn to do righteousness.
- 1 JOHN 3:7, 10 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous...In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
Those who answer GOD's call and by faith practice righteousness, will learn how to love. Those who don't will only have a form of righteousness. Howbeit, a religious righteousness will not do.
- MATTHEW 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.