Are you wielding the sword of righteousness, or walking in the humility of repentance? The two are diametrically opposed. One is a work of Satan, and the other is the work of God. One is a weapon of legalism, and the other is a position of defense. Consider this parable:
He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, ESV).
Wielding the sword of righteousness was the primary sin of the Pharisees. They thought that their righteousness exceeded that of others, and in the arrogance of their hearts, the Pharisees swung their swords, spewing their laws to prove others unrighteous, even as they exalted themselves to cover their own sin.
Righteousness is never a weapon! It is a defensive tool, the central piece of a believer’s armor, covering our heart from the flaming arrows of sin. Ephesians 6:14b tells us to “…put on the breastplate of righteousness,” protecting our hearts, the vitality of our faith, as we effectively use the weapon God has provided for us, “… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:18b, ESV).
When we use the sword of the Spirit, controlled by the humility of repentance, we understand that we are merely apprentices in righteousness. The Apostle Paul shares this truth with Timothy when he says:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [and woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).
The expert in righteousness, is the one Peter spoke of on the day of Pentecost, as he spoke to the crowds who had once cried for blood at the behest of the Pharisees, wielding their swords of righteousness in the ultimate act of murder:
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses (Acts 3:14-15, ESV).
As Peter’s message continues, he issues a call to the people, building on the words of the prophets and his own witness. He tells them to repent, turn from their wickedness, lay down the sword of righteousness, and surrender to the sword of the Spirit.
Have you been guilty of wielding the sword of righteousness? It’s time to lay down your sword at the feet of Jesus. Surrender to the armies of heaven. Then pick up the sword of the Spirit, and begin to train in true righteousness under the direction of the Master of Righteousness.