|RIGHTEOUSNESS: God's Part in Making Christ's Righteousness
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Feb 27 2009 08:00 AM
How or in what manner does the righteousness of Christ becomes ours? It is another's righteousness; how then can
another's be ours? This is the great case that remains to be discussed.
Now the truth of the matter is plain enough. "By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all to justification of
life. By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19). This righteousness is not a sinner's
own; it is first the righteousness of another, and then made his, and must be so before it can justify him before God.
The garments which made Jacob of so sweet a savor to his old father Isaac were not his own, they were his elder
brother's; yet he had them on him. And this made his father say, "See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field
which the Lord hath blessed" (Genesis 27).
But how this comes about is the great inquiry. And here three things must be demonstrated:
2. What God does in making it ours.
3. What the sinner must do that this righteousness of Christ may be his.
1) A man's capacity for such propriety in Christ's righteousness is His union with him. Christ's taking our nature into
union was His capacity to take our sins and condemnation on Himself; and His taking our persons into union is our
capacity to have that interest in His righteousness so as to be made the righteousness of God in Him. The first union
was for the second, and the second is for our capacity to receive the virtues and benefits of the first. Christ first
espoused our natures, and then our persons; and hence comes in the wonderful sympathies that are between Christ
and us: First, that He suffers with us (Acts 9:5; Matthew 25:45), and that He "cannot but be touched with the feeling of
our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15).
So we in this way suffer with Him, are justified in Him, are raised up together with Him, and are made to sit together in
heavenly places in Him. Union is the ground of all the comfort and privilege we have by the Lord Jesus Christ. Our
communion springs from our union with Him. Had we not been in the first Adam, we would not have sinned with him, nor
derived sinfulness from him. The apostle speaks of this as an evident case. So if we are not in the second Adam, His
righteousness and life cannot be communicated to us.
In a marriage union, the wife is honorable by her husband's honor; her debts become his and his estate and qualities
hers. Thus is comes to pass by our union of espousals to Christ ("My Beloved is mine, and I am His.") that we have an
interest and propriety in His merit and Spirit, in His righteousness and life. By the former espousals, that is, of our
natures, He took our sins upon Him; by these espousals of our persons, we take His righteousness upon us. By
marriage to Him, "All are yours, and you are Christ's" (I Corinthians 3:22). So that Christ is to us not only a Head of
eminence, as He is to the angels, but a Head of influence and communication, as the bridegroom is the bride. It is by
this union of espousals that we are His love and His undefiled. And here is the reason why the Father loves believers
as He does Christ: "That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26).
2) This righteousness of Christ is made ours, on God's part, by imputation. God counts it unto us for righteousness,
and it is so, as the Scripture says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness"
The Roman Catholics have made a great disturbance and insurrection against this blessed and sweet evangelical
doctrine by violent and subtle reasonings for an infused and an inherent righteousness in us in the point of satisfaction.
But it is a wonder that they should raise their dust in their own faces, and maintain argument where their own
consciences oftentimes give them a rebuke, especially when they are upon the borders of the next world. I (Obadiah
Grew) say they might be wondered at, were it not that they are blinded as well as the Jews in this case, and that the
smoke from the bottomless pit disturbs their sight, and were it not that the judgment is upon them "because they
received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. For this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that
they should believe a lie" (II Thessalonians 2:10). Yea, and it is no marvel that they so much contend for self-exalting
divinity, whose head exalts himself above all that is called God.
But let us consider and weigh the case rationally, and then look how Christ was made sin for us in the same way are we
made righteousness by Him. Now Christ was made sin for us by imputation, and not by inhesion of sin in Him. Christ
had no sin in Him, nor did He sin; in these ways He knew no sin, as the apostle says to the Corinthians. But our sins
were laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6). Thus the righteousness of Christ that justifies us before God is not a righteousness of
His in us, but a righteousness put upon us. "Thy beauty was perfect through My comeliness put upon thee, saith the
Lord" (Ezekiel 16). And surely, as the one part of our justification, namely our discharge from condemnation, is done by
God's not imputing sin to us (Psalm 32:2: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin"), not by having no sin
in him, but by having no sin imputed to him, so the other part of justification, namely a man's being made righteous in
the sight of God, is not by putting righteousness in him, but by imputing righteousness to him. Even as David described
the blessedness of the man unto whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works.
The papist will not deny all imputed righteousness; but then they say that the righteousness which God imputes to us is
inherent righteousness, grace within us. But how then does He justify the ungodly? How does He justify the sinner who
has no grace? As I have before proved, justification finds men ungodly, though it does not leave them so. And,
besides, herein they confound justification and sanctification, faith and works, the law and gospel, the first and second
covenant. They are as bad, if not worse, than those Galatians whom the apostle charges for that very reason to have
turned aside to "another gospel."
Doubtless, therefore, this doctrine that makes our justification before God to consist in inherent grace deserves to be
exploded and blotted out forever from the church of God as one of those doctrines of men (Colossians 2:22), as that
leaven and doctrine of the Pharisees our blessed Savior cautioned His disciples to beware of, and as the same with the
doctrine of those perishing Jews who stumbled at that stumbling stone, namely, seeking after righteousness by
something in themselves; which Paul called, "going about to establish their own righteousness."
And this leaven, or doctrine of the papists, deserves to be exploded by the church of God forever upon these, among
many more, reasons:
imperfections in grace need forgiveness as well as our sins. Why else has God ordained an office, a high priest,
and such a one as Jesus Christ, to bear the iniquities of our holy things, as is evident in His type in this very
case. Why now, if we have such grace and righteousness within us as may justify us and make us stand upon
our own account in the pure sight of God, what need is there for this office of Christ? This generation of men
pretend to give much to Christ, but they sift the matter and take infinitely more from Him. They take from Christ to
give to grace in man.
and is of great power and efficacy, as our Savior said of a grain of faith. But grace is set too high when we make
it our righteousness. It is grace that is our righteousness before God, according to their doctrine, and not Christ.
He loses this name, "The Lord Our Righteousness," if God justifies us for inherent grace: and so the order and
platform of the whole gospel is spoiled and inverted. For as a natural man may be said to be inversus decalogus,
the decalogue turned upside down, so this point of the papist's justification by inherent grace may as well be
called inversum evangelium, the Gospel turned upside down, or another gospel (Galatians 1). For it is most
certain that as we have imputed sin from the first Adam as well as inherent, and it was the imputed righteousness
of the second Adam that bring us under justification of life, so to take away Christ's imputed righteousness is to
take away much of His glory as Mediator.
of it, yet their consciences confute their doctrine when they come into trouble. Then you shall find purer divinity
in men's consciences, when under the rebuke of God, than in their heads. When their champion Bellarmine
came to the point of death, then in a few words he refuted and unsaid all that he had said and written in his life in
this point of man's justification before God by his inherent grace. This you saw before. And show me the
trembling conscience that ever fled to any other city of refuge than Christ's righteousness. It was Christ only who
said, and could say, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," and, "Woman, go in peace; thy faith, thy
faith in Me, hath saved thee."
thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," and, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in
Christ Jesus." You see that he gloried not in his own grace, but in Christ's.
OBJECTION. But did not Paul glory in his inherent grace, and the influence of it in his life, as the ground of rejoicing?
"But our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our
conversation in the world" (II Corinthians 1:12).
ANSWER. This passage of Paul's concerns his justification against the reproach of men, and not before God. False
apostles and false brethren aspersed and disparaged him much, and charged him with things that he did not know.
David's adversaries did just so by him in Psalm 35. Here Paul's good conscience he had lived in wiped off all this; their
dirt would not stick on Paul; their foul breath slid off him, as a man's from the blade of a new knife or sword. "This is our
rejoicing, the testimony of our conscience." This was his comfort, that though their mouths reproached him, yet his own
heart did not.
But now, though the conscience of a godly man's sincerity will justify him to himself against the charge of men, yet he
must have something else to satisfy his own conscience and to justify him before God. Observe therefore the reason of
that famous challenge of Paul's: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is
he that condemneth? It is Christ that died" (Romans 8:33). He does not say that they have inherent grace and
gracious lives to answer for them, but that they have Christ who died, and Christ who rose again, and Christ who makes
intercession for them to answer the charge. This is their bar against any charge to condemnation, and a screen
between them and the wrath to come.
alike to all, and the guilt alike to all (Romans 5), but not so his derived and propagated sin; for this admits of more
and less in men: some have more sin than others, as some have more grace than others. For sanctification is an
inherent quality, and admits of degrees, as heat in water does; but justification is an act of relation, and does not
admit of degrees. A child is no more a child at seven or seventeen years of age than he was the first day he was
born. So when all these things are laid together, the opinion of the papist for justification by inherent grace must
be rejected as spurious and foreign from Scripture: and justification by imputed righteousness is the truth to be
received and adhered to.
QUESTION. But what is this imputing of righteousness to us?
ANSWER. As is God's not imputing sin to us, such is His imputing of righteousness. Now God's not imputing sin to us,
which is spoken of by David and Paul (Psalm 32; II Corinthians 5:19; and Romans 4), is not because we have no sin, for
that is not so, says I John, but because He charges us with none. Jeremiah 50:20 "The iniquities of Israel shall be
sought for, and there shall be none," that is, none laid to their charge, "and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be
found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve." And this may be the sense of those so greatly wrested words in Numbers
23:21: "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel," that is, He will impute none,
but cover and pardon all, and so there is no hope that they should be cursed. The Lord blessed them in covering and
not imputing their sins, and so Balaam could not curse them.
Thus God is said in Scripture to impute righteousness to them who believe, but not because they have this
righteousness in them, but because He reckons it as theirs, and reckons them righteous by it. "That we might be made
the righteousness of God in Him." He became sin for us by imputation, not inhesion; we become righteousness through
Him not by inhesion but by imputation.
Nor is this a fancy for fiction, but a real thing. For as our sins which deserved damnation were really laid on Christ by
God, that is, in a law sense, as a debt is on a surety, though he had none of the money, so, in the same way, His
righteousness is laid on us so as truly to be made ours. The Scripture says that God is "the Justifier of him that
believeth in Jesus," and that "to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted
So then, we see that it is not men's grace that He gives as the reason of their justification, but to a righteousness in
Christ that is believed on. God covers your sins as he did David's in Psalm 32. With what does He do this? With your
inherent grace? No, in no way; this is too narrow to do it. Your own righteousness will not cover your nakedness any
better than Adam's leaves did his. Adam and Eve's nakedness was covered with a covering of God's providing
(Genesis 3:21). The Lord said to His people, the Jews, "I spread My skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness"
(Ezekiel 16:8). As the law in the Ark was covered by the mercyseat, which was a figure of Christ, so our sins against the
law are covered by Christ from the judging eye of God.
But here we are to consider by way of caution that though we are to distinguish between justification and sanctification,
yet do we not, nor may we, separate or disjoin them. They go together in the same person as heat and light do in the
sun. None are justified but they who are also sanctified. "But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified" (I Corinthians 6:11),
and "Whom He called, them He justified" (Romans 8:30). There is a conjunction of them, but no confusion.
Neither do we deny but that sanctification is called righteousness in Scripture. It is said of Zacharias and Elizabeth that
they were both righteous before God (Luke 1:6). But how? With a righteousness of well-pleasing, such as Enoch's was
(Hebrews 11:5), not with a meritorious righteousness which that must be which justifies a sinner; because none but such
a righteousness can stop the mouth of the law and expiate the curse of it, which no righteousness can do but that
righteousness of Christ which by imputation is made ours.
I (Obadiah Grew) shall add three confirmations that this righteousness of Christ is made ours by imputation:
From the figures and types that were of this thing in the ceremonial law. Consider how the sin of the offender in
that law was transferred to the sacrifice or sin offering, and how the sins of all Israel were passed over to the goat.
Were those legal offenses put into the goat? And were they inherent in him? It is an absurd thing to think so. But the
offenses of the people were laid upon the sacrifice. "Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and
confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon
the head of the goat, and so send him away into the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:21). The same we find of the bullock in
Leviticus 4:14-15. Observe that the iniquities of the people were put upon the sacrifice, not into it. This was, in a figure,
this imputation, and so was an act of legal justice whereby the offenders were discharged.
Now this is exactly answered in Christ. Our sins are transferred to Him. How? Not into Him, but upon Him. "The Lord
hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all." And so is His righteousness transferred to us. How? Not by inhesion but by
imputation; and so by a judicial act. It is not put into us, but upon us. And surely it would amount to blasphemy to say
otherwise, that either our sins for which He was condemned were in Him, or that His righteousness for which we are
justified is in us. The Scripture speaks expressly upon both, as to the type and antitype. The papists impute the
supererrogating works of a monk to another man, and yet will not allow the imputation of Christ's to us!
From the parallel between the two Adams. The first Adam's sin was ours. But how? Not inherently, but imputedly.
Now, as the first Adam's sin is ours, after the like manner is the second Adam's righteousness ours. Imputed sin is
taken away by imputed righteousness.
OBJECTION. But we have inherent sin both from Adam and of our own also; and by what righteousness are these done
ANSWER. By the same righteousness, for so the apostle says plainly: 'the free gift" of Romans 5:16, that is, of
righteousness, in verse 17 "is of many offenses unto justification."
From the consideration that no other grace is said in Scripture to justify us but faith alone. Not repentance, nor
patience, nor any other grace else, yet these are inherent graces in us. But is not faith an inherent grace also? Yes,
but faith does not justify as it is a grace in us, but as it goes out of us and carries us out of ourselves, and as it lays hold
on another righteousness than our own within us; namely Christ's obedience and blood in their merit. It is this way that
faith justifies, which is not said of any other grace.
QUESTION. But if the blood and obedience of Christ justify, how does faith justify?
ANSWER. Faith is said to justify because of all graces it only is used in our justification. Faith applies that which
justifies, which is the righteousness of Christ. The eye of an Israelite did not heal the place stung by serpents (Numbers
21) as it was one of the five senses, but as it looked up to the brazen serpent. So faith justifies a man not as it is one of
the graces of the Spirit in him, but as it looks on Christ for justification, who is the antitype of that healing serpent. "As
Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14).
Thus we see that the righteousness which justifies us is not our own, and yet is made ours, not by inhesion in us, but by
imputation to us. It is counted ours by our union with Christ; our marriage to Him gives us a title to His righteousness.
And as Sarah called Abraham "Lord," so may we call Christ "The Lord Our Righteousness." God was not in our graces,
but in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, not imputing our trespasses to us. Therefore holy Paul abased his own
righteousness even as dung, as to any justifying power. And therefore the Scripture debased Abraham's work of grace
in this point; through otherwise it makes them of high value. The Holy Ghost did thus by both those eminent saints to
exclude boasting from both. And if from them, then from us much more.
The papists object against this by saying that if I am righteous by the righteousness of Christ made mine, then I am as
righteous as Christ Himself.
To this I (Obadiah Grew) answer that I and you are as righteous hereby as the righteousness of Christ needs to make
us before God. The righteousness of Christ makes a believer as righteous as God would have him. And this may
suffice, and be enough to him, without querying whether he is as righteous as Christ Himself.
Thus we have seen how Christ's righteousness becomes ours on God's part. It is by His imputing it to us that believe. It
is by imputed righteousness that we are justified.
Now before I (Obadiah Grew) show what we must do that this righteousness may be ours, I shall make some application.
Here we are informed where our basis and foundation of comfort and glorying in God lies, even out of ourselves, and in
what Christ is made unto us. When a poor soul is amazed by the charge of the law of God, and by the charge of his
own conscience against him, and that not only for sin, but for weakness of grace and imperfections in his most gracious
works, what is it that brings him out of this maze? What settles his disturbed conscience and quiets his troubled spirit
within him? Does his inherent grace? No, he complains of his graces as well as his sins; therefore this cannot do it. It
must be something else that is better than his own grace and righteousness in him. And what can that be but the
obedience and righteousness of Christ imputed to him? Paul had as little sin and as much grace as any man when in a
state of grace; and yet he complained in both cases of the strength of sin and the weakness of grace. He bewailed it
that he did the evil which he did not want to do, and that he did not the good he wanted to do. And notwithstanding all
his grace, he cried out of himself, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" My grace? No. "But I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here was his sanctuary and city of refuge; here his conscience had peace and rest.
Remember this, then, in your perplexities within, and when you cannot but esteem your own righteousness as filthy
rags, that Christ has enough righteousness, and that He has it for you. As He said to His disciples, "Because I live, ye
shall live also" (John 14:19), so, "because I have righteousness, ye shall have righteousness also" Isaiah 45:24:
"Surely shall one say, 'In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.'" And it is such a righteousness as satisfies all
the demands of God's justice and puts a sufficient bar between you and wrath and hell. "There is therefore now no
condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Jesus has delivered us "from the wrath to come."
Here is a righteousness too hard for your sins. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. For if by the
offense of one many be dead, much more by the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ,
hath abounded unto many" (Romans 5:20, 15). Oh, then, let the troubled conscience fly from the sins that pursue it to
this securing righteousness. Yea, and if you are an experienced Christian, your experience tells you often that you are
fain to fly from your grace because of its imperfection for sanctuary here. It is only this righteousness made yours that
can scatter your fears and answer your objections. Here, your own experience tells you, is your safest and sweetest
place of repose.
And, my brethren, take this advice: carry this cordial about in wearisome times, this name of Christ, "The Lord Our
Righteousness." When the Lord would give Judah a sign of their rescue in their great straits, this was the sign:
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name 'Emmanuel, God with us.'" (Isaiah 7:14). And
this was to be a blessed sign to the same people in later troubles of their coming out, as in this text and context: "In His
days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely. And [or "for"] this is His name whereby He shall be called: The
Lord Our Righteousness. Therefore, behold the days to come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, ' The Lord
liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt'; but, 'the Lord liveth which brought up the house of Israel out
of the north country.'" The meaning is that the latter deliverance would be more signal and famous than the former.
So when we call the Lord Jesus Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord Our Righteousness," we may also call him, Jehovah
Ropheka, "The Lord That Healeth Thee," Jehovah Shamma, "The Lord is There, " Jehovah Nissi, "The Lord Is My
Banner," and Jehovah Jireh, "The Lord Will Provide," or, "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." The mountain of
slaughter shall turn the mountain of deliverance; where Isaac should have been sacrificed, there Isaac was miraculously
You must know that the righteousness that Christ is to us was from the merit and value of His blood. By this He
overcame our sins, and the death and wrath that were due to them. And it is by this blood that the saints shall
overcome the wrath of the devil. By this blood the church shall be secured from all her flesh and blood enemies. That
which has borne the wrath of God, and overcome the wrath of the devil, will overcome with ease the wrath of man.
That righteousness that Christ is to us is a breastplate indeed; the words are quoted from Isaiah 59:16-17: "And he saw
that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor, therefore his arm brought salvation unto him, and
his righteousness it sustained him, for he put on righteousness as a breastplate." You know the heart is in the breast;
therefore this breastplate can secure the heart from trouble. "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe
also in Me" (John 14:1). This was spoken to them when they were upon the confines of suffering for Christ.
And doubtless faith in Christ as "The Lord Our righteousness" is a refuge and place of retreat from any storms. And
observe that faith in Christ then, when He was at His lowest and ready to be cut off, and descending into hell, was able
to do this; how much more may faith in Christ do it now when He is in heaven, and when all power in heaven and earth is
in His hands. Well may we receive this charge now, "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in Me."
Lastly, here is a place for glorying when we come to die. There are two special seasons wherein this name of Christ,
"The Lord Our Righteousness," will be of great value to us: in trouble of conscience and at our death. In trouble of
conscience this, if applied, will bid us be of good cheer, for our sins are forgiven us. Upon a death bed this
righteousness will make a believer able to make two brave challenges. The first is found in Romans 8:33-34: "Who shall
lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died,
yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." The second
is found in I Corinthians 15:55-57: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is
sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The LORD Our Righteousness, by Obadiah Grew, Copyright 2005, Soli Deo Gloria Publications.
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