The Imputed Righteousness of Christ
Editorial Note: "Holiness" theology fails to appreciate the primacy, supremacy and all-sufficiency of imputed righteousness. Instead of allowing this passive righteousness to be the glory of the Christian faith, "holiness" teaching subordinates it to what is supposed to be the higher virtue of the infused righteousness of Christ, or the active Christian righteousness of the believer. The following brief article by a Christian layman, especially the tabulated summary, gives a very clear focus to the true foundation of the believer's hope.
Q. Is it necessary to have imparted (infused) righteousness in order to insure our acceptance with God?
A. No, it is not necessary, for our acceptance is not grounded on any quality in us but on the worthiness and glory of the Son of God. The gospel of God is "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" and His divine virtues, not us or our virtues. Forgiveness and acceptance are not offered us because we deserve them but because we need them. In other words, like any orphan, we are taken in because of our need, not our worth. The blood of Christ is the seal of the new covenant promise, which promise, together with the oath, contains the immutable word of God, providing strong consolation and an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, to the believer (Heb. 6:17-19). To doubt our acceptance is simply to disbelieve the oath and promise, and make God doubly a liar (see I John 5:10-12). "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith . . . " Heb. 10:19, 22. Here is the certainty of our acceptance—the blood of Christ.
Q. Do you mean our acceptance is sure with God without any sanctification in us?
A. Our acceptance is based on the sanctification accomplished by the will of God. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." "For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Heb. 10:10, 14. Everything which attached to us as children of Adam has been abolished. Our sins have been purged and put away (Heb. 1:3; 9:26). Eternal redemption has been obtained for us (Heb. 9:12). And all this is according to the good pleasure of the will of God, to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:5-8). It is God's pleasure to have a people cleansed of all sin, able to approach Him without the slightest hesitation or doubt. He desires to have a people whom He can regard according to His own estimate of the value of the one perfect offering of Christ — that is, a people upon whom He can look with the greatest of pleasure. And He has achieved such a people by the efficacy of the blood of Christ.
Q. Does this mean that, in the full knowledge of our own utter sinfulness, we can come to God with a clear conscience, trusting only in the blood of Christ for our complete acceptance?
A. Yes, absolutely. The blood of Christ is the only ground of our hope. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did . . .Heb. 7:19. What is this which is made perfect by the better hope, by the one perfect offering?" . . . which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. . . Heb. 9:9. "For the law. . . can never with those sacrifices . . . make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins." Heb. 10:1, 2.
Let us note these two vital points:
Viewed from God's side, they are "holy and without blame before Him in love." As seen by God through the sacrifice of His Son, they are completely divested of everything which naturally attached to them as Adam's fallen children. So great is the efficacy of the blood of Christ! Not a thing remains to separate His sanctified people from Himself.
When this glorious truth is brought home to the consciences of believers, it gives them such liberty that they can approach God just as if they had never sinned. Believers identify themselves with the offering of Christ and not with their sins, their shortcomings, their failures. They do not regard their sins lightly, but they appreciate the great sacrifice made for them. They see in that sacrifice the complete end of all their estrangement from God and the bringing in of complete reconciliation with Him. Every question of sin is settled. They are not by any means perfect as pertaining to their own state. But they are perfected in their conscience. There is no doubt as to their full and absolute acceptance with God, no matter how they appear in their own eyes.
Q. If the question of sin is settled so simply on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ, what need is there for inward sanctification?
A. A great need, but not to make us acceptable or pleasing to God. Rather, inward sanctification is to cleanse and purify our hearts and enlarge our spiritual vision so that God will become more acceptable and more pleasing to us. Then we will enjoy fellowship with Him more and do better service for Him. But this experience is only for those who are free in conscience and spirit because of the certainty of their acceptance. It is not for those who are seeking to better themselves in order to become more pleasing to God. Those who do this simply demonstrate that they are not pleased with God and His ways.
Q. Does not this teaching produce careless believers, ungodly professors?
A. No. There is no such thing as a careless or ungodly believer. All the ungodly are unbelievers. The effect of the grace of God brought home to the conscience of the believer, is to humble him in repentance for the sins which have crucified the Saviour. The knowledge of forgiveness of sin always leads to godly living (see Titus 2:11, 12; Ps. 32:1,6; 130:4).
Q. How would you define "grace"?
A. Grace is that peculiar disposition in the heart of God to favor those who deserve only condemnation. Adam's fall gave God the opportunity to demonstrate just how abounding in grace He is. Angels do not receive such favor. Sinners deserve nothing; yet there is nothing God will not do for them. Calvary proves that. God will go to any length to heap favors on sinners; and the worse they are, the more He favors them. He offers them the highest place in heaven, the nearest position to the throne. The parable of the prodigal son reveals the grace of the Father. He looks for us while we are in our filthy rags. He puts the robe of righteousness on us after embracing us. He does not clean us up first so that He can embrace us with more relish. He wants us to know that our rightful place is in His presence—in His bosom. If we can accept this place by faith, we will experience it in fact.