Substitution and Righteousness: Continued

 •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
I turn now to justification. As you say it is "the justification of a sinner by a holy and righteous God." "It is God that justifieth." If then God is righteous, the justification of a sinner is a question in which righteousness is involved. Well, we know it cannot be by man's righteousness, either without law, or under law. The Gentile without law was lawless. The Jew under law was a law-breaker. Every mouth was stopped, the whole world brought in guilty before God. How could God justify either the lawless or the law-breaker? Righteousness was not to he found in man. Where then could righteousness he found for man? Not in any creature surely, for the innocent creature—be it man or angel—has none to spare. All he has is due to God. The only source of righteousness, then, is God Himself. His righteousness is revealed in the gospel, on the principle of faith to faith.
God gave the law to man to test him. By it He demanded righteousness (not from man in innocence, but) from man, a sinner. But how could a sinner meet the righteous demands of a holy law? He could not. The only thing the law could do was to give the knowledge of sin, and condemn the sinner. When a man is brought to this extremity, God comes in grace. The righteousness of God is revealed—not a righteousness of man for God, but righteousness of God for man. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested." It is without the law—not on the principle of law-keeping at all, whether by the sinner, or by Christ. It is apart from law altogether. "Even the righteousness of God . . by faith of Jesus Christ." It is by faith, without the deeds of the law, and that by faith of Jesus Christ, "unto all and upon all them that believe." Its tendency is unto or toward all men everywhere. Its scope is like . that of the gospel—to every creature. But it is upon them that believe. The offer is to all. The believer only receives it. The believer is "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Jesus by His blood redeems from guilt, and justifies every one thus redeemed. It is through redemption in Christ Jesus. Now comes the basis. "Whom God bath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy—seat through faith in His blood." God has set forth Christ as a mercy-seat, that is, a meeting place for God and the sinner. How does the sinner meet God there? "Through faith in His blood." You see, in this whole passage (Rom. 3) there is not a word about meeting God on the ground of law-keeping. What we have is the blood alone, and by it the sinner is justified. In virtue of the blood of Christ, the righteousness of God is revealed for the justification of the believer in Jesus and His blood. Here the motive on God's part for justification is the blood alone. That God has found more in Christ than His blood is blessedly true, as we shall see by and by. But what must be insisted on is that we have justification by the blood of Christ alone, in Romans 3, without any question of law-keeping whatever. It is wholly apart from law. There is more than this further on. But it is important to know that the believer in Jesus is not only cleared of every charge of sin, but the righteousness of God is actually upon him by virtue of the blood alone. Such wonderful value does God attach to the blood of His beloved Son. Examine the passage closely and with simplicity, and you will see this is the case.
How then is this? If we look at the blood of Christ as that which averts wrath only from the sinner, it would be inexplicable. But there is infinitely more in the blood of Christ than the averting of wrath and judgment. The sinner's need is not the only thing Christ had in view in offering Himself a sacrifice on the cross. Not only the sinner's need was in question, but also the glory of God. Through the presence of sin in His creation down here, God's law, justice, government, throne and righteousness were ignored; His majesty and holiness were slighted; His character was in question. All this was in view when Christ offered Himself. He not only met the sinner's need, but also glorified God in every particular, making His righteousness and glory to shine forth as the noonday. The blood has not only secured redemption from guilt for the sinner, hut it has vindicated God's character in the presence of sin in the most glorious way. The righteousness and holiness and unsullied glory of the throne have been sealed with blood. The blood is on the throne as its eternal vindication against sin. Thus it is that God finds such a motive in the blood of Christ. His righteousness has become debtor to the blood and sacrifice of Christ, if I may so speak. He has glorified God, and "If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself." John 13:32. For God to glorify Him is righteousness. There was a demand on the righteousness of God by the work of Christ on the cross. And so the righteousness of God was displayed in raising Christ from the dead and setting Him on the throne in glory. But that is not all. The righteousness of God is further displayed in justifying everyone who believes in Jesus. In virtue of the blood, the believing sinner gets complete clearance from his guilt and sins, and also is clothed in the righteousness of God. As a sinner redeemed by blood, I am brought into the presence of God, and there stand, all covered over with the righteousness of God. I am under it as a shelter. The same justice that administers the fatal stroke to my Substitute on the cross is now on my side, and shelters me, a justified sinner, forever in the presence of God. Not only so, hut God's righteousness as a quality or character belonging to Himself is upon me as His gift (Rom. 3:22 and 5:17). Such is the righteousness of God revealed for the sinner, and secured to him by the blood of Christ.
In Romans 4 there is another aspect of righteousness—imputed righteousness. It is not the righteousness of God imputed, nor the righteousness of Christ; but it is the believer imputed, or reckoned, righteous by faith. It is not so much righteousness set over to the sinner's account, but it is the believing sinner accounted righteous while he is not righteous, but unrighteous, ungodly. To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." The person is ungodly, but he is reckoned as in a state of righteousness. The basis on which God could do this is the blood of Christ. Because of what God has found in that, He reckons every believer righteous.
In the end of the fourth chapter there is something more than there is in the third chapter. In the third there is only blood shedding. and the display of God's righteousness on that basis—for the justification of the believing sinner. In the end of the fourth chapter there is not only death but resurrection. "Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." If I look in the third chapter I have there blood shedding for my justification.
But in the fourth there is more. I have Him who shed His blood risen again, so that I have not only His blood before God as my full clearance from sins, but I have Himself, risen as the triumphant Conqueror over death, sin and Satan. Thus I have not only clearance from sins, but I am set in the cleared place through His resurrection.
In the fifth chapter there is another aspect of righteousness which is very different. In the Greek there is an entirely different word used, and which can hardly be expressed with exactness by any word in the English. In this chapter we have the two heads with their respective families—Adam and his family, Christ and His family. It is the disobedient one, and the obedient One; the one offence, and the one righteousness.
Adam by one offence—one act of disobedience—involved his whole family in ruin. Christ by one righteousness—one unbroken act of obedience—secured a standing righteousness before God for all His family. By Adam's one act, his whole family were constituted sinners; by Christ's one act, His whole family were constituted righteous. This one act of Christ includes His whole work in life and in death. The first Adam was tested, and by one act fell. The last Adam also was tested during a life of over thirty-three years. We know well what an awful test it was-a test which ended in the bearing of sins, and in atonement drinking the awful cup God had filled for Him. But He stood the test from the first to the last. Obedience was not suspended for one moment. Every act, word, and thought from first to last was obedience, so that His whole life and death are looked at as one unbroken act of obedience. And this unbroken obedience is looked at in contrast with Adam's one offence. Because of Adam's one offence, he and his whole family fell. Because of Christ's one unbroken act of obedience for thirty-three years, He stands accepted before God, and all His family stand accepted in Him according to the perfection of that one righteousness. His whole life, but especially His death, went up as a sweet savor to God. As the second man, the last Adam, He stands accepted according to the perfection, the sweet savor, that God found in all those years of unbroken obedience sealed with His blood under the fire of divine judgment against sin. The believer stands accepted in the same, and according to the same measure. He becomes possessed of this, not by its being imputed to him, not by its being transferred from Christ to him, but by his becoming one with Christ through faith—by his being taken out of Adam, and put in Christ, and thus getting a standing before God as one with Him, a part of Himself, so to speak. It is not righteousness transferred from Christ to a sinner in Adam, but a sinner in Adam transferred by faith from Adam into Christ, and consequently into the righteousness in which Christ stands before God
I wish to notice two other passages. The first is 1 Corinthians 1:30, "But of Him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness," etc. In this passage Christ Himself is our righteousness. The Corinthians had been making much of man, were walking according to men (chapter 3:3, margin). It was, "I am of Paul," etc. The Apostle shows them (chapter 1) how that God had brought man to nought in the cross, how He had judged all flesh there, and set it aside forever, "that no flesh should glory in His presence." If then God made
nothing of man, what had these Corinthians—what has any of us—before God? None but Christ. We have Him for wisdom, righteousness, etc. In virtue of being in Him, He is our righteousness before God. It is a higher character of righteousness than that in Romans 5, blessed as that is. In the one case it is His work; in the other, it is Himself.
The other passage is 2 Corinthians 5:21. "For He [God] hath made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made [become] the righteousness of God in Him." Here it is not the believer accepted according to Christ's work, as in Romans 5, nor yet Christ, the righteousness of the believer before God; but it is the believer becoming the righteousness of God in Him. It is what he becomes in Christ. It is in Christ, not apart from Him. Christ is the perfect expression of God's character. Christ on the throne is the expression of God's righteousness there. So the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness because He had gone to the Father (John 16). It was righteous in God to set Him on the throne, and He is there as the expression of that righteousness. But the believer through grace is in Him, and looked at as a part of Himself, so that he also becomes the expression of God's righteousness in Him. "As He is, so are we in this world." What marvelous grace! Made the righteousness of God in Him! This is of God. God made Christ the expression of what we are. He made Him to be sin on the cross. What are we but a mass of sin? And God made Christ the expression of this, in order that in Christ He might make us the expression of Himself in His character of righteousness. How manifest this will be when we are in the glory! Christ is the pattern of what we will be then. "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.- What a glorious position now belongs to the believer in the righteousness of God in virtue of Christ's work! Surely it calls for praise and adoration from these poor hearts of ours.
Let me sum up what I have said about righteousness:
The righteousness of God is revealed for the sinner in virtue of Christ set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood, and it is upon all who believe.
The believing sinner is justified, and accounted righteous while really he is ungodly.
Not only have we clearance from guilt by the blood of Christ, hut by His resurrection we are also put in the cleared place.
In virtue of our being in Him, the risen One, the last Adam, we are not only justified from all things, but have also justification of life. This, we have through His one righteousness.
By His one righteousness -His obedience unto death—He stands accepted as the last Adam before God, and we, poor sinners who believe, being linked with Him, are constituted righteous -accepted in the same perfection as Himself—in that sweet savor that ever ascended to God from the obedient Man.
God has made Christ our righteousness, and in Him as our righteousness we stand before Gud. What a robe! Surely it is the best robe!
We become the righteousness of God in Him.
Now then, dear brother, is not all this befitting that holy and righteous God who justifies the sinner? In virtue of this stupendous work accomplished through Christ, does not, if I may so speak, a new and everlasting glory accrue
to God—a glory displayed in the last Adam, the Son of God, the Man in the glory, with whom are connected all the ransomed mil. lions of His blood, and in whom man—humanity as a part of Himself—is forever and inseparably linked with God? When the hour of public manifestation comes, what a glorious scene the heavens will then display! Truly it will be glory then! These poor, shriveled up hearts of ours will then be enlarged to their utmost capacity. That lovely Man in the glory -slighted so much now—will then be the glorious center that will draw every, eye and every heart, and call forth the praise and adoration of every blood-washed sinner. Oh! why should not He be the only center around whom all such gather now? One gaze upon His blessed face by faith ought to be
enough to fix the heart upon Him forever.
I have thus written long on the subjects you raise in your letter. I do not know that I have expressed myself so as to be understood. It is because I deem the subject of immense importance I have written so lengthily, and because I believe there is a depth of rest and joy, and a holy liberty for work and service in getting to the bottom of it, not otherwise enjoyed.
My desire and prayer to God is that you may understand all clearly as it is in God's Word, and that it may have its due effect upon your heart as one of God's redeemed left down here for a little while to witness for our blessed Lord.
Your affectionate brother in the Lord Jesus, A. H. R.