The Robe of Righteousness

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” —Isaiah 61:10

THIS robe of righteousness to which the prophet directs our attention is a very precious one. It beautifully pictures our faith justification, which is the very basis of our standing before God. This justification by faith was not an emergency arrangement on God’s part. It was always a part of his plan on behalf of the footstep followers of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul makes this clear in the 4th chapter of Romans where he calls attention to the experience of Abraham, and shows us the ground of his relationship to Jehovah, which was by faith. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”—Rom. 4:1-3

Paul then continues his discussion of the matter, and in conclusion he applies the lesson to the Lord’s people of the Gospel Age, saying, “His [Abraham’s] faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. But the words, it was reckoned to him, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Rom. 4:22-25; 5:1, RSV

It is a priceless robe. It is priceless because it cannot be bought. It is the free and gracious gift of the Heavenly Father to those who have faith. It is priceless because it was secured for us at the cost of our dear Redeemer’s life. And who can measure the price of that?

It possesses a mystic quality. Those not introduced to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven cannot see the robe. They see only the imperfections of the wearer. But God, from whom nothing is hidden, does not view the imperfections of him who wears that precious garment. He sees only the lovely robe of righteousness.

And to the extent that the Lord’s people see the faults and shortcomings of their brethren, to that extent are they not ignoring the robe and have the spirit of the world? But to the extent that these imperfections of the brethren are hidden to our eyes; to the extent that we, like our Heavenly Father, see only the robes of righteousness that our brethren are wearing, to that extent we have the spirit and viewpoint of the Lord.

We are to keep our robe spotless. The apostle tells us that “Christ … loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”—Eph. 5:25-27

Although we are not of the world, we are assuredly in this present evil world; and to keep our robe clean must be our constant task. But the Lord has provided a way to keep it clean, through the washing of water by the Word. John tells us that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) And thus we keep our lovely robe pure, spotless, holy, and without blemish.

And what can better enhance such a beautiful robe than the fragrance of a lovely perfume—the perfume of love and sacrifice! Such was our Lord’s sacrifice in the eyes of the Heavenly Father. Paul urges us, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”—Eph. 5:1,2

It is our privilege and joy to spread abroad the sweet-smelling knowledge of that great sacrifice on behalf of the world of sinners. “Thanks be to God, who in Christ leads us in triumph, and through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere,” Paul says. (II Cor. 2:14, RSV) Another translator puts it in these words: “Thanks be to God who leads us … on Christ’s triumphant way, and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume!” (Phillips) And so as we keep close to the Lord; as we in serving him bear about this sweet fragrance of the knowledge of the Lord, it is imparted to ourselves; it sweetens and refreshes our robes of righteousness. And our own sacrifice is, in turn, a sweet savor unto the Heavenly Father.

But this knowledge of the Lord is not a sweet-smelling savor to all. The apostle writes, “For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life.” (II Cor. 2:15,16) Phillips renders this passage, “We Christians have the unmistakable ‘scent’ of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading for death. To the latter it seems like the deathly smell of doom; to the former it has the refreshing fragrance of life itself.”

Our Lord’s ministry and sacrifice was not a savor of life to his accusers and murderers—it was the scent of death. But to the Heavenly Father, and to his followers, it was “the refreshing fragrance of life itself,” not only for the church, but for the whole world of mankind. And we are invited to walk as he walked, and to sacrifice as he sacrificed: “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”

We are admonished to add adornments to this lovely white robe, “as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” In this vein, the Apostle Peter speaks of “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (I Pet. 3:4) An ornament is something very special, valuable; something for which we are willing to pay a price, make a sacrifice. It is a thing of beauty, which gives delight to all who behold it. And no ornament is more lovely than that of meekness, and a quiet spirit—an ornament so beautiful that the Heavenly Father rejoices to behold it in his children.

Our Lord possessed this lovely ornament of meekness. Do you recall the incident when Jesus was hailed before the council? “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace.”—Matt. 26:59-63

And again, later, before Pilate: “And Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.” (Matt. 27:11-14) Truly, as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth.—Isa. 53:7

Meekness is never to be mistaken for weakness. Rather, it takes much Christian fortitude to be humble and silent when reviled, falsely accused, misunderstood; it takes much patience to suffer for righteousness’ sake; to revile not, when reviled; to follow, to submit to the will of others, when we believe our own course to be the better. But this is the price we pay to gain this lovely ornament for our robe! Meekness is as a golden clasp by which we fasten tightly about us, and make secure, our robe of righteousness—that robe which was purchased for us by the greatest act of humility ever known!

Peter also speaks of the ornament of a quiet spirit. We have this quiet spirit only because of the robe we wear. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (Rom. 5:1) He is our Father; we are in his loving, watchful care, and therefore at rest in our hearts. We are not rebellious, but quiet, submissive to the Lord’s will, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God. This contentment, this peacefulness, this quietness of spirit flows from fullness of faith in the Heavenly Father. It is an “imperishable jewel … which in God’s sight is very precious.”—RSV

Then the prophet calls our attention to another ornament designed to further set off the beauty of our robe. It is a necklace, composed of those loveliest of all gems—mercy and truth. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; … so shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”—Prov. 3:3,4

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7) The Apostle James picks up the same theme, and adds a thought of his own: “He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”—James 2:13

When the young man David fled to a mountain cave to escape the wrath of King Saul, he could easily have killed his enemy in the darkness of the cave when Saul entered the same cave. When Saul became aware of this act of mercy by David, “Saul … lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.” (I Sam. 24:17) Even Saul was deeply touched by this act of mercy by David. No wonder David was called by the Lord as being a man after God’s own heart! For like his Heavenly Father, David rewarded evil with good, with mercy. And mercy is a quality of the Heavenly Father himself, and therefore pleasing to him.

And truth, that companion gem to mercy—what a jewel it is! How precious! And for what would you exchange it? The wise man gives us good advice. He wrote, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” Once having found this priceless gem, by the Lord’s grace, the child of God would not part with it for all the gold of Ophir! Mercy and truth—what a beautiful addition is this lovely necklace to our robe of righteousness!

There are yet other adornments to be added to our robe. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, makes mention of these, when he suggests “that women adorn themselves, not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but … with good works.” (I Tim. 2:9,10) That these good works apply to all the brethren is indicated in Paul’s letter to Titus, where he speaks of the church as “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”—Titus 2:14

These good works will find expression, first, in our lives, as we daily endeavor to add to our faith the fruits and graces of the spirit; and then, in the active telling forth of the Gospel message, as we share the glad tidings with others, in seeking out the last ripe grains of wheat. We have heard the call, we today have the truth, only because others earlier made the same sacrifice that we must now make, if we are to gain that lovely ornament of good works.

Like the others, this ornament also has a price. We pay for it in time and strength, in loss of friends, and the breaking of family ties, in public scorn, ostracism, ridicule. But the true child of God tells forth the message of love and grace in spite of these; and for every word of scorn, for every testing of our faith, for every lost friend, and every trial patiently endured, the Heavenly Father himself attaches another precious ornament to our robe of righteousness. How the Lord and the saints in heaven must rejoice to see the work on our robes progressing!

The wise man tells us how we may gain yet another priceless ornament. He says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” (Prov. 4:5-9) An ornament of grace! How beautiful, how delicate! And a crown of glory! One fashioned, not by human hands, but formed by the spirit of God! What is this wisdom that brings such unimaginable treasure? Surely, it is not the wisdom of man. Job tells us what it is. He says, “Behold, the fear [reverence] of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding.”—Job 28:28

For nearly two thousand years the Lord has sounded forth the glorious story of salvation and restitution of the whole world of mankind to human perfection and everlasting life, through Christ. Those whose hearts have been moved by this wondrous display of heavenly mercy to a deeper love and appreciation and reverence of God, he has graciously invited to deny themselves and take up their cross, and follow Christ, that they might live and reign with him in the kingdom for the blessing of the world.

But only the few have accepted the invitation; only the few have seen that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18)—only a little flock possesses this heavenly wisdom. But to all who sincerely seek after, and with their whole hearts lay hold on that wisdom, and daily manifest it in their lives, she shall truly give an ornament of grace, and a crown of glory!

We call attention to one final scripture—that wonderful promise of the Heavenly Father wherein he assures his people, spiritual Zion, of his everlasting, unceasing vigilance and watchcare, and of the heights and depths of his love for those who strive to walk in his righteous ways. It reads: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all the kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.”—Isa. 62:1-3

Here the prophet is telling us that not only will we, if faithful, receive a crown of glory, but that we will be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God!

Yes, the Heavenly Father also is laying up for himself a treasure, a crown of glory, and a royal diadem; one that he has been waiting for since the foundation of the world. It is even now being fashioned; the last remaining jewels that will find an honored place in that crown, and that will reflect the light of his own glory, are now being gathered, one by one; their number is almost complete. And as each precious jewel is delivered by the angels into his presence, can you not visualize him carefully holding up that crown, and lovingly and tenderly installing each shining gem into its appointed place?

As followers of the Lord, we may never acquire riches, as the world counts riches. Perhaps we cannot afford the rare jewels and beautiful ornaments cherished and striven for by the world. But we can acquire, by God’s grace, the ornaments of humility, meekness, mercy, truth, long-suffering, and heavenly wisdom—which are treasures more lasting, ornaments far more lovely and precious, in God’s sight.

And if we are faithful we will wear crowns—crowns of righteousness and glory. And we, in turn, will be a crown of glory and a royal diadem in the hands of the Heavenly Father, reflecting and shedding forth in the kingdom, with our Lord Jesus, the light of his love upon the world of mankind and the heavenly hosts, for time without end!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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