This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1998 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the second.
In this second of five studies, we are continuing to discuss what the Lord Jesus Christ has done, and is doing to bring those blessings into the daily experience of the believer. We put our confidence not in our experience itself, but in the historical person Jesus Christ, God come to earth as a Man. We rely on what Jesus did to save us and on what He continues to do to keep us. In our first session, we discussed Jesus' substitutionary death. Jesus is the Lamb Whom God provided to be the perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. Because human beings are by nature guilty before God and continually break His law, we owe a debt to God's justice that we can never pay by ourselves. By His death, Jesus fully paid on behalf of others the infinite penalty which the law obligated them to pay.
There is another dimension to what the Lord Jesus did on our behalf which is often overlooked. The law of God threatens DEATH as the just penalty which the infinitely just and holy God will mete out to sinners. However, the same law of God promises LIFE as the good reward which the infinitely good and holy God will give to those who do not sin. We read in Leviticus 18, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." The law of God came through Moses. In Romans 10, the apostle Paul summarizes Moses' description of the righteousness which is of the law: the man who does those things shall LIVE by them.
No person has earned the reward of life, because "by works of the Law shall no flesh be justified". No one has perfectly obeyed, nor is anyone even CAPABLE of doing so. That is, no one except Jesus.
Just as the Lord Jesus paid the law's penalty, so He earned the law's reward by His perfect obedience. How could Jesus render perfect obedience? Of all mankind, He alone was without sin. Now someone might ask, "How can He be sinless, if the Bible teaches that all the descendants of Adam are sinful? Isn't Jesus a real man, a real descendant of Adam?" Indeed, Jesus was and remains a real human being. He has a human body and soul. However, He had a higher origin than any other man. Not only is He a Man, but He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. God the Son existed before Adam, the first man, and indeed was Adam's Creator. For all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. Therefore, the person Jesus Christ can be reckoned as truly descended from Adam physically, but NOT as sharing in the sinful estate into which Adam plunged himself and all his other descendants. The Bible says specifically that Jesus came, "in the LIKENESS of sinful flesh", Romans 8:3.
Jesus is God Almighty - having an infinite, eternal righteousness. Incarnate as a man, He lived a sinless human life. From infancy onward, He never committed the smallest sin, He perfectly obeyed every requirement of the Law. Jesus never had a lustful thought, He only and constantly desired what was good. He was angry at sin in others, but never selfishly and wrongfully angry at any one. He never stole anything or cheated anyone, but regarded his neighbors' possessions as He would His own. He never told even the smallest, so-called "white lie", but always told the absolute truth. He never coveted anything, but lived contentedly in His meagre earthly estate. He perfectly kept the Sabbath without any taint of distortion. He honored Joseph and Mary as His earthly parents. He always loved God His heavenly Father with all His heart, soul, strength, and mind.
The astounding thing we are considering here is that we who believe on the Lord Jesus and have been baptized into Him are CLOTHED with this glorious righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ! God has first taken away our guilt, corruption, and alienation on account of sin, and set us free. Now, He reckons to our account the very righteousness of Christ!
This clothing or reckoning to the account of pitifully naked sinners a righteousness not their own was foreshadowed even in the garden of Eden. In Genesis 3, right after Adam and Eve sinned, God makes clothing of animal skins for them. This physical act portrayed two spiritual realities to them: 1) Their nakedness before God had to be covered, and 2) in order for them to be covered, a sacrificial death had to occur. There had been no death, even for animals, before the Fall of man into sin.
(As an aside here, let's note that this Biblical observation alone destroys the theory of evolution. Evolution teaches that violent death had been occuring for millions of years among animals, long before man even appeared on earth. The Bible also teaches that man was the last creature to appear on earth, on creation day six, but it also teaches that man's sin is what brought death into the world. Man's sin resulted in the whole creation being cursed and subjected to vanity.)
But let's return to our discussion of how the Christian disciple not only has the law's penalty paid by Jesus, but receives Jesus' own righteousness as his beautiful garment. This is truly a case of "rags to riches"!
At Psalm 132:9, the psalmist prophetically celebrates this wonderful New Covenant reality, "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy".
When Jesus began His ministry in Galilee, He came to Nazareth where He was brought up, and entered the synagogue, as was his custom. Luke records that Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, a passage we call chapter 61. He began to read where it says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor." That passage goes on to give some wonderful promises about being clothed with righteousness. To those that mourn in Zion, verse 3 promises beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning; the GARMENT of praise for the spirit of heaviness. At verse10, we read these words of celebration, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."
The prophet Zechariah's vision of Joshua, the high priest after the Babylonian captivity, echoes the same theme. In a vision the prophet sees this "other Joshua" of the Bible, this high priest Joshua, clothed with filthy garments and standing before the Angel of the LORD. The Angel said to those that stood before him, "Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the Angel of the LORD stood by."
In His sermon on the mount, at Matthew 6, Jesus told his hearers to look at the beautiful flowers around them, to see how gorgeously clothed they were. Just one of them is more glorious than even great king Solomon and all his splendor, said the Master. Then He asked if God would not even more CLOTHE His own people, if He so clothes the flowers? What sort of clothing did the Lord Jesus have in mind? Surely, it was His own righteousness.
This principle we have been discussing is called IMPUTATION. It means to reckon, to attribute, to charge to an account. It is the Lord Jesus Who is pictured by the animal skins of Genesis 3. The skins were far better garments than the leaves Adam and Eve tried to make for themselves. His righteousness is far better than that which we attempt to forge for ourselves. He Himself is the far more sumptuous, royal clothing to which He referred in the Sermon on the Mount. Out of His great love with which He loved His people, God imputed or reckoned the guilt of their sin to the sinless Jesus. Then He reckoned the righteousness of Jesus to the believer. Happy transaction for the one who shares in it! Let's close by considering what some of the inspired Bible writers have said about this glorious spiritual reality:
Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23).
David wrote, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile" (Psalm 32:1,2).
Paul counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, writing "I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 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" (Philippians 3:8,9).
This incomprehensible mystery of love is packed into this word - "For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."(2 Corinthians 5:21)
Go to Session Three - Bible Study on the Work of Christ
Go to 2 Timothy 2:15 Dept.
Go to Home Page