Saturday, March 10, 2007

Righteousness You Can Wear

Here is a Bible Study I wrote a little while ago. I did the Bible research and wrote the Q&A's, but in the interest of "full disclosure" I should add that I got the idea from another pastor, who asked me to write this Bible study based on an article he was writing. The idea came from him. I submitted it for publication in a Lutheran journal but the Bible study that was eventually printed bore only a faint resemblance to this, so with that caution I feel free to claim this as my work.

When they see the word “righteousness,” many people think it means a quality within a person, like “virtue” or “obedience.” But God’s Word speaks of righteousness as something outside you, like a piece of clothing that you wear. The following questions and answers will help you understand how God explains His gift of righteousness.

1. According to Psalm 132:16 and Isaiah 61:10, what does the believer wear, and how does one get such clothes?

2. Read Zech. 3, where God shows a vision to the prophet Zechariah in which “Joshua the high priest” stands for Jerusalem, or God’s church (Zech. 3:1-2). Pay close attention to verses 4-5. How do these verses show that righteousness is not something in you, but something that God puts on you?

3. Why is it comforting to know that your sins are covered by this “robe of righteousness”? See Psalm 32:1; 51:9; and 85:2.

4. Every piece of clothing is made of some kind of fabric. Read Zeph. 1:7; Heb 9:14; and 1 John 1:7. From what did God make the “robe of righteousness” that He puts on you?

5. In Rom. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:49; and Gal. 3:27, God’s Word speaks about being “clothed with Christ.” How do these verses and especially Phil. 3:8-11 show that being “clothed with Christ” is the same as being “clothed with righteousness”?

6. Since we wear Christ’s righteousness through faith, what else will we share with Jesus? First re-read Phil. 3:8-11. Then also read Rom. 8:17; Gal. 6:17; and Phil. 3:21.

7. Read Gen. 3:7 and Rev. 3:18. How would we appear to God without this covering of Christ’s righteousness?

8. Does God expect us to contribute something in order to wear the righteousness that covers our sins? See Gen. 3:17; Heb. 9:22; Ezek. 16:3-14.

9. Many people believe that their good works make them righteous, including both godly people like Job (Job 29:14) and the ungodly (Is. 59:6). What does God say about this in Job 40:6-14 and Is. 64:6?

10. According to Ps. 73:6 and Ps. 109:18-20, what happens to those who refuse to be covered by Christ’s righteousness? See also Zeph. 1:8 and Matt. 2:11-13.

11. God does teach about a kind of spiritual clothing we put on ourselves. (a) What is it, and how does it relate to the robe of Christ’s righteousness? See Jer. 3:25; Daniel 9:3-9; Jonah 3:6-8; and 1 Peter 5:5. (b) According to Luke 5:32, where does this clothing come from, and what does God promise to do? Also read Psalm 30:11; Hosea 6:1; Jer. 31:12.

12. Old Testament rituals pointed ahead to Christ, cleansing people and objects by sprinkling the blood of sacrificed animals on them. (a) See Ex. 24:8; Lev. 8:15-30; and Lev. 16:3-4. What were some results of this cleansing by blood? (b) Now read Eph 5:25-27 and 1 Cor. 11:25. How does the robe of Christ’s righteousness come to you today?

13. God sees your “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10), but often your conscience is troubled. Or perhaps other people see your daily sins and argue that you are not “clothed in Christ” (Gal. 3:27). How does Rom. 8:33-34 give you encouragement when your own conscience, or your neighbor, or even Satan himself, accuses you?

14. Read Eph. 6:11-17. What comfort does this passage offer to those who suffer from conflicts and fears?

15. What is the final destiny of everyone who is clothed in Christ’s righteousness? See 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 3:5; and Rev. 21:2.

16. We are clothed in Christ’s righteousness through faith, and faith alone. Where do our worship, praise, and deeds of love fit in? See Ps. 96:7; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; and James 5:20.

1. In Psalm 132:16 God says: “[Zion’s] priests also I will clothe with salvation; and her godly ones will sing aloud for joy.” So God’s priests (believers) will wear salvation as their priestly robes. Isaiah 61:10 says God “has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” We wear salvation and righteousness like lavish wedding clothes. It is God who puts these clothes on us.

2. In Zech. 3:4-5, the angel of the Lord says, “Remove the filthy garments from [Joshua] . . . See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you in festal robes . . . Let them put a clean turban on his head.” Like the “garments of salvation” and “robe of righteousness” mentioned in Isaiah 61:10, these clothes are put on Joshua from outside, without any help from Joshua. God gives these clothes in the place of Joshua’s “filthy garments” and “iniquity.” In the same way, when God clothes us in righteousness, He is also taking away, or covering up, our sin.

3. The Psalms explain how comforting it is to know that God “covers up” our sins with His robe of righteousness: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” (Ps. 32:1). “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities” (Ps. 51:9). “Thou didst forgive the iniquity of Thy people; Thou didst cover all their sin” (Ps. 85:2). This is comforting because, when He puts righteousness on you to wear, God is forgiving your sins.

4. God covers you with a robe of righteousness prepared by the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus. “For the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, He has consecrated His guests” (Zeph. 1:7). Therefore “the blood of Christ, who . . . offered Himself without blemish to God, [will] cleanse your conscience from dead works” (Heb. 9:14). The righteousness that covers us results from the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross; so “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

5. In Rom. 13:14, God tells us, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In 1 Cor. 15:49 we learn that “Just as we have borne the image of the earthy [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [Jesus].” And Gal. 3:27 teaches: “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Beginning with Baptism, you “wear Jesus” by faith. So when God looks at you, He sees only His beloved son, with whom He is pleased (Mark 1:11). In other Words, the righteousness you wear through faith in Christ is not your own righteousness, but Jesus’ righteousness, which God puts on you to cover your sins. “[I do not have] a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9).

6. Paul says He is willing to “suffer the loss of all things . . . in order to gain Christ . . . that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:8-11). When we wear Christ’s righteousness through faith, we also share His power, sufferings, death, and resurrection. So Paul says, “I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17), and declares that God’s children “suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17). The power of Christ living in us, gives us strength to endure sufferings. The resurrection of Jesus which we will share, gives us hope in the face of death. For Jesus “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). Thanks be to God!

7. After Adam and Eve sinned, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). So Christ says, “I advise you to buy from me . . . white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Rev. 3:18). Without the robe of righteousness that only Christ can give you, you would stand before God in “the shame of your nakedness.”

8. In Gen. 3:17, God replaces the coverings Adam and Eve made for themselves with garments He made for them out of animal skins. For “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). In Ezekiel 16, God tells believers that He found us naked, washed us, clothed us, and made us beautiful. “When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ . . . I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine . . . Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you . . . Then your fame went forth . . . on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you” (Ezek. 16:6-14). God has provided everything to make us beautiful in His eyes.

9. In Job 29:14, Job claims he can clothe himself in his own righteousness. Wrong! In Job 40:6 ff, God challenges Job to prove whether he can put himself in God’s place: “Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity, and clothe yourself with honor and majesty . . . Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you” (Job 40:10,14). Clearly, no one can do this! Isaiah also says of the ungodly: “Their webs will not become clothing, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and an act of violence is in their hands” (Is. 58:6). Whether we are godly or ungodly, our good deeds cannot cover our sins, because we ourselves are unclean, “and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Is. 64:6). Only Christ’s perfect righteousness can cover our sins.

10. Those who refuse the covering of Christ’s righteousness are judged on the basis of their sinful works. “Therefore pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them” (Ps. 73:6). “But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, and it entered into his body like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself . . . Let this be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, and of those who speak evil against my soul” (Ps. 109:18-20). We cannot face God clothed in our own works; it is a terrible curse to be judged for what we are and what we do. So God says: “I will punish . . . all who clothe themselves with foreign garments” (Zeph 1:8) and, in the parable of the wedding feast, He condemns one who appears before Him without Christ’s robe of righteousness: “Bind him . . . and cast him into the outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13).

11. (a) Jer. 3:5 says: “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our humiliation cover us; for we have sinned . . . ” Daniel dressed himself in sackcloth and ashes, fasting and praying: “Alas, O Lord . . . we have sinned . . . Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame . . . because we have sinned against Thee. To the Lord belong compassion and forgiveness” (Daniel 9:3-9). And at one time the king of Assyria commanded the whole city of Nineveh to “be covered in sackcloth” and beg for God’s forgiveness (Jonah 3:6-8). When we clothe ourselves in humility (1 Peter 5:5) and repentance, we are asking God to cover us with Christ’s righteousness, to forgive our sins. (b) Actually, God is the one who clothes us in repentance, disregarding our own works. He promises to do this when Jesus says: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Also, God promises turn our “mourning” into “joy” (Jer. 31:12); He changes our sackcloth of repentance into festive robes of righteousness: “Thou hast loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” (Ps. 30:11). “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us” (Hosea 6:1).

12. (a) In Ex. 24:8, Moses sprinkled blood on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you.” In Lev. 8:15-30, Moses sprinkled the altar and the priests (Aaron and his sons) with blood, purifying them for service in the Lord’s tabernacle. And in Lev. 16:3-4, God instructs Aaron to prepare for a sacrifice by washing and putting on “holy garments.” These cleansing rituals were needed to seal a covenant with God, and to be ready to serve Him. (b) The cleansing rituals of the Old Testament have passed away. Now God uses “the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26), or Baptism and preaching, to cleanse us and prepare us to serve Him. God also uses the Lord’s Supper to cover us with “the new covenant in [Jesus’] blood” (1 Cor. 11:25).

13. Rom. 8:33-34 says: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Christ clothes you with His righteousness through Word and Sacrament. So God sees Jesus when He looks at you. This promise is sure and unshakable, even when you are weak and rocked by “conflicts without and fears within” (2 Cor. 7:5).

14. In Eph. 6:11-17, Paul writes: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil . . . Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace . . . taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Armed with God’s Word, and dressed in His “garments of salvation” and “robe of righteousness” (Is. 61:10), we are safe from all danger. Faith is our defense, and God’s Word defends our faith!

15. In 2 Tim. 4:8, Paul writes: “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” In Rev. 3:5 Jesus says: “He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” Finally, John says: “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). One day when God raises all the dead, we will stand before Him in robes of righteousness. Then all who have worn His robe of righteousness in this life will receive the crown of righteousness in eternal life.

16. Psalm 92:2 says: “Worship the Lord in holy attire.” The true worship of God is to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness, through faith. In response to God’s precious gift of righteousness, we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him (2 Cor. 5:15). So we perform acts of worship to God and love for our neighbor because “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Besides faith, the highest form of worship is to lead your neighbor to wear Christ’s righteousness by faith. In James 5:20 God teaches: “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” God honors us by making us part of His plan to give them His gift of righteousness!

No comments: