Presumptive faith is dangerous, especially when it concerns the promises God gives for spiritual protection. A servant heart and the righteousness of Jesus mean we are in Christ, who alone is the fulfilment and guarantee of every promise God has made.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)
This is a wonderful promise from God, and one which has been a mainstay in my life. I’ve noticed, though, that when most believers quote it, they leave out the last bit about righteousness. Yet, very clearly, it’s part and parcel of the promise. It’s worth unpacking this a little to see its relevance and how it affects the rest of the promise we hold onto so confidently. The last sentence has two parts. The first speaks of the servants of the Lord, and the second speaks of our righteousness from Him. It’s clear then, that these two things work together and cannot be separated. It’s also not rocket science to discern that together, they have relevance to the promise. The implication is simple but hugely important. The promise applies to those who are His servants and who depend on Him for their righteousness.
Presumptive faith and spiritual protection.
Promises like these are essential to the shield of faith. They strengthen it and empower it as a powerful weapon of spiritual protection. All of us want to know that these words are alive and able to activate in our defence when we speak them. There is a danger, though, of speaking them out of context. When we leave out the bit about righteousness, the verse is incomplete. The truth of God is therefore incomplete, and we inadvertently land ourselves in the place of presumptive faith. To presume something means to expect something without any real basis of fact. When we appeal to God based on only part of His word, we cannot do so in the assurance that He will move to fulfil the promise we claim. Our shield of faith is, as a result, weakened because its foundation in the Word is shaky.
The devil, of course, is very legalistic. Where there is a ‘legal’ weakness, they will exploit it. Presumptive faith is dangerous at the best of times. But when we rely on it for spiritual protection when the battle heats up, we’re more vulnerable than ever. Not only is the promise ineffectual, but our disappointment is fertile ground to stir up doubt and undermine our faith even further. Remember, Satan used God’s Word to deceive Eve and to tempt Jesus. He knows his way around the Scriptures, and almost certainly better than we do given how long he’s been around. God intends, however, that His Word work for us, not against us. He gives His Word for our good. The problems come in when we don’t apply the whole word in the full context He intended. If His Word ‘fails’ it’s often due to presumptive faith.
Spiritual protection is our heritage.
This is a ‘take-home’ assurance every true believer can hold onto. A heritage is both an inheritance and a legacy. It’s something we inherit in Christ and it’s a legacy because it’s ongoing. It doesn’t wear out or get used up. It’s eternal. God guarantees us His spiritual protection in definite and powerful terms. But there’s the inevitable caveat. It’s for the servants of the Lord. We can get all to easily distracted by wonderful truths such as those Paul teaches about how we were slaves and are now sons. Yet as sons, our primary role is as servants to God and mankind, just as Jesus was. As sons, we’re entitled to the heritage, but it’s conditional on us also being servants. In essence, unless we’re servants we’re not fully sons because this is the role of all God’s sons, starting with Jesus Himself as our example.
It’s easy to gloss over the servant bit and focus on the promise and the heritage, but God doesn’t compromise. Servant and slave are, in the Greek and Hebrew, interchangeable. What Paul teaches, primarily, is that we’re slaves, first and foremost. God owns us. Aside from the issues of conquest and creation, He paid the slave price through Christ. We now belong to Him. In His grace, He chooses to elevate us to sonship with all its benefits, but our heritage isn’t limited to the blessings. It includes the responsibilities. Those are the responsibility of living as a servant. Laying ourselves down for others and living a life totally yielded to our Master’s purposes. These are the ‘sons’ who can claim the heritage promises in faith and assurance. Today’s verse makes it clear that it’s the heritage of the servant sons, not everyone who claims to be saved.
Righteousness and spiritual protection.
The second part of this last sentence takes things a little further. It defines these servants at a deeper level, that of righteousness. In essence, it highlights the new covenant reality that Christ alone is our righteousness. It reminds us that we have none of our own and are totally dependent on Him. Interestingly enough, righteousness is applied alongside servanthood. The relevance is very clear. Those with a servant heart are also those who are clothed in the Lord’s righteousness. It’s not hard to understand. When we humble ourselves and acknowledge the lordship of Christ, we receive His righteousness. Part of this is the matter of confession and repentance. Acknowledging Christ means first acknowledging our own unrighteousness. We know that without Him, we are nothing and have nothing, and that all we are belongs to Him. This is the servant heart – the one to whom God gives His own righteousness.
It follows then, that those who wear the righteousness of Christ will also inherit the spiritual protection that is the heritage of the servants. Outside of these two truths, we cannot expect to receive the spiritual protection God promises here. God may, in His grace and mercy, release blessings as He sees fit. But we cannot claim it without meeting the criteria. This isn’t aimed at creating condemnation. Rather, it’s an opportunity for us to evaluate our relationship and make adjustments. The sovereignty of God is indisputable. He owns us, lock, stock, and barrel. He allows us free will and remains patient, even when we withhold ourselves or certain areas of our lives from His lordship. But His grace, love, mercy, and patience do not compel Him to fulfil any promises if the criteria aren’t met. Presumptive faith is like trying to manipulate God into ignoring His own Word.
Our servanthood, God’s righteousness, and spiritual protection.
We need to really take hold of how these things work together. Everything starts and ends in the cross and in Christ. A good perspective is to remember that Satan is also known as the accuser. He and his minions love to accuse believers. Our only real protection against that is the righteousness of Jesus graciously given to each one of us. When we stand in Christ, we stand in His authority as His servants. But we also stand in His righteousness. This is the place of no condemnation, because His blood has covered all. But real righteousness requires a servant heart. It requires surrender to His authority. Both righteousness and servanthood are what God uses to empower His spiritual protection. This is because both can only be found in Jesus. We cannot be righteous or have a true servant heart outside of Christ.
It is only when these are in place that we are in a place to condemn the tongue that rises against us or defeat the weapons formed against us. Simply claiming to be born again and living our lives for ourselves firmly excludes us from this promise of spiritual protection. We’re fair game for everything out there. We have no real spiritual authority, for one thing. And we’re open to every accusation. It takes only one small unrepented sin to open the door. Worst of all, we leave ourselves open to disappointment when we take up the shield of presumptive faith, only to discover it has holes. This is one of the reasons why Jesus told His disciples to abide in Him. In Christ, we will find we are quick to repent and as quick to listen and obey. We’ll rejoice in the opportunity to serve our God.
Jesus is the only spiritual protection.
The Old Testament looked forward to the New and to the dispensation of grace. Jesus has fulfilled all the criteria required for spiritual protection. In Him, we need have no fear. We move from a place of Christ in us, where He is in control and His authority works to fulfil all God’s promises. But to abide in Christ is to allow Him to abide in us. This means we allow His servant heart to rule us. We exchange our unrighteousness for His unrighteousness. In myself, I will never have the authority, attitude, or righteousness needed to fulfil today’s verse. Only Jesus has the power to do that. And He is willing to do it, but it means giving up self in exchange for His glorious presence. We may go through the physical motions, but it’s only the power of Christ in us which fulfils the Word through us.
Forgive us, Lord, for the times when we’ve fallen into presumptive faith. Also for the times when we doubted You because we didn’t see the results we expected. Help us to draw near and to abide in You, Lord Jesus, so You can abide in us. Thank You that You have already fulfilled every promise of the Father. Teach us to be servants as well as sons, and to seek Your righteousness each day.