Instruments of Righteousness
Dr. Victoria Moots
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12-13).
What is an instrument? It is a tool that is prepared for a specific purpose, such as a musical or surgical instrument. Since I am a physician, I am going to use the analogy of surgical instruments compared to us as members of the body of Christ and instruments of God. God performed the first surgery when he removed a rib from Adam to prepare a bride for him. He continues to perform surgery on the body, the church, and is in need of instruments. Even the simplest of surgeries required a variety of instruments. God desires to use each one of us in a special way for a specific purpose. He has chosen us and purchased us with the blood of his Son.
No matter how good a surgeon is, he cannot perform surgery without instruments. The instruments do not possess any skill; the surgeon does. For each surgery a group of instruments is necessary, not just one; and none of these are more important than the other. The value of each instrument is not based on its size, the brand name or the previous surgeries for which it has been used, but on its intended use. Each one is of equal value when it is in the hands of the surgeon. Each instrument has been created for a specific purpose and will be used as the need arises. Some will be used more often than others, but each one must be clean and sterilized and prepared ahead of time in order to be used. God has fashioned each member of the body of Christ according to his plan and arranged us in a specific manner in much the same way as instruments on a surgical tray are laid out prior to surgery in preparation to be used when the surgeon calls for them. Just like the surgical instruments, each one of us is unique and valuable to the Lord, but we must be willing to work together and wait on the Lord for his timing. We must also yield to the necessary cleansing process that prepares us for service, for the ministry he has chosen for us.
Each surgical instrument must be cleansed initially and after each surgery or anytime it becomes contaminated. Instruments in a hospital are taken to Central Supply for a thorough scrubbing and cleansing wash. In II Cor. 7:1 Paul instructs us that we are to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” An instrument cannot cleanse itself; it simply has to yield to the cleansing process that has been provided. We are to let him cleanse us through his Word, as is stated in Eph. 5:26: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it [the church] with the washing of water by the word.” What does it mean to sanctify something? It means to set it apart or separate it for a specific purpose. Not only does he cleanse us, but he must separate us from the world in order to be useful as his instruments.
After surgical instruments are cleansed, they must be sterilized. Prior to sterilization an instrument is placed in a special package that is capable of withstanding heat, and it is sealed so that the instrument is completely separated from anything that could contaminate it. Then it is put into a sterilizer which is heated to a specific temperature to kill any residual bacteria. It remains in that package with a seal on it signifying that it is ready to be used when the surgeon needs it.
Sterilized instruments are not better instruments. They are the same instruments but they are better prepared, for they have not only been cleansed but separated and sealed. As God’s instruments we also must be cleansed, separated, sealed and put “through the fire” in order to be declared instruments of righteousness. We are to be separated from the world, for we are in the world but not of the world. God instructs us to do this in II Cor. 6:17: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” It is only then that we can be deemed suitable for service. We don’t like the scrubbing or the separation, and we certainly don’t enjoy the fiery trials, but it is only through this process that he can purify us.
It is the Holy Spirit that separates us unto God. Paul was considered by God to be a “chosen vessel,” but he had to be separated for service, as we read in Acts 13:2: “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul [Paul] for the work whereunto I have called them.” What about the seal? Eph. 1:13 answers that question: “after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” So, you see that the Holy Spirit not only separates us but seals us for service. Our job is to yield to the Holy Spirit and let him do the work in us.
If a sterilized instrument falls during surgery and becomes contaminated it is not thrown away, for it is too valuable to be discarded. It is picked up, cleansed and put “through the fire” again so that it may be used at another time. Likewise, there are times when we may stumble and fall but God does not discard us. We are too valuable to him for he paid a great price for us. First, he picks us up. This is described in Ps. 37:23-24: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” Then comes the cleansing so that he may use us: “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). We are also exposed daily to the contamination of this world and need a daily cleansing from the water of the Word of God.
During the time that a fallen contaminated instrument is being resterilized, the surgeon has to substitute with a different sterile instrument in order to finish the surgery. We must remain yielded and separated at all times, for God may need to use us outside of our “calling.” Remember, it is the skill of the surgeon that is important, not ours. Our job is simply to yield our physical members as instruments of righteousness in his hands.
Many different types of instruments are needed during a surgery to perform the multitude of required tasks. Some are very small and may seem insignificant, while others are quite large, but all are necessary. This is also true in the body of Christ. For example, a scalpel is first needed to do the cutting. This would represent the Word of God, which is “sharper than any twoedged sword” (Heb. 4:12), that is given out by the ministers. Then retractors are used to pull back the tissues and hold things out of the way. These could represent prayer warriors who hold back the forces of the enemy (Satan) by their prayers. Without retractors it would be very difficult to perform surgery. Forceps are necessary to pick up things. Spiritually, we are instructed to “lift up” the hands that hang down, to comfort and help those in need. Various clamps are needed to hold things or bring things together, which is also an important ministry in the body of Christ. I could use other examples, but I think you get the idea by now that we each have a ministry that God has given us to perform, and that we are valuable to him. God did not choose us because we were valuable. We are valuable because he chose us.
God is capable of taking anyone, no matter how defiled and dirty they may be, and transforming them into an instrument of righteousness. I would like to illustrate this by relating an experience I had while on a medical mission trip to a third world country a number of years ago. On that particular trip a group of plumbers and other handymen had also come for the purpose of trying to restore water and repair plumbing, including toilets, in the hospital where the surgical team was to be working. A patient was brought to the hospital that needed some surgery which required orthopedic instruments, but none were available. One of the doctors realized that the plumbers’ tools were similar to what was needed and suggested that perhaps they could be cleaned and sterilized and used for the surgery. So that is exactly what happened. The filthy tools that had been used the day before to fix toilets were scrubbed and sterilized and became servants of the surgeon instead of the plumber. They had been transformed from dirty to clean and the surgery was able to be performed successfully.
This is also what God can do for us. He sees our potential to become his instruments, and by the blood of Jesus is able to transform us from servants of sin into instruments of righteousness. All we need to do is to be willing to yield ourselves to him and be cleansed.