Thursday, March 14, 2013

Righteous Deeds and White Robes

Is it necessary to have a white robe to live in the Holy City of heaven?  If so, how do you get one of these special robes? And how do you keep it clean? Is this all done for you, or do you have any part in it? Let’s see if there is a relationship between our white robes and our righteous deeds. 

We All Have a Destiny
The Bible teaches that we each have a destiny. “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (Rev 13:10; cf. Jer 15:2b; 43:11)

For thousands of years, men have believed in and worshipped the god of Fortune or Destiny, their lucky stars, which govern the events of their lives (Is 65:11-12).  These are mere idols and not gods at all. In fact, there is One, Who predestines events to occur, and His name is Yahweh.  If we worship Him alone and obey Him, we will be blessed.  He has a wonderful plan for our lives (Ps 139:16; Eph 1:5, 11; 2:10; Rom 8:29-30). 

However, Scripture teaches that we have choices to make.  "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (Rev 22:11)

Each person has a free will, and if it’s their desire to do wrong, let them do wrong.  God will not force obedience from you.  If you’re a filthy person, you have that option and God will let you continue to be filthy until you choose the Lord’s way.  But as long as you continue in those sinful ways, you will not enter into the kingdom heaven. If you are righteous, you must still practice righteousness.  If you are holy, you must still keep yourself holy.  It’s not just a moment in time, but a deliberate lifestyle.  “Keeping yourself holy” is an act on your part, as is “practicing righteousness.”

Your Robe Can Become Filthy
When you come to Christ, you're cleansed from sin and made white as snow.  But as I've just said, if you do not continue to practice righteousness, but practice sin instead, your robe will become filthy.  There is a passage of Scripture about this in Isaiah.  The prophet says:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities. (Isa 64:6-7)

Many take this out of context, and use this Scripture to teach that the righteous deeds of every disciple of Christ are like filthy rags.  This is not correct.

The reason the righteous deeds of the Israelites at that time were like filthy garments was because they had sinned and continued in sin for a long time.  This is found in the verse immediately preceding the one above.  Isaiah says to the Lord, "You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?" (Isa 64:5)

The same happens to any believer, who continues in sin.  They stain their robe. Your robe must be kept pure white and spotless.

You Must Wash Your Robe
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.” (Rev 22:14, NASB)

The King James Version translates it differently to say that those who do his commandments have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the Holy City. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev 22:14, KJV). So in the King James, the phrase “those who wash their robes” is translated “they that do his commandments.”  It’s not necessary to spend a lot of time, as some have, trying to determine which translation is correct, because there are plenty of other Scriptures that teach we must do God’s commandments to enter life (e.g., Mt 7:22-27; Mk 10:17-19; Jn 15:10; He 5:9; Js 2:17, 26; Re 12:17; 14:12). 

If you look at the context of Rev 22:14-15, you can clearly see that the ones who do not wash their robes are the ones who continue to do wrong and continue to be filthy.  John wrote, “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” (Rev 22:15).  So it doesn’t matter if you call Jesus your Lord, or even if you are a pastor of a church, if you continue in these things, you will not enter the Holy City.  It’s that simple.  Washing your robe is connected with what you do – in other words your lifestyle of obedience to the Lord. 

Let me be clear about doing the commandments.  All religion which teaches that salvation is by religious works is false.  As the American evangelist, Bob Jones, Sr., once said, “A Christian does good deeds, but just doing good deeds does not make a man a Christian.” Jones also said, “The acid test of our love for God is obedience to His Word.” 

Remember that it is only the ones who practice lawlessness that Jesus ultimately rejects. "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Mat 7:23).  Lawlessness (Greek, anomia) is a violation of the law, illegality, unrighteousness, and wickedness. The very word “lawless” in English has the word law in it – Law-less.  We cannot define the word lawlessness as used in Scripture without making any reference to the Law of the Lord. Jesus does not care how gifted you are.  What matters to Him is whether you practice righteousness and do what He has commanded.  You must wash your robe.

How do you wash your robe?
Now that we’ve established the fact that you must wash your robe in order to enter heaven, we need to find out how to wash it.  This is like the garment care instructions on the clothing tag.

The apostle John wrote in his Revelation: “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (Rev 7:14).  So in this passage, the ones who came out of the great tribulation have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That’s still the same way that we wash our robes.  His precious, sinless blood alone can wash away every sinful stain. 

But the Scripture has more to say about obtaining white garments.  In the message the Lord gave to John for the angel (messenger) of the church in Laodicea, He said: “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Rev 3:18)

Why would a messenger of a church, such as a pastor, need to buy from Jesus white garments so that the shame of his nakedness would not be revealed? How could the Lord tell him that he was wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked? If you believe that grace automatically covers all his sin, no matter how he lives, then the command of the Lord to the angel of the Laodicean church would make no sense.

How would he buy white garments from Jesus?  Just through confessing sin asking forgiveness and then continuing in the same sin?  No, we need to be overcomers, which requires that we persevere in our faith to the end, forsaking sin, and continuing in righteousness.

'He who overcomes will 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. (Rev 3:5)

Overcoming is not a passive act, but a very active one.  It comes from the Greek word “nikao” meaning “to subdue (literally or figuratively), conquer, overcome, prevail, or get the victory. It is only the one who overcomes who will be clothed in white garments! 

What does fine white linen stand for?
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Rev 19:7-8)


Notice the Bride makes herself ready.  Since the Bride makes herself ready, this requires both a decision and action on her part, which is motivated by her desire and love for the Bridegroom.  The fine white linen stands for the righteous acts of the holy ones.  Righteous acts are good deeds, equitable actions, good things God’s people do, or righteous deeds.  The fine, white linen does not stand for simply a positional righteousness. It does not refer only to a spiritual state of being righteous that is devoid of accompanying actions. Righteous acts are the things that God's holy people do that have his approval. 

Here are some other translations of Rev 19:8:
(CEV)  "She will be given a wedding dress made of pure and shining linen. This linen stands for the good things God's people have done."

(ESV)  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

(GNB)  She has been given clean shining linen to wear." (The linen is the good deeds of God's people.)

(GW)  She has been given the privilege of wearing dazzling, pure linen." This fine linen represents the things that God's holy people do that have his approval.


Contrary to the teaching that all our righteous deeds are like filthy garments, for the overcomer, who washes his robe, the Lord delights in his righteous deeds.  As the prophet Isaiah says in the Scripture I mentioned earlier,
"You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?" (Isa 64:5).  The Lord welcomes the person who rejoices in doing righteousness.
 
So why would someone say that this is legal teaching?
While you are saved by grace alone, once you are saved and become righteous, you must continue to PRACTICE righteousness.  Once you are holy, you must continue to BE holy. “…let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy." (Rev 22:11b)

The Greek word of interest to us in Rev 19:8 is dikaioma.  According to the Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich Greek Lexicon, this word means a “righteous deed.” This same Greek word is used by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans to refer to the righteous act of Christ on the cross. He says, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” (Rom 5:18)

This same Greek word is also used by the apostle John in his Revelation to refer to the righteous acts of the Lord God Almighty. He wrote: “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,  ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Rev 15:2-4)

Look closely at the lyrics to this song and notice how the saints who sing this song are repeatedly singing about the WAYS of the Lord God, which are righteous and true.  They are singing about his marvelous WORKS.  They are singing about his righteous acts.  And the word used for the Lord’s “righteous acts” here is dikaioma, which is the same word used in Revelation 19:8 for the righteous acts of the saints. 

According to Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, this word in other contexts also means a regulation, requirement, or commandment.  For example, when Luke describes Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, he says, “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (Luk 1:6).  The word dikaioma in this context literally means righteous deeds, but by implication it is referring to the Lord’s righteous requirements.  So we could say that this couple was walking blamelessly in all the commandments and righteous deeds of the Lord.  They were DOING the Lord’s good deeds by being obedient servants.  They were “walking” blamelessly, which refers to how they were living their lives.  This is about their lifestyle.  It’s about their way of life, their daily activities, which were based upon the commandments and righteous requirements of the Lord.  You cannot have righteous deeds without the underlying commandments and righteous requirements of the Lord.  They go hand in hand. Therefore, if we understand the word dikaioma this way, we can correctly understand the righteous acts of the saints in Rev 19:8.  Certainly the righteous acts of the saints are based upon the Lord’s commandments and righteous requirements.  That is their premise.

Paul also uses the word dikaioma to refer to the requirements of the Law.  He says, “So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?” (Rom 2:26).  He speaks of the uncircumcised man in a good light here, showing how such a man would be regarded as if he were circumcised if he keeps the Lord’s righteous requirements. 


Paul again uses this word to refer to the righteous requirements of the Law as they relate to the life of the saint. He said, “…that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4).  This is a key verse, because it teaches that if we walk according to the Spirit, and not according to the sinful nature, the righteous requirements of the Law will be fulfilled in us. This word “fulfilled” is pleroo, which means to execute something, so that the requirements are fully carried out or completed perfectly or done to the fullest extent.  You could say that as we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, the righteous requirements of the Lord are executed in our lives, so that God’s righteous requirements are fully carried out, or completed perfectly, or done to the fullest extent in us. 

Paul uses this word dikaioma to refer to the righteous requirements of the Lord when he says, “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Rom 1:32). He was saying that the wicked people know that those who practice such deeds deserve death, because the Lord’s righteous requirements (dikaioma) teach this.  Yet even though they know the ordinance of God, they practice the very things they ought not to do. 


Putting it All Together
We all have a destiny. What’s your destiny?  Rest assured there is One, Who predestines events to occur, and His name is Yahweh.  He has a wonderful plan for your life. If you worship Him alone and obey Him, you will be blessed.  But you’ve got a free will, and until that will is surrendered to the Lord, it’s going to get you into trouble.  You’ve got choices to make in life, which are going to be based on your desires.  You also have a very real enemy who hates you and wants to keep God's plan for your life from being fulfilled.

If you wish, you can be like the wicked that perish, who know the Lord’s righteous requirements and do not practice them. Many Christians today – even pastors and missionaries -- have chosen to do this.  They are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. If they do have robes, their garments are dirty and wrinkled.

Instead, we must be like the saints in glory who have made themselves ready by doing or practicing the righteous requirements of the Lord.  They have washed their robes and do the Lord’s commandments. They  do not rely on obedience to the Law to save them, because it is only by grace that we are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  But as they keep His commandments, they abide in His love (Jn 15:10).

Yes, my friend, there is something you must do. Wash your robe! Your robe must be washed in the blood of the Lamb. But then afterward you must also continue to be holy, as well as practice righteousness. The fine, white linen of the saints stands for their righteous deeds.  Always remember that.

I encourage you today to practice righteousness, and be sure your righteousness is more than merely an external one for men to see.  Do it from the heart, through faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, and for the glory of God.  And always remember that apart from the Lord Jesus we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: The message I've just taught in this article has been beautifully expressed in a couple of poems my young daughters have written, called Perfect for the King and Reward of the Overcomer.  I encourage you to take a moment to read those.  And if you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar, such as the companion messages, Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice, Doing What is Right, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? I also recommend Restored Truth and Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. Some other related articles available on the Home page include:

Law of Love in the New Testament
The Law Established Through Faith
Costly Grace

Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
 The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Image credit: "Welcome My Child" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. The "Christ's Bride" drawing is from my fifteen-year old daughter, C.V. Lacroix, and may be found in the art gallery at A Brush with Life.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Praise the Lord! To God be the glory for His wonderful Word.

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    2. Brandy, I would like to invite you to attend Doulos Training School, opening on September 1 for all who are interested in online distance education in discipleship! See link for details at http://writingforthemaster.blogspot.com/2015/07/doulos-training-school.html. Shalom!

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