Check Your Panoply
The second part of our spiritual suit of armor is the cuirass of righteousness which Paul tells us to put on, in order to be invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength.
As related to Christ—as members of His body—we have no work to do, for we are complete in Him (Col.2:10). In this realm, all has been accomplished by Christ and so we are seated (not standing) together among the celestials, in spirit. The term “seated,” of course, is to be taken figuratively and suggests relaxation and rest at God’s right hand, where Christ is, in Whom we are complete.
In the Lord, however, our cooperation is needed. In order to enjoy this celestial status even now, we are not told to be seated on our celestial allotment, but rather to stand on it and withstand all the efforts of the powers of darkness who are trying to drag us down to the lower planes of soulish sensations and earthly things.
GOD’S VAST LOVE
Why does God vivify us together in Christ and seat us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus? Because of His vast love with which He loves us, He being rich in mercy, we being dead to the offenses and lusts. The spiritual blessings were ours before the disruption of the world, ere we were born and could engage in any offenses or lusts. These blessings will be ours in fact after the rapture when immortality has set a definite end to the presence of sin in us. But in the present body of humiliation, we can only reckon ourselves to be dead to the offenses and the lusts (Eph.2:4-6; Rom.6:11).
The vivification, the rousing, and the seating are great, timeless truths, as grand as God’s vast love with which He loves us in the past, the present, and the future. On God’s side, there is His rich mercy; but there is nothing on our side to make us eligible for these spiritual blessings. He has given us faith, and the power of that faith has transformed our lives so that we do not merely live on as we did before we believed. The unbelievers around us are still dead to God, but no longer are we! We are already living to God, and, therefore, to the same extent, dead to the offenses and the lusts. This is true of every believer, though in varying degrees. Everyone will admit that only those living to God will now enjoy the vivification, the rousing, and the seating, as described in Ephesians 2:5,6. All of this does not mean anything to an unbeliever, since he is dead to God, and the transcendent greatness of His resurrection power is not operating in him, as it is in us (Eph.1:19;2:5;3:20). However, as long as we are aware of the operation of the might of God’s strength in us, we are certainly dead to the offenses and the lusts.
IN GRACE AND FOR GRACE
In order to be vivified together in Christ, we have not to prove that we are already dead to sin, we have only to believe that we are saved in grace and for grace. There are many who wish to work for their salvation, but no one can gain it on such terms. Again, there are many who have received their salvation by grace, through faith, but they imagine that all further blessings must be earned by their own efforts. Our present and future salvation, however, is in grace and for grace (Eph.2:8). All the glories pertaining to the vivification, the rousing, and the seating are ours as freely and gratuitously as the initial gift of life which we received when we believed. The celestial blessings are ours because we are members of Christ’s body; not because of our attainment, but rather because God’s vast love lavished them upon us before we had any deserts, either good or bad. They are ours, even apart from our own faithfulness or service, for it is in grace and for grace that we are saved. All this is channeled to us through faith, yet even this faith is not out of us; it is God’s gift to us, His oblation or approach present with which He wins our hearts.
When we once see that God is so rich in mercy and loves us because of His vast love, then we are already living to God and dead to the offenses and lusts. He is the One Who vivifies us together in Christ since we are saved in grace and for grace. There is no room left for offenses and lusts while we are becoming more and more aware of this vivification of our spirits which will stir our hearts and increase our interest in Christ’s work and exaltation. We may become so intimately one with Him that His official duties are ours as well. When we see that we will share in His future activities, and therefore search for the future glories that are His, then we are living to God, as He is!
All of this is included in the grand truth that, in spirit, we are already seated together among the celestials. Our vision of this celestial status may be dimmed by the powers of darkness for we are still in the “wicked day.” We have found that God wants us to know the truth and remain in it so that we can stand and withstand. He also wants us to pursue righteousness and shun unrighteousness (Eph.6:14).
RIGHTEOUSNESS APART FROM ACTS
In the realm of faith, as elsewhere, there is always the danger of going to extremes and overemphasizing one aspect of truth by dimming or neglecting another aspect which is just as vital. Romans deals exhaustively with the subject of righteousness, proving the sinner’s incapacity for righteousness, and God’s readiness and ability to grant it. God accepts the attitude of faith in the sinner as being righteousness, and even this faith is God’s oblation. Hence the only righteousness possible for a sinner at that stage is to accept God’s gift of faith. It would be utterly unjust to reject this oblation. To accept it is the only act of man which is supremely right. This is expressed by the following words in Romans 4:5,6, “Yet to him who is not working, yet is believing on Him Who is justifying the irreverent, his faith is reckoned for righteousness . . . apart from acts.”
This is one aspect of truth which we have to emphasize continually since mankind has always wanted to earn its standing before God. In Philippians 3:8,9 Paul sums up all that has been said before on this topic: “I forfeited all..that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God for faith.”
Let us always praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from indignation, through Christ (Rom.5:9; 1 Thess.5:9). But this does not save us from the powers of darkness now! We are no longer under their jurisdiction, but they are still our enemies. Righteousness apart from works has done away with the estrangement between God and us; it does not affect, however, the attitude of our spiritual foes.
Whatever is meant by the cuirass of righteousness in Ephesians 6:14, it must not be severed from the other parts of the panoply of God, or it will not offer sufficient protection against the stratagems of the adversary or the onslaughts of the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials. All those portions of the panoply in which we actively cooperate—the cuirass, the girdle, the sandals, and the shield—must be in their proper place before we can be given the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit (See volume 51, pages 228, 229).
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
The term “righteousness” as used in the Sacred Scriptures, has various aspects. In order to bring out which one of them suits its use in Ephesians 6:14, we shall present a survey of three of its principal aspects.
(1) Faith righteousness (To the irreverent, faith is reckoned
for righteousness, Romans 4:5).
(2) Negative righteousness (No longer slaves of Sin, but now
enslaved to Righteousness, Rom.6:17,18).
(3) Positive righteousness (Our spirit is life because of righteousness,
we have Christ’s spirit and are His, Romans 8:9,10).
The following quotations are taken from UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, volume 37, beginning with page 81, and volume 35, page 95.
SIN PLUS SACRIFICE
“The sins of the believer and the sacrifice of the Saviour, combined, bring endless glory to God and uncounted blessings to the saint, far beyond any other possible consummation. Both are essential, and neither would avail anything without the other. Both are contrary to God’s revealed will, but both are the result of His intention. All is out of Him and through Him and for Him (Rom.11:36). He is determined to subject all to Him and be their All (1 Cor.15:28). His object is to reveal Himself as Light and Life and Love. Sin and sorrow and suffering for a brief period are needed as a background, hence their temporary term is justified. A sin-bearing, sorrowing, and suffering Saviour is the sufficient Sacrifice that completes the revelation of God’s heart, which is the object of creation. Since this grand goal can be achieved only through the sins of each one, God is justified in using them in preparing His creatures for eternal bliss. He is justified because this is the only means to His glorious end.
“This, His righteousness, is not displayed in the sins of His creatures, divorced from Christ’s sacrifice, hence He cannot justify anyone who does not gladly acknowledge the bloodshed for his sake. In those in whom the two are combined, His goal has been attained, at least as far as practicable while they are in the flesh. By faith, we are already dead to sin and alive to God (Rom.6:11). We are beyond the sphere of condemnation (Rom.8:1). God’s righteousness, which we have, is only the threshold to overwhelming grace and glory. Being the product of God’s love, it introduces us to an entirely new sphere in which our own deserts are no longer in view, but those of Christ Jesus, Who is worthy of every blessing and honor God is able to bestow upon Him.
“God’s righteousness differs radically from man’s. All that He does is just because it contributes to His grand purpose to reveal Himself and thus bless all His creatures. All the evil that He does is right. When He locks up all in stubbornness, He is justified by the fact that this is the essential prelude to His mercy for all (Rom.11:32). But His justice goes far beyond what we count righteousness. In view of His self-revelation, it is just for Him to justify the unjust, to be merciful to the criminal, and to be gracious to the chief of sinners, for these acts are necessary ones, in revealing Himself to His creatures and in preparing them for the implicit confidence and absolute faith in Him which will be the portion of all at the consummation.
“Many imagine that, if we had a human righteousness; if we never did wrong, that that would entitle us to a magnificent reward in the hereafter. But why should it? Do we do this among ourselves? A man who breaks the law is put in jail, but a man who keeps it does not receive a reward. Our righteousness, even if we had it, would only save us in a negative sense from the penalties of wrongdoing. It would not assure us of anything, either in heaven or on earth, in the hereafter.
THE KEY TO UNTOLD BLESSING
“In contrast to this, God’s righteousness is the key to untold blessing for the saints during the eons and inexpressible felicity for all creation hereafter. God’s righteousness comes to us in Christ. We are involved in His deserts. Not only are we saved by His sacrifice, but we are one with Him in His resurrection, His rousing, His vivification, we have ascended with Him, we are seated with Him among the celestials, and are to be used as a display of the transcendent riches of God’s grace (Eph.2:5-8). Hence, let us glory in His righteousness. Let us no longer seek to do what is right in our own eyes, or the eyes of our associates, but that which He approves; what accords with His righteousness, the good works which He has made ready that we should be walking in them (Eph.2:10).
LET US ACT IN GRACE
“Much that passes for right among men is wrong in the sight of God. Human righteousness has no true standard. Those who claim their “rights” almost always trespass upon the “rights” of others. An insistence on our rights is almost always a prelude to a greater loss in another sphere. Let us not rest on our own righteousness, even though we should use every effort to do the right thing in our contact with others. It is seldom that we can see their side as we see ours, and there may be hidden reasons which, if known, would reverse our judgment. That is why it is always better for the saint to act in grace wherever possible, for this will usually bring our actions up to the level of justice, if not above it.
THE SPIRIT’S LAW OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS
“Inherent sin prevents humanity from living righteously, and law is unable to subject the flesh, it cannot alter the disposition, for sin finds its strength in law. Even in the case of a saint, the law is unable to govern conduct; the law is definitely important, and the saint has died to law. The place of law is filled by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The law could not give righteousness because it could not vivify, but now the believer has the spirit which is life because of righteousness.
“Righteousness must then be the power to live righteously. God has such power; He alone is able always to act righteously. The evangel shows that He can justify from sin, and also bestow upon the believer the ability for righteousness. He gives us, in Christ Jesus, His own righteousness. This is, even now, the spirit of life which contacts with our spirit and makes it righteous, so that the just requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us. Consequently, we have the power to do righteousness apart from the law’s demands; in fact, the spirit of life is the law to us, since it corresponds to the just requirements of the law.
NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS
“In our first approach to the evangel of God, we learn that we have righteousness by faith in Christ Jesus. Deeper acquaintance teaches us of our death with Christ and for this reason, we are not to live in sin. Still, further insight shows us that we have the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Thus we proceed from faith in a righteousness provided by God to negative righteousness seeing that we died with Christ, and are not under sin, and then to the positive righteousness coming to our spirits because we have the same spirit of life which resides in Christ Jesus; that is, in our spirit, we are now constituted righteous, and ultimately we shall receive the full value of our first faith righteousness. This will inhere our whole being and bless us to the full with God’s own righteousness, which will be satisfying to Him and a delight to ourselves. The spring of righteousness then is God, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HOLINESS
Let us try to repeat this chain of thought by quoting a few passages from Scripture, beginning with Romans 6:14: “Sin shall not be lording over you; for you are not under law, but under grace.” Now, this thought is familiar to us—that we are no longer under law, but are now under grace. But how are we to connect grace with righteousness? The answer is given in Romans 5:21: “Sin reigns in death. Thus Grace also should be reigning through righteousness.” This means that the old lord, Sin, was replaced by a new lord, namely Righteousness.
This fact is referred to in Romans 6:17,18: “You obey from the heart the type of teaching to which you were given over. Now, being freed from Sin, you are enslaved to Righteousness,” and Romans 6:19: “Now present your members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness!”
THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS
This can be done because the place of the old law is filled by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:2 says, “The spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus frees you from the law of sin and death.” Why was the old law not able to give righteousness? Because it could not vivify. But now the believer has a spirit which is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10 reads, “Now, if Christ is in you, the body, indeed, is dead because of sin; yet the spirit is life because of righteousness.” For, in Christ Jesus, God gives us His own righteousness.
KNOWING THE TRUTH IS MANDATORY
In order to realize the divine logic of the truths in Romans it is mandatory that we know them and also remain in them. With this in mind, Paul writes of the teaching which we, as his readers, are supposed to learn (Rom.16:17). The same applies to the teaching in Ephesians. In Ephesians 6:14 the apostle first exhorts us to stand, girded about our loins with truth. If we follow these two appeals and do not cease studying Romans chapters three through eight and Ephesians one through three on every occasion with prayer and petition, we will become more and more aware of the fact that our spirit is indeed life because of righteousness, and that, in spirit, we are vivified together in Christ and seated together among the celestials. And when, in Ephesians 6:14, Paul goes on and exhorts us to put on the cuirass of righteousness, we are reminded of the appeal in Romans to present our members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness, in accord with the spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus.
The following is quoted from volume 26, pages 118-121.
NOTHING SHOULD LEAD TO INJUSTICE
“The principal parts of the panoply which God has provided for us consist of truth and righteousness, peace and faith, capped by salvation. Each of these has two aspects, as they are related to doctrine or deportment, as we are seen in Christ or in the Lord. Righteousness, for instance, as set forth in the early chapters of Romans, is ours by faith. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Is this the breastplate we are to wear in our warfare with wicked spirits? It is not. Such righteousness cannot be put on. Every saint has it by faith. It must be wrought out in actual practice to form a defense against our invisible foes.
“Wrongdoing not only reacts on our own spirits but lays us open to the assaults of evil spirits, which are always ready to magnify the failings of the saints. The armor for this is not a mere breastplate to shield our front, but a cuirass, covering the back as well. It is intended to suggest that our wily and wicked foes have no scruples, and will attack us from every direction. We should leave no opening in our armor behind. Even the effects of our just deeds should not lead to injustice.”
OUR WREATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, NOW IN THE MAKING
There is nothing fundamentally new in the apostle’s appeal, “Stand then . . . with the cuirass of righteousness put on!” This exhortation does not differ from Romans 6:19, “Now present your members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness!” Paul repeats this admonition in a terse form in 1 Timothy 6:11 and 2 Timothy 2:22, “Pursue righteousness!” The celestial allotment cannot be enjoyed daily by those who act unjustly, are stumbling blocks, are lacking the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ (Phil.1:11), and are loving the current eon rather than the advent of the Lord.
Righteousness will be one of Paul’s wreaths in that day (see volume 32, page 237). Looking back upon his life, he could say, “I have contested the ideal contest. I have finished my career. I have kept the faith. Furthermore, there is reserved for me the wreath of righteousness, which the Lord, the just Judge, will be paying to me in that day; yet not to me only, but also to all who love His advent . . . Demas, loving the current eon, forsook me” (2 Tim.4:7-10). This wreath is a recognition and reward for the righteousness which Paul displayed in his career. Wreaths are in the making, so to speak, in the present life; they are for those who excel in righteousness or any other virtue since the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is life because of righteousness.
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