Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him, and say, ‘Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and given me what is yours. You have become what you were not so that I might become what I was not.’
—Martin Luther Quoted by J.I. Packer in Growing in Christ
Imputed righteousness must come first. You cannot have the righteousness within until you have the righteousness without; and to make your own righteousness the price which you give to God for that of His Son is to dishonour Christ and to deny His cross.
The Spirit’s work is not to make us holy, in order that we may be pardoned; but to show us the cross, where the pardon is to be found by the unholy; so that having found the pardon there, we may begin the life of holiness to which we are called.
Christ’s obedience and sufferings are a satisfaction so complete to all the demands of the law and justice of God, and a price so full for our eternal redemption, that nothing can be added to it.
Such is the infinite dignity of Christ’s person that his fulfillment of the broken law is sufficient to balance all the debt of all the elect, nay of millions of guilty worlds (Col 2:9; Isa 7:14; Isa 9:6; Jer 23:6; Zec 13:7; Tit 2:13, 14; Acts 20:28).
God hath clearly manifested his [acceptance] of Christ’s satisfication as perfect, in raising him from the dead, exalting him to his right hand and making him head over all things to his church (Ro. 1:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb 2:8-10; John 16:10).
Christ’s offering himself but once manifest the absolute perfection of his satisfaction by it (Heb 7:27; Rom 5:15-19; 2 Cor 5:21).
Our complete justification by God, our reconciliation to him and redemption from all evil to perfect and everlasting happiness which are the immediate affect of Christ’s satisfaction, demonstrate the perfection of it. Hence it necessarily follows that 1) in God’s acceptance of Christ’s righteousness there neither is nor can be any taking part for the whole, or anything instead of that which is of greater value. 2) That as the best works of believers cannot satisfy for them in the least before God as their judge, so the infinite perfection of Christ leaves no possible room for their making any satisfaction.
To be entitled to use another’s name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another’s raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another’s person – the person of the Beloved Son – this is the summit of all blessing.
The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me. All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me.
His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my substitute has done.
In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it.
It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.
I discovered the following quote by John Owen while spending some time tonight reading about justification and imputation. Dr. Owen made the following statement regarding the doctrine of justification in a chapter titled “Imputation, and the Nature of It.”
yet is it so fallen out in our days that nothing in religion is more maligned, more reproached, more despised, than the imputation of righteousness unto us, or an imputed righteousness.
—John Owen The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated
While that quote is very applicable to the times in which we live, it is actually from a book published in 1677. Here is a photo of that text from the Google Books edition of Volume 5 from the Complete Works of John Owen.
The notion that there is enough inherent goodness and righteousness in man to please God sounds very appealing to a pragmatic culture like ours – but it is not biblical. When people try to take credit, even partial credit, for the grounds of their salvation, they rob Christ of His glory and diminish His perfectly obedient life and atoning sacrificial death.
These were the closing remarks from John Piper’s presentation at T4G 2010 and they merit repeating:
Give Christ all his glory in the work of salvation, not just half of it. Half is the work of pardoning sin by becoming our wrath-absorbing punishment. But the other half is the work of providing our perfection by fulfilling everything that God required of us, and then imputing it to us.
Don’t rob the Lord of half his glory in bringing you to God. Christ is our pardon. Christ is our perfection. Therefore, knowing that Jesus and Paul preached the same gospel, let’s join Paul from the heart in saying:
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
We can sing with the great hymn write Edward Mote, who in 1834 wrote the following words:
When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found, Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne! On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.
Our justification is the direct result of our believing the gospel; our knowledge of our own justification comes from believing God’s promise of justification to every one who believes these glad tidings. For there is not only the divine testimony, but there is the promise annexed to it, assuring eternal life to every one who receives that testimony. There is first, then, a believed gospel, and then there is a believed promise. The latter is the “appropriation,” as it is called; which, after all, is nothing but the acceptance of the promise which is everywhere coupled with the gospel message. The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.
Faith is not Christ, nor the cross of Christ. Faith is not the blood, nor the sacrifice; it is not the altar, nor the laver, nor the mercy-seat, nor the incense. It does not work, but accepts a work done ages ago; it does not wash, but leads us to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. It does not create; it merely links us to that new thing which was created when the “everlasting righteousness” was brought in (Daniel 9:24).
Though faith is not “the righteousness,” it is the tie between it and us. It realizes our present standing before God in the excellency of His own Son; and it tells us that our eternal standing, in the ages to come, is in the same excellency, and depends on the perpetuity of that righteousness which can never change. For never shall we put off that Christ whom we put on when we believed (Romans 12:14; Galatians 3:27). This divine raiment is “to everlasting.” It waxes not old, it cannot be rent, and its beauty fadeth not away.
—Horatius Bonar The Everlasting Righteousness, Chapter 7
Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
—The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 11, Point 1
Consider well of the office, the bloodshed, and the holy life of Christ — His office is to expiate sin, and to destroy it. His blood was shed for it: his life condemned it. Love Christ, and thou wilt hate that which caused his death. Love him, and thou will be made more like him.
—Richard Baxter Quoted by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson in Counsel from the Cross
We believe that God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent His Son to assume that nature in which the disobedience was committed, to make satisfaction in the same, and to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquities upon Him, and poured forth His mercy and goodness on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation, out of mere and perfect love, giving His Son unto death for us, and raising Him for our justification, that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal.