Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Polycarp 4 - Training for Righteousness

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Each of us faces a decision in life, whether to pursue the world and the things of the world or to pursue the Kingdom of God and the things of the Kingdom. Polycarp expressed it this way.
" 'But the love of money is the root of all evils.' Knowing, therefore, that 'as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out,' let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness;" (Polycarp 4)
To pursue the world and the things of the world most often involves the pursuit of money while the pursuit of the Kingdom cannot be separated from the pursuit of righteousness. However, Polycarp understood that righteousness does not just happen, it is something we must condition our lives for. Our lives do not naturally take to righteousness; it is something we must teach ourselves, and others, to understand, apprehend, and obey.
"and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God." (Polycarp 4)
Righteousness starts in our own lives. We cannot teach others what we first have not learned and participated in with our own lives. The training in righteousness begins with ourselves then radiates through our families to the world around us; our lives, our families, then the world.

We also cannot miss the relationship between righteousness and love. When we learn righteousness then we learn to love others. In Ephesians, Paul writes of the "breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:14) yet in 1st Thessalonians he tells us of the "breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) and in Galatians he reminds us that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) What Paul is trying to tell us is that Righteousness is Faith working through Love.

Finally, Polycarp reminds us to teach righteousness to all, especially to those within the church.
"Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar of God, that He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the secret things of the heart." (Polycarp 4)
Our teaching of righteousness must go beyond commands and even theory, but must be practical and easily applicable to our lives. Teaching that we cannot readily respond to is of little use to our lives. However, when we learn righteousness and how to apply it to our lives, and when we learn to express our faith through our love for God and those around us, then we will have begun down the pathway to holiness and righteousness with God.

David Robison

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