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(17 posts)

This Monday, my wife and I went to the big city (Bismarck ND, population 58,333, 2nd largest city in the state!) to take care of some business and do some shopping. Traveling, which I don’t often do, is one of the few times I listen to the radio. The ride home usually brings some interesting listening. On this occasion, we were assaulted by a “sermon” that did little more than describe, in graphic detail, the beating and crucifixion of Christ. It was the radio version of The Passion of the Christ (which I have intentionally never seen), I suppose. I would say it was a fairly accurate description, avoiding the exaggeration that often accompanies such things, and containing relatively little of the typical speculation about “what scholars think that might possibly conceivably maybe have meant.” It was pretty much just the gruesome facts of what a Roman crucifixion entailed. Unfortunately, that was all it was, and as such, it was pretty useless. The message of the cross is not primarily about the physical suffering of Christ. His physical suffering is not even the greatest part of what he suffered. The most horrific agony of the cross was not the brutal scourging or the crown of thorns. It was not the nails in his hands and feet. It was not the excruciating pain of hanging from those nails. It was not any of the consequential medical complications that preachers love to expertly describe to spice up the Good Friday sermon. Christ’s anguish, which began in Gethsemane, was not essentially physical. It was an anguish that can never be communicated through pictures or movies. It was, first and foremost, spiritual. It was the torture of being separated from the Father and bearing my sin that was the essence of his suffering. And this is the heart of the Gospel. I am not saved because Christ suffered the pain of crucifixion. I am saved because he died bearing my sins. Jesus took the guilt of my sins upon himself and bore the full force of the Father’s holy wrath poured out upon him. He, the only begotten son of God, became the most loathsome creature in the Father’s eyes when my sins were laid on him. The most eloquent preacher cannot adequately describe the horror, so I know I can’t even come close. As we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, let us not become focused on the cross as an instrument of torture. Let us focus on Christ as the bearer of sin—my sin, and yours, if you believe in him. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthian 5:21.

Lord’s Day 24, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) HYMN 20. (C. M.) Spiritual apparel. Isa. lxi. 10. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) Awake, my heart; arise, my tongue, Prepare a tuneful voice; In God, the life of all my joys, Aloud will I rejoice. ’Tis he adorned my naked soul, And made salvation mine; Upon a poor polluted worm He makes his graces shine. And lest the shadow of a spot Should on my soul be found, He took the robe the Savior wrought, And cast it all around. How far the heav’nly robe exceeds What earthly princes wear These ornaments, how bright they shine! How white the garments are! The Spirit wrought my faith, and love, And hope, and every grace; But Jesus spent his life to work The robe of righteousness. Strangely, my soul, art thou arrayed By the great Sacred Three! In sweetest harmony of praise Let all thy powers agree. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book I: Collected from the Holy Scriptures (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Psalme 81 (Geneva Bible) To him that excelleth upon Gittith. A Psalme committed to Asaph. 1 Sing ioyfully vnto God our strength: sing loude vnto the God of Iaakob. 2 Take the song and bring forth the timbrel, the pleasant harpe with the viole. 3 Blowe the trumpet in the newe moone, euen in the time appointed, at our feast day. 4 For this is a statute for Israel, and a Law of the God of Iaakob. 5 Hee set this in Ioseph for a testimonie, when hee came out of the land of Egypt, where I heard a language, that I vnderstoode not. 6 I haue withdrawen his shoulder from the burden, and his handes haue left the pots. 7 Thou calledst in affliction and I deliuered thee, and answered thee in the secret of the thunder: I prooued thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah. 8 Heare, O my people, and I wil protest vnto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken vnto me, 9 Let there bee no strange god in thee, neither worship thou any strange god. 10 For I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide and I will fill it. 11 But my people would not heare my voyce, and Israel would none of me. 12 So I gaue them vp vnto the hardnesse of their heart, and they haue walked in their owne cousels. 13 Oh that my people had hearkened vnto me, and Israel had walked in my wayes. 14 I would soone haue humbled their enemies, and turned mine hand against their aduersaries. 15 The haters of the Lord should haue bene subiect vnto him, and their time should haue endured for euer. 16 And God would haue fedde them with the fatte of wheat, and with honie out of the rocke would I haue sufficed thee. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Day 26, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) Petitionary Hymns Poem VII. In Sickness Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Jesus, since I with thee am one,Confirm my soul in thee,And still continue to tread downThe man of sin in me. Let not the subtle foe prevail In this my feeble hour, Frustrate all the hopes of hell Redeem from Satan’s pow’r. Arm me, O Lord, from head to foot, With righteousness divine; My soul in Jesus firmly root, And seal the Saviour mine. Proportion’d to my pains below, O let my joys increase, And mercy to my spirit flow In healing streams of peace. In life and death be thou my God, And I am more than safe: Chastis’d by thy paternal rod, Support me with thy staff. Lay on me, Saviour, what thou wilt, But give me strength to bear: Thy gracious hand this cross hath dealt, Which cannot be severe. As gold refin’d may I come out, In sorrow’s furnace try’d; Preserved from faithfulness and doubt, And fully purify’d. When, overwhelm’d with sore distress, Out of the pit I cry, On Jesus suffering in my place Help me to fix mine eye. When marr’d with tears, and blood, and sweat, The glorious sufferer lay, And in my stead sustain’d the heat And burden of the day. The pangs which my weak nature knows Are swallow’d up in thine: How numberless thy pondrous woes! How few, how light are mine! O might I learn of thee to bear Temptation, pain and loss! Give me a heart inur’d to prayer, And fitted to the cross. Make me, O Lord, thy patient son; Thy language mine shall be: “Father, thy gracious will be done, I take the cup from thee.” While thus my soul is fixt on him Once fasten’d to the wood, Safe shall I pass through Jordan’s stream, And reach the realms of God. And when my soul mounts up to keep With thee the marriage feast, I shall not die, but fall asleep On my Redeemer’s breast. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Psalme 95 (Geneva Bible) 1 Come, let vs reioyce vnto the Lord: let vs sing aloude vnto the rocke of our saluation. 2 Let vs come before his face with praise: let vs sing loude vnto him with Psalmes. 3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King aboue all gods. 4 In whose hande are the deepe places of the earth, and the heightes of the mountaines are his: 5 To whome the Sea belongeth: for hee made it, and his handes formed the dry land. 6 Come, let vs worship and fall downe, and kneele before the Lord our maker. 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheepe of his hande: to day, if ye will heare his voyce, 8 Harden not your heart, as in Meribah, and as in the day of Massah in the wildernesse. 9 Where your fathers tempted me, proued me, though they had seene my worke. 10 Fourtie yeeres haue I contended with this generation, and said, They are a people that erre in heart, for they haue not knowen my wayes. 11 Wherefore I sware in my wrath, saying, Surely they shall not enter into my rest. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Day 27, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) Law and Gospel Samuel Davies (1723–1761) With conscious fear and humble awe, I view the terrors of the law; Condemned at that tremendous bar I shrink, I tremble, and despair. But hark, salvation in my ears, Sounds sweetly and dispels my fears; Jesus appears, and by His cross, Fulfills His Father’s broken laws. Jesus, Saviour! Dearest name! By Him alone salvation came; Terror, destruction, and despair, Where e’er I look besides appear. Adam, my head and father fell, and sunk his offspring down to hell; And the dread sword of justice waits, To guard me from the heavenly gates. Unnumbered crimes of dreadful names Call loud for everlasting flames; And all the duties I have done, Can neither merit, nor atone. Yet weak and guilty as I am, I fix my trust in Jesus name. Jesus, whose righteousness alone Can for the deepest crimes atone. On Him, my soul, on Him rely; The terms are fixed—Believe or die. Thee let the glorious gospel draw, Or perish by the fiery law. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Psalme 102 (Geneva Bible) A prayer of the afflicted, when he shall be in distresse, and pour forth his meditation before the Lord. 1 O Lord, heare my prayer, and let my crye come vnto thee. 2 Hide not thy face from me in the time of my trouble: incline thine eares vnto me: when I call, make haste to heare me. 3 For my dayes are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burnt like an herthe. 4 Mine heart is smitten and withereth like grasse, because I forgate to eate my bread. 5 For the voyce of my groning my bones doe cleaue to my skinne. 6 I am like a pelicane of the wildernesse: I am like an owle of the deserts. 7 I watch and am as a sparrowe alone vpon the house top. 8 Mine enemies reuile me dayly, and they that rage against me, haue sworne against me. 9 Surely I haue eaten asshes as bread, and mingled my drinke with weeping, 10 Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast heaued me vp, and cast me downe. 11 My dayes are like a shadowe that fadeth, and I am withered like grasse. 12 But thou, O Lord, doest remaine for euer, and thy remembrance from generation to generation. 13 Thou wilt arise and haue mercy vpon Zion: for the time to haue mercie thereon, for the appointed time is come. 14 For thy seruants delite in the stones thereof, and haue pitie on the dust thereof. 15 Then the heathen shall feare the Name of the Lord, and all the Kings of the earth thy glory, 16 When the Lord shall build vp Zion, and shall appeare in his glory, 17 And shall turne vnto the prayer of the desolate, and not despise their prayer. 18 This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people, which shalbe created, shall prayse the Lord. 19 For he hath looked downe from the height of his Sanctuarie: out of the heauen did the Lord beholde the earth, 20 That he might heare the mourning of the prisoner, and deliuer the children of death: 21 That they may declare the Name of the Lord in Zion, and his prayse in Ierusalem, 22 When the people shalbe gathered together, and the kingdomes to serue the Lord. 23 He abated my strength in the way, and shortened my dayes. 24 And I sayd, O my God, take me not away in the middes of my dayes: thy yeeres endure from generation to generation. 25 Thou hast aforetime layde the foundation of the earth, and the heauens are the worke of thine hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: euen they all shall waxe olde as doeth a garment: as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. 27 But thou art the same, and thy yeeres shall not fayle. 28 The children of thy seruants shall continue, and their seede shall stand fast in thy sight. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Justification by Imputation

Illustrating the necessity of a substitutionary atonement, R. C. Sproul draws three circles. The first circle represents the character of man. The second represents the character of God. The third represents Christ. Imagine a circle representing Jesus’ character. He lived as a man on earth for decades, subject to the Law of God and subject to all of the temptations known to man. (Heb. 4:15). But we do not see any blemishes in His circle. Not one. This is why . . . John the baptist cried, “Behold! The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b). The Passover lambs of the Old Testament were to be lambs without blemish, as physically perfect as possible. But the ultimate lamb, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of His People, was to be perfect in every way. In calling Jesus the Lamb of God, John was affirming that Jesus was untouched by sin. Jesus Himself made this claim. He asked the Pharisees, “‘Which of you convicts me of sin?’” . . . How would you react if somebody said to you: “I am perfect. If you don’t agree with me, prove that I’m not.” That’s what Jesus said. He claimed to have no shadow of turning, no blemish, nom sin. He said that his meat and drink were to do the will of the Father. He was a man Whose passion in life was obedience to the Law of God. We have one unjust party (man) and two just parties. We have a just God, and a just Mediator, Who is altogether holy. The Mediator is the One who came to satisfy the requirements of a just God on behalf of the unjust race of man. He is the One who makes the unjust party just. He is the only One Who could do so. As Protestants, the term we use for this process of making something that is unjust to be something that is just is forensic justification. The term forensics is used in the context of police investigative work or to describe high school debate matches. It has to do with authoritative formal acts of declaration. So forensic justification occurs when a person is declared to be just at the tribunal of God. This justification takes place ultimately when the supreme Judge of heaven and earth says, “You are just.” The grounds for such a declaration are in the concept of imputation. . . . we are talking about imputation when we say that Jesus bore our sins, that He took the sins of the world on Himself. The language there is one of a quantitative act of transfer whereby the weight of guilt is taken from man and given to Christ. . . . In theological language, we say that God imputed those sins to Jesus. If all that happened was a single transfer of our sins to Jesus, we would not be justified. If Jesus took all the sins I’ve ever committed on His back and took the punishment for me, that would not get me into the kingdom of God. It would be good enough to keep me out of hell, but I would still not be just. I would be innocent, if you will, but still not just in the positive sense. I would have no righteousness . . . Thankfully, however, there is not just one transfer, there are two. Not only is the sin of man imputed to Christ, but the righteousness of Christ is transferred to us, to our account. As a result, in God’s sight the human circle is now both clean of all blemishes and adorned with glorious righteousness. Because of that, when God declares me just, He is not lying. —R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross (Reformation Trust, 2007), 91–95.

Thy Righteousness Is in Heaven

John Bunyan, on discovering the imputed righteousness of Christ: One day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was adoing, God could not say of me, He wants [lacks] my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, not yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. Now I could look from myself to him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that were now green in me, were yet like those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunk! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! —John Bunyan, cited in The Old Evangelicalism (Banner of Truth, 2005), 97–98. [Original source: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in Works of John Bunyan (Banner of Truth, 1991), 1:35–36.]

Lord’s Day 49, 2013

Sunday··2013·12·08 · 1 Comments
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. —Isaiah 61:10 Hymns of Thanksgiving Hymn XIII. Thanksgiving for the Righteousness of Christ. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Fountain of never-ceasing grace, Thy saints’ exhaustless theme, Great object of immortal praise, Essentially supreme; We bless thee for the glorious fruits Thy incarnation gives; The righteousness which grace imputes, And faith alone receives. Whom heaven’s angelic host adores, Was slaughter’d for our sin; The guilt, O Lord, was wholly ours, The punishment was thine: Our God in flesh, to set us free, Was manifested here; And meekly bare our sins, that we His righteousness might wear. Imputatively guilty then Our substitute was made, That we the blessings might obtain For which his blood was shed: Himself he offer’d on the cross. Our sorrows to remove; And all he suffer’d was for us, And all he did was love. In him we have a righteousness, By God himself approv’d Our rock, our sure foundation this, Which never can be mov’d. Our ransom by his death he paid, For all his people giv’n, The law he perfectly obey’d, That they might enter heav’n. As all, when Adam sinn’d alone, In his transgression died, So by the righteousness of one, Are sinners justify’d, We to thy merit, gracious Lord, With humblest joy submit, Again to Paradise restor’d, In thee alone complete. Our souls his watchful love retrieves. Nor lets them go astray, His righteousness to us he gives, And takes our sins away: We claim salvation in his right, Adopted and forgiv’n, His merit is our robe of light, His death the gate of heav’n. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

The Camera Cannot Capture the Curse

With the coming of the Son of God movie it has been observed that, like The Passion of the Christ, Son of God will show crucifixion, not the cross. This will always be the problem with dramas and sermons that focus on the physical brutality of the execution of Jesus. R. C. Sproul writes: There is a sense in which Christ on the cross was the most filthy and grotesque person in the history of the world. In and of Himself, He was a lamb without blemish—sinless, perfect, and majestic. But by imputation, all of the ugliness of human violence was concentrated on His person. Once sin was concentrated on Jesus, God cursed Him. When the curse of the law was poured out on Jesus, He experienced pain that had never been suffered in the annals of history. I have heard graphic sermons about the excruciating pain of the nails in the hands, of hanging on a cross, and of the torturous dimensions of crucifixion. I am sure that they are all accurate and that it was a dreadful way to be executed, but thousands of people in world history have undergone the excruciating pain of crucifixion. Only one man has ever felt the pain of the fullness of the unmitigated curse of God on Him. When He felt it, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” . . . God certainly did forsake Him. That is the whole point of the atonement. Without forsakenness, there is no curse. God, at that moment in space and time, turned His back on His Son. The intimacy of the pros relationship that Jesus experienced with the Father was ruptured (in His human nature). At that moment God turned out the lights. The Bible tells us that the world was encompassed with darkness, God Himself bearing witness to the trauma of the hour. Jesus was forsaken, He was cursed, and He felt it. The word passion means “feeling.” In the midst of His forsakenness, I doubt He was even aware of the nails in His hands or the thorns in His brow. He was cut off from the Father. It was obscene, yet it was beautiful, because by it we can someday experience the fullness of the benediction of Israel. We will look unveiled into the light of the countenance of God. —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 88–89.

The Cross Is Not Enough

The doctrine of double imputation demands that we have more than a cross-centered theology. R. C. Sproul explains: Justification: Our Sin Transferred to Christ In our justification a double transfer takes place. First, the weight of our guilt is transferred to Christ. Christ willingly takes upon Himself all of our sin. Once our sin is imputed to Christ, God sees Him as a mass of corruption. He sees a mass of sinfulness. Because the sin now has been transferred to Jesus’ account, He is counted or reckoned guilty in our place. But if this transfer were all that happened, if the imputation were a one-dimensional transaction, we would never be justified. If Jesus were to take on His back all of the sins that I have ever committed and bear the punishment for me, that would not get me into the kingdom of God. All that would do is keep me out of hell. I would still not be just. I would be innocent but still not just in a positive sense. I would have no righteousness of which to speak. Remember, it is not simply innocence that gets us into the kingdom of God. It is righteousness. Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never get into the kingdom of God (see Matthew 5:20). If the only thing that occurred in salvation were the removal of my guilt, I would still have no merit. Justification: Christ’s Righteousness Transferred to Us So there is a double transfer. Not only is the sin of mankind imputed to Christ, but His righteousness is transferred to our account. In God’s sight [we are] now clean. When God declares me just, He is not lying. This is no mere legal fiction. If the imputation were fictional, then God’s declaration would be a legal fiction. It would be a lie and blemish on the character of God. But the point of the gospel is that the imputation is real. God really did lay my sins on Christ, and God really did transfer Christ’s righteousness to me. There is a genuine union for those who are in Christ. We truly possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. Christ is our righteousness. That’s why He is our Savior: not merely because He died but because He lived. Without His meritorious life the atonement would have no value. Without His obedience, His suffering on the cross would be merely a tragedy. We must have the double transfer, by which God declares us just. When we consider this double imputation, we see the essence of our salvation in a phrase made famous by Martin Luther: simul justus et peccator. Simul is the Latin word from which we get the English word simultaneous. It means “at the same time.” Justus is the word for “just” or “righteous.” Et means “and.” Peccator is the Latin word for sinner. So simul justus et peccator means “at the same time just and sinner.” This is the glory of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The person who is in Christ is at the very same instant both just and a sinner. That’s good news, for if I had to wait until there was no sin in me to get into the kingdom of God, I would surely never make it. —R. C. Sproul, Saved from What? (Crossway, 2002), 96–98.

Evangelical Righteousness

And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? —1 Peter 4:18 There is only one kind of righteous man, one kind of righteousness, that is, the righteousness of God himself. All righteousness comes from him; none has its origin in man, no matter how good and godly he may be. He will be godly, though imperfectly so, because the righteousness received from God through Christ is not fruitless. What is meant here by righteousness, to wit, a man endued with evangelical righteousness. By ‘righteous’ here, is meant that evangelical righteousness which we have in the state of the gospel, namely, the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; for Christ himself being ours, his obedience and all that he hath becomes ours also; and whosoever partaketh of this righteousness which is by faith, hath also a righteousness of sanctification accompanying the same, wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, whereby his sinful nature is changed and made holy; for ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,’ 2 Cor. v. 17. The same Spirit that assures us of our interest in Christ, purifies and cleanseth our hearts, and worketh a new life in us, opposite to our life in the first Adam; from whence flows new works of holiness and obedience throughout our whole conversation. There must be an inward inherent righteousness, before there can be any works of righteousness. An instrument must be set in tune before it will make music; so the Spirit of God must first work a holy frame and disposition of heart in us, before we can bring forth any fruits of holiness in our lives. For we commend not the works of grace as we do the works of art, but refer them to the worker. All that flows from the Spirit of righteousness are works of righteousness. When the soul submits itself to the spirit, and the body to the soul, then things come off kindly. Take a man that is righteous by the Spirit of God: he is righteous in all relations; he gives every one his due; he gives God his due; spiritual worship is set up in his heart above all; he gives Christ his due by affiance in him; he gives the holy angels their due, by considering he is always in their presence, that their eye is upon him in every action he doth, and every duty he performs; the poor have their due from him; those that are in authority have their due. If he be under any, he gives them reverence and obedience, &c.; ‘he will owe nothing to any man but love,’ Rom. xiii. 8; he is righteous in all his conversation; he is a vessel prepared for every good work. I deny not but he may err in some particular; that is nothing to the purpose. I speak of a man as he is in the disposition and bent of his heart to God and goodness, and so there is a thread of a righteous course, that runs along through his whole conversation. The constant tenure of his life is righteous. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and labours to be more and more righteous still, every way, both in justification, that he may have a clearer evidence of that, as also in sanctification, that he may have more of the ‘new creature’ formed in him, that so he may serve God better and better all his days. —Richard Sibbes, The Difficulty of Salvation, Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:395–396.

A Refuge of Lies

I count all things to be loss . . . so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith —Philippians 3:8–9 Whatever refuge men fancy in their own righteousness, it will prove a refuge of lies, it will deceive and betray those that fly thereto. They are but imaginary sanctuaries, they are none of God’s appointing; there is nothing in them to hinder revenging justice from proceeding against the sinner in a way of wrath and vengeance. . . . The apostle, though he had more reason to think himself safe in his own righteousness than others can have, yet he durst not be found there; the ‘not having,’ &c. He flies to another refuge, runs to Christ, desires to be found in him; ay, there is none but Christ, none but Christ, no other refuge, no other sanctuary, no other altar that can secure a sinner from the wrath and justice of God, but Christ and his righteousness; though the hills and mountains should fall upon you and cover you, yet could they not hide you from the wrath of him. How high soever your righteousness be in your own opinion, the flood of God’s indignation will overwhelm it, and your souls with it, if you get not into this ark. —David Clarkson, Justification by the Righteousness of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:298.

According to the Order of Nature

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. —2 Corinthians 5:21 On the cross, Christ said, “It is finished”; but the cross is not where he began to bear our sin. He did not first take sin upon Him, or was first made sin, upon the cross. He was not first a man, and at a subsequent period the sin-bearer or the curse-bearer. What has been truly and correctly said as to the assumption of humanity may be equally applied to this. He was not first a man, and then incarnate, or assumed into the personality of the Son; for the humanity never existed but in that personal union. In like manner we may say that the humanity never was without this imputation of sin; for that assumption of sin by which He became the sin-bearer, was in, with, by, and under the assumption of our nature, though the sin is separable and distinguishable from the humanity. Nay, we should rather say that, according to the order of nature, the sin was imputed and assumed simultaneously with His mission, and therefore, in a certain sense, prior to the actual incarnation; though it became His, in point of fact, only with the possession of a common nature. They who limit the sin-bearing to the three hours on the cross—a too widely diffused notion—have far diverged from biblical language and ideas. —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 122–123.

The Baptism of the Sin-Bearer

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. —Matthew 3:13–15 This testimony is replete with meaning, whether we consider the occasion of it or the import of the terms. It may be called a key to that large class of passages which speak of Christ’s obedience as the righteousness of His people, or represent Him as made of God unto us righteousness, because He was first of all made sin for us (2 Cor. v. 21). As to the occasion which called forth this saying, we find it uttered on the memorable day of Christ’s baptism, when he came to the Baptist, the new Elias*, the culminating point of the Old Testament prophecy, and its voice. John may be regarded here as the living expression of the law and of the prophets, which had during many ages witnessed to the coming Messiah, and which now, by their greatest representative, were to introduce the Christ into His office. As the Lord Jesus recognised them, so they were to inaugurate Him as the truth of the prophecies, and as the substance of the types or shadows. So close in every point of view is the connection, rightly apprehended, of the old and new economy, that the one is incomplete without the other. But though Jesus was fully conscious of His mission from the day when the boy of twelve first trod the courts of the temple, and declared that He must be about His Father’s business, He would take no steps towards the public discharge of His office till He was formally inaugurated into it by an authorized prophet on the one hand, and by divine testimony on the other . . . The Baptist, as a sinner, feeling that it rather became him to exchange places with Jesus, and to be not the giver but the receiver in the interview, refused, for a time, to confer his baptism on the Redeemer. He could not conceive what the Christ had to do with a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,—what it was to Him, or He to it. But that reluctance was overcome by the explanation which our Lord subjoined:—”suffer it to be so now”—that is (for the now is emphatic), in my present state of humiliation, and as an action suited only to my state of substitution in the room of sinners. . . . But the Lord subjoins an explanation as to the principle and end for which He sought John’s baptism: “For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” It is not the special act of baptism to which alone allusion is here made. The language is more general, though the occasion was particular. There is nothing to warrant the limitation of the words, which must be accepted in the full force of the phraseology. The Lord had a public confession to make; and the words here used furnish a key to the whole action. We must then, first of all, notice the import of these His words of confession: it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. The Lord virtually says, “It is not unworthy of the Son of God to go down so far; for it is not a question of dignity or pre-eminence, but of fulfilling all righteousness.” The reception of baptism was only a voluntary act, and not a service personally necessary or required on His own account; for He acted of free choice when He became incarnate. But it became Him to fulfil His undertaking, and in doing so He was not free to omit this or any part of His work; for though he was under no obligation to take the flesh, yet there arose a certain duty from His engagement to the Father, from His mediatorial office, and from the old prophecies. There was a certain hypothetical necessity or propriety which required His acting as He now did, if the end was to be gained. It may be thus put: “It becometh me to appear in the likeness of a sinner, and to fulfil all righteousness.” —George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 128–130. * Elijah

Righteous before God

Job, the most righteous man who ever lived, asked this burning question: “How can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2). The answer: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. —Romans 3:21–26 This is the only possible solution to our sin. A righteousness must come down to us, a righteousness that is alien to us. “Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it” (Isa. 45:8). This imputed righteousness is the sole ground of the sinner’s justification. God accepts sinners not because of something good or praiseworthy He finds in them. Remember, “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Our good works contribute nothing at all to our righteous standing. Once more: if your trust is in your own goodness, you are doomed (Luke 18:8). God accepts only absolute perfection, which does not exist in the human realm, except in Christ. But here’s the good news: true believers are united with Christ “through faith” (Eph. 3:17), and therefore they too are “in Christ” (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 1:30). God accepts them and blesses them on that basis (Eph. 1:6). That is how He “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). He credits them with a righteousness that is not their own—an alien righteousness, reckoned to their account. Paul prominently features this truth in his own testimony. His heart’s desire, he said, was to “be found in [Christ], not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Notice what Paul is confessing: God Himself had to come to the rescue. He alone can save. The very One who gave the law that condemns us also supplies the righteousness needed to save us. And that is the only merit we need to have a right standing before Him. This is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). And it’s the only way a person can be right with God. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 57–58.

A Worthless Pedigree

If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more . . . But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. —Philippians 3:4, 7 For all his life as a Pharisee, Paul had believed eternal life would be won through ritual, race, rank, religion, and right living. His religious credentials were second to none, according to how the Pharisees ranked advantages. He was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5)—maintaining the Hebrew language and customs, even though he was born in a Gentile region dominated by Hellenized Jews. He came from an especially noble tribe. (Benjamin was one of only two tribes that did not join the rebellion against the House of David after Solomon’s death.) He was born into the household of a Pharisee and circumcised as an eight-day-old—precisely as commanded in Genesis 17:12. In other words, he was still a newborn infant when his parents started him on a course of fastidious observance to the ceremonial law. He never overtly defiled the Sabbath or violated the Pharisees’ traditions regarding the sacrifices, washings, or other ceremonial law works. He had thus managed to keep his reputation unblemished, so in his own estimation, and from the perspective of any devoted Pharisee, he was “blameless.” The proof of his pharisaical zeal was his savage persecution of the church. Any Pharisee would be deeply impressed with such a pedigree. But when he met Christ, Paul saw that both his ancestry and his accomplishments were permanently and irreparably flawed. It was nothing but one large mass of liabilities. Therefore, he trashed it all in order to gain Christ (Phil. 3:8). Paul was not saying he gave up doing good works, of course, but that he realized first that those were not really good works at all, since there was nothing truly righteous about him. So he gladly gave up trusting that his own tainted, pharisaical “good works” might earn merit with God. Merely adding Christ to his religion would not have sanctified it. Remember, he said he counted it as excrement. Decorating skubalon doesn’t alter the reality of what it is. So Paul put all his faith solely in Christ. His only aim from then on was to “be found in (Christ), not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). He is, of course, describing justification by faith and the principle of imputed righteousness. If anyone tries to tell you Paul never spoke of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, point out that it is the focus of his own personal testimony. To be found in Christ is to be clothed in Christ’s own righteousness, “not . . . my own righteousness . . . but that which is through faith in Christ” (Phil. 3:9). This establishes the most intimate imaginable relationship between the believer and his Lord. It is an inviolable spiritual union. What motive could possibly take a devoted, overzealous Pharisee like Saul of Tarsus and persuade him gladly to abandon his lifelong efforts and convictions, labeling them all “dung”? Paul himself gives the answer to that question. He did it “in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ” (Phil. 3:8 NASB). Having seen the radiance of Christ’s glory in the bright light of gospel truth, nothing else would ever again take first place in his heart. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 132–134.

The Full Weight of Divine Fury

What made Christ’s miseries on the cross so difficult for Him to bear was not the taunting and torture and abuse of evil men. It was that He bore the full weight of divine fury against sin. Jesus’ most painful sufferings were not merely those inflicted by the whips and nails and thorns. But by far the most excruciating agony Christ bore was the full penalty of sin on our behalf—God’s wrath poured out on Him in infinite measure. Remember that when He finally cried out in distress, it was because of the afflictions He received from God’s own hand: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). “We esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:4). We cannot even begin to know what Christ suffered. It is a horrible reality to ponder. But we dare not follow open theism in rejecting the notion that He bore His Father’s punishment for our sins, for in this truth lies the very nerve of genuine Christianity. It is the major reason the cross is such an offense (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18). Scripture says, “[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Our sins were imputed to Christ, and He bore the awful price as our substitute. Conversely, His righteousness is imputed to all who believe, and they stand before God fully justified, clothed in the pure white garment of His perfect righteousness. . . . this is the distilled meaning of what happened at the cross for every believer: God treated Christ as if He had lived our wretched, sinful life, so that He could treat us as if we had lived Christ’s spotless, perfect life. Deny the vicarious nature of the atonement—deny that our guilt was transferred to Christ and He bore its penalty—and you in effect have denied the ground of our justification. If our guilt wasn’t transferred to Christ and paid for on the cross, how can His righteousness be imputed to us for our justification? Every deficient view of the atonement must deal with this same dilemma. And unfortunately, those who misconstrue the meaning of the atonement invariably end up proclaiming a different gospel, devoid of the principle of justification by faith. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 145–146.

By Imputation

In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, “The Lord our righteousness.” —Jeremiah 18:1–6 How the Lord is to be man’s righteousness . . . And that is, in one word, by imputation. For it pleased God, after he had made all things by the word of his power, to create man after his own image. And so infinite was the condescension of the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity that although he might have insisted on the everlasting obedience of him and his posterity yet he was pleased to oblige himself, by a covenant or agreement made with his own creatures, upon condition of an unsinning obedience, to give them immortality and eternal life. For when it is said, ‘The day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die’ we may fairly infer, so long as he continued obedient and did not eat thereof, he should surely live. The 3rd of Genesis gives us a full but mournful account, how our first parents broke this covenant and thereby stood in need of a better righteousness than their own, in order to procure their future acceptance with God. For what must they do? They were as much under a covenant of works as ever. And though, after their disobedience, they were without strength yet they were obliged not only to do but continue to do all things and that too in the most perfect manner, which the Lord had required of them. And not only so but to make satisfaction to God’s infinitely offended justice, for the breach they had already been guilty of. Here then opens the amazing scene of divine philanthropy. I mean, God’s love to man. For behold, what man could not do, Jesus Christ, the son of his Father’s love, undertakes to do for him. And that God might be just in justifying the ungodly, though ‘he was in the form of God and therefore thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet he took upon him the form of a servant’, even human nature. In that nature he obeyed and thereby fulfilled the whole moral law in our stead and also died a painful death upon the cross and thereby became a curse for, or instead of, those whom the Father had given to him. As God he satisfied at the same time that he obeyed and suffered as man and, being God and man in one person, he wrought out a full, perfect, and sufficient righteousness for all to whom it was to be imputed. Here then we see the meaning of the word righteousness. It implies the active as well as passive obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. We generally, when talking of the merits of Christ, only mention the latter—his death. Whereas the former—his life and active obedience, is equally necessary. Christ is not such a Saviour as becomes us, unless we join both together. Christ not only died but lived, not only suffered but obeyed for, or instead of, poor sinners. And both these jointly make up that complete righteousness, which is to be imputed to us, as the disobedience of our first parents was made ours by imputation. In this sense and no other, are we to understand that parallel which the Apostle Paul draws, in the 5th of the Romans, between the first and second Adam. This is what he elsewhere terms, ‘our being made the righteousness of God in him.’ This is the sense wherein the Prophet would have us to understand the words of the text, therefore, Jeremiah 33:16, ‘She (i.e. the church itself) shall be called (having this righteousness imputed to her) The Lord our righteousness.’ —George Whitefield, “The Lord Our Righteousness” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:264–266.


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