Meditations on Instruments of Righteousness

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This past week our church hosted an almost 50-year-old music camp. Late in the day after the chaos of tuning, the beautiful sound of orchestrated classical music flows through the walls. The soothing, contemplative, and even inspiring sounds emanate from instruments that were created for this purpose. Without question, these tools of tune were meticulously cared for, protected by various sized case, and practiced for hours on end. Most importantly, they were chosen, and then chosen again to be used for something beautiful.

Interestingly enough, instruments have been on my mind lately as a friend and I have been reading through Romans. We have camped out on Romans 6, specifically the first 14 verses, with a special focus on verse 13, and the meaning of instruments of righteousness:

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness,s but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.[i]

Surely not an instrument of wickedness, right?! But if not wickedness, then is every aspect of my being offered for righteousness?  This topic requires more contemplation, so we decided to meditate and sit with this phrase for time, a week or more, to see what God would reveal. This is an on-going process at the writing of this blog, but what is clear is that it is a choice. Simple, yet complex, but it boils down to a choice, and in that choice, we are not alone. Let’s look deeper.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible states that:

The apostle Paul develops most extensively the doctrine of righteousness when he distinguishes the righteousness of people from the righteousness of God. First, righteousness is forensic. Individuals cannot attain to righteousness, but receive it as a gift from God (Rom 3:21–5:21). There is no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ. In the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus, “righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (Rom 1:17; cf. Hab 2:4). Therefore the Father requires acceptance of his Son as his appointed means of justification (Rom 3:25, 26; 5:9). Righteousness carries a forensic significance in that God declares people to be righteous (Rom 8:33, 34; 2 Cor 3:9; 11:15). God pardons sins, is reconciled with sinners, and grants his peace to them (Rom 5:1, 9–11; Eph 2:14, 15, 17).[ii]

Baker presents one aspect of the definition of righteousness as, “fulfillment of the expectations in any relationship, whether with God or other people.[iii]” Choosing righteousness is to be true to our relationship with God and following the way set before us by Jesus, who tells us clearly in John 14:6, “I ama the wayb and the truthc and the life.d No one comes to the Father except through me.[iv]

The first choice is to have a relationship with God, which happens through acknowledging the Way, Jesus, “ If you declareg with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”h and believei in your heart that God raised him from the dead,j you will be saved.k For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”e” Then we must choose how we live, that is, how we use our instruments to be true to our relationship.

God has given us support to know and fulfill this relationship and the expectations. We are reminded in Micah 6:8, that He has shown us “what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justlyi and to love mercy and to walk humblya j with your God.k [v]” And Jesus clarifies, simplifying all the expectations down to two as recorded in Mark 12:29-31, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.e Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g n There is no commandment greater than these.” [vi]

Using an instrument for righteousness is a just, merciful, and humble act. It shows love to God and to our neighbors, it is focused on others and is not self-seeking. The choice is up to us to review, consider, and choose to use all aspects of our humanity for His glory, and to acknowledge, address, and change anything that does not fulfill the expectations of our relationship with God.   

The Body of Christ, the church, has been given to support and help, as we see in Ephesians 4:11-13, “So Christ himself gavem the apostles,n the prophets,o the evangelists,p the pastors and teachers,q  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christr may be built upuntil we all reach unityt in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of Godu and become mature,v attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.w[vii]” God, in His grace, gave the ultimate Helper, as Jesus promised, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” God offers a relationship, shows the Way, and has even given support.

Hallelujah! Now the choice is up to us. How will we choose to use our instruments? What changes do we need to make to be righteous? Sin is no longer our master, we have been forgiven by God’s grace. Our choice to use our instruments for righteousness glorifies God, confirms our relationship with Him, blessing us, and others.

Little did the young musicians scampering, plucking, strumming, drumming, and harmonizing around church know that the blessing that followed their choice also tickled the ears, mind, and presence of an unknown listener. Their music was evident to all, and blessed those that they did not even see or know. How will you choose to use your instruments?

s ver 16, 19; Ro 7:5

[i] The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 6:13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

cf. compare

[ii] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Righteousness. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1862). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[iii] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Righteousness. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1860). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

a See Jn 6:35

b Jn 10:9; Eph 2:18; Heb 10:20

c Jn 1:14

d See Jn 1:4

[iv] The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 14:6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

g Mt 10:32

h See Jn 13:13

i See Jn 3:15

j See Ac 2:24

k See Ro 11:14

e Isaiah 28:16 (see Septuagint)

i See Isa 1:17; See Jer 22:3

a Or prudently

j See 2 Ki 22:19; See Isa 57:15

k See Ge 5:22; Dt 10:12–13; 1 Sa 15:22; Hos 6:6; Zec 7:9–10; Mt 9:13; 23:23; Mk 12:33; Lk 11:42

[v] The New International Version. (2011). (Mic 6:8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

e Or The Lord our God is one Lord

f Deut. 6:4, 5

m Dt 6:4, 5

g Lev. 19:18

n Lev 19:18; See Mt 5:43

[vi] The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 12:29–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

m ver 8

n 1 Co 12:28; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 2 Pe 3:2; Jude 17

o See Ac 11:27; Ro 12:6; 1 Co 12:10, 28; 13:2, 8; 14:1, 39; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 2 Pe 3:2

p Ac 21:8; 2 Ti 4:5

q Ac 13:1; Ro 2:21; 12:7; 1 Co 12:28; 14:26; 1 Ti 1:7; Jas 3:1

r See 1 Co 12:27

s See Ro 14:19

t ver 3, 5

u See Php 3:8

v See 1 Co 2:6; Col 1:28

w Jn 1:16; Eph 1:23; 3:19

[vii] The New International Version. (2011). (Eph 4:11–13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Jason Payne, International Ministry Coordinator

Jason Payne, International Ministry Coordinator