by Justin Huffman
Righteousness! Is there any finer ambition, nobler aspiration, or loftier aim than this?
God could have given us a book that equipped us to get rich quick. He could have given us a text that included all of the scientific information that we would need in order to heal every disease or cure every illness. God could even have given us a copy of the Book of Life, which Revelation tells us contains the names of all His children. (20:15) And yet He determined it to be more important to give us the Bible. Why? Because of what it is able to do.
What can it do? Can it make us wealthy? Yes, with riches that cannot be lost or stolen. Can it treat our illness? Yes, with a balm that ministers to the soul. Can it give us assurance that we will live in Heaven forever? Yes, by describing those to whom eternal life is promised and by instructing us how to live like them.
Apparently God places a higher value on these spiritual qualities than He does upon the material wealth or health that He could have provided us.
Should not we do the same? Shouldn’t we lay aside popularity for purity, safety for sanctification, and comfortableness for conformity to Christ? There is no joy more genuine than that of a clean conscience and a satisfied soul. And the Bible gives us instruction on our way to that very end.
The word instruction refers to the chastening, training, and nurturing of children. This is the way the Lord deals with us in His word. Someone has said that “the Bible is deep enough for a theologian to drown in and yet shallow enough for a child of God to wade in.” Certainly it is true that God tutors us, in his Word, on a level that any of His children can understand and benefit from.
Psalm 119:9 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” To this is added, in the 130th verse, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” It doesn’t matter how young or old, or smart or simple, we may be; the Bible has correction for us to take in and refreshment for us to wade in… so let’s wade in!
The inspired writer of Hebrews used the same word in chapter 12, to describe the faithfulness of God in chastening His children, as Paul used in 2 Timothy 3:16 regarding the Scriptures’ usefulness to instruct in righteousness: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (v. 7). Here we see that part of the work of instructing us as His children is to chasten us as our Father.
God chastens us by many different means: He may use hardships (Ps. 119:67), conscience (Ro. 13:4-5), or even a good friend (Pr 27:6). But one source that we can always count on for faithful rebuke is the word of God. Unlike even our best friends, it will never spare our feelings at the cost of the truth.
The Word of God is relentless in its faithfulness. It always speaks the truth, no matter what our mood, our circumstances, or our feelings.
Some have made the mistake of thinking that the Bible is only given to us for comfort, to rock us in a cradle of consolation. But we see a much more diverse use of God’s word, even in the Bible itself. The people on the day of Pentecost found out just how powerful the chastening of God’s Word is, when their hearts were pricked by the bold reprimands of Peter and they were made to cry out, “What shall we do?” (Ac 2:37)
The church at Corinth, likewise, felt the smarting of God’s word, as Paul wrote his first epistle to them and rebuked them for the sins that were being tolerated among them. Sadly, because of the sting that we feel when we are walking in rebellion against God or harboring some sin in our lives, we often avoid coming to the Bible and, as a result, put off the conviction that is waiting there for us. Yet, in his second letter to them, Paul told the Corinthians that such faithful wounds were for their own good: "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Corinthians 7:9,10).
Sometimes we, as parents, can make the Christian life seem to our children like a series of “no’s” and “don’ts”. In doing so, we forget that the Christian life is more about what we are supposed to be doing, than what we are supposed to be avoiding.
However, the Bible does not make this mistake. God doesn’t just teach us how to avoid sin, but also how to live holy lives. Over and again we find clear, positive teaching as to how we are to behave in public or in the privacy of our own home and heart. Although most of the Ten Commandments begin with the phrase “Thou shalt not,” it is also important to notice that Jesus, in summarizing the same body of instructions, couched them in two positive directives: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Mark 12:30,31).
God doesn’t just give us a long list of things that we are not to do. He provides us positive instruction in the way of righteousness. The 119th Psalm has been called David’s “Ode to an Open Bible.” When David enumerates the many benefits of God’s word, we have the privilege of eavesdropping as this man-after-God’s-own-heart shares his heart with God. As his meditation unfolds, we are reminded of the very simple motivation that we have for listening to what God says to us in his Word: "thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes" (v. 68).
Why should we come to God’s word for instruction? Because He is good. Because He does what is good.
And in his Word he has graciously shared the secrets of goodness with us! Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Then come to God’s Word: you will be filled.
Paul, speaking in Ephesians to fathers, charges them to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). The word translated nurture here is the same that Paul used of instruction in righteousness. This connection invokes the sweetness of a father’s careful mentoring in regard to the instruction that we receive in the Bible. How important it is to remember that behind the chastening, behind the tutoring, behind the relentless training is the ceaseless love of a father.
However, Paul’s admonition to the fathers at Ephesus also gives rise to the inescapable question: how else can we bring up our children in the nurture of the Lord than in the instruction of his Word?
Surely if, as Paul asserts so confidently to Timothy, all Scripture is profitable for the nurturing that is needed for our children, we should be daily immersing our family in it.
And for that matter, shouldn’t we be applying it regularly to our own lives? David said, “The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live" (Ps 119:144). No wonder God considers instruction in righteousness as infinitely more important than anything else that He could have provided for us in his Word. The righteousness that we learn from him in the Bible is everlasting, unlike the short-lived reward of money or relief of medicine.
May we pray for the righteousness that is found only in the profitable instruction of God’s Word.
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