|RIGHTEOUSNESS: The Application
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Mar 06 2009 08:00 A.M.
You have seen it proved and cleared that the Lord Jesus Christ is a sinner's righteousness in the sight of God, that God
imputes this righteousness to a sinner to make it his, and that faith alone has the office to fetch it home and apply it. We
now move to the application.
USE OF LAMENTATION. If these things are as you have seen, then, to use the Prophet Ezekiel's words, this is a
lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation, that so much of the world is so ignorant of and are enemies to this
First, as to the Gentiles, they knew nothing of this righteousness until they were taught it by the grace of God in their
calling. And not only the common people, but their Sophoi, their learned and wise men, their seers, such as Cato,
Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, Livie, Suetonius, and more, men of high parts, who all lived about Christ's time, either a little before
or a little after, all these were strangers, yea, enemies to this righteousness. Christ crucified was foolishness to them. It
was a jeering speech of Cato's: "It is foolishness to look for any salvation after death." The wisest of the Gentiles no
more understood the mystery of this righteousness which makes a sinner righteous before God, or any other of the
mysteries of Christ, than the magi of Egypt did Pharaoh's dreams or the wisemen of Chaldea understood
Nebuchadnezzar's or Belshazzar's handwriting. This masterpiece of wisdom in God was but foolishness to them.
Second, as for the Jews, Paul says that they were ignorant of this righteousness: "For they, being ignorant of God's
righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). Yea, this righteousness
was a stumblingblock to them, an occasion of their fall and casting off, that is, through their ignorance of it and their
malice against ; they stumbled at this stumbling stone (Romans 9:31-33).
And this was the plague-sore not only of the common people among the Jews, but of their rabbis, their scribes and
teachers. They were ignorant, and willingly ignorant, of this way to life: "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees
believed on Him?" (John 7:48).
Third, as for Christians, multitudes of them are ignorant of and bitter enemies to this righteousness. The generality of
the Roman church have drunk this poison, and not a few of their champions are behind the scribes and Pharisees in
contending for righteousness by the works of the law. They are rich enough to buy pardon of sins, and heaven too.
What did Vega say but that he would have heaven for his money? And, indeed, all men by nature have this popery in
their belly. And there are two reasons why men naturally and generally miss this way to life, this way to the city of
refuge set up for lost sinners by the gospel:
1. The mysterious nature of this righteousness, as it is the matter and reason of a sinner's justification before God. It is
a revelation: "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" (Romans 1:17). It is not a thing in the view of
natural reason. The world must be convinced of it by the Spirit. It is a new way (Hebrews 10:20), an uncouth,
untrodden, and unbeaten way to the light of nature; nay, there was no such thing known of in the state of innocence.
Those philosophers, the Epicureans and Stoics who encountered Paul in Acts 17 called it "new doctrine." It is news
indeed; so is the whole gospel, for that is the sense of evangelioi, bringing good news. Man being made righteous by
the righteousness of another is a new way, and unknown to the generality of the world, as America was to other parts till
That a righteous person should be made sin for us, as Christ was, and that we should be made "the righteousness of
God in Him," is a great mystery. And in preaching this point to men, we may say, as the apostle said about the
resurrection, "Behold, I show you a mystery" (I Corinthians 15:51). This is one of the deep things of God, which no man
knows but the Spirit of God and they to whom the Spirit reveals it; it was something "which none of the princes of the
world [that is, in Paul's time] had known" (I Corinthians 2:7-9). Princes then were the choicest men in the world for
natural or acquired parts, but they were ignorant in this.
2. The other reason why this new way to life is so commonly missed is from the nature of man; it's a way that goes
against the grain of proud nature. The natural spirit of man makes a stop here as Balaam's ass did in Numbers 22.
There is an innate and hereditary pride in men to own no other righteousness that would eclipse theirs. Men are
naturally so. Adam's poor contrivance to cover his nakedness tells us this. When man think of going to heaven, they
fasten upon something of their own: "Master, what good thing shall I do?" and "All these have I kept" (Matthew 19). This
man had self-righteousness at his fingertips, as Paul himself had while a Pharisee: "As concerning the law, blameless"
(Philippians 3). Self in man is like the heart in man, which is the last thing to die; it is the fort that holds out longest
against submission to this righteousness of Christ, like the fort of the Jebusites in II Samuel 5 which would not yield till
David stormed it.
Man's good opinion of his own righteousness is among those imaginations or proud reasonings in men that exalt
themselves, and are not easily brought under and subdued to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).
Natural men exalt their own righteousness in opposition to God in various ways:
* It is too usual with some among us to think to recompense God and stop the mouth of His justice by some good works
of their own. This popery is in many who would disdain the very name of being a Romanist. Something or other of their
own that seems lovely in their eyes, as that Pharisee's fasting did in Luke 18, stands in place of Christ; something of
their own doing must do the deed. "Master, what good thing shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Here they hang their
hopes, and Christ is made merely a useless hanger-on.
* Some make a mixture and composition of their own righteousness and Christ together in their justification, as some of
the Galatians did. Some men dare not venture their souls on Christ alone; they'll have two strings to their bow,
something of their own at least for a reserve, as those many who believed on Jesus (John 2:23-24): their faith was a
halting and divided faith, and therefore He did not commit Himself to them. These men, like the harlot who came to
Solomon, would have their living child divided. So many would have their justification before God to be divided between
Christ's righteousness and their own.
There are some who, though they do not mix Christ's righteousness and their own, would make theirs a bridge and
passage to His. Such are they who would have Christ, but would have Him for their money. Vega said, "I will purchase
heaven, not have it as the gift of God." They reject the apostle's doctrine that it is a free gift (Romans 6:23); nor will
they buy without money and without price, according to the free invitation given in Isaiah 55:2.
Some goodness of their own must usher them into Christ. They are shy to go to Him only with their sins, their
nothingness, and their nakedness, which men should do. Some men try to be worthy of Christ receiving and owning
them. Their theology is like that of the Jews when they urged Christ to go to the centurion's house with this argument:
"for he is worthy" (Luke 7:4). These men would commend themselves to Christ by something that is lovely in them; but
this is not Christ's way. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; and it is not the well, but the
sick who need the Physician. When men are naked, then He casts His skirts over them; and when they are in their
blood, this is His time of love, and then He says to them, "Live" (Ezekiel 16).
* There are some men who would think much of it not to be esteemed Christians, and yet look after justification and
salvation neither by Christ's righteousness, nor by any of their own, but think that God will forgive and save them in due
time without any ado. Any way is the way to heaven, and they think their profaneness will be no more an impediment to
heaven than their inheritances on earth. They can be rich and wicked, honorable and wicked, and wise and wicked;
and therefore they can be wicked and still go to heaven.
These are the generation of men of whom Moses speaks in Deuteronomy 29:19: "They bless themselves in their heart
and say, 'We shall have peace though we walk in the imagination of our hearts and add drunkenness to thirst." They
are like desperate riders who leave the highway and venture their bones and necks over hedges and ditches. It is said
that eels are bred from putrefaction rather than generation; so this generation of men think to get as near a passage to
heaven by profaneness as by holiness. Do not tell them either of imputed righteousness or inherent righteousness;
they'll venture their own way. But it is as sure as the Word of God is sure that God will keep these men out of heaven:
"There shall by no means enter any that work abominations" (Revelation 21:27); no place but hell is fit for them. The
very ox and ass have better names on earth than these have (Isaiah 1).
USE OF EXHORTATION. This doctrine is useful for exhortation to two sorts of men: To those who have some such
there are; and to those who have attained to it and know it, and to those who would know it.
I will address, first, those who have not yet come to seek this righteousness. To them I say two things:
1. Seek this righteousness and none other for your justification; and seek it till you get into such experiential
acquaintance with it as to know what you say when you speak of it. Seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness
thereof. No other righteousness can expiate your sins but Christ's; nor can any present you without spot to God but
His. This is God's righteousness, therefore let it be yours. It is God's because it is a righteousness of God's imputing,
and because it is a righteousness of God's accepting. It is a sufficient righteousness to God and it is a sufficient
righteousness to the distressed case of a sinner. Therefore seek this only. Oh, learn to speak the language of Isaiah
45:24-25: "In the Lord have I righteousness. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be blessed."
There are many false righteousnesses, as there were many false gods, even in the church of God in the Old
Testament. So take heed of deceiving yourselves, of being deceived with a false righteousness.
Men are exceedingly apt to sit down in a self-righteousness, to warm themselves at the sparks of their own fire. It's as
hard to bring men into a better opinion of another's righteousness than of their own, as it was for Elisha to persuade
Naaman into higher thoughts of the waters of Jordan, than of Abana and Pharphar in his own country. It's hard for men
to count those things which were or are gain to them to be loss for Christ, as Paul did in Philippians 3. Men may be
brought to think of themselves as lost for their sins, but hardly for their righteousness.
And therefore, the Holy Ghost tells us that it is the exceeding greatness of God's power, even the working of His mighty
power - that power that raised Christ from the dead when such a weight as the sins of the world and the curse of the law
was upon Him - to keep Him under the power of death. Yea, the Spirit of God says that it is such a power, and nothing
less, that must make a sinner to believe in Christ for righteousness and life.
How many set their tears, sighs, and groans for sin in Christ's place, and in place of His righteousness? How many set
their desires of grace, their much praying and hearing, and their dislike of evil ways in the place of this righteousness?
They do it, but they do not think that they do it. The Assyrian had this commission and charge from the Lord, to make
the great spoils he did." Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so" (Isaiah 10:5-7).
Indeed, these above-mentioned good and holy things, such as sighs for sin and desires for grace, are signs that follow
them who believe in Christ for righteousness, but they are not the grounds of a man's expecting righteousness by
Christ. There must be your own nothingness and a lost condition in yourself, and then God's free grace and Jesus
Christ in a free promise.
The justifying act of faith is laid on such ground work as this: A man must be convinced of sin and of his own
unrighteousness. Now is the season for him to cast himself on Christ's righteousness as it is freely offered him by God
in His gospel, just as the season for diseased people to go into the pool for healing was when the angel moved the
water (John 5). So it is the proper season to fly to Christ for sanctuary when a sinner sees himself undone in and by
himself. This is the justifying act of faith.
Men have reason to suspect their faith that is drawn out to Christ because of some self-worth; for true, saving faith has
no footing to stand on but free grace and the free gift of Christ. And look to it, for all other faith in Christ will fail you
when it comes to a pinch, and when conscience indeed lacks satisfaction. The greater confidence men have by a false
or, though true, an insufficient faith, the greater will be their despair when the fallacy is seen. Oh, take heed of this
fallacy; beware of embracing bleary-eyed Leah for beautiful Rachel!
It's a dangerous thing to set up our own righteousness, graces, duties, and works as qualifications for our faith in Christ;
this is but clear poison. As God hangs the earth upon nothing, so must we hang the righteousness of Christ upon our
own nothingness. Grace and good works are not the way to our justification by Christ, though they are the way to
I cannot easily exceed in caution in this case. Men may make other things besides Christ their righteousness
interpretatively on God's part when they do not do it intentionally on their own. A man who is eager for riches or honor
does not think that he makes these things his god; it is not his intention, and yet it is in God's account, who calls
covetousness "Idolatry." And many make their belly their god who do not think so. So we may not intend to make
anything our righteousness but Christ, and yet may warp in practice. A man may be an atheist in practice who is not so
in judgment, and so may be a self-righteous man. Therefore, let us take heed to our spirits in this point.
2. Seek this righteousness of Christ in God's way of giving it, that is, by imputation. He imputes it to him who believes in
Jesus, not to him who works: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is
counted by God for righteousness."
We must look after this righteousness of Christ to be made ours as it is offered of free grace and in a free promise. Is it
not a strange thing that a man should more easily believe in Christ when he can see some good in himself than when he
can see nothing but Christ in a free promise? Yet it is so: as if something in himself were better footing for faith in
Christ and His righteousness to him as a lost sinner.
Oh, how this self sticks to a man! But certainly, the less we see in ourselves, the more inducement it should be to cast
ourselves on Jesus Christ. For what is it that can answer the law, our own accusing, troubled conscience, or the devil's
charge against us, but the righteousness of Christ made ours by free grace? It was Christ who took Satan's charge
against Joshua, the Jews' high priest (Zechariah 3:2). And Jesus Christ the righteous is our advocate with the Father (I
The righteousness of Christ is fitted to the sinner's condition; it's open to Adam and his seed as fallen, not as standing.
The serpent was for the Israelites who were stung, not for those who were whole . A sinner must take this
righteousness as a sinner, let his sins be as the sands or stars, as crimson or scarlet. Christ's righteousness is fitted
for such sinners when convinced and humbled, for that woman in Luke 7 who had no other name given her but that of a
The brazen serpent was not lifted up because of gnats, but because of the stinging of fiery serpents. And Christ came
to save not only the least of sinners, but the chief of sinners. Christ brought no petty cures, but such as physicians
could not do, as we see in the case of the woman with the issue of blood and the man's son whom the disciples could
not cure (Matthew 9 and 17). Where sin abounds, Christ's righteousness is ordained to superabound. The way is
opened to Christ for all sinners who come weary and burdened to Him. He bids none of them stand back. "Him that
cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). There is more danger of their missing this righteousness who have
something of their own to trust in than of theirs who have nothing. Christ sends the rich away empty. Fewer scribes
and Pharisees believed on Christ than publican and sinners (Luke 1).
Remember, then, that this is the righteousness which ends all controversy between God and a sinner, and between the
law and a sinner, and which also ends all quarrels in a poor sinner's conscience. God says that He is satisfied with this
righteousness: "The Lord is well-pleased for His righteousness' sake" (Isaiah 42:21). The law is satisfied with this
righteousness: "Christ believeth" (Romans 10:4). And conscience says, "I am satisfied with this righteousness." "Being
justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
A sleepy conscience may be satisfied with self righteousness, but an awakened conscience cannot be. Therefore, seek
this righteousness of Christ, and seek it only, in the case of justification; and seek it in God's way of giving it, the way of
imputation, in the way of free grace, and in a free promise, without respect to anything in yourselves. "We are justified
freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (romans 3:24).
Second, I will address this exhortation to such as have made the righteousness of Christ theirs, and who know it, or who
would know it. To such I say these things:
Be sure to keep a distinction between Christ's imputed righteousness and your own inherent righteousness when you
think of your discharge from sin and being righteous before God. Remember that Jacob put on his elder brother's
garments when he went to his father for the blessing. And let me tell you that for a man to depend on his own
righteousness is a greater sin than his unrighteousness; for this is a sin against the law, and that is a sin against the
gospel. It is true, a godly man ought to approve himself to God in the sincerity of his inherent grace and righteousness,
and take much comfort when he can do so. Thus did Paul: "This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience, that
in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in this world" (II Corinthians 1:12); and he advised
Timothy to study to approve himself to God. Enoch had this testimony, that he pleased God in his walking.
But though we please God as our Father with our graces and the sincerity of our lives, yet we cannot satisfy His justice
as a Judge with these; we cannot bring these to God in the point of our justification. Joseph said to his brothers, "Bring
Benjamin, or else ye cannot see my face" (Genesis 43). So it is with us: if we do not bring Christ and His righteousness
made ours to God, we cannot see His face.
God stands on it that we expect justification merely by His grace and not by our own. In Naaman's free cure of his
leprosy, he would have given the prophet gifts for this cure. But the prophet said, "As the Lord liveth, before whom I
stand, I shall receive none" (II Kings 5:16). Men should therefore shun that patched righteousness and way of
justification invented by the false apostles in the holy apostles' days, as we see in Paul's epistles to the Romans and the
Galatians. The Jews trusted their own righteousness, and many mongrel Christians mixed Christ's and their own; they
jumbled the two covenants together, half Christ and half works, in the point of a sinner's justification. They were like
those children of the Jews (Nehemiah 13:24) who married wives of Ashdod: they spoke half in the language of Ashdod
and half in the language of the Jews. And thus do they of the church of Rome, though many of them can speak a purer
gospel when they come to die.
We find in the Levitical law that God would have no honey used in sacrifice to Him (Leviticus 2:11); for though it is
sweet, yet it breeds choler in the stomach. Thus God will have man's righteousness to have nothing to do in his
justification, because though it is sweet and pleasant in it's place, yet here it would swell and puff up.
That was a brave speech of Luther's on Galatians, being rightly interpreted: "Let Moses be dead and buried, and his
sepulcher never be found." I (Obadiah Grew) take his meaning to be the exclusion of the works of Moses' law from a
man's justification, and from being his righteousness before God. This would be in accordance with Acts 13:39: "And by
Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses." But whether
God hinted at this to us in burying Moses' body Himself and concealing the place of his burial, I do not know.
Yet we must still be urged to keep a distinction between Christ's righteousness and our own, so as to see a need of His
when our own is nearest to perfection, and to see His as necessary when we are at the acme of grace, as when we first
came out of our natural state. For surely we may expect that when we come to die we shall find we must have a
stronger supporter for our hearts and hopes than our inherent righteousness. If then we will ease our troubled minds,
we must lean and lay our weight on the free grace of God in Christ.
Truly, this is the way to avoid both rocks and sand, to escape the snare that is in our most perfect graces and duties,
and also to have comfort in our weakest ones. Our completed graces will not infect us with pride and exalt us above
measure, nor will our lowest measures perplex us. For now, when we see ourselves as wretched in ourselves, as Paul
did, then we can say with him that we thank God for Jesus Christ, and take sanctuary there.
I close this branch of exhortation with the words of David and Isaiah as well-becoming us: "I will make mention of Thy
righteousness, of Thine only" (Psalm 71:16). And "Surely one shall say, In the Lord have I righteousness; in the Lord
shall all the seed of Israel be justified" (Isaiah 45:24-25).
Now let Christians who have attained to this righteousness learn how to raise and extract strong consolation from it, and
to take this as a cordial in the droopings of their souls by the remainders of sin: "Christ is the Lord Our Righteousness."
Who among the saints of God on earth have not experienced, more or less, what trouble of conscience is, and how
weak a cordial the best of their own is to their hearts at such a season. This made blessed Paul say, "Not mine own
righteousness, but that of God by faith in Christ." This will raise up the most sinking spirits, and those consciences that
are most in despair. It's by this righteousness that God justifies the ungodly.
And God expresses two reasons why He justifies man by this righteousness: To exclude boasting, and to prevent
terrors of conscience in His people from their common sense of little grace and much sin in themselves.
It is this righteousness that is the foundation of peace with God and of peace in our own conscience. The terrors of
conscience for sin are removed and abolished by the coming in of this righteousness when applied and improved.
It's true that the sanctification of our natures and the holiness of our lives are a good secondary supporter of peace in
our consciences: "This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our consciences,that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not in
fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in this world." The saints' own righteousnesses
and graces do not have that sovereign power to pacify the disturbed conscience, as the righteousness of Christ has.
Saul had many worthy men in this army, but only David could encounter Goliath. So there is worth and excellency in the
inherent graces of believers, and in their personal righteousness, but it is this imputed righteousness alone that can
encounter the charge of the law, of Satan, and of our own consciences.
And truly this righteousness of Christ imputed to a believer and applied by him makes his conscience like the land of
Canaan, a place of sweet rest and repose, "The rest of God," as it is called. Now there is nothing but amicable
carriage between God and the soul. When Abraham was righteous by believing the promised seed, then he was called
"the friend of God" (James 2:23). Yea, he was His bosom friend: "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I shall do?"
(Genesis 18:17). Indeed the very scope of this imputed righteousness is to remove all difference between God and us.
It is true, there is amor beneplaciti, a love of goodwill, which God bore to us before our justification, when we were in our
blood (Ezekiel 16:6). But His love of complacency and delight does not appear till we have this righteousness on us;
then it is that we are beautiful in His eyes, even through His comeliness put upon us. Now it is that Christ speaks such
language to His spouse: "Behold, thou art fair, My love, behold thou art fair. Thou hast ravished My heart with one of
thine eyes" (Song of Solomon 4:1, 9).
It is now that there is nearness to God. We are "a people near unto Him" (Psalm 148:14). Now there is that mysterious
oneness between the Father, Christ and believers: "In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and
I in you" (John 14:20). Now there may be as blessed interview between these three as was between the angel and
Jacob, between the Lord and Moses, and as will be between God and the children of Israel in the latter days mentioned
in Hosea 3:3: "I will be for thee, and thou shalt be for Me." Now there may be the enjoyment of that communion and
fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ that fills the heart with joy. And now a man may have that boldness
and liberty with God "in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him" (Ephesians 3:12).
Remember then that this righteousness of Christ imputed to a humble sinner is a cure for all extremities of conscience.
When a poor soul says to itself, "Shall such a wretch as I be justified before God? The answer should be, "Why, why
not I?" By this righteousness God justifies the ungodly, that is, objectively, when they are such, though they are not
such after they are justified.
Here's the magazine of comfort for all believers: The weak believer has the same beauty and loveliness in him, in God's
eyes, by this righteousness as the strongest, John's "little children" every bit as much as his "young men" and "fathers."
And once a man has attained to this righteousness, it does not matter whether he was a lesser or a greater sinner
before; for however great a sinner has been before he believed in Christ for this righteousness of his, yet now that he
does believe, all his sins and unrighteousness are swallowed up into victory by it, even though, he had been the chief of
sinners, which was Paul's case.
Now there are two things in this imputed righteousness which make it the spring of such strong consolation:
1. It is everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24), and so is a covering for sins to come as well as sins past; therefore it
set out by a fountain (Zechariah 13:1). Adam's righteousness in his state of innocence, and that of the angels too, was
but a cistern, apt to dry up; but Christ's is a fountain-righteousness, and so an everlasting righteousness, to make an
end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, as Daniel says.
It was a great miracle which the Lord did for the children of Israel in the wilderness, when their clothes did not wax old in
forty years time. But that was nothing compared to this everlasting righteousness which God imputes to believers; this
will never wax old. The heavens will wax old (Psalm 102:26), but this righteousness is as fresh as ever, and so will be
forever: "Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness" (Psalm 119:142). Though Christ was but once offered on
earth, yet He is a continual, sweet odor offered to God for us in heaven.
2. It is infinite righteousness, and this suits the sinner's state, who needs infinite righteousness. The greatest sinner
needs no more than this righteousness to justify him in the sight of God; and the least sinner needs as much. Just so,
he who gathered much manna had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack (Exodus 16:18). The least
sin in unpardonable without this righteousness, and the greatest sins are pardonable by it, except the sin against the
Indeed, to think any sin is little is a great sin, because the least sin must have this righteousness, this everlasting and
infinite righteousness, for a covering. And yet for a man not to believe Christ's righteousness is above all sin is a
greater sin; for disobedience is the disobedience of man, but the obedience of Christ is the obedience of God-man.
The sin of man is infinite only improperly, that is, in respect of the object against whom it is committed, God; but the
obedience and righteousness of Christ is properly infinite in respect of its Subject, by whom it was acted, He who was
God as well as man. The transgressor of the law was but man, but the Satisfier of the law was God also. And hereupon
we are to make these three observations:
OBSERVATION 1. See the great honor done to the law by this righteousness, that the law should be so abundantly
satisfied by the righteousness of such a person as the Lord Jesus Christ.
OBSERVATION 2. See the great security of the humbled and believing sinner, who has such righteousness and
obedience made over to him as the righteousness of God; for so this righteousness of Christ is often called, and so it is
OBSERVATION 3. See how God, Christ, the believer, and the gospel, as well as the law, all gain by this way of a sinner
being made righteous..
As for God, it is to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein "we are accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).
As for Christ, He is on this account highly exalted, even in His human nature (Philippians 2:8-9).
As for the gospel, it is hereby made a glorious gospel, the ministration of the Spirit, and the ministration of
righteousness, and the ministration of righteousness which exceeds in glory.
As for the believer, his condition and his comfort are wonderfully secured, as well as his honor in this point, above the
angels, to whom Christ is not made righteousness, like His is to men who believe. Christ did not take on Himself the
nature of angels (Hebrews 2:16), but the seed of Abraham. So He does not put His righteousness on the angels, but on
the spiritual seed of Abraham. These are they who have white robes, which is "the righteousness of the saints"
Consider further that the righteousness of Christ not only covers the sins of believers, but their righteousness too, that
is, the imperfections of their graces, duties, and works, and procures for them acceptance with God. It does for them
what the sweet frankincense in the law (Leviticus 2) did for the sacrifices then, make them a sweet savor to Jehovah.
We have cause indeed to mourn over our holy duties and best works, as in themselves and as being from us; yet we
have reason to rejoice in them as veiled with this righteousness, which is for our duties as well as our persons. This
was shadowed by the plate of pure gold (Exodus 28:36), having engraven on it, "Holiness to the Lord," and put on the
forehead of Aaron that he might bear the iniquity of the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they might be
accepted before the Lord. That was the antitype of this, as the apostle shows in Hebrews 13:20-21: "Now the God of
peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the
everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His
sight, through Jesus Christ."
It is by this righteousness that the duties, works, and graces of believers shall appear to honor, praise, and glory at the
appearing of Jesus Christ. And, upon the account of this imputed righteousness, the obedience of one believer is more
acceptable with God than the obedience of all mankind in the first covenant.
Oh, the wonderful satisfaction which a believer may take in this righteousness. God does so: "The Lord is well-pleased
for His righteousness sake" (Isaiah 42:21). And well may we then. But how few do! Some of these few do not because
they cannot; though they have attained to this righteousness, yet they have not attained to the sense of it. All believers
have the same state of peace because they are in the same state of justification, but they do not all have the same
sense of peace. Though there is the same reason for it in respect of this righteousness, for it is a covering to the
weakest believer as well as the strongest, yet all do not have the assuring act of faith. There may be faith where there
is not sight. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen: or felt (Hebrews 11:1; II Corinthians 5:7).
And the reason for this uncertainty in some of God's people is their listening to unjust judges. Satan is a malicious
judge, and he has influence sometimes upon poor souls to dazzle their evidence. Carnal reasoning, self-imagination,
and pre-suppositions are erroneous judges also.
Your appeals, therefore, must be to God in your case: "I will hearken what the Lord God shall speak" (Psalm 85:8). The
Spirit must convince men of righteousness as well as of sin. It is not easy for a godly man to take in the comfort of a
justified state. Presumptuous men indeed take comfort easily; they catch it before their time. They are like Saul, who
would sacrifice before Samuel came, contrary to order. These are as bold in their claim of what is not yet theirs as the
harlot was of the living child in I Kings 3. But true believers come by their comfort and assurance with difficulty, as that
chief captain did by his Roman freedom (Acts 22:28).
These are sometimes in Job's dissatisfaction, when he said, "If I had called and He had answered me, yet would I not
believe that He had hearkened to my voice" (Job 9:16). Though Nathan told David that the Lord had put away his sin (II
Samuel 12:13), yet David did not feel the comfort of it; and therefore how he prayed and cried for pardon, and for the
restoring of the joy of God's salvation (Psalm 51)!
God will have His people know that not only justification, but the comfort of a justified state, is the free gift of God.
QUESTION. How may the evidence of the righteousness of Christ made ours be come by?
ANSWER. 1. By the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And there is a twofold conviction of the Spirit in this case. First, that
Christ has such a righteousness for sinners, which He proves in this way: Christ has gone to the Father, and this
righteousness is imputed to us who believe. Though it is there written, yet the Spirit must convince us of it by a reflex
act of faith; and the Spirit has such an office: "He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14). "We
have received the Spirit which is of God that we might know the things that are freely given us of God" (I Corinthians
And this the Spirit does in giving us the reflex act of faith, which is the assurance of faith. Second Timothy 1:12: "I know
whom I have believed." I John 5:20: "And hath given us an understanding to know Him, and that we are in Him." Thus
the Spirit puts to silence all anxious disputes in the case. Oh, pray and wait for this conviction of the Spirit if you do not
yet have it!
ANSWER 2. The exercise of faith is necessary to our having evidence of this righteousness being ours. Faith is of
necessary use to make it ours, and the exercise of faith is of necessary use to discover it to be ours. The use of faith is
not only to bring use into a justified state, but also to give us the evidence and comfort of that state, which it must do by
its being exercised. Romans 1:17: "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." Justification requires
faith, and the assurance of it requires faith upon faith, which gives the full assurance of it (Hebrews 10:22).
Surely it is to be lamented that ancient and experienced Christians, who perhaps have been long in the possession of
their justification, are yet often questioning their title; this is by remitting the acts of faith. Christ did not do much for men
and places where He did not find faith. He gave His disciples this reason why they could not heal the man's child:
"because of their unbelief." Their faith was too low. And His words to them may be often applied to us: "Oh, fools, and
slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25).
Therefore, when we fathom the depth of our being made righteous by the righteousness of Christ made ours, and find
our evidence shallow, as they found the sea to be in Acts 27, we must do as they did: cast anchor, and set faith hard at
work on this righteousness of Christ offered to a believer sinner in a free promise.
QUESTION. But how may I know that I have this righteousness?
ANSWER. Why, consider the concomitants and consequences of it; and if you have these, you have that.
First, this righteousness will ever throw down self-righteousness. Where this righteousness has not been attained,
there self-righteousness is set up; and where it is, self-righteousness is cast down. Persons justified by free grace lie
low in themselves. Poverty of spiritual and habitual self-abasement are very discernible in them.
Second, imputed righteousness is ever accompanied with inherent righteousness in its capable subjects. Romans 8:4:
"That the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." And I John 3:7:
"He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is." There is no such friend to holiness as this righteousness of
free grace. Where was there a more holy man in his day than Paul, who was so experimentally versed in the imputed
righteousness of Christ? Inherent holiness faces imputed righteousness and receives life from it, as the moon receives
light from the sun.
It is evident in the holy Scriptures that the faith that justifies makes pure work in men who have it. Acts 15:9: "Purifying
their hearts by faith." Peter calls it "precious faith" in II Peter 1:1. It makes precious works where it is; and what precious
work is there in a loose, carnal, drunken, worldly, merely formal believer? Where this precious faith is, there will be
precious things: a precious heart, a precious life, precious duties, a precious conduct, precious experiences, and
And truly, faith separated from these is but a ghost of faith, like Saul's fulfilling the commandment of the Lord though he
had spared Agag and the fat of the cattle. Loose believers bring an ill report on this doctrine of imputed righteousness,
like the spies did of the land of Canaan; they make it to have ill favor with anti-Christian unbelievers, like Simeon and
Levi did their father and his family among the inhabitants of the land, and as the wickedness of the sons of Eli made the
offering of the Lord to be abhorred by the people (Genesis 34:30; I Samuel 2:17).
James 2, and other parallel passages in the Word of God, may grip the consciences of such believers whose faith is
without works, unless they are dead works and works of darkness, and unless their consciences are dead as well. Faith
and good works are like Saul and Jonathan, lovely and not divided, as David said of them. Therefore those Christians
who divide justifying faith and holiness of life do as Jeroboam did in dividing the ten tribes from the two. Christ's
righteousness on us has a righteousness in us, wrought by His Spirit to attend it.
This righteousness of Christ imputed to men is like that tree of life (Revelation 22:2) which bore various manners of fruit,
and that every month, and whose leaves were for the healing of the nations. This tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by His merit and Spirit, converts heathens into saints, and makes saints bring forth the saving fruits of
righteousness. Philippians 1:11: "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, which are unto
the glory and praise of God." The woman who is joined to a man is one flesh, and the man who is joined to Christ is one
spirit. The same mind is in him which was in Christ Jesus, and he is, in his desire and endeavor, of the same manner of
life, which is for obedience to the will of God.
USE OF INSTRUCTION. Let this new and strange way of God's justifying us, even when we were ungodly, teach and
move us to justify God in the strangest of His providences to ourselves or towards His church. Christ justified us when
we were at our worst; and why, then, should we not justify the worst of Christ, even His cross and sufferings from
offense and scandal? His righteousness makes our persons and performances, though full of imperfections, sweet and
lovely to God. And let the thought of this make our sufferings for Him, and with all their bitterness, lovely to us. They
were so to blessed Paul: "I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for
Christ" (II Corinthians 12:10). I say it again, let God's justifying of us by this righteousness of Christ make us so
ingenuous as to justify Him in our hardest conditions.
Lastly, this doctrine is a reason for a believer's everlasting thankfulness to God and Christ, both on earth and in
heaven; that when we were in our blood and cast out to the loathing of our persons, that He should then spread His
skirts over us to cover our nakedness; that He should justify us when ungodly. Let us therefore consider that God has
ordained our justification by a righteousness of His own, and outside of us, so that he who glories must glory in the
Lord. "For of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness, that he that glorieth might glory in
the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:31). And "in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory" (Isaiah 45:25).
The new song the saints sing to the Lamb in Revelation 5:9 is on this account.
The riches of God's free grace are transparent through this righteousness of Christ made ours. As David's royal spirit
was seen when he said to Araunah, "I will not offer unto God of that which cost me nothing" (II Samuel 24:24), so God's
royal love to believers is transparent in that He would not save us in a way that cost Him nothing. Our justification is the
price of His own blood, for so Christ's blood is called in Acts 20:28. Now, if we do not love God and Christ for this
righteousness, what will we love them for? Because of this righteousness, let us glory in the Lord, and glorify His free
and rich grace forever and ever!
Oh, let this doctrine of Christ's imputed righteousness feed us with admiration. That the Lord should give His dear and
only Son this name, "The Lord Our Righteousness," for our sakes; that we should have such a near relationship to Him
by espousals and union with Him; that we should also be called by this name, "The Lord Our Righteousness"; that this
righteousness should justify us when we are ungodly, cover our nakedness when we were in our blood; that it should be
appointed to make our weak graces and duties a sweet savor unto God, even though they are full of imperfections; that
it should be a strong guard to our consciences from despair; that it should exalt our natures above the nature of angels;
that it should be such a magazine of comfort to us - oh, let these things fill us with admiration! And let every soul that
has attained to this righteousness say of it those exalting words from Psalm 87:7: "All my springs are in Thee."
The LORD Our Righteousness, by Obadiah Grew, Copyright 2005, Soli Deo Gloria Publications.
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