There is nothing so encouraging to a believer as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. It is one thing to know that we are forgiven. That our sins were placed to Christ’s account and He bore the full wrath of the Father in the sinners stead. There is such consolation and comfort knowing that all in Christ are forgiven by the thrice holy God. But the work of Christ does is not limited to just forgiveness. All, through repentance and faith in Him, are not only forgiven but credited with His righteousness. That is all Christians are clothed with His perfection. Our standing before God is that of forgiven and righteous. Oh what satisfaction and joy to be “blessed in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6)!
There is no need to fret when overtaken by sin that we must make up for such sinfulness with more law keeping. No, we rest in the our union with Christ. Always remembering that we are forgiven and declared righteous on the basis of the life death and resurrection of Christ our Savior.
It is rather tragic that some today our attempting to deny the sheep of Christ of the comfort in His imputed righteousness. Richard Phillips writes:
Scholars should always be able to explain theological controversies in terms that regular Christians can understand. With this in mind, a pastor friend of mine was explaining to his mother the recent controversies regarding the doctrine of justification. He explained how some are denying the bicovenantal system of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, redefining faith as faithfulness, and casting other important matters into dispute. His mother followed this all perfectly well. But she reacted particularly strongly, as all Christians should, when my friend explained how purportedly REformed theologians are denying the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness. To this, the godly matriarch reacted with a shocked and pained expression. “You know, son,” she said, “I have rather been counting on that being true.”
My friend’s mother was not the only one Christian who has been counting on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. J. Gresham Machen expressed his reliance upon it when he sent a cable to his friend John Murray, on January 1, 1937, the day of Machen’s death: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope with out it.” Machen was referring to Jeus’ perfect, lived obedience to God’s law throughout His earthly life. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, and He did so on behalf of His people. As Machen sent those final words before he passed into the presence of God, he was relying on Christ not only to pay the penalty for his sins but also to provide a perfect righteousness on his behalf.*
Lest there be any confusion as to what is meant by double imputation- the imputation of our sins to Christ and the imputation of His righteousness to His people- I will defer to Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
Now to “impute” is to put something in a book, in a ldger, and God, you see, has got your name in His ledger. Oh, yes, it is there. I do not care what your nae is; He has na index; your name is there; He opens it at your name and there is the record of everything you have ever committed, is imputed, put to your account in the ledger. It is under your name and you have got to answer for it. But God has taken your account and has put it to His account. That is what imputation means. God has made Jesus Christ “to be sin for us.” He dies to bear my punishment. That is what killed Him. So my guilt has been imputed to Him and it has been taken from me and therefore I am freely forgiven.
But then there is another problem, this power of sin, this evil nature. I want to get rid of the thought of sin and the life and desire of sin. Before I can spend eternity with God, I must have a clean and pure heart and a righteous nature. I cannot produce it. What nonsense it is to attempt it! The moment you try you will see your own blackness and darkness; you cannot. You cannot change yourself but. thank God, God can-“…that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
For when He imputes our sins to Him, He imputes His righteousness to us. This is marvellous! Out of my ledger goes my sin, put to His account; then His goodness, His righteousness, His purity are put into my account under my name! To put it another way, here I am with the black cloak of my sinfulness and I cannot stand, in such a cloak, before God who is light. What God does is to put over my cloak the cloak of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, His perfect spotless life of obedience, His holy nature. I am in Christ, I belong to Him. He is the new man and I am in Him and God sees me in Him clothed with His righteousness…This is Christianity : not your little goodness and mine; not what I am doing and what I am not doing. Not how much better I am than somebody else; not not how much better I am than I once was. No, you forget it all and look to Him. You see His perfect spotless righteousness and you know that if you believe in Him it is given to you and you are clothed with it.*
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co 5:21).
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:14–15).
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,
* Joel Beeke, The Beauty and Glory of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI.: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 121-122
*Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Kingdom of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Corssway, 1992), 80-81