Sermon, "Robe of Righteousness," Philippians 3:8-9

“Robe of Righteousness,” Philippians 3:8-9

Last week before the benediction, I made the unplanned comment for the sake of visitors that we aim at about an hour-long service, though we do not always make it. I said, just in case you have somewhere important to be like to meet with your parole officer at noon on Sundays or something. I got to thinking about that after the service. It was unplanned and I would like to think rather obviously meant without any malice, but I thought, you know, somebody could take an off the cuff remark like that the wrong way and I hope nobody did. Now, I think humor is too valuable a tool in preaching and teaching to leave it in the toolbox for fear of possible occasional unintended offense. Some people are very sensitive. Some people just do not know me well enough to realize how terribly funny I really am and may take something in a way completely unintended. While that is a risk I decided was worth taking a long time ago, I hope no one took it, as anything other than it was intended – lighthearted joke to soften your hearts to an hour-ish service.

It actually makes a good starting point for this morning. In this way: what if someone is here who does have a meeting with his or her parole office this week? I cannot imagine it would be on a Sunday, but what if they do? Listen, I grow up around addicts, criminals, and parolees. Those are kinda’ my people. And more than that, this is the place for everybody. Princes and parolees find righteousness the same way. It is not in their inherent worth.

Paupers and prelates stand equally eternally poor in the shadow of the Cross and we are all made equally princely when covered in His righteousness.

My aim this morning is one thing; that we would all leave here today more confident in our covering, strengthened in our Christ-centered identity.

CIT: When we are saved, we are forever securely covered in righteousness.
CIS: As we sojourn, our covering becomes what and who we are.

Background: The reformer Martin Luther defined the “righteousness of God” as a righteousness valid before God, which a man may possess through faith. In other words, the “righteousness of God” is the righteousness that comes from God; it is God’s way of making a sinner “right” before Him. Luther said this righteousness is the first and last need of any [every] sinful individual.

The “righteousness of God,” as discussed in Paul’s letter to the Romans, carries a double meaning. It is both legal and moral. The Greek word dikaiosunē (dik-ah-yos-oo'-nay) refers to the legal action God takes in declaring believers righteous – that is, “without guilt or sin”—but it also refers to “perfect righteousness,” a characteristic that can only be attributed to God Himself in Scripture. This characteristic is the lofty standard for human behavior, which cannot be achieved by anyone apart from God’s provision.

In short, righteousness is a gift from God (Rom. 3:21-5:21). Period. Remember, princes and parolees stand in the same need of grace. Paupers and prelates (a prelate is a minister, clergy, an archbishop). In a proper biblical worldview, there are only two kinds of people – unsaved sinners far from God for a lack of faith and saved sinners, covered in a robe of grace.

There is no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ, for we could not be declared “without sin” except through Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. That is why there is an exclusivity to Jesus. It’s only because His blood atoned for sin.  In the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus we discover that, “it is through faith that a righteous person has life” (Rom. 1:17). [1]

Application: so, we are declared righteous legally. Christ took our place. We receive His inheritance. But what about morally? I’m not sure I’m righteous! Well, there is a sense in which what you wear becomes what you are and you become it. It clings to you and you comport yourself within its confines. In a photo of you or me at Disney World in our favorite Mickey Mouse shirt, you cannot really tell where you begin and the shirt ends.
Do you have a favorite shirt? I do. In fact, the other day Christina told me that if I’m going to keep making devotional and theological videos and placing them online where untold numbers of people potentially see them, I’m going to have to stop wearing the same few shirts all the time! Ok. Faith enough!

What you wear is how you are known. My kids are so different. As they are growing, they want to dress a certain way to project an outer image of who they are internally. Sebastian wants to buy pre-ripped jeans while Ephram presses on me for suits! Felicity wants to be pretty while Carmelie wants to be sparkly. Hansel… well, he is a six-year-old boy!

I saw a picture of a Lions fan completely dejected at yet another non Super Bowl season. The caption read, “At least Detroit fans can count on consistency.” Even in their losing and his disappointment, he wears the shirt.

It is not just something he wears. It is a part of who he is! Here is the thing. Wearing the robe of righteousness is how we know we are saved. That is the source of our assurance in Christ. The picture of being clothed in righteousness is exactly how to think about it. You say, “Ok, that’s great but that robe is invisible and spiritual. How do I know I am wearing it?”

Here are three questions rather poignantly posed by the Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Do you love Jesus perfectly? No one raise any hands. Ask yourself in your heart if you love Jesus perfectly. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (NASB) This then is the test of perfect love for Christ. Do we perfectly keep His commands from a heart bursting with love, leading to obedience? No we do not.

Do you love Jesus as much as you ought to love Him? Well, if we answer no to the first question then surely we must answer no to the second question. And if we answer no to both then is there any hope for us?! Is there any evidence of our having been clothed in the righteousness of Christ, therefore being a new creation in Christ who is full of hope?
The last question brings us home to hope. Do you have any affection for Christ at all? Do you have any affection for Christ in your heart? Then you have assurance of salvation because only those whom Christ has saved can have any true affection for Him. That may sound like news to some of you, but this is a straightforward and common biblical teaching. Romans 5:5-6 says, “Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (NIV84)

Sproul writes, “So if a person can answer “Yes” when I ask whether he has an affection for Christ, even though he may not love Jesus as much as he ought to (i.e. perfectly), that assures me the Spirit has done this transforming work in his soul. This is so because we do not have the power in our flesh to conjure up any true affection for Jesus Christ.” AMEN.

Do you have even a mustard seed of love for Christ! All of our affection for Him flows from gift of love flowing from Him. We are saved in Christ by Christ. Our lives are built on the firm foundation of Christ and He alone is the master builder! We have security in Christ because of Christ alone!

He is calling all sinners everywhere to come home. That is the message of the Cross – that is the only message of the Church. God is calling sinners to come home, come out of the foreign land of separation, be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, put on the robes of our adoption through faith in Jesus and learn to live like a child of the King. When we were too weak to save ourselves, He saved us by clothing us in the righteousness of His Son.

That, all by itself, is the witness of our adoption decree. We are children of the most High God and King if we are clothed in that robe. Ours is but to wear it and to stay awake to its presence as its weight and beauty reshapes us until we are known by not only its presence on us but also its impact in us. Amen.

[1] Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained.


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