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28. Weapons of the Spiritual Warfare—Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b)

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“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. . . .”

Introduction1

Years ago, when I entered seminary, I found a part-time job at a company which manufactured air conditioners for automobiles. I worked in the warranty division that received many defective and damaged parts from the businesses which sold and installed them. Many parts that were still functional had to be scrapped, due to flaws in their appearance or other damage.

I started to work for this company during the heat of the summer. Having come down to Texas from the Northwest, it was difficult to adjust to the heat, and our car did not have an air conditioner. Before long, I came to realize it would not be too difficult for me to build an air conditioning unit from parts that had been scrapped. We could have air conditioning for a few dollars – for the price these parts would bring as scrap metal.

A fellow-employee, who had been with the company for many years, heard me mention the possibility of making an air conditioning unit from scrap and immediately began to encourage me to do so. I went to the man in charge of selling scrap metal for the company, told him what I intended to do, and asked if that would be possible. He told me that it was. After several months, I had accumulated all the scrapped pieces needed to make up an air conditioning unit for our car. I paid for the scrapped parts and took them home, where I installed them on our car. It worked!

What followed was entirely unexpected. When I went back to work, I was eager to tell my fellow-employees how well the air conditioner worked. The fellow who had been the first to encourage me to build it responded in a way that I could hardly believe. He informed me it was against company policy for an employee to buy parts which had been scrapped and that I had broken the company rules by putting this air conditioner on my car.

Technically, he was right. It was against company policy. There was a conflict of interest involved. How easy (and tempting) it would be for me to scrap a part that I needed and then purchase it for a fraction of its actual value. To avoid such tempting situations, the company had a policy which prohibited employees from buying scrapped parts. Even though I had gone through official channels and had been honest and above board about what I was doing, I had technically broken the rules.

After a few hours of soul-searching, I disconnected the air conditioner and put it back in the scrap bin. Shortly after this, I found a better air conditioner (that was even the same brand and a better model) for a very reasonable price, and it served our family well for many years.

I do not think unkindly of my fellow-employee, but I do find his actions to be illustrative of Satan’s devices. This man encouraged me to do something he knew to be wrong, and then, when I did as he urged, I found him to be the first one to accuse me of wrong-doing. Satan is a great tempter, emphasizing the “benefits” of sin, and minimizing the consequences. Then, once we have done the wrong thing, we find that it is he who is our accuser.

Satan is the great hypocrite. He is the advocate of unrighteousness, and then, when we have sinned, He is the one who accuses us before God. Day and night, he accuses men before God. Those he accuses are the saints:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).

How is it that this prince of unrighteousness can accuse the righteous before God, day and night? Our text, along with the rest of the Scriptures, indicates that Satan attacks the church by attacking not only the righteous, but by attacking righteousness. The Christian’s armor, by which Satan’s attacks can be withstood, includes the breastplate of righteousness.

In our text, Paul does not take the time to define righteousness. This is because he expects us to understand it from the rest of the Bible. In this lesson, we will endeavor to survey the subject of righteousness. We will seek to learn how Satan is the enemy of righteousness, and how righteousness is the Christian’s defense against Satan’s schemes. We will also learn where righteousness comes from, and how it is to be put on.

Satan Is the Enemy of Righteousness

The first appearance of unrighteousness was in Satan:

    “You had the seal of perfection,

    Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.

    Every precious stone was your covering:

    The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond;

    The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper;

    The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald;

    And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets,

    Was in you.

    On the day that you were created

    They were prepared.

    You were the anointed cherub who covers,

    And I placed you there.

    You were on the holy mountain of God;

    You walked in the midst of the stones of fire.

    You were blameless in your ways

    From the day you were created,

    Until unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:12b-15).

From this point on, Satan has been the enemy of all righteousness. This is reflected in Paul’s words to Elymas, the Jewish false prophet and magician who opposed the gospel:

And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:6-10, emphasis mine).

At this critical point in the Book of Acts, Paul steps forward to rebuke and to bring divine judgment upon Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas the magician. He calls him a “son of the devil,” indicating not only his character, but the one whom he serves. And, as a “son of the devil,” he is condemned as the “enemy of all righteousness.”

Satan is the enemy of all righteousness, and thus those who are his servants also oppose righteousness. Elsewhere in Scripture, there are other descriptions of Satan which support Paul’s statement in Acts 13:10. Satan is called “the evil one” by both Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and John (1 John 2:13). Our Lord called him a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). He carries on his work through the “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). His fallen angelic assistants, the demons, are called “unclean spirits” (Matthew 12:43).

Righteousness – What It Is and Where It Comes From

The first mention of righteousness in the Bible is found in Genesis:

Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

Here we are told that righteousness was “reckoned” to Abraham, not for his works, but for his faith. In Romans 4, Paul makes a great deal of this to prove that Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works. Paul demonstrates that from the beginning of human history until now, men are saved by faith in the promise of God and not by virtue of their works. Shortly after, Moses records words that God Himself has spoken, helping us to understand how this imputed righteousness should manifest itself in the conduct of those who have been justified by faith:

17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 “For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:17-19).

Doing “righteousness” and “justice” is defined as “keeping the way of the Lord,” which results in the blessing of experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham. Later on, in Deuteronomy, righteousness is further defined as the fulfillment of the Law’s requirements:

“And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:25).

“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Neither be dismayed at their revilings” (Isaiah 51:7).

It quickly became evident that no one could attain to the level of righteousness which the Law required. God alone is righteous. He is righteous in all that He does. In righteousness, God saves men (Isaiah 51:6; see also Psalm 66:5; 143:4). In righteousness, God delivers men (Psalm 71:2). In righteousness, God judges (Psalm 35:4; 72:2; 96:13; 98:9) and speaks (Isaiah 45:19, 23; 63:1).

Lest the Israelites should forget that righteousness comes from God and is imputed on the basis of faith and not by works, God reminds them that all of the blessings which He bestows on them are not because of any “self-righteousness”:

4 “Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. 5 “It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people” (Deuteronomy 9:4-6).

Here, God reminds the Israelites of their sinfulness and tells them that the land of Canaan was given to them because of His faithfulness to His covenant, and due to the sin of those who were living in the land, whom God thrust out in judgment (see also Genesis 15:13-16).

From David’s words recorded in 2 Samuel 22, one might think that David’s theology was in error. It looks as though David thinks his own righteousness has resulted in the blessings he has received from the Lord:

    20 “He also brought me forth into a broad place;

    He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

    21 “The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness;

    According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.

    22 “For I have kept the ways of the LORD,

    And have not acted wickedly against my God.

    23 “For all His ordinances were before me;

    And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them.

    24 “I was also blameless toward Him,

    And I kept myself from my iniquity.

    25 “Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness,

    According to my cleanness before His eyes” (2 Samuel 22:20-25).

When we look elsewhere in David’s writings, however, we find that he was all too aware of his own sin, and those of all men:

    1 {For the choir director; according to mahalath. A Maskil of David.}

    The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”

    They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;

    There is no one who does good.

    2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men,

    To see if there is anyone who understands,

    Who seeks after God.

    3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

    There is no one who does good, not even one.

    4 Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge,

    Who eat up My people as though they ate bread,

    And have not called upon God?” (Psalm 53:1-4; see also Psalm 19:9-14; 32:1-5; 51:1-17).

The prophet Isaiah agrees, calling attention to how far short man’s righteousness falls from God’s standard of righteousness:

    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 (Isaiah 64:6).

The Old Testament saints knew that their righteousness was the righteousness of God, imputed to them on the basis of faith:

    {For the choir director; on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.}

    Answer me when I call,

    O God of my righteousness!

    Thou hast relieved me in my distress;

    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer (Psalm 4:1).

    22 “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth;

    For I am God, and there is no other.

    23 “I have sworn by Myself,

    The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness

    And will not turn back,

    That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.

    24 “They will say of Me,

    ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’

    Men will come to Him,

    And all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame.

    25 “In the LORD all the offspring of Israel

    Will be justified, and will glory” (Isaiah 45:22-25).

    10 I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,

    My soul will exult in my God;

    For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,

    He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,

    As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

    And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

    11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,

    And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,

    So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

    To spring up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:10-11).

6 “Moreover, we have not listened to Thy servants the prophets, who spoke in Thy name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. 7 “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day – to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee (Daniel 9:6-7).

The writer to the Hebrews sums up the matter, showing that the Old Testament saints were declared righteous by faith, not by works:

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. . . . 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:1-2, 39-40).

The Old Testament prophets spoke of that future day when the promised Messiah would bring an end to sin and would usher in true righteousness:

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place (Daniel 9:24).

5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).

When John the Baptist commenced his ministry of preparing men for the coming of Messiah, his message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Repentance is only necessary for sinners. Repentance is man’s acknowledgement of his unrighteousness and of His need for salvation. When Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John resisted it. Jesus’ answer to him was, “Permit it at this time for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

Jesus had little difficulty with those who acknowledged their sin and who sought salvation as a gift of God’s grace. His critics were those who thought themselves righteous. When Jesus began to associate with sinners, it ruffled the feathers of the Jewish religious leaders, who thought they were pious and expected Messiah to associate with them. Jesus responded by indicating that He came not to save the (self) “righteous,” but to save sinners (Luke 5:29-32).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shocked His audience and deeply offended the religious leaders by declaring that those who appeared to be the most righteous – the scribes and Pharisees – were not going to make it to heaven based on their own righteousness:

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was hypocritical and not true righteousness. True righteousness begins in the heart:

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26).

And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Pharisaism seeks to convince others that one is righteous by external appearances. By performing certain rituals, one might convince himself that he is righteous. But such external righteousness does not save. And when compared with the righteousness which God has provided in Christ, it is worthless:

2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:2-9).

From his own experience, and from a deep grasp of the gospel, Paul came to understand how a person can be regarded as truly righteous before God. This is most thoroughly explained by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. He first demonstrates that all men without exception, Jew or Gentile, are sinners before God (Romans 1:16—3:18). Law-keeping cannot make any man righteous; the law only reveals our lack of righteousness (Romans 3:19-20). God provided the righteousness we need in Christ, apart from law-keeping or good works. In Christ, God has offered His righteousness to all who will receive it. By faith in Him, the sinner is forgiven, and He is justified by faith, just as Abraham was (Romans 3:21—4:25).

In Romans 5, Paul shows how faith in Christ can save all who believe in Him. Adam brought unrighteousness upon all men. His one act of rebellion was one of unrighteousness. His sin brought condemnation upon the entire human race. But just as one man brought sin and death to all men, so One Man brought righteousness for all who believe in Him. God sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. By His one act of righteousness, all who trust in Him will be made righteous in God’s sight:

19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:19-21).

It is through faith in Christ and Him alone that we are made righteous in God’s sight:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When Christ returns to the earth, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, and the kingdom of God will finally and fully be established on this earth. Then unrighteousness will be no more:

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).

6 And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:6-8).

10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” 12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. 16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.” 17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost (Revelation 22:10-17).

To sum it all up: God alone is righteous. He is the personification of righteousness. The Law is God’s standard of righteousness. We cannot earn or obtain the righteousness which God requires by our works. We fall desperately short of His righteousness, and thus are under the sentence of death. The “righteousness” which we desperately need has been provided in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is imputed to us, on the basis of faith. All who trust in Him are reckoned to be righteous and are therefore justified by faith.

We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). A faith that is genuine is a living faith, which produces works of righteousness (James 2:14-26). The “righteousness” which God requires of us is not perfect, and its origin is not in us. It is that “will” and “work” which God produces in us (see Philippians 2:12-13) as we walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:4; Ephesians 5:18). We are saved by the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the righteousness which is evidenced by us in our daily walk is that righteousness of Christ which is imparted through us. Our defense against Satan is righteousness, the righteousness of Christ – His imputed righteousness, by which we stand, and His imparted righteousness, by which we walk.

Righteousness Is a Defense against Satanic Attacks

When Paul speaks of the “breastplate of righteousness,” he means the breastplate which is righteousness. Righteousness itself is the Christian’s breastplate. It is not the breastplate of our own righteousness that Paul is speaking of here. If my righteousness were my defense against Satan’s attacks, I would be in a lot of trouble. It is Christ’s righteousness that is our defense against Satan.

This is very clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament, in Zechariah 3. In the marginal note of Zechariah 3:1, we are informed that the word Satan literally means “adversary” or “accuser.” This word was a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word meaning “one lying in ambush for.” In this Zechariah 3 passage, we see Satan standing beside Joshua the high priest to accuse him. In the Book of Job, Satan is Job’s accuser. In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.” That is Satan’s strategy. Not only does he solicit us to sin, but when we have sinned, he then rushes in to condemn us for sinning. A confirmed sinner himself, he delights in pointing out the sins of others.

What, then, is the Christian’s defense against Satan’s accusations? What is the Christian’s armor when Satan accuses him of sin? Surely it is not our personal righteousness! That is precisely what has failed. Righteousness is both a standard and a goal in the Bible. Righteousness is also a divinely ordained means by which we stand fast in the midst of Satan’s opposition. In our text in Ephesians 6, righteousness is identified as a part of the armor which God provides the Christian as a defense against Satan’s opposition. While Paul does not tell us here just how it is that righteousness serves to protect us, other texts in the Bible do tell us how it works.

Consider Zechariah 3:1-5:

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. 4 And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” 5 Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by.

Joshua, the high priest, appears to represent the nation Israel here. Satan, the accuser, stands at Joshua’s side, not to defend, but to accuse. The Angel of the Lord, God Himself, intervenes on Joshua’s behalf and rebukes Satan. The words of the Angel of the Lord indicate why God rebukes Satan and why He defends Joshua. The filthy garments of Joshua typify his sins and the sins of the nation Israel. It is on the basis of these sins that Satan accuses Joshua. But the Angel, whom we understand to be the pre-incarnate Christ, removes these filthy garments, replacing them with spotless festal garments. Satan has no right to accuse Joshua because his sins have been removed. More than that, they have been replaced by the righteousness of Christ. Satan therefore has no basis for accusing Joshua.

What a beautiful counterpart to this Old Testament passage, which we find in the New Testament Book of 1 John, where John writes,

My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).

Instead of the accuser, Satan, standing beside us to accuse us as he did Joshua, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ “the righteous.” He stands by the Father’s side to plead our case. The righteous Son of God does not plead for pity or leniency but for a full pardon, rooted in His own righteousness, due to the fact that He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary, making propitiation for our sins.

When we sin, Satan is quick to accuse us, for that is his nature, that is his strategy. Our defense against Satan’s accusations is found in the breastplate of righteousness, His righteousness, in which we stand. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, little Christian meets Satan in the way, shortly after he has received his armor. In his attack on Christian, Satan hurls his accusations, reminding Christian of his wickedness, of how he fell into the Slough of Despond, and how he left his roll behind when he rested too long. Bunyan understood well how Satan attacks the Christian. It is our sins that condemn us; it is Christ’s righteousness, imputed to us, that saves us from our sins. It is His imputed righteousness which enables us to stand, even against the accusations of the evil one.

Satan not only attacks us directly, by accusing us, he also opposes us indirectly, by infiltration and intrigue, employing his schemes in such a subtle way that we may not even know he is at work. Satan seeks to infiltrate our lives, to weaken our defenses, and to solicit us to sin. Satan is an opportunist, watching for every occasion where he might take advantage of a weakness. Paul has already warned us about this in regard to anger:

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Satan looks for points of weakness, where he can capitalize and where, if possible, he will prompt us to practice unrighteousness. The devil recognized the fleshly attitudes of Peter regarding suffering and glory and prompted him to rebuke our Lord and to seek to turn Him from the way of the cross (Matthew 16:21-23). Satan recognized David’s pride and self-sufficiency and put it in his heart to number the Israelites (see 1 Chronicles 20:1; 21:1). He took advantage of Judas’ greed and frustration and gained control in his life as an unbeliever (see Matthew 26:6-13; Luke 22:3; John 13:27). He recognized the impure motivation of Ananias and Saphira and filled their hearts so as to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).

While a husband and wife might mutually agree to abstain from sexual intimacy in order to pray, too long a period of separation was regarded by Paul as dangerous, for Satan could be counted on to tempt them due to their lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5). Were the Corinthians to refuse to forgive and restore to fellowship a brother who had stumbled and then repented, Satan would be quick to take advantage of this opportunity (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). If a young widow did not remarry, she would very easily fall into a state of idleness, in which gossip and other sins would become a strong temptation, setting her up to sin, and thus to follow Satan (1 Timothy 5:13-15).

As I understand the Scriptures, Christians cannot say, “The devil made me do it.” The sin in our lives does not begin with Satan; it begins within us:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt any one. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death (James 1:13-15).

Satan appeals to the lusts of our own flesh and to the evil inclinations of our own hearts. He fans the flames of our own fallen natures, adding fuel through the encouragement and enticements of “the world” – the sinful culture in which we live.

A classmate of mine in seminary, Tim Timmons, wrote a book entitled Chains of the Spirit. In this book, he indicates some of the ways in which Satan gains an inroad in the life of an individual. Among others, Tim suggests that Satan can infiltrate a life through uncontrolled anger, drugs, sexual immorality, and the occult. Each of these areas is sin, and each involves the giving up of control in one’s life. According to Paul, the Christian must rely upon God to live the spiritual life and to be victorious over sin, by means of the filling (control) of His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

Satan watches for any sign of weakness, and then he capitalizes on it. To give in to sin through the weakness of our flesh is to give Satan an inroad into our spiritual lives. Sin causes a gap in our armor. Righteousness provides no openings for Satan, no handle with which to get a grip on our lives. Righteousness is a part of our defense. A good offense (righteousness) is a good defense (against unrighteousness).

When we give in to the impulses of our flesh and the promptings of the world, we not only sin, we now find Satan attacking us in a different way, as the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). I believe Satan’s accusations come in various forms. Satan attacks us before God (Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 12:10). He often incites men to be our accusers, sometimes using those who are our fellow-believers (see Philippians 1:12-17). In addition to these accusations, there is the indictment which comes from our own conscience.

Satan and his demonic assistants also seek to promote a false righteousness. In this present age, Satan’s servants disguise themselves as those who are righteous and who seek to promote righteousness. But their righteousness is counterfeit, and we must be most careful not to be taken in by them:

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

False righteousness has two distinguishing earmarks. The first is that it avoids the fact that true righteousness comes only from Christ. True righteousness is never really ours; it is His righteousness, given to us and manifested through us. Second, false righteousness almost always is in the form of “good works” which men seek to perform in order to obtain man’s approval and God’s. In Corinth, the false apostles who paraded as “angels of light” tried to turn the church from the simple message of the gospel: Christ crucified. They attempted to replace the “foolishness of the gospel” with the “wisdom of men” (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-3:23). They sought to turn men from the teaching of Paul and the authentic apostles (i.e., the Scriptures) to their own teaching and leadership. There will always be those who seek to turn men from the truth in order to gain a following (see Acts 20:29-30). The source and standard for the truth and for true righteousness is the Word of God. The sacrificial spirit of our Lord will be evident in those who hold to the truth:

28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 “I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. 34 “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35 “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all (Acts 20:28-36).

True righteousness will always be that of Christ, and not that earned by human effort:

2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4 although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:2-11).

[Here the manuscript ends and the author’s notes on the yet undeveloped Conclusion begin.]

Conclusion

When we take our eyes off Christ and His righteousness and begin to focus on ourselves (and our righteousness) or anything else, we are in a weakened condition, and set ourselves up for an attack.

This certainly means that we must take sin and righteousness seriously. After all, how can we take a casual attitude toward sin if we know that it undermines our defenses and makes us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

Church discipline. The church dares not harbor sin in its membership, any more than we can harbor it in our lives.

Church discipline exposes unconfessed sin, opens the door to Satanic destruction, and thus sets an example for the whole church.

The awesome, almost unbelievable, truth is that lost men and women not only would rather believe a lie than the truth; they would rather live in a world of unrighteousness than in a world of righteousness.

The story of the Gadarene demoniac – Jesus was about to command the demons to leave the country; the people asked Jesus to leave their country. They were more comfortable with a demoniac than with the Savior. Hell is not just the place unbelievers deserve; it is the place they want.


1 Copyright © 2006 by Community Bible Chapel, 418 E. Main Street, Richardson, TX 75081. This is the not yet completed manuscript of Lesson 28 in the Ephesians: The Glory of God in the Church series prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on September 27, 1992. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit. The Chapel believes the material presented herein to be true to the teaching of Scripture, and desires to further, not restrict, its potential use as an aid in the study of God’s Word. The publication of this material is a grace ministry of Community Bible Chapel.