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Imputed Righteousness

 

And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek 16:14)

 

Today I want to speak concerning the Imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ. I want to study this subject from the perspective of the need that man has for an imputed righteousness; the record and the account of the perfection and the righteousness of the Saviour of men, Jesus Christ; and the glorious grace of God in the imputation of that perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, to each and every one of those saints of God who are ordained to inhabit Heaven.

 

God is holy, and men are not. And yet, God has ordained to save some, and He has ordained that those whom He would rescue and save, He will bring unto Himself. How can this be, when we are not worthy to stand in His presence? Of course, our sins must be atoned for, but we must be made better than what we now are, and we must be made fit to live in Heaven, in the presence of God and the angels. In our natural condition, we are not worthy, we are not fit, we are too miserable, small, despicable, and loathsome to ever attain to a place of honor in the presence of our Holy God. And yet, we must somehow be made fit for His Presence – for He loves us, and desires us in His Presence. He has ordained to save us – He must also make us fit to be put on display as the trophies of His grace, and fit to praise Him in Heaven itself.

 

Well, the miracle of salvation is made up of many miracles – one of which is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ to those who are the elect children of God. What a miracle that beauty and righteousness, truth and loveliness, can be imparted unto us, so that we are fit to be called the children of God! What a miracle, that those who were rebels and enemies of God, are made His friends, and He can look upon us – not in judgment, violence, and wrath – but in love, tenderness, and compassion! He looks upon us and He sees us through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. What a miracle, that filthy sinners can be made righteous and just and called into the presence of God in Heaven!

 

Human Attempts at Righteousness

 

The true Gospel of the Scriptures – the genuine proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is firmly established upon the wickedness and the depravity of men. What I mean is this: all men are sinners, and not one of us can save himself. If we are to be saved, we must be saved by another. If we are to be saved, we must admit our own helplessness and sinfulness. This is the true Gospel which must be preached to the wicked world in which we live. And yet, being the sinners that we are, natural and depraved men are consistent in seeking out our own salvation, and expressing a fierce determination to manufacture our own good works and our own righteousnesses, so that we can present them as reason – or the cause – for our salvation. This has been the pursuit and aim of religious men since the time of Cain.

 

In our text passage, we read these words that the Lord had for wicked Jerusalem, which trusted in works, merit, and personal beauty: But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. (Ezek 16:15) Though they trusted in themselves, the people of Jerusalem found that their own righteousness, and their former favor with God, and their historical relationship with the Lord God of the Old Testament, and their present confidence in the position which they held in the Land of Israel, would not be sufficient to save them – either mortally, or spiritually. They trusted in mortal strength and beauty, and these are not enough to save any of us in the Sight of Holy God.

 

Previously, God had warned the Nation of Judah and the City of Jerusalem of the danger of trusting in personal works and mortal righteousness. However, they had not listened, and Isaiah had pronounced this sad doom as their fate: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. (Isa 64:6-7) What depraved and fallen man considers good and right – even beautiful and lovely – are only unclean and filthy when lifted up as an offering to God. Those words, works, and deeds which men highly esteem and value as goodness and righteousness, are only sinful and even putrid when compared to the requirements of God’s Justice. Instead of saving us, our iniquities performed in the guise of religion, will only consume us.

 

Actually, looked at in an objective manner, it is not in a man’s best interests to be judged according to his or her own works, however righteous, good, or commendable these works might appear unto men. Our sin-cursed eyes are blind to true goodness and righteousness. Our estimation of good and right are flawed from the very beginning of our lives. As fallen human beings, we cannot properly esteem the holy and the pure – though we know the existence of these things on a basic level; and though our own consciences and the Word of God are effective in giving us a very basic understanding of good and evil – we cannot, and we don’t have the inherent ability, to truly see the evil of men, nor truly see the goodness of God. From a strictly human perspective, we don’t really fathom just how wicked evil is; nor do we comprehend just how righteous good should be. Considering our own depravity and feeble understanding, it is not in our best interests to be judged by God based upon our own knowledge of good and evil, and our own righteous deeds which we perform; which are, in turn, based on our own very limited and flawed recognition of God’s expectations for holiness and righteousness. We might think that we have sinned very little; when, in fact, we have sinned greatly. We might think we have done some great good; when, in fact, we have done very little or none at all. We actually stand in need of the leadership and guidance of God, so that we can be shown the Heavenly perspective of the right and the wrong, and the good and the evil.

 

So, without the help of God, it is a frightful thing when God later threatens judgment upon these same Children of Israel. Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezek 18:30-32) Iniquity is the ruin of all men. As each generation of men is born into this world, sin and iniquity will rise up and slay us all. And yet, foolishly, we continue on, somehow imagining that we can do better than those who have gone before – better, even, then those amongst whom we live. As a consequence, each generation of men has failed. And, each of us as individuals have made the attempt, perhaps, to turn from evil unto God, and to present a righteousness of our own devising to our Creator Who has made us; and we, too, have fallen to ruin. We are not capable of making a new heart and a new spirit – ours are broken and dead – and a new heart and spirit are required in order to please God so that we can live. There must be a new man within us, this is our only hope for salvation. All of the righteousnesses of men are not sufficient to remove the blot of sin upon our souls, nor to give life to the dead spirit within us.

 

These are the simple truths that men need to hear and know. Salvation and the Gospel cannot be real unto a man who will not first recognize the futility of trying to save himself, and of trying to make himself fit for God and Heaven. 

 

The Righteousness of Christ

 

 Though all natural born men are sinners, and our attempts at righteousness fall far short of the standards of God’s Justice, there is a Man Who walked the face of this earth in holiness, goodness, and perfect righteousness: His Name is Jesus Christ. Born of a virgin, He did not inherit the sinful nature of Adam. Endued with power from on high, He never indulged in sin or corruption. As God, manifest in the flesh, He never even hinted at sin – He didn’t have to resist sin, it was simply impossible for Him to sin.

 

Let’s read the account known as “The Temptation of Christ.” Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (Matt 4:1-11) These Scriptures serve as an example of the perfection and the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This is not a record of His resistance unto temptation. Rather, this passage serves as an account of the immutable truth that Jesus Christ cannot sin. It is not that He overcame or resisted the temptation to sin; He simply could not be tempted to sin. He is incapable of sin. He is totally adverse to it. The possibility that Jesus Christ could sin, does not exist. The fact that Satan had no success in tempting Him, is proof that not only could He not be tempted to sin, He also cannot sin at all.

 

We often refer to this quality or character of Jesus Christ as His Impeccable Nature. The word “impeccable” is defined this way in Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of American English: Not liable to sin; not subject to sin; exempt from the possibility of sinning. No mere man is impeccable. We read in the Book of Acts, a description of the way in which Jesus Christ lived His Life on this earth: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38) I often use this passage a proof of the inherent goodness of Jesus Christ, and as a model for our behavior – to go about doing good. And yet, in the case of Jesus Christ, it was all that He could do. There was nothing else that He could do, except good. He could not help but do good, because He was and is good. There is none good but God, and Jesus Christ is God. He is the embodiment of good. The implication is, then, that He cannot do evil, and He cannot sin.

 

In regards to the salvation of men, Someone had to live a life that measured up to the Law of God, and Jesus Christ is that Man. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:17-20)  Of course, Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning His First Coming and His earthly ministry. Of course, Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Justice of God in the sacrificial offering of his Body and Soul to the end that the children of God would be saved. But, Jesus Christ also fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law of God, in the sense that He lived a perfect life – without sin – so that He was and is without fault, flaw, or shortcoming. His Life is the only life ever lived, that cannot be indicted by the Justice of God, nor be held in account by the Law of God. It is this Perfect Life that was laid down as an offering for the sins of the people of God. When He hung on the Cross, He was without sin – except for the sin that He took upon Him – the sins, the curse, the guilt of each and every one of the chosen of God, from every age, every place, and every measure of guilt.

 

Our sins would still be ours – and our condemnation would be just – were they not imputed to the Perfect Person, Jesus Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For 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: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4) This passage teaches us about the Son of God, the Righteousness of God, and how that He is necessary – and His Perfect Life is necessary – in the salvation of the souls of men. With this thought in consideration, let’s move on to my final point.

 

The Righteousness Granted to Redeemed Men

 

If the Lord did not have mercy on Israel and Jerusalem, none of them would ever have been saved. If the Lord had not clothed them with His righteousness, they could have never been preserved, lifted up, or useful in the service of God. Let’s read the verses that precede our text verse. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek 16:6-14) Jerusalem would have remained in her idolatrous ways, and would have been only a wicked and despicable city of men, if the Lord had not intervened, and rescued her, and cleaned her up, and made her beautiful and glorious unto God.

 

I think it is fair to apply the same principle to each and every one of the elect sinners of Adam’s race. If God did not take pity on us – if He did not show His grace unto us – we should never be saved. If He did not look upon us and say, “Live,” we would never be alive. If He did not see us in our miserable and naked condition and then grant unto us repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, then we would never be saved. If He did not have a consideration for us in our natural ugliness and our inherent filthiness and then grant unto us the Righteousness of Jesus Christ, then we would never be wonderfully saved, beautifully clothed upon, and marvelously glorious in the Kingdom and service of God!

 

In the New Testament, we find out much about the necessity of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ in the lives of those who are redeemed by the Blood of Christ. Without His righteousness, we could never be saved. Without His perfection, we could not properly stand before God. Paul’s desire was this: 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 3:9) Certainly, the Blood of Jesus Christ is necessary and effective in the Atonement for our sins, so that our sins are washed away, and we are made spotless and clean. However, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God without the garments of salvation. It is a part of the miracle of salvation that we are both cleansed from our sins, and then we are clothed upon with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are, in fact, unfit to stand in the presence of the Thrice Holy God, without the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

 

Our only hope is to trust in the righteousness of the One Who was and is All-Righteous. Without Him and His accomplishments, we can never be saved, nor can we ever be righteous before God.  I 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Gal 2:20-21) Your faith in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, must include a faith and a belief in His righteousness, and in the imputation of His righteousness to your account. You may not understand, in literal terms, the Impeccable Nature of Christ and the doctrine of imputation when you are first saved; but you must and will see Jesus Christ as the Holy, Beautiful, Righteous, and Worthy Son of God – the only One Who is Able and Worthy to save men. Just as your sins were imputed unto Him – and He was crucified, bled, and died for your sins – even so, His righteousness must be imputed unto you, in order for you to be saved. The salvation that God has provided for His people is utterly magnificent, glorious, and complete in every way! The salvation that He has accomplished, and then delivered to us, is full of miracles! He did not leave any of it to us. He will both cleanse us, and He will clothe us. He will both grant us faith to repent and believe, and will make us worthy to stand in His presence. From this perspective, and based upon the abundance of His grace manifest unto us, your and my salvation isn’t confined to the washing away of sins by the Blood of Christ; but, He would also, in this salvation which He has accomplished, provide clothing for you and for me – we put on Jesus Christ, and we are made to stand before God based on the merit and the righteousness of the One Who has saved us! The righteousness of salvation does not come by the Law, nor by the works and deeds of men; but, our righteousness comes by Jesus Christ, the One Who died for us, and now lives for us.

 

The result of a salvation accomplished by God alone, is that God alone is worthy of the praise and adoration of those who are saved, and of those who bear witness to the miracles of the grace of God. Paul told the Corinthians, But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1Cor 1:30-31) If you contributed somewhat to your righteousness, or to the garments of salvation which you wear; might you not have somewhat to glory of, and might not others have somewhat for which to exalt you and your works? However, this is not the case. All the glory for your and my salvation, must go to the One Who has saved us – the One Who has imputed His righteousness unto us. We have naught to glory of! As in all of God’s works and deeds, the salvation of men redounds to the glory of God! We stand before God justified, based on the works of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and because of the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed unto us. We are in Christ Jesus, and He is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. Our own wisdom was not enough. Our own righteousnesses were only as filthy rags. Our sanctification was impure, based on our own inherent depravity. Our own feeble attempts to save ourselves – though our entire lives might have been devoted to an attempt at redemption – was not enough; the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved, if we are counting on ourselves.

 

And yet, Jesus Christ is merciful and the grace of God is great indeed! He has agreed to save us, and to impart unto us His Righteousness unto salvation! Let me refer you to one more passage concerning the grace of God in the Imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ: Now 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. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Rom 3:19-26) I hope and pray that your salvation and mine, will be an ongoing declaration of the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. Let the world know that you did not save yourself, your faith is in the Righteous One, Jesus Christ! Let the world know that no man can save himself, for no man can attain to the righteousness required by the Justice and the Law of God! And yet, as we declare the truth of man’s depravity and guilt before God, and of his inability to save himself; let us joyfully and loudly proclaim the merit and the righteousness of Jesus Christ! He is perfectly qualified to save the souls of sinful men. In fact, His is the only Blood that can atone for our sins, and His is the only Righteousness which is able to present us, spotless, before the Holy God of Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

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