Romans 6:13 has this rather odd statement from Paul, that we “offer the parts of our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness.”
Whatever it means, this is what we’re now capable of, now that our “old self has been crucified with Jesus,” “our body of sin has been rendered powerless,” verse 6, and we’ve been raised with Jesus to “live a new life,” verse 4, a new life of “wholehearted” focus on God and his amazing plan for us (verse 17).
But what makes this new life so great? It’s the “benefits” that open up to us, says Paul. Instead of our “mortal body obeying its evil desires” – those wrong desires we had no control over, that we look back on with embarrassment and shame (verses 12 and 21) – we are free of that useless nonsense, and in its place we can live a life right now that “leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life,” verse 22.
“Holiness” means we can actually know and experience in this new life of ours what God is like, because God is holy, and here’s Paul saying we can be holy too. And being holy, according to Paul, means we can start experiencing in this life now what eternal life will be like too.
Just those two benefits alone make our life worth living now, but even better still they bring our old dead body consumed by sin to roaring life as a potential and powerful “instrument of righteousness.”
But what’s so great about that?
Well, it helps knowing what “righteousness” means, first of all, which in the simplest, most practical terms in 1 John 3:7 is defined as: “he who does right is righteous.” And Paul defines what “right” is in Romans 6:17: it’s “wholehearted obedience” to the teachings of scripture. So we’re left in no doubt as to what “righteousness” means. It means “doing the right thing,” or “making wrong things right,” or “putting the world to rights” according to God’s definition of right and wrong.
And we become instruments in God’s hands for doing just that: making wrong things right. So when Paul writes in verse 13, “offer the parts of your body to God as instruments of righteousness,” every part of me now has that potential of turning wrong into right. And since that’s what God freed me from the clutches of sin to do, I can expect his help in bringing that potential into living reality in whatever I now turn my hand and brain to.
For me it’s primarily turning people’s wrong picture of God into a right one, and trusting God to make me a jolly useful instrument of that righteousness. But it’s also about being honest, truthful and genuine in a world of lies, scams and destructive gossip. It could also mean joining a protest march against some obvious injustice. It’s anything involving turning wrong into right.
And God’s got all of us now as instruments of such righteousness in his hands, to “open people’s eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God,” Acts 26:18.
We all have skills, talents, interests, personality strengths, and things we get steamed up and excited about, that God would love to use to help his hurting, suffering children, and put his groaning creation to rights. It’s been his most passionate desire, ever since we jumped the tracks in Genesis, to right the wrongs and “bless us by turning each of us from our wicked (self-destructive) ways,” Acts 3:26.
God wants to “bless” us humans, starting with those he calls to be Christians, who catch on to how much good we can do in this world when we know this is what God called us to do, and therefore he’ll kick in with his mighty power, love and wisdom to make what good and right things we hope to accomplish both visible and helpful in the world we find ourselves in.
Christians through history have done amazing things, and probably been amazed themselves at how well their hopes and plans have worked. But isn’t that exactly what our God wants us to clue into? That we’re his “instruments of righteousness,” meaning he’ll give us the power to make good things happen and make people’s lives better. We can ease suffering, help to heal the planet, and see our noble passions fulfilled.
And what if others love what they see in us, and without even realizing it are drawn into living it too? I think of the children and grandchildren of Christians, kids who may never darken the door of a church, but have become instruments of righteousness in their words and actions too, just as God promised in Acts 2:39.
But God has always had his band of revolutionaries and protesters turning the world right side up, because that’s his noble passion and he delights in those like us who share it. He’ll make sure, then, that our lives are worth living as we discover the joy of being an instrument of righteousness in his hands.