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The Everlasting Righteousness Index

Righteousness for the Unrighteousness

Chapter 5

It is in righteousness and by righteousness that God saves the sinner.

He justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5); but He does it in and by RIGHTEOUSNESS. For "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness" (Psa 11:7). He "justifies freely by His grace" (Rom 3:24); but still it is "in and by righteousness." His grace is righteous grace; it is grace which condemns the sin while acquitting the sinner; nay, which condemns the sin by means of that very thing which brings about the acquittal of the sinner. His pardon is righteous pardon, and therefore irreversible. His salvation is righteous salvation, and therefore everlasting.

It is as the righteous Judge that God justifies. He is "faithful and just" in forgiving sin (1 John 1:9). By His pardons He magnifies His righteousness; so that he who goes to God for forgiveness can use as his plea the righteousness of the righteous Judge, no less than the grace of the loving and merciful Lord God.

God loves to pardon because He is love; and He loves to pardon because He is righteous, and true, and holy. No sin can be too great for pardon, and no sinner can be too deep or old in sin to be saved and blest; because the righteousness out of which salvation comes is infinite.

The sacrifices on which the sinner is called to rest are "the sacrifices of righteousness" (Deut 33:19; Psa 4:5). It is from "the God of our salvation" that this righteousness comes (Psa 24:5). It is with the "sacrifices of righteousness" that God is "pleased" (Psa 51:19). It is with righteousness that His priests are clothed (Psa 132:9). It is righteousness that looks down from heaven to bless us (Psa 85:11); and it is righteousness and peace that kiss each other in bringing deliverance to our world. It is the work of righteous-ness that is peace, and "the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever" (Isa 32:17).

It is with the "robe of righteousness" that Messiah is clothed, over and above the garments of salvation (Isa 61:10), when He comes to deliver earth; and when He proclaims Himself "mighty to save," it is when "speaking in righteousness" (Isa 63:1). When He came to "finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity," He came also to bring in "everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24).

"This is the name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer 23:6); and as if to mark the way in which e blesses and justifies, it is added in another place, "This is the name wherewith SHE shall be called, The Lord our righteousness" (Jer 33:16),-His name passing over to the sinner; the sinners name lost and forgotten in that of his Substitute. Oneness in name, in nature, in privilege, in position, in righteousness, and in glory with Messiah, his divine sin-bearer, is the sinner's portion. "Their righteousness is of ME, saith the Lord" (Isa 54:17); for "He, of God, is made unto righteousness" (1 Cor 1:30). The transference is complete and eternal. From the moment that we receive the divine testimony to the righteousness of the Son of God, all the guilt that was on us passes over to Him, and all His righteousness passes over to us; so that God looks on us as possessed of that righteousness, and treats us according to its value in His sight. Men may call this a mere "name" or "legal fiction"; but it is such a "name" as secures for us the full favor of the righteous God, who can only show favor to us in a righteous way; and it is such a "fiction" as law recognizes and God acts upon in dealing with the unrighteous as if they were righteous,-supremely, divinely righteous, in virtue of their connection with Him, who, "though He knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).

This is the "righteousness of God which is revealed from faith to faith"  (Rom 1:17).

This is "the righteousness of God without the law which is manifested, and was witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Rom 3:21); "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Rom 3:22).

Thus, "in believing" (not in doing) this "righteousness of God" becomes ours; for the promise of it is "to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly" (Rom 4:5).

On our part there is the "believing"; on God's part, the "imputing" or reckoning. We believe, He imputes; and the whole transaction is done. The blood (as "atoning" or "covering") washes off our guilt; the righteousness presents us before God as legally entitled to that position of righteousness which our surety holds, as being Himself not merely the righteous One, but "Jehovah OUR righteousness." We get the benefit of His perfection in all its complete-ness; not as infused into us, but as covering us: "Thy beauty was perfect through MY COMELINESS which I had put upon thee" (Eze 16:14). Applying here the words of the prophet concerning Jerusalem, we may illustrate and extend the figure used by the Holy Spirit as to the "perfection" of him whom this righteousness covers. Spread out, it is as follows:-

1. "I said to thee, Live" (Eze 16:6).

2. "I spread my skirt over thee" (verse 8).

3. "I entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine" (verse 8).

4. "I washed thee" (verse 9).

5. "I anointed thee" (verse 9).

6. "I clothed thee" (verse 10).

7. "I shod thee" (verse 10).

8. "I girded thee" (verse 10).

9. "I covered thee with silk" (verse 10).

10. "I decked thee with ornaments, bracelets, chains, jewels, a beautiful crown" (verse 12).

11. "Thou was exceeding beautiful" (verse 13).

12. "Thy renown went forth for thy beauty" (verse 14).

Such, in the symbols of Scripture, is a picture of the perfection (not our own) with which we are clothed, so soon as we believe in Him who is "Jehovah our righteousness." "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee" (Song 4:7).

"He that believeth is not condemned" (John 3:18). This is the negative side; and even were there no more for us, this would be blessedness, seeing our portion was by nature that of "children of wrath." But there is more; for it is written, "All that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:39); and "Christ is the end (or fulfilling) of the law for RIGHTEOUSNESS to every one that believeth" (Rom 10:4). "As by the offense 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" (Rom 5:18).

The strength or kind of faith required is nowhere stated. The Holy Spirit has said nothing as to quantity or quality, on which so many dwell, and over which they stumble, remaining all their days in darkness and uncertainty. It is simply in believing,--feeble as our faith may be,--that we are invested with this righteousness. For faith is no work, nor merit, nor effort; but the cessation from all these, and the acceptance in place of them of what another has done,--done completely, and for ever. The simplest, feeblest faith suffices; for it is not the excellence of our act of faith that does aught for us, but the excellence of Him who suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. His perfection suffices to cover not only that which is imperfect in our characters and lives, but that which is imperfect in our faith, when we believe on His name.

Many a feeble hand,--perhaps many a palsied one,--was laid on the head of the burnt-offering (Lev 1:4); but the feebleness of that palsied touch did not alter the character of the sacrifice, or make it less available in all its fullness for him who brought it. The priest would not turn him away from the door of the tabernacle because his hand trembled; nor would the bullock fail to be "accepted for him, to make atonement for him" (Lev 1:4), because his fingers might barely touch its head by reason of his feebleness. The burnt-offering was still the burnt-offering, and the weakest touch sufficed to establish the connection between it and him, because even that feeble touch was the expression of his consciousness that he was unfit to be dealt with on the footing of what he was himself, and of his desire to be dealt with by God on the footing of another, infinitely worthier and more perfect than himself.

On our part there is unrighteousness, condemning us; on God's part there is righteousness, forgiving and blessing us. Thus unrighteousness meets righteousness, not to war with each other, but to be at peace. They come together in love, not in enmity; and the hand of righteousness is stretched out not to destroy, but to save.

It is as the unrighteous that we come to God; not with good-ness in our hands as a recommendation, but with the utter want of goodness; not with amendment or promises of amendment, but with only evil, both in the present and the past; not presenting the claim of contrition or repentance or broken hearts to induce God to receive us as something less than unrighteous, but going to Him simply as unrighteous; unable to remove that unrighteous-ness, or offer anything either to palliate or propitiate.

It is the conscious absence of all good things that leads us to the fountain of all goodness. That fountain is open to all who thus come; it is closed against all who come on any other footing. It is the want of light and life that draws us to the one source of both; and both of these are the free gifts of God.

He who comes as partly righteous is sent empty away. He who comes acknowledging unrighteousness, but at the same time trying to neutralize it or expiate it by feelings, and prayers, and tears, is equally rejected. But he who comes as an unrighteous man to a righteous yet gracious God, finds not only ready access, but plenteous blessing. The righteous God receives unrighteous man, if man presents himself in his own true character as a sinner, and does not mock God by pretending to be something less or better than this.

For then the divinely provided righteousness comes in to cover the unrighteous, and to enable God to receive him in love, and justify him before earth and heaven.

In all this we find such things as the following; each of them bringing out a separate aspect of the answer to the great question, "How can man be just with God?"

1. The Justifier;--"It is God that justifieth." The sentence of acquittal must come from His lips, and be registered in His books.

2. The justified;--Man, the sinner, under wrath, the ungodly, the condemned.

3. The justifying fact;--The death of Him whose name is Jehovah our righteousness.

4. The justifying instrument;--Faith. Not strong faith, or great faith, or perfect faith, but simply faith, or believing. "We are justified by faith."

5. The justifying medium;--The righteousness of God. This is the "best robe" which is prepared for the prodigal, by which he is clothed and beautified, and made fit to enter his Father's house, and sit down at his Father's table. Christ is Himself our justification. In Him we "stand." In Him we are "found." Him we "put on," and with Him we are clothed, by Him we are protected as by a shield, in Him we take refuge as in a strong tower.

"Found in Him." What then? Our own "self" has disappeared; and instead there is Christ, the beloved Son in whom God is well pleased. Found in ourselves, there was nothing but wrath; found in Him there is nothing but favor. We are hidden in Christ. God seeks for us; and when at last He discovers us in our hiding-place, it is not we that He finds, but Christ; so complete is the exchange of persons, so perfect and so glorious the disguise.

Yet it is not a disguise which shall ever be taken off, nor of which we shall have cause to be ashamed. It remains ours for ever. It is an everlasting righteousness.

Jehovah is satisfied with Christ's obedience. He is well pleased with His righteousness. And when we, crediting His testimony to that obedience and that righteousness, consent to be treated by Him on the footing of its perfection, then is He satisfied and well pleased with us.

Jehovah is satisfied, more than satisfied, with Christ's fulfilling of the law which man had broken. For never had that law been so fulfilled in all its parts as it was in the life of the God-man. For man to fulfill it, would have been much; for an angel to fulfill it, would have been more; but for Him who was God and man to fulfill it, was yet unspeakably more. So satisfied is Jehovah with this divine law-fulfilling, and with Him who so gloriously fulfilled it, that He is willing to pass from or cancel all the law's sentences against us; nay, to deal with us as partakers of or identified with this law-fulfilling, if we will but agree to give up all personal claims to His favor, and accept the claims of Him who hath magnified the law and made it honorable. 

The Everlasting Righteousness Index

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Sermons & Bible Studies

Abide in Christ

Christ in Old Testament

Spiritual Growth

Daily Devotions

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