Imputed Righteousness: What do the Scriptures teach?

Romans 3:19-26
It is very remarkable that the Scriptures never use the expression, “the imputed righteousness of Christ,” or even “the righteousness of Christ”; but always, as in the above passage, “the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:21-22, 2621But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:21‑22)
26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)
). The Holy Spirit must have an object in this; and surely it is to direct our attention, first of all to God Himself, to show His own character and attributes in perfect consistency and harmony, that He is just in justifying the sinner. The way He is so will be found to be through the redemption blood of Christ.
How full the Psalms are of this subject — the righteousness of God. Take one — the 71st. “Deliver me in Thy righteousness” (Psa. 71:22Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. (Psalm 71:2)). “My mouth shall show forth Thy righteousness and Thy salvation all the day long” (Psa. 71:1515My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. (Psalm 71:15)). “I will make mention of Tthy righteousness, even of Thine only” (Psa. 71:1616I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only. (Psalm 71:16)). “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee!” (Psa. 71:1919Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee! (Psalm 71:19)). “My tongue also shall talk of Thy righteousness all the day long” (Psa. 71:2424My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt. (Psalm 71:24)). Indeed the spirit of Christ, in the. Psalms, is constantly breaking out in praise at the bright prospect of the righteousness of God, being exalted above the heavens, and His glory filling the whole earth. Surely then it is of the first importance that God should be seen to be perfectly consistent with Himself, in the relation in which he stands to all created beings, and this is righteousness. Daniel 6 very strikingly illustrates this. There was this peculiarity about the law of the Medes and Persians, it could not be altered. The king must enforce its full execution. Daniel had broken this law, a very unjust law, (but this does not affect the illustration). Now it so happened that Darius the king had an intense affection for Daniel. But the law of the Medes demanded that Daniel should die, should be cast into the den of lions. If Darius cast Daniel into this horrible den, where was his love? If he spare him, where was his consistency, as king of the Medes and Persians? This was the difficulty. The king set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and be labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. But mere love could not deliver. Daniel must be, and was, cast into the den of lions. The king’s seal was put on the great stone that covered the den. This was the end of the law of the Medes and Persians. But the living God stopped the mouth of the lions. That night was a night of sorrow; but the next morn was a morning of joy. Daniel arose from the den. Beautiful figure of death and resurrection. Daniel is alive and highly exalted, and Darius is consistent as king of the Medes. Now if the word of a man, even respecting a wicked decree, could not be altered, if the law of men could not be changed, can the sentence of the Most Holy God be changed or set aside?
He is holy, and His sentence on sin is death. But O! blessed to know and tell, God loved the sinner. Now here is the great question, If God in love spares the sinner, where is His righteousness? and if He destroys the sinner, where is His love? The love of Darius could not spare Daniel. The love of God cannot spare or, save the sinner, at the expense of His righteousness. Words cannot describe the intensity of God’s love to the sinner; but He must be consistent as the moral Governor of the universe.
That question in the old Book of Job, then, is the one that needs answering. “How then can man be justified with God?” (Job 2:44And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. (Job 2:4)). I am not aware that this question is answered anywhere in the Scriptures, until we come to the Epistle to the Romans The subject of the first eight chapters of this epistle, is the unfolding the righteous character of God in condemning sin, yet justifying the believing sinner.
God’s love had been fully shown in so loving, as to give His only begotten Son. But the love of God alone, is not the good news that gives settled peace to a guilty sinner. Paul was separated unto the gospel or good news of God. Of this good news he was not ashamed; “For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:1616For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)). Now what is the great point in this wondrous good news? Why the very point we are looking at. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: (or on the principle of faith:) as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:1717For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17)). This, then, is the great subject of the Epistle, the very thing the sinner needs above all things to know, the righteousness of God on the principle of faith. The first thing, then, the Spirit does in this Epistle to clear the way, is to prove there neither is nor can be human righteousness, on any other principle but faith.
In the 1st chapter of Romans, man without law became thoroughly lawless; abandoned himself to the deepest degradation. Witness the state of the heathen world (Rom. 1:21-3221Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:21‑32)). Man under law broke it and became if possible worse than the heathen. Witness Israel (Rom. 2:17-2917Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, 18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, 20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? 24For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Romans 2:17‑29)).
By works of law there could not be righteousness; for the whole world stands guilty before God (Rom. 3:1919Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19)). The law only makes known sin. The more man tries to keep it, the more it shows his utter sinfulness. It was given for this purpose that the offense might abound. O! marvel of all marvels, that this deep, universal unrighteousness, should thus commend the righteousness of God. That is, when man’s condition could not be worse, God’s grace shines forth in meeting him; saving him, and justifying, yea in glorifying him with Himself forever, and that in perfect righteousness. Thus it is, when man has no righteousness, and it is most certain, both from Scripture and experience, on the principle of law, he never in any way can have; then it is we read, “BUT NOW THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD, without law, is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe” (Rom. 3:21-2221But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:21‑22)).
Note well, it is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Yes, it is the death, the propitiation, through faith in His blood, that God hath set forth to declare His, that is, God’s, righteousness, both in passing over the sins of all believers during past ages; and also, “To declare (I say) at this time His (that is God’s) righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:2626To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:26)). The next five chapters explain how this is done. Before we enter upon them, note, God’s conclusion of the matter is this, “That a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:2828Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:28)). Is there any wonder, then, that the person vainly trying to be righteous by works of law, on the principle of ‘do and live,’ should never be able to find peace and rest to his troubled soul?
Two cases are now cited, to show that justification has always been on the principle of faith, and never on the principle of works, a plain proof of man’s fallen condition, which some are so impiously denying.
First, Abraham. To the Jew this must have shocking. It might be true that he was quite consistent or righteous as a man before men; but before God, righteousness was counted, reckoned, or imputed to him on the principle of faith. “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:88Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:8)). Now as to this word “imputed.” The Word “Logizomai” occurs forty-one times in the New Testament; nine times it is translated “thinkest”; (Rom. 2:33And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:3); 1 Cor. 13:5, 115Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (1 Corinthians 13:5)
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
; 2 Cor. 3:5; 10:2, 7, 11; 12:65Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; (2 Corinthians 3:5)
2But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 10:2)
7Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ's, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ's, even so are we Christ's. (2 Corinthians 10:7)
11Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present. (2 Corinthians 10:11)
6For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. (2 Corinthians 12:6)
; Phil. 4:88Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)); nine times, “counted, (Rom. 2:26; 4:3, 5; 8:36; 9:826Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (Romans 2:26)
3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:3)
5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Romans 8:36)
8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. (Romans 9:8)
; 1 Cor. 4:11Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1); Gal. 3:66Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. (Galatians 3:6); Phil. 3:1313Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, (Philippians 3:13); Heb. 3:33For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. (Hebrews 3:3)); eight times, “imputed, (Rom. 4:6, 8, 11, 22, 23, 246Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (Romans 4:6)
8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:8)
11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: (Romans 4:11)
22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (Romans 4:22‑24)
; 2 Cor. 5:1919To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19); James 2:2323And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:23)); six times, “reckoned”; (Luke 22:3737For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. (Luke 22:37); Rom. 4:4, 9, 10; 6:11; 8:184Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (Romans 4:4)
9Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (Romans 4:9‑10)
11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)
18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
). There are a few other places, “reasoned,” as in Mark 11:3131And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? (Mark 11:31), “was numbered, Mark 15:2828And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors. (Mark 15:28). But a careful comparison of all these passages, where the word is used, shows that the simple meaning of the word is, “reckoned,” or “considered to be”; just as we should say of a boy at school whom we knew to be heir of an estate, though not actually as yet in possession; yet, on the veracity of the will, on the genuineness of the document, we should look upon the boy as heir. On the principle of faith, we should reckon the estate of the father to him He is not yet in possession, but we should impute it to him, treat him as though he were in possession. Let it not be supposed that the Scriptures teach, that the blessed obedience of Christ under law, is imputed to the sinner, like a piece of new leather is put on an old bottle; or what would be more familiar to us, as a man who, finding in his garment a slit here and a hole there, puts a piece of new cloth on, or a piece of new leather, on his shoes here and another there. Righteousness is not thus imputed to mend the sinner. It is not the mending of the old shoe by a piece of leather here and there; neither is it by covering the old rotten leather all over. It is not mending at all; but setting aside as worthless, and the giving an entirely new thing. I should not speak so plainly if I did not really believe it needful. (See Mark 2:21, 2221No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. (Mark 2:21‑22).)
The thought of Christ having kept the law for me and that this is imputed to me for righteousness, even supposing I had been a Jew under law, would be utterly wrong, for this would only be making me righteous on the principle of law-keeping, which God says is impossible (Rom. 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)). Nor does the Scripture anywhere teach the whole life of Christ as keeping the law, imputed to, or put upon, the lawbreaker to enable him to stand in law-kept righteousness before God. A far deeper thing was needed. It was not possible for a holy Christ to be attached to a sinful creature. Had he lived forever on earth in spotless righteousness, he must have remained alone. If you turn to the following passage, you will see this most clearly: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)). The blessed Lord explains all this as meaning His own death, and if any will have life, they must follow Him in that death.
The great error of this day is, discussing how the old man is to be mended, instead of seeing God’s truth in the old thing being set aside as unmendable, and an entirely new thing set in its place.
Let us now proceed with the inquiry in Romans 4. It has been remarked, that nine times out of the eleven, where imputed righteousness is spoken of in the Scriptures, faith is said to be imputed. How very strikingly this carries out the thought of the Epistle, the righteousness of God on the principle of faith.1
They are Romans 4:3, 5, 9-10, 22- 243For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:3)
5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)
9Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (Romans 4:9‑10)
22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (Romans 4:22‑24)
; Galatians 3:66Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. (Galatians 3:6); James 2:2323And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:23). All these speak of faith, or the faith imputed or reckoned for righteousness. The other two put righteousness itself reckoned. These are, “God imputeth righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:66Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (Romans 4:6)) and “That righteousness might be imputed to them also” (Rom. 4:1111And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: (Romans 4:11)). To return; “Abraham believed God” (Rom. 4:33For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:3)). Now, what did he believe? Plainly, he believed what God said, because God said it. This is the great point, as to true faith. If I do not believe the bare word of God, unless the church or the man says it is so, this is not believing God at all. Abraham had only God’s word; there was no church to say it was so; the world was full of idolatry. He could not look to his own feelings. He considered not his own body now dead. And what did God say to him? Say to him? why, in the promise of the seed, or the principle of resurrection, He opened up to faith the day of Christ in resurrection. “As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:1717(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (Romans 4:17)). Thus Abraham believed in the God of resurrection, on the very same principle as we do, only we more clearly, since now Christ has died and is risen again.
One word as to the other case — David. Now, without controversy, this man could not possibly be justified by, or on the principle of, law keeping. He had shamefully broken it before the whole world. On what principle, then, was he justified? On the principle of faith. But on what did his faith rest, or how far did it reach? Most clearly to the God of resurrection, as Peter declares (Acts 2:24-3424Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: 26Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: 27Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 28Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. 29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, (Acts 2:24‑34)). Paul also says the same thing (Acts 13:34-3634And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: (Acts 13:34‑36)). So bright was the certainty of resurrection to David that he says, “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness” (Psa. 17:1515As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15)). It was not that faith had merit, and that merit reckoned for righteousness. Faith may be compared to eyesight. Eyesight without light would be nothing; and both without an object would be useless. Faith is the gift of God: and it is God who says, Let there be light; and it is God, by the Holy Spirit, who reveals the glorious object of faith. So the faith of Abraham and David saw Christ in resurrection; and this, even Christ in resurrection, was imputed, or reckoned, for righteousness. A blessed justified state, in which God not only forgave sins, but to whom, in such state, the Lord will not impute sin. Doubly blest.
Let us now see how Abraham’s believing in the God of resurrection is applied to us. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:23-2523Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:23‑25)). Is it not most sad that this bright half of the gospel — the resurrection half of it — should have been lost? How can the righteousness of God be understood where this is the case? Impossible. And, on the contrary, where the justification by resurrection is understood, every shadow of a difficulty, as to imputed righteousness, vanishes at once.
The statement that justification merely means pardon of sin, betrays at once entire ignorance of the resurrection, half of the gospel. Besides, to limit the meaning of justification to pardon of sin, if compared with its use in the Scriptures, will be seen to be absurd. David, speaking to God, says, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight; that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and clear when Thou judgest” (Psa. 51:44Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Psalm 51:4)). To apply the limited meaning of pardon to the word justified here, would make David say he had sinned that God might be pardoned. Many other passages, such as the justification of Christ, in Isaiah 1; and the sinners who justified God, being baptized of John in the gospel, might be pointed out; but the above is sufficient to show it must be in sad ignorance of Scripture, that such a statement can be made, as that justification means only pardon of sin. I would not make these remarks were it not that the right understanding of the double character of justification, is of such immense importance, both as to the righteousness of God, and the enjoyment of peace with Him.
We shall find that double character most clearly presented in the next chapter (Rom. 5). I mean JUSTIFICATION BY BLOOD (Rom. 5:99Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9)) and JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE (Rom. 5:1818Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)). Justification from all that I was, complete clearance from all sins; and justification of that life and existence which the person has when thus cleared. The death of our adorable Substitute meets the former -His blood. The resurrection of Christ is the source and justification of the latter. “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)). Let it be distinctly understood that the precious death of Christ on the cross, for our sins, is the foundation of everything. To deny this is not a matter of opinion. In the face of such passages as the following, could anything be more impiously wicked, than to deny the vicarious sufferings of Christ? God says to us, “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh,” etc. (1 Peter 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18)). “Who, His own self, bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18)). “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 8:28). “Who gave Himself for our sins” (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)). “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. 53:55But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)). “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:66All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)). “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:33For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1 Corinthians 15:3)). If any man denies this, he will find in the day of judgment, that this is not a matter of opinion. To believe God in what He thus so plainly speaks, is saving faith — to deny it, is damning unbelief. There is no middle place. This blessed work is accomplished. Christ has died, the just for the unjust. Let the eye now rest on Him as the surety, taking the place of the sinner — delivered for our offenses — and in that place He could not be spared. The love of God, if He must be righteous in saving us, could not spare His Son. The cup could not pass from Him, and it did not. If Darius labored to deliver Daniel until the going down of the sun, what did it cost the Father, when He beheld His beloved Son prostrate in sad Gethsemane, and on the cross? Oh! well might the Holy One cry out, “My God, My God! why hast thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:4646And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46); Mark 15:3434And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34)). Oh! who can fathom the love of God to us poor sinners, when He spared not His beloved Son? He died the accursed death of the cross; he was buried; a great stone was laid on the mouth of His sepulcher; it, like Daniel’s den, was also sealed with a seal. And there was the end of the law’s utmost claim — fulfilled to the last jot or tittle. To redeem them that were under the law, He thus bore its curse. To save us Gentiles, who were sinners without law, He was made sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
The law could go no further than death, but God could go further. Where the law ended, God began; God raised Him from the dead; and thus, beyond law altogether, Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)). Thus, by His blessed death, Christ is the end of the law, for righteousness, to them that believe (Rom. 10:44For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)).
If King Darius was exceeding glad when he came early in the morning to the mouth of the den, when Daniel arose from among the lions, as it were arose front the dead, what must have been the joy of God on that morn when the women came very early to the sepulcher, and Jesus was risen from among the dead? Darius proclaimed peace to all peoples; for Daniel was alive, who had been in the den of death, and that he was exalted and his enemies destroyed in the very den. Surely it is a striking figure, or illustration, how God has triumphed through the cross of Christ. Daniel was alive, and Darius had fully carried out in righteousness, that is, in kingly consistency, the law of the Medes.
Now, Christ was the only one who had life in Himself, who could lay it down for the sheep and take it up again. He was dead, but is alive again — He died for our sins, our substitute — He arose for our justification, our surety and representative head. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)). For our comfort, we must have peace, for we must have what our Surety has, on the very ground of the righteousness of God. For God made Him to be our substitute, made Him sin for us. And God has made Him to be our surety and representative; for, as man, God hath raised Him from the dead, and that for the very purpose of justifying us. If we would enjoy this blessed peace, we must not stop at Christ’s death. This alone would not help us in the least. “If Christ be not risen, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:1717And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)). But He is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
Now, if God could not spare our substitute, and be righteous in doing so, how can He be righteous and condemn us, since our substitute has made atonement to the full for all our sins? and much more, since God has raised Him, as our justified surety from the dead. Christ for us is ever in that justified or perfectly righteous state; and herein, as we shall see presently, justification is much more than pardon. Suppose a prisoner before the bar, proved guilty, say of stealing a sheep. He might be forgiven, but could the judge justify him? Clearly not; unless be could justify sheep stealing. Could he rise in court and say, I justify this person from every charge; and as a proof that there is not a stain on his character, I take him by the hand, and receive him to my home and table, in proof that he is clear from every stain or charge. No man could do this and be just himself in doing it. That little boy who, the other day, had stolen money from the till, and was forgiven because it was the first offense, was he justified? Would there be no difference between pardon and justification here? Take another case. The proprietor of a large shop makes a rule, that the first person in his employ found stealing shall be discharged. A young man is found guilty. The employer loves the young man — he forbears; but can he spare that young man, and be consistent as the proprietor, and the maker of that rule? Now this was just the position in which God stood to man. Man sinned — was guilty — God forbore in mercy 4000 years. But could He spare the life of man, forfeited through sin, and be righteous, that is, consistent as the Creator? Impossible, unless He denied HIMSELF. And thus, when Jesus took our sins, as really took and bore their curse as though He had committed them every one, God laid them on Him, the substitute, as really as though they had been His own; I say, He, having borne them, having died for them, God was righteous in raising Him from the dead, cleared from them; and thus God is just in clearing us from them, through faith in His blood. Once more: a man owes £15. Very well, then, it cannot be justly said he owes nothing. But, if another becomes surety, and does pay the full amount, £15, can it not now be said that he, the man who did owe it, is now clear of debt? I do not see how it would be just to say anything else. Now, if I see then, that Christ has paid the debt of my guilt, the full count of all my sins, past, present, and future, and that, much more, God hath raised Him up from among the dead for my justification, is not, then, God perfectly righteous in reckoning me justified in Christ? I mean, plainly, that God is just in justifying the believer, and therefore would not be just in condemning him What perfect peace this gives! It may be said, This is all very well for such as have a measure of righteousness of their own. Nay; “But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more, then, being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8-108But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8‑10)). What can this twice repeated “much more” be? Something much more than being justified by His blood — much more than being reconciled by His death. Yes, all this being done, much more,we shall be saved by His life.” There is a remarkable turn in the epistle at this point. The question of life is now fully brought out. First, as to man, his being a sinner, his life is forfeited. Death is passed upon the whole race of Adam, for all have sinned, whether under law or not. And if sin did not come in by Adam, and death by sin, let the skeptic find me a city, a town, or even a village, or even a person in that village, on the face of the whole earth, that is not a sinner, and a sinner on whom death is written. Well, if death has thus reigned over the whole race of Adam, how can any have life? This, the apostle shows, is on another principle — even life flowing from another source altogether — it is the life of the risen Christ. It is not the recovery of that life which was forfeited by sin — it is far beyond it — cannot be compared with it. “For if by one offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1717For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) (Romans 5:17)). Yes, the life that the believer has now is the gift of righteousness. God is perfectly justified in giving this life, even to the sinner who has forfeited his own, because the life of the spotless Substitute has been freely given up. First, justified by His blood from all sin; then justified, yea, much more justified, in the life which is the gift of righteousness. “Therefore as by one offense, toward all men condemnation, even so by one righteousness, toward all men justification of life” (Rom. 5:1818Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)).
Scholars tell us this is the literal translation of this verse. Observe, it is not here the justification by blood, but justification of life. To take once more the illustration of the den of lions, a person might have said — how can this Daniel live, is he not condemned to be cast into the den of lions? Darius could have replied — this is the Daniel who has been cast into the den of death, and has risen out of it! He could be condemned no more. Just so the blessed One who stood in our place. He has been condemned, He has died, He has been buried; but He is risen, and death has no more claim on Him, even on our account. It had once, and He freely met its claims If Adam, then, was the beginning of a race of sinners, condemned to death, Christ, having died for His own, is the beginning of a new race. So that, as a believer, the life I have is not my life spared, or restored; but the very life of the risen Christ, and therefore a justified life. Thus, my fellow-believers, are we justified by the blood of Christ from all that we were as children of Adam; and we are justified in all that we are as children of God in Christ. Thus are we much more saved by His life. Yes, and shall be saved by His life.
This is a very different thing from that uncertain half-gospel, that only sees justification to be pardon of sin, and then leaves the future all dark and uncertain, really depending on self-righteousness after pardon. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:1919For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)). I believe the words “shall be made righteous,” go even beyond the present state, right on to our literal change or resurrection, when we shall see Him and be like Him. It was this that was before the blessed One when He endured the cross and despised the shame. For this He now sits and waits at the right hand of God. His precious obedience unto death has secured all.
If you ask what is the righteousness we shall be made, and which is now imputed to us? I reply, look up at that glorified man, Christ Jesus, in whose face shines the glory of God. That is what we shall be, my fellow-believer, we shall be exactly like Him. He says, “The glory that Thou hast given Me I have given them” (John 17:2222And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (John 17:22)). Now, note, there can be no uncertainty as to this, for God hath raised Him from the dead as our Surety; and He is gone up on high, and holds possession of this glory, as Son of man, for us. Is it possible for God to give His Son to bear our sins on the cross, to raise Him from the dead for our justification, and then after all not bring us there? I say it is not possible. His very accomplished righteousness demands that we should live eternally with His Son. Nothing can possibly hinder God from the joy of His heart in our everlasting salvation. Because do not you see, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29, 3029For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:29‑30)). The fact is, the whole thing is so put together of God, and is so wholly of God, that the believer will not be more sure of this glory when in it than he is now, if he believes what God says. Now, just dwell on this, think of this, “that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:2121That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:21)). What a prospect, to gaze on the face of God in perfect righteousness — God perfectly righteous in bringing us there. We, righteous without spot or stain, in being there; and all this accomplished by the obedience of Christ unto death. The words of Daniel are fulfilled — He hath brought in everlasting righteousness. Now, because all this is sure, throughout the countless ages of a bright coming eternity, therefore it is reckoned to the believer now, during this little moment that intervenes before we enter upon the glad fruition. The doctrine, then, of imputation, or of being reckoned righteous, seems as simple as possible. First, on the ground that the Surety is risen, in perfect righteousness, having glorified God. The payment in blood of that Surety is reckoned to all who believe. What is done by a surety is reckoned to the one for whom it is done. And, secondly, on the ground of what our Representative is in glory; for what is done to a representative is reckoned done to those whom he represents. O! what joy this gives the heart, that thus knows Jesus in the presence of God. In a word, it is identification in the sight of God; we are dead with Him and risen with Him. And this is the truth of Romans 6. Do read these wondrous verses, Romans 6:3-113Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:3‑11). Not our old man saved by Christ, but crucified with Him — buried with Him. There is no compromise — the sentence of death fully executed. Not my life, as to my old self, spared or helped, but crucified. But is this all? Oh, no; we are also risen with Him. This is how God reckons us, and this is how we are to reckon. “Likewise reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:1111Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11)). This word reckon is the very same as impute elsewhere. Then, what does it mean in plain words? Just this: suppose a friend sends you a letter to say an estate has been left you; if you believe him, you would from that moment reckon it to be yours. Of course, when you are in possession you will not need to reckon then; it will no longer be faith in your friend’s letter, but the actual sight of your estate. Just so I believe God’s word, applied by the Holy Spirit. I adore the blessed One who gave His heart’s blood for me. I believe, an eternity of purity and righteousness is mine in Him. Yes, is mine, on the certainty of the righteousness of God. I reckon, during this little while of sorrow and conflict, that all this future glory is mine. God also reckons it all to me. He reckons me dead, risen, justified, glorified, with Christ. And this is God’s salvation.
Thus death and resurrection are seen to be the end of two things, sin and law. In Romans 6 we are dead to sin, as dead and risen with Christ; and in Romans 7 dead to law -that is, if we had been under it. And all this to bring out still further the blessed, eternal life we have in Him.
Far be the thought that all this should be, that we may continue in sin. “How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:22God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:2)). If any man desires to live in sin, it is because there is not this life in him. That which is born of God must be like Him. Now God is not only righteous, but, He is holy. That is, not only relatively consistent with Himself, in the blessed relation in which He stands as God; but his very nature is inherent purity, and this is holiness. And such is that new nature which is born of God. Yea, such is he that is born of God. That which is of God must be pure. Now, how truly blessed this is! while our old being, or nature, as of fallen Adam, had neither righteousness nor holiness, but was altogether sinful, yet now that nature, that existence, being set aside in the death of Christ, the new nature, or life, or existence we have in the risen Christ, is of God, and delights in holiness. Is it not so, believer? Do you not long for that blessed state, where all shall be unsullied righteousness and unchanging holiness? Oh! how soon shall this be thine in actual enjoyment forever! And now, in Christ, it is reckoned to-thee.
Righteousness of God, then, was reckoned to Abraham on the principle of faith, he believing that God was able to perform His promise. How much more clearly, then, is it reckoned to us who believe that God hath fulfilled His promise, in that He hath raised up Jesus, our Lord, from the dead. All is done: God is divinely righteous in justifying us from all sin, and in raising us from among the dead, and giving us the life of the eternal Son — therefore, eternal life. That is imperishable.
Thus justification is a state of perfect clearance from sin, and everlasting life — all the result of God’s righteousness revealed in the death and resurrection of Christ. We are no longer looked at in our old Adam standing, but dead to it, and now looked at as in Christ, alive from the dead.
There can be no mistake. This was — whatever mistakes men make now — this was the way the apostles preached the good news of God — through Jesus the resurrection from among the dead. No patching and mending humanity in the Scriptures. Fallen, sinful humanity cannot live in the presence of divine holiness. It is wholly set aside, and the law that was adapted to it also. And thus, being dead, there is an end of sin and death and law. Sin shall not have dominion over us therefore, because we are not under law, but under grace. Note, in Romans 7, we cannot be married to two husbands at the same time. If we are still alive under law, or if we take that ground, we cannot be married to Christ. To the believing Jews at Rome the apostle could say, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him that is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:44Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (Romans 7:4)).
Thus the power also for fruit-bearing is in our union with the risen Christ. The apostle then shows that all that the law can do for the old man when under it is to bring him into the captivity of sin — the very opposite of the position of the person delivered by death and resurrection. It is utterly useless seeking righteousness in old self, under or on the principle of law-keeping. All is in Christ, whether as to freedom from guilt and condemnation, or for everlasting righteousness before God, or as to fruit-bearing before men. Thus the believer is reckoned — dead and risen with Christ; no longer in the first Adam, but in Christ. And if in Christ, condemnation there is none. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)). This is, indeed, far more than mere forgiveness of past sins. To be in Christ is a state in which there is not such a thing as condemnation. There could be no justification of our Adam life; there can be no condemnation of our justified life in the risen Christ. “The law of the Spirit of (our) life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:22For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)), is, then, fully explained (Rom. 8:2-172For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:2‑17)). Read these verses carefully. What perfect freedom from the law of sin and death. And the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. And, now, not only is all this reckoned to us, but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Thus the Holy Spirit seals our sonship. And while Christ on high is the living witness of accomplished righteousness, the Spirit also bears witness here below.
Now, if God be for us, and for us poor sinners, in perfect righteousness, who can be against us? It is most important to see clearly that God is for us. The thought that God was against the sinner, and that Christ died to reconcile Him to the sinner, in the sense of turning His heart towards the sinner; I say this thought is horrible. If Darius yearned over Daniel, not only loved him, but looked at him as an injured man, much more did God yearn for the sinner. Yea, God has come to man’s rescue — God is the sinner’s friend. Was it not because He loved us, when sinners, that He gave His Son, whose precious blood puts away the sin? Do not mistake me here: surely the untold agonies of Calvary tell how exceeding horrible sin is to God. Yet, behold the glory of the cross? Infinite love to the sinner, infinite wrath on sin. “He spared not His own Son” (Rom. 8:3232He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)). The work of justifying the sinner by the gift of His Son, is the brightest display of the unalterable righteousness of God. What a justification! “It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-3433Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who 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. (Romans 8:33‑34)). There is no condemnation; there is no separation. Who can condemn? who can separate? How can there be condemnation? the old child of Adam no longer exists before God. while a criminal is alive he may be tried, condemned, and executed; when he is dead and buried you cannot then find him to condemn him again. It is so with the believer; he has been executed in the person of his Substitute; he is buried with Him. He does not any longer exist, as a child of Adam, before God, and therefore cannot be condemned again. The apostle says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, (not the old I,) but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:20, 220I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
2And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. (Galatians 2:2)
). If my old self could have been righteous on the principle of law, or further, if God could have been righteous in sparing the old nature, then Christ would not have needed to die and rise again that I might be made righteous, through death and resurrection. My Adam life is dead through sin; my Christ life is everlasting because of righteousness.
How does all this bear on experience? Let the apostle answer. Read carefully in that epistle of true Christian experience, Philippians. In Philippians 3 the apostle has no confidence in the flesh under law, however blameless. The things that were gain he counts loss, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them dung that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8-98Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:8‑9)).
He had seen the risen Christ in brightness above the sun. Compared with Him all was dung and dross. This risen Christ was the only object before his soul at the end of the journey of this weary world. I say this is experience, not imputation, here; hence be looks at the final triumph in glory, “and be found in Him.” This is the object of his heart; for this he pressed on. “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:1010That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10)). Clearly, in this passage, the righteousness which is of God, by faith, is Christ in resurrection. What was the righteousness imputed? Christ in resurrection. What was the mark toward which he pressed? Christ in resurrection. Short of Christ in resurrection, there was not a shadow of a hope to Paul. There was no righteousness without this, or on any other principle. Without this he knew no news worth telling. Beside this he had no object worth living for. Oh, that this doctrine may be revived again in this our day. What a contrast to the man-mending doctrines they preach who are ignorant of this resurrection side of the gospel. What is the faith of the gospel as preached by the apostle? Christ in resurrection. He is, as risen from the dead, our righteousness. Only in Him, as it is written, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is (not was) made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:3030But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (1 Corinthians 1:30)). It is not what we have made Him to be unto ourselves. No, God hath raised Him from the dead. He hath made Him to be our life, our righteousness, our all. The whole thing is of God, and therefore it is called righteousness of God, or righteousness which is of God. What perfect consistency; what divine harmony. God infinitely just, yet my justifier. Oh! look at it! God can now take the vilest sinner, translate him from the kingdom of darkness, sin, and death, into the kingdom of His own risen Son, in unchanging justification. For, while forgiveness is repeated in the Scriptures, there can be no repetition of justification. How can there? The death and resurrection of Christ is the justification of the believer, and does not need, nay, cannot be repeated.
There is one more expression, quite different from any we have yet examined. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)). We made the righteousness of God. This is a very peculiar expression. The context will make it plain. Christ dying for all proved that all were dead, and that, therefore, nothing short of His death could meet them. The object of His death was, that the saved should live to God; that they who were dead should live (2 Cor. 5:14-1514For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14‑15)). All being dead, Christ’s life in the flesh could not benefit them. “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, behold all things are become new; and all things are of God,” etc. (2 Cor. 5:16-1916Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:16‑19)). Nothing could be more striking and clear than this. Christ made sin — dying, the sacrifice for sin, on the cross; this is the end of the old things, the end of all that belonged to me as a dead, lost sinner. On that cross, by faith, I see the end of old I, and all that belongs to old I. Christ raised from the dead is the beginning of the new creation, as it is written in that remarkable verse, “Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)). This is most fully shown out in Ephesians 1; 2 As God raised Christ (the beginning) up from the dead, in Ephesians 1, so He hath raised up us also in Christ, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2). Surely He hath not only pardoned us, but made us sit with Christ in heavenly places. This new creation is so entirely of God, that we are God’s workmanship, or, as in this 2 Corinthians 5, “That we might be made the righteousness of God, in Him (2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)). That is, in the risen Christ, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. We were lost in sin and death; God has given us a new life, a new existence, a new creation in Christ, in which new creation there is no sin, there can be none; all is absolute holiness, perfect righteousness. As seen in that new creation, we are what God has made us; for all things are new, and all things of God, and therefore the believer is as risen in Christ, the righteousness of God, all, all of God.
It is thus, on the ground of the accomplished righteousness of God also, that the gospel is proclaimed -God having raised up Christ from the dead. “Be it known unto you, therefore, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things (Acts 13:3838Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (Acts 13:38)). This paper may fall into the hands of the scoffing infidel. These are solemn words for such — “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you” (Acts 13:4141Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you. (Acts 13:41)). Fellow-child of God, this is but a feeble glance at the lovely landscape of the new creation. Regions of holy delight stretch far beyond. May the Lamb lead thee by the side of still waters, and the green pastures of His precious truth; soon, soon thou wilt awake in His likeness. Oh, to be like Him, and this so certain! As surely as Jesus died and rose again, so surely is it all reckoned to thee now. The righteousness of God is thine now on the principle of faith. To enjoy it in its full result in blessed fruition will soon be thine everlasting portion. Blessed hope of righteousness, as says the, apostle, “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal. 5:55For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:5)). Ours now by imputation, then, forever ours in the full enjoyment of sight. Blessed Lord, increase our faith.
Should any wish to see this subject more fully examined, I would commend to them a most valuable pamphlet lately published, “The Righteousness of God,” by J. N. D.