What is the New Covenant answer to overcoming sinful behaviors? It is becoming skilled in the word of righteousness. This blog unlocks one of the most important truths in the Bible
Question – Are we righteous (in right standing with God) because of what we do or what Jesus has done? Most of us know the correct theological answer (because of what Jesus has done), but, if you are like me, your emotional connection to God at times does not indicate you really believe this.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews goes into deep theological waters in chapter five. He is talking about Melchizedek, an Old Testament foreshadowing of Jesus, but he cannot go on because the Hebrews have become “dull of hearing” and cannot spiritually comprehend what he is saying (Hebrews 5:11).
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Those “unskilled” in the word of righteousness are called babes and are dulled to the scriptural truths that will make them victorious and reign in life. The unskilled are trying to establish their own righteousness rather than receive and keep the gift of righteousness from Christ.
“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
In the OId Testament, Jewish people tried to become righteous through doing righteous acts. “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:25). It was an impossible standard that no one could reach. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
Everything changed because of Jesus. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As we receive this abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, we not only become righteous, but we have the key to overcoming sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
What does it mean, then, to be skilled in the word of righteousness? How do I make sure I am not a babe but can feast on the meat of God’s word? Here is the indicator:I will believe I am still righteous when I sin. I will refuse to believe I can sin away the righteousness I have in Jesus. I will refuse to try to establish my righteousness through my own efforts.
Many preachers and teachers over-emphasize the Ten Commandments and Christian works when speaking of righteousness. Even though there is much wisdom that can be gained in these, making it the prominent teaching will actually create more sin. “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound” (Romans 5:20). If we focus more on what we need to do than what Christ has done, we are not rightly dividing the Old and New Testaments. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Some would say, “This teaching will lead to more sin.” On the contrary, this teaching is the only teaching that can truly cause us to overcome sinful behaviors.
As we become skilled in the word of righteousness by continually believing we are righteous, we will start receiving the meat of God’s word which will cause us to reign in life. Yes, we may need help from gifted counselors and anointed people to minister to problem-causing root issues in our lives, but our belief that we are righteous will be the single most important thing to seeing righteousness manifest in us.
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Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.