Where is that Objective Righteousness Which Saves Us?

Christ’s death is not obedience to the law. Christ’s death is satisfaction to the law. Christ’s death is not abrogation of the law.

Jeremiah 23: 6 This is what He will be named: The Lord Our Righteousness.

Jeremiah 33:16 Judah will be saved and this is what she will be named: the Lord Our Righteousness

I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him. I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was brought in by Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. and I lived sweetly at peace with God.

Now I could look from myself to him  I saw that my precious hope was indeed in a very safe trunk, not in me but in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

— John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

In heaven, Christ sits. Why? Because the work that saves Christ has finished. But why waste your time on that point,  when all we need to know is that “God is everywhere”?

John 16: 8 When the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: 9 About sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me;

Hebrews 9:28–”Christ, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save them that eagerly await Him.”

What sense could that make? If Jesus Christ is simply everywhere, who cares if He comes again, since we have Him by His Spirit already in our hearts? Please pay attention. I am not denying that Christ indwells the hearts of those who have been justified, but I am
suggesting that we talk about Christ’s kingdom without placing the present or the future into competition with what Christ got done at the cross.

Folks don’t deny that things like atonement and justification are part of the gospel. They agree with the Westminster Confession paragraphs on justification. Sure, they agree with that basic overall “Reformed” position, but there is no need for us to keep talking about that stuff when they can instead talk about their experiences.

Whether I am talking to a five year old or to a old old man on his death bed, I don’t want this “God anywhere and everywhere.” I want “Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord who was handed over because of our trespasses and raised because/in order to our
justification.” (Romans 4:25).

Romans 5 (love in our hearts through the Spirit who has been given us) begins with peace with God by means of justification. Justification is not the Spirit’s gift. The Spirit is God’s gift to the justified elect. Romans 5:9– “We have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.”

I look to heaven, not simply because the God-man who died with the imputed sins of all the elect has ascended there, but also He is coming from there. And these historical events are not below my navel or under my chest. The righteousness by which the justified REIGN is
NOT a righteousness imparted (or infused) in us by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:17 explains that those who receive (by imputation, like the guilt of Adam is received) “the free gift of righteousness REIGN in life through the one man Jesus Christ”. Romans 5:21 continues the theme into Romans 6. “Grace reigns through the righteousness” of that one man. Romans 6:9–”death no longer has dominion over Christ. For the death HE died HE died to sin, once for all.”

There are many who agree, sure the legal is part of “union”, but when it gets right down to it, they think the atonement and justification is somehow less real and true than what’s happening in their hearts.

Romans 8:10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.

The point in question concerns the righteousness. Is that righteousness what you think God is doing in you? Or is that righteousness what God did in Christ’s satisfaction of the law? What is the “righteousness of faith”?

Romans 10:6 But the righteousness of faith says: Do not say in your heart, who will ascend into heaven (to bring Christ down), or who will descend (to bring Christ up from the dead). The word (about what? is the news about what Christ did to satisfy the law?) is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

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8 Comments on “Where is that Objective Righteousness Which Saves Us?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Calvin, 3/11/4—But the most satisfactory passage on this subject is that in which he declares the sum of the Gospel message to be reconciliation to God, who is pleased, through Christ, to receive us into favor by not imputing our sins, (2 Cor. 5: 18-21.)

    Let my readers carefully weigh the whole context. For Paul shortly after adding, by way of explanation, in order to designate the mode of RECONCILIATION, that Christ who knew no sin was made sin for us, undoubtedly understands by reconciliation nothing else than justification. Nor, indeed, could it be said, as he elsewhere does, that we are made righteous “by the obedience” of Christ, (Rom. 5: 19,) were it not that we are deemed righteous in the sight of God in him and not in ourselves.

    It would be incongruous to say that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul’s interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of mediator, for although he contains in himself the divine nature, yet he receives his own proper title, that he may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit.

    Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” (Isaiah 53: 11.) Christ justified us by his obedience to the Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    In Isaiah 53:10 Christ is referred to as “My righteous Servant,” in Jeremiah 23:5 as “a righteous Branch,” and in the next verse as “the Lord our righteousness.”

    In Malachi 4:2 Christ is named “the Sun of righteousness,” in Luke 23:47 as a “righteous Man,” in 2 Timothy 4:8 as “the righteous Judge.”

    In Hebrews 7:2, 3 Christ is seen as the “King of righteousness”; while in 1 John 2:1, as our Advocate with the Father, He is described “Jesus Christ the righteous.”

    In Matthew 27:19 Pilate’s wife sends a warning to her husband saying “Have you nothing to do with this righteous Man”; while in verse 34 of the same chapter Pilate himself declared “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous Person.” In Acts 3:14 and James 5:6 Christ is denominated “the Just,” and in Acts 7:52 and 22:14 “the Just One”; while in 1 Peter 3:18 we have the well-known words “Christ also has once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust”.

    Zechariah predicted Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, riding on the back of an donkey— “Behold, your King comes to you, He is just,” and in Revelation 19:11, where Christ is shown on a white horse—-“in righteousness He does judge and make war.”

    In all of the above passages, the Father’s Equal Son is viewed in His official character, as the God-man Mediator. The Lord Jesus is righteous in His person, in the administration of His office, in the discharge of the great commission given to Him. Before His incarnation it was announced “righteousness shall be the belt of His loins and faithfulness the belt of His reins” (Isaiah 11:5)

    In His own words to the Father, Christ prayed— “I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You gave Me to do” (John 17:4). God’s owning of Christ as “My righteous Servant” signifies that Christ completely executed the work entrusted to Him—as the Holy Spirit declares, He “was faithful to Him who appointed Him” (Hebrews 3:2).

    Christ is the righteous Redeemer of his people only because their righteousness was earned and obtained by Christ while on earth. Christ worked out a perfect righteousness for them, which, upon their believing in Him, is imputed to their account, and therefore is He designated “the Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).

    Christ was righteous—not as a private Person, not for Himself alone—but for elect sinners and their salvation. Consequently God is not only gracious—but “just” at the same time. Christ is “the Justifier of as many as who believe in Jesus” (Romans 3:26), because Jesus Christ satisfied every requirement of righteousness in the stead and behalf, of all who trust in Him.

    In the righteous Redeemer, then, we find the answer to the question, “How can those who have no righteousness of their own, and who are utterly unable to earn any—become righteous before God? How can I, who am guilty, draw near unto the ineffably Holy One—and look up into His face in peace?” Only by coming to God as unrighteous, acknowledging my inability to remove my unrighteousness, offering nothing to propitiate Him. Because elect sinners were unable to reach up to the holy requirements of righteousness—God has brought down His righteousness to them, “I bring near My righteousness” (Isaiah 46:13). That righteousness was brought near to elect sinners when the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.

    A W Pink

  3. markmcculley Says:

    To get to the real question in the debate about impartation v imputation, we need to ask: what is transferred? Is guilt transferred to Christ, or is a corrupt “old nature” also transferred to Christ? (and if so, which comes first, and why does the second follow?)”….the theological tenor of scripture would be that Christ had the sin of the elect imputed to Him,not a transfer of a sinfullnature.The same as we are imputed His perfect righteousness,but have no righteousness imparted into us https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/union-is-not-the-indwelling-nature-and-made-sin-was-never-the-inward-nature/

  4. markmcculley Says:

    forgiveness of sins without me changing? to some people it sounds too good to be true, and to other people it sounds like playing a game of pretend that doesn’t do anybody good

    so they don’t like it, and they say it can’t be true
    but if it is not true, then what do you think the solution is?

    forget the cynics, who say that truth does not matter and what works to improve people should be “imputed as true”

    are such cynical legalists REALLY improving anybody, including themselves?

    maybe not, they tell me, but you are only telling yourself
    that there is forgiveness of sins without changing
    because you want it to be true
    such forgiveness, they say, is wishful thinking, presumption

    it’s true that I see no other hope or solution for me



    I am interested in this entire “playing games” thing

    is all this stuff about imputation merely an intellectual puzzle to me?

    and now i have friends and
    acquaintance asking me because they know I am interested in this stuff

    and yes, they are all a bit curious about all kinds of things
    tea leaves in China the gold in Fort Knox and the basketball tournament

    which is to say

    is this only a game to God, some tricky book-keeping, a fiction
    forgiveness they call it, but does that really change anything

    punishment may or may not deter
    i doubt it one way or the other

    but what does forgiveness really do?

    and what does it matter how or why God “does forgiveness ?

    a preacher quotation– “It was not enough that our sins were imputed to him. His death on the cross was much, much more than a legal matter.”

    if God just by being God says I forgive you and I forgive that other person but I do not forgive that person

    if God says I forgive that person because they confessed their sins before mass
    if not once a day or once a week
    at least they did come back to the church and they did ritual they confessed their sins
    and then God let them eat God while God was still living, and while they were stilling
    so before they died God forgave them and they can pay off the rest in purgatory

    and what does it matter if God forgives by just doing it, or if God has to play legal fiction games with Himself?
    Paying Himself off with His death
    God counting the sins of those God forgives to Himself
    God really dying to pay off the price
    God counting God’s death AS F pretending but it’s not real
    God counting God’s death to those God forgives

    like I am asking
    what does it matter

    sure I am not a perfect person
    but I am not worse than other people
    pretty average
    and does it matter if you call it sin?
    whatever it is, it’s already done and forgiveness won’t change the past, and ritual won’t change the past
    and what does it really matter?

    does forgiving your past connect in any real way to your not doing the same thing in the future?

    is there anything existential happening?

    is there a reason to be moral?
    yes it helps people to get along better
    but if you are immoral, does somebody really need to pay?

    what does punishment matter, it was still immoral
    and we hope the secret shame does not come out
    but what does “seeing justice done” change?
    if you are only moral so you don’t have to pay for it, is that really moral?

    well most people need to have some sort of threat to keep them from doing the wrong
    and yes, I am not special, I am not unlike most people, I am not exempt from having to pay
    or at least thinking I will need to pay, like everybody else I need the same threat to keep me straight

    but what did I ever do which was so bad
    in the last 24 hours?
    suppose I did confess to some priest every day
    wouldn’t that be boring?
    the same stuff the same thoughts as everybody else as anybody else
    thank you god I am not like people in that family?
    everybody is about the same it’s all so boring
    is anybody interesting to that priest falling asleep listening to this stuff?
    so it’s not as important as you pretend to think
    for sure what you did was not hurting God
    God is still God still unchanged by what you did

    so for what you did or did not do, why do you want it to matter?
    if it doesn’t matter to God, why bring it up again and why think it needs forgiveness?
    maybe it matters to you but then if it’s only you
    forgive yourself, tell yourself whatever you need or want to say

    but these games about what God needed to do
    or about what you need to know about that game
    who gives a —–

    beneath that foot of snow that does not tell and does not show
    what’s not pretty underneath the beauty-show
    it’s just dirt, plain dirt, like all other dirt
    and eating God alive in this game you play
    or learning a vocabulary of imputation
    a grammar of forgiveness
    none of it changes the dirt into gold, the dirt is really still dirt

    yes, Jesus Christ was or is a real person
    who died and yes he rose from the dead
    but why play the game of saying why or what all that means
    does the reality of the death prove that the “transfer of sin”
    and the “justification of the ungodly” is real?

    only if the imputation is real
    and not a game
    would I then care if Jesus really died?

    yes I will stipulate now, Jesus really died
    but why bother and who cares?

    there must be more to “faith and hope” than legal fiction
    God cooking the books
    God making it look like it’s all square

    but why take the time?
    who is God making it look square to?
    if God is making it look square to God?
    why do the puzzle and jump through hoops?

    can’t we all agree?
    that God is God is sovereign God is just
    and God does not need to prove it to God
    and God does not need to prove to us that God is just

    God is just because God is just
    not because we say so
    a person is immoral and not because God says so

    God’s say so, God’s word



    God would not be at peace with God
    and God would not be at peace with any justified sinner

    unless God “saw the blood”, ie, saw the death satisfy the law

    Romans 3: 25 God presented Christ as a propitiation in His bloody death to show God’s righteousness… 26 God presented God to show His righteousness at the present time, so that God would be righteous (and declared righteous) and so that God declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Psalm 51: Be gracious to me, God,
    according to Your faithful love;
    according to Your abundant compassion,
    blot out my rebellion.
    2 Wash away my guilt
    3 For I am conscious of my rebellion,
    and my sin is always before me.
    4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned
    and done this evil in Your sight.
    So You are right when You pass sentence;
    You are blameless when You judge.
    5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
    9 Turn Your face away from my sins
    and blot out all my guilt.

    Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Sometimes “imputation” is only “declaration”, without any sharing or transfer involved.
    Romans 4: 4 Now to the one who works, pay is imputed as something owed.
    The “righteousness of God” has more than one meaning. HOWEVER the GOSPEL meaning is the “righteousness from God”. Christ’s death is the righteousness Christ obtain and GIVES SHARES TRANSFERS to the elect. Where God has not given faith in the gospel, God has not yet given the righteousness of God which is Christ’s death imputed.
    Imputation of righteousness and righteousness are not the same thing. And “imputation” has more than one meaning. “Righteousness” also has more than one meaning

  6. markmcculley Says:

    the righteousness that God has always had

    the righteousness that Christ had before creation

    that righteousness is not the same as the righteousness that Christ obtained by His death

    There are those who teach that the death of Christ is not enough righteousness to give us a perfect standing before God, they say the cross only gives us forgiveness

    Galatians 6: 12 Those who want to make a good impression in the fleshare the ones who would compel you to be circumcised—but only to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even the circumcised don’t keep the law themselves; however, they want you to be circumcised in order to boast about your flesh. 14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ


  7. markmcculley Says:

    the tradition teaches—The imputation of righteousness does not come to the elect apart from Christ and Christ does not come apart from the Spirit and faith.

    But I say—Christ does not come to the elect apart from the imputation of righteousness and the Holy Spirit is given by Christ.

    Do not assume that “union with Christ” means Christ “indwelling us”

    Christ being in us does not have priority over us being in Christ.

    Christ indwelling is Christ’s presence in us, but without our being in Christ by imputation, we die.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Smeaton, Apostles Doctrine on Romans 4:25, p 147—“The impetration of a righteousness which would be legally applied as the sole foundation of justification, was accepted on behalf of all to whom it WAS TO BE APPLIED, and this was the cause of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
    I take Smeaton to mean
    1. righteousness is one thing, and justification another
    2. righteousness is the cause of justification
    3. the righteousness was accepted/ approved by God, even though not imputed to all the elect, justice demands that it must be and will be
    4. on this basis, Christ was raised (because of our justification)
    5. this doesn’t mean because we were justified when Jesus was raised
    6. this doesn’t mean atonement and justification are the same thing
    7. God is always righteous, has always been righteous, but Christ obtained a righteousness Christ did not have before Christ died
    John 16–“because you see him no more”
    Hebrews 9:28–”Christ, HAVING BEEN offered ONCE to bear the sins of many…to deal with sin
    so also Christ will appear a second time (not to bear sin) but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

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