THE SCEPTER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The scepter of the Lord Jesus Christ is the scepter of righteousness. This means that the Lord Jesus will govern righteously and enforce righteous behavior. Righteous conduct is not emphasized nearly enough in Christian preaching and teaching. In its place we have a legally ascribed righteousness that cannot possibly serve the purposes of God.
THE SCEPTER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Today is August 1, 2002. As I drifted off to sleep last night, and as I awoke this morning, the word “righteousness” kept ringing in my mind over and over. I never before have had anything impressed on me to this extent.
When I began a dialogue with the Lord Jesus, as these words pounded on me, He spoke to me clearly that God is distressed because of the lack of righteousness in His churches and in the governments and people of the world. I cannot describe how unusual an experience this was, it was so strong.
I started thinking about our site on the Internet. When we began the site several years ago, the Lord told me to name it “The Word of Righteousness.” I resisted this, thinking the name sounded arrogant, like I am the only one who knows what righteousness is. So I compromised with “Words of Righteousness.” I can see now that the Lord’s choice was better, more graceful and to the point; and was no more arrogant than “Words of Righteousness.” This is what happens when we think we know more than the Lord.
I have stated several times that Christians are the only people in the world who do not understand what righteousness is. This probably is an exaggeration. But try asking a Christian what he thinks righteousness is and see how he or she answers. Yet, the Bible tells us clearly what God requires:
The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—(Isaiah 33:14-15)
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah (Psalms 24:3-6)
These two passages are ignored today, because we maintain we are saved by grace and do not have to pay attention to the Old Testament. Think of what a foolish attitude this is. Can we dwell with the Consuming Fire of Israel when we are living unrighteously and saying wrong things? Can we stand in the holy place when we worship idols? We ought to know Christ would not come to change the Divine demands. We have been deceived!
What did Christ come to achieve?
And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)
The anointing resting on Jesus Christ was not to bestow on His people imputed beauty, imputed gladness, imputed praise, or imputed righteousness, but to make the members of Zion, His Church, oaks of righteousness. People who are righteous only by imputation are not oaks of righteousness. The purpose of imputed righteousness is to free us from the statutes of the Law of Moses. Imputed righteousness is not a substitute for godly behavior.
Imputed righteousness prepares the way for us to become oaks of righteousness. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is not the Divine alternative to iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father. Could any true Christian possibly disagree with this?
God has one desire for man, and that is that man be righteous. In fact, God wants every creature in the universe to be righteous. I do not know how many different kinds of spiritual races there are that we don’t know about, but I do know God demands that all of them be righteous in behavior.
The first man born on the earth murdered the second. From that time to the present, the history of mankind has been largely that of unrighteous conduct.
Prior to the giving of the Law of Moses, the conscience of man revealed what righteous behavior is. God spoke to Abraham and commanded Him to walk before God and be perfect.
A little later God issued the Law of Moses with its righteous commandments and statutes. The Law brought the knowledge of sin but not the power to overcome sin.
Then God brought into view His masterpiece—the new covenant. The purpose of the new covenant is to create righteous people.
The Apostle Paul, when arguing with the Jews, stressed again and again that we are saved by faith in Christ and not by works. By “works” Paul meant the works of the Law of Moses. We Gentiles have concluded that God has forgiven us through Christ and esteems us righteous even though we continue to sin.
Our modern interpretation of the new covenant makes it inferior to the old. The old covenant at least required righteous behavior, even though it did not always bring about righteous behavior. Our definition of the new covenant is that God no longer requires righteous behavior, only that we believe Christ died for our sins.
The result of our misunderstanding of the Apostle Paul is that the Christian salvation for two thousand years has been a covenant only of forgiveness, not of deliverance from sin.
The American churches of our day often state the purpose of the commandments given in the New Testament is to make us aware of our need for saving grace. They bring us to Christ for forgiveness, it is claimed. It would be nice if we obeyed them, but obedience to the commandments issued by Christ and His Apostles are not an integral part of our salvation.
Have I presented the current understanding accurately? This is what was taught to me when I first came to Christ in 1944, being in the United States Marine Corps at the time.
I believed for several years that I was “saved by faith and not by works of righteousness I had done,” and that was the end of the matter.
One day, while writing a book on the holiness of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, I became aware my understanding of salvation did not agree fully with the New Testament. Numerous passages of the New Testament are exhortations to righteousness accompanied by dire warnings if these exhortations are ignored. Something clicked in my mind. I realized I had been taught unscriptural doctrine.
From that time to the present I have been writing about the need for the Christian people to throw out the unscriptural concept that the commandments of Christ and His Apostles were given only to make us see our need of a Savior. They actually are the steps we take toward participation in the new covenant.
Let me explain what I mean by steps we take toward participation in the new covenant.
The new covenant is the inscribing of the eternal moral law of God, the law of righteousness, in our mind and heart. It is the forming of Christ in our personality, because Christ is the eternal moral law of God made flesh.
When we place our faith in the blood atonement, repent of our worldly ways, and are baptized in water, we have begun our discipleship. We have assigned our adamic life to the cross and our new, born-again nature has risen to be with Christ at the right hand of the Father.
All of this is dramatized in water baptism.
Although we have been touched with the Life of the Holy Spirit, the Substance of God has been conceived in us, and we may have ceased what we understood to be sinful behavior, thorough moral transformation has not taken place in our personality as yet. We have been born again of the Virtue of Christ, but we are not as yet a totally new creation in which all the old things have passed away. This is what we desire, and this is what we claim by faith. But there is much work to be done in us. Isn’t that so?
As far as righteous conduct is concerned, we know little about it.
If we pray and read our Bible, the Holy Spirit begins to point out the sin resident in our personality. We are to confess our sins as they are shown to us, denounce them as unworthy of the Kingdom, renounce them stating we want nothing more to do with them, and then resume our close fellowship with the Lord Jesus.
This is not the new covenant. Rather, it is the faithfulness of our adamic nature in looking to God for help in learning to live righteously.
As we continue to patiently, faithfully gain victory over our worldliness, lust, and self-will, Christ is formed in us. He feeds us with His body and blood. The Divine Nature increases in us. The eternal moral law of God rises in us as a day star. This new nature of ours came from God and does not sin. It always behaves righteously. This is the new covenant.
By interpreting the Apostle Paul to mean it no longer is necessary we practice righteousness, we have aborted the Divine program. The growth toward righteous behavior ceases. God’s people remain moral infants, trusting that their profession of faith in Christ is all God requires of them.
Today the great emphasis of Christian leaders is on getting the people of the world saved. However, the current emphasis of the Spirit of God is on producing righteous conduct in God’s people. If we will emphasize what God is stressing, I think God will add to the churches those who should be saved. I believe God will send the revival we are looking for if we will begin to emphasize righteous behavior instead of the current “grace-rapture-Heaven.”
We are of no use to God or His Kingdom until we begin to grow in righteousness.
One problem we have is that when we speak of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness we think of imputed righteousness. To the average Christian, imputed righteousness (a concept presented by the Apostle Paul) means even though we continue to sin God considers us to be righteous.
Can you imagine anything more destructive of God’s intention? Are we not utterly confused?
The Kingdom of God and His righteousness, which we are supposed to be seeking more than all other objectives, is not referring to a legally assigned righteousness. It does not mean in the Kingdom of God we can lie, steal, fornicate, murder, and participate in drunken orgies and still be counted as righteous. Yet this is the conclusion of the present doctrine (although we do not think of it as bluntly and consistently as this).
No, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is referring to the practice of righteousness that is found in the Kingdom of God.
Let me explain. We cannot earn salvation by any kind of good works, whether of the Law of Moses or of any other moral code. (Although it remains true that God is aware of people in the world who listen to their conscience and attempt to do what is morally correct. Our Christian doctrine sometimes ignores the righteousness of the sincere people of the world, but God does not ignore it.)
The sincere behavior of people of the world cannot earn God’s salvation. God’s salvation comes as we receive the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only source of eternal Divine Life. Sometimes God will bring a righteous man to Christ for salvation, as God did Cornelius.
When we actually come to Christ, repenting of our worldly ways, Christ is conceived in us. Our task from then on is to follow the Holy Spirit each day so Christ may be formed in us. When Christ is formed in us we practice righteousness as a result of our new Nature. Until this new nature is formed, we must obey the exhortations of the New Testament—which we indeed can do if we will pray diligently and vigorously, believing Christ can give us victory over sin.
This is the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is a righteousness that is wrought in us as we pray and seek the Lord. It is not a self-righteousness by means of which we hope to earn salvation. It is a true righteous conduct always results from genuine salvation. Apart from such righteous conduct there is no salvation. Faith apart from works is dead, having no life, no salvation in it.
We see therefore that we have been grievously deceived. We are ignorant of the Word of God. Although Paul notifies us in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans that we need not be slaves of sin, we go about proclaiming that as long as we are in the world we are compelled to sin. We are ignorant of the teaching of the New Testament.
But how about Abraham? Wasn’t he declared righteous because he believed? Yes he was. But God blessed Abraham because of his righteous works.
Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. (Genesis 18:18,19)
God fulfilled His promise to Abraham because Abraham directed his children to do what is right and just. Do you think God would have blessed Abraham had he been an unrighteous man? This is ridiculous!
What, then, was Paul talking about when he stressed that Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of his belief? Paul was showing that righteousness is possible apart from the works of the Law of Moses. When God gave Abraham a staggering promise to believe, Abraham believed the promise and was righteous because of his belief entirely apart from the Law of Moses. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham obeyed God in this also. He was counted righteous for sacrificing his son, apart from the Law of Moses.
The Jews of Paul’s time could not conceive of a righteousness apart from the Law. Paul was telling them that now that God has commanded us to hear His Son, we are righteous by doing what God has requested, apart from the Law of Moses. If Paul had meant by his statements that all we are to do is to believe God has sent His Son, and now can practice unrighteousness all we care to, why then did Paul several times in his epistles tell us if we walk according to our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
But did not David speak of the man to whom God will impute righteousness apart from works? Yes, David did. However, when David behaved unrighteously with Bathsheba he was not counted righteous.
Again, Paul was declaring it is possible for God to impute righteousness to anyone at any time apart from the Law of Moses.
So we Gentiles have completely misunderstood Paul, supposing Paul meant we can continue in slavery to sin and inherit eternal life. A careful study of the sixth chapter of Romans will reveal that Paul clearly refuted those who were claiming that our sin causes grace to increase.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Romans 6:12,13)
“Yes,” we may respond, “but even though we keep on sinning, God keeps on forgiving us.”
But notice the last verse in this same chapter of Romans:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
The above verse often is preached to the unsaved. It has little to do with those who have not been baptized in water. It is the conclusion of the argument in the sixth chapter of Romans, where Paul maintains that if we do not choose to be the slave of righteous behavior we will die spiritually.
Paul says the same thing again in Chapter Eight:
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
It is time now for us to recognize we have been mistaken and to turn to God for help in living righteously. There is no Kingdom of God apart from righteous behavior. Christ did not come to enable us to enter the Kingdom of God and still continue to sin. Rather Christ came to enable us to cease sinning so we may inherit the Kingdom of God. There is an awesome difference between these two concepts.
Satan and some of the angels sinned in the beginning. God created man to be His throne and the solution to the problem of sin in God’s universe. This is why we have been created.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the first Man to appear as God means man to be. Christ loves righteousness and hates wickedness, and so God has given Christ great joy.
Christ lived righteously and taught righteousness. Christ is the Incarnation of God, the Word of God, the Law of God, the righteousness of God made flesh. Isn’t it so?
It is God’s will to create a church, a people called out from the world to be the fullness of Christ, a Body, and a Bride for the Lamb.
What is to be our purpose? We are to serve as the eternal Throne of God and of the Lamb. We are the new Jerusalem from which will issue the laws of righteousness. We shall govern with Christ forever, meaning that we shall enforce righteousness throughout the creation.
We are an enlargement of the Incarnation because we are the fullness of Christ.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:22,23)
What does this mean? It means the righteous laws of God will be revealed through the Church to every creature of God.
The term “incarnation” refers to the bodily manifestation of an invisible being. We see God when we see Christ in His human body, although now glorified. The invisible God is made visible in the glorified flesh and bones of Christ. The Word has been made flesh.
We continue this incarnation. God wants to be revealed in you and me. Sometimes we say we want the world to see Jesus in us. This is what I am stating.
What we may not realize is the importance of our body in this process. God is not revealed through our spirit but through our body. Our body is the temple of God.
In fact our body is the eternal temple of God, the eternal revelation of the invisible God. It is to this end that we have been created and given a body.
Our body does not belong to us but to God.
Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (I Corinthians 6:19,20)
Your body was created for God’s use. At present it is in an animal form. If you are proven worthy, in the Day of Resurrection your flesh and bone body will be raised from the dead and clothed with a great house of Divine Glory. Then you will resemble the Lord Jesus on the inside and the outside.
The point is, none of this is for you. It all is for God who is seeking a revelation of Himself, a revelation that will guide and bless all of His creatures.
You are a custodian of what is designed to be the eternal temple of God.
You can readily understand you are not a testimony of God when you are behaving in an unrighteous manner. You can talk about your religion all you want to, but people cannot see God because they know God does not behave as you are behaving.
The Kingdom of God and His righteousness! The scepter of Christ’s Kingdom is a scepter of righteousness. Christ rules in righteousness and enforces righteousness. There is no unrighteousness whatever in the Kingdom of God.
The purpose of the new covenant is to bring forth new creations who behave in a righteous manner. This, the Law of Moses does not have the power to do. The Law of Moses was only a device to control sin until the promised Seed, Christ, should come.
I have no idea what God is going to have to do to turn Christian teaching around until it reflects the Bible. For how long have the teachers of the Christian churches been announcing a “state of grace”? There is no such thing as a state of grace. The grace of God is God in Christ available to man so man can escape slavery to sin. Grace is not a means of declaring we are not sinning when in fact we are sinning. God’s grace is virtue, forgiveness, wisdom, and power so we can enter the Kingdom of God.
The hastiest review of the New Testament will reveal that grace is not merely a synonym for forgiveness, and that the main message of the New Testament is the necessity for righteous behavior.
The Christian Church is God’s witness to the world of His Person, His will, His way, and His eternal purpose in Christ. There is no other witness of God that portrays clearly these four aspects.
When we teach that the grace of God in Christ is God’s provision so we may continue to sin and still be counted righteous, we have destroyed the witness that God desires we give.
The Lord Jesus told us to let our light shine. By “our light” Jesus meant good works, righteous behavior. When people see our righteous behavior they will glorify God.
America has gone downhill morally over the past hundred years. The behavior of Americans today is much different from what it was in the nineteenth century. The change has not been for the good. I think this is true also of England, and perhaps of other European countries.
There always have been sin and wicked people. But I think the moral tone of most communities of the past was considerably higher than today.
I attribute this decline in righteousness to the preaching of the state of grace. The Christian church does not seem to understand its mission in the world, declaring God is ready to save all who will come to Christ, but then not knowing what to do with the people who do make a profession of Christ.
In time past, at least in America, there seemed to be community standards that more or less maintained an opposition to many of the sins of the flesh.
However, in our day there does not seem to be the same standards in many communities of America. The preachers are emphasizing grace-rapture-Heaven, an emphasis not calculated to bring about godly character and righteous behavior; and so there is little help there. A moral retreat in the communities, an incorrect understanding of Divine grace in the churches, and now a tidal wave of moral filth spewing from the media; the result will be a severe chastening of our country.
Moral decline does not take place overnight. If one steps back and compares the moral standards in America of today with America of several generations back, one can see the depths to which we have fallen.
The Muslim community, a considerable part of the population of the world, considers America to be morally decadent, a cancer to be destroyed as rapidly as possible. The Muslim religion is not of God, we know, but their observation of America is accurate. We have not given a true picture of the Christian God to the Muslims, so how can we blame them for their opinion of us?
We want to gather great numbers of people into our churches, but that does not solve the problem of the world or the problem of God.
The problem of the world is that the people have no example of godliness to follow, no accurate witness of God’s Person and will.
The problem of God is He wants to reveal Himself through us, and He cannot do this because we are feeble in the area of righteous conduct.
There is no light for the world and no kingdom for God.
In addition, our representatives in Congress, who must reflect the values and desires of the communities they represent, do not have a foundation of godliness on which they can stand and denounce abortion, sexual perversion, and other destructive practices in our country. The churches are not exerting moral power sufficient to ensure righteous government.
Today we are seeing the weakening of the stock market because of dishonest manipulation of funds by large corporations. On every hand there are fraudulent practices. Why is this? Because the Christian churches are not presenting a true witness of the God of Heaven.
God has made it clear to me that He is very displeased with the condition of the Christian churches and with the world at large. It is not God’s will that unrighteousness prevail among people. There is no need for this. If we were behaving ourselves, I think we would see many Muslim people take a more favorable view of America and the Christian religion. Otherwise they are going to attempt to blow us up.
What are we to do? We are to teach and preach the need for godly behavior on the part of the Christian people. It is helpful to say we are sorry and to weep at the altar. But that is not repentance. Repentance takes place when we turn from our unrighteous ways and begin to behave in a godly manner.
I suppose, first of all, that the Christian leaders and teachers are going to have to explain that we have been deceived concerning Divine grace. Such an explanation should be made in the various seminaries. If God pours out His Spirit on us, and no change is made in doctrine, we soon will slip back into ungodly behavior because of the demonic forces in America.
We simply have got to realize we have misunderstood the Apostle Paul—that Paul did not present Divine grace as a substitute for godly behavior.
I think if God can find people who will practice and preach righteous behavior, He will pour out His Spirit on us. It is useless for God to pour out His Spirit on us if we are going to dissipate it by emphasizing outstanding ministers, or our programs, or building big churches, or healing, or some other favorite pursuit.
We must insist on righteous behavior. We must insist that the believers present their body a living sacrifice and find the will of God for themselves. We must insist that believers deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord.
We must insist that the believers refrain from practicing the works of the flesh, as Paul set them forth in his epistles. We must insist that all gossiping and criticizing of one another cease entirely, with no compromise on this point.
We must tell the congregations that if they do not cease from ungodly behavior they will not inherit the Kingdom of God; that if they do not bear the fruit of Christ’s image they will be removed from the Vine; that if they do not deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord, they are not disciples—they are not genuine Christians.
We must inform God’s people they are going to be revealed before the Judgment Seat of Christ and are going to receive exactly what they have practiced while living on the earth.
We must warn the saints that in the Day of Resurrection they are going to be clothed with their own behavior; they are going to reap what they have sown, and mercy and grace will not change this.
We will have to bring to the attention of God’s elect that God’s love is unconditional as far as receiving the vilest of sinners, but is absolutely conditional to the extent only those who obey the commandments of Christ will receive the rewards we normally associate with the Christian faith. All the rewards go to the victorious saints.
We must warn the congregations that if they do not use the resources God has given them to build His Kingdom, their gifts will be removed from them and given to another, and they themselves will be removed into spiritual darkness.
We absolutely must make clear to God’s people that what has been preached has not been accurate, that if they are not serving Christ with a whole heart they will never hear “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Lord!” Instead they will be placed with others of like character and behavior to await the great and dreadful Day of the Lord.
We must show them from the parable of the virgins that those who do not keep filled with the Life of God will face a closed door when the Lord returns.
Because we American preachers have not been true prophets or faithful watchmen on the wall, the blood of the sinning Christians will be on our hands. We must now return to the churches and tell them God is highly displeased over our unrighteous conduct. He is not seeing us through Christ. The blood is not cleansing us from all sin because we are not walking in the light of His will.
We must warn the people that Christ is not returning to remove His Church to Heaven but to install His righteous Kingdom on the earth. According to Jude, the hypocrites in the churches will suffer in that day!
Above all, we must make clear that the doctrine of eternal security is absolutely incorrect. Many passages in the New Testament reveal that we can start on the path of life and then lose our eternal life, reaping corruption instead. We can be removed from our position in Christ at the right hand of God. The Lord Himself, as well as Paul, plus whoever wrote the Book of Hebrews, and also Jude, and John—all these warn us clearly of the danger of having our life choked out by the cares and sins of the world. No greater lie has been advanced in the Christian churches than the idea that once we have made a profession of belief in Christ we cannot be removed from the Vine. This is Satan saying: “You shall not surely die.”
I trust the reader will read the New Testament once again to see if I have told the truth in this brief essay.
We are to press forward until we know the will of Christ at all times. This is the path to the fullness of righteousness.
To walk with the living Jesus, to be guided by him in every detail of life, is the highest form of law and righteousness. Any religious routine added to such guidance brings confusion and is loss for Christ.
This is what I think I am hearing from the Lord. Let the reader go to Christ and ask if this is the truth. If the Lord affirms that it is, won’t you join with me as we endeavor to preach righteousness to the Lord’s people and to warn them concerning what they will face in the Day of Resurrection if they do not become new creations of righteous behavior.
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
(“The Scepter of Righteousness”, 4017-1)