Notes on Christian Warfare (17)

“Fight the Good Fight”

The way, the truth and the life!

The Need for Personal Righteousness  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

The life Christ in us is but the beginning. We are, one might say, in the process of being saved, sanctified. As opposed to being in the process, the pathway to perdition. We still live in the body, and it is a body of death, the flesh remains. Hence the apostle Paul’s plaintive cry, “wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24)? We face also, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Corinthians 15:26). But it is no longer the doorway to hell, but to the resurrection and to heaven itself. We still sin but the principle of regeneration remains. The principle of grace and holiness is indestructible, it is ours, we are safe for time and for eternity in Jesus. And so we have the ability to stand (v14). Not in any righteousness of our own, but of Christ’s and Christ’s alone. Our righteousness’s are as polluted rags, “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Were we to attempt to stand against the enemy, Satan in our own righteousness we would soon be promptly pierced through. We would not be able to stand without the shield of Christ’s righteousness (v14). Imagine going into this warfare in our filthy rags (v12)? It is for this reason that Jesus warns those who wish to follow him without understanding this very principle of spiritual warfare. “What king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So, therefore, anyone of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:31-33). If we cannot renounce our own righteousness and trust in Christ’s alone we cannot enter this spiritual warfare and expect to win. In fact, Jesus says we cannot be his disciples.

God has made provision for us, protection for our hearts against the enemy of our souls. The breastplate of Jesus’ righteousness (v14). By faith we forth trusting in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. This is what the armour of God is for. We can stand unashamedly in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, delivered, relieved from our sense of shame. Our hearts cleansed, a right spirit is the very essence of fruitful gospel service. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). The prophet Isaiah, “he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak” (Isaiah 59:16-17). We have been entrusted with the stewardship and the proclamation of the gospel. Therefore, this we must be assured of, we have been by faith personally credited with the righteousness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. If we are to know the gracious power of God attending our service (1Thessalonians 1:5). Our hearts are kept safe and warm in relation to God. Our hearts are constantly kindled with the love of Jesus. We are willing and confident to fight the spiritual battles, to fight the good fight of faith. But a warning note in finishing here is appropriate. This letter was addressed in the first instance to the church at Ephesus, which was very soon to lose its first love, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
Sermon Audio

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