Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Imputed Righteousness

Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.
– 1 John 2:29 (NASB)

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
– 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
– 1 John 3:10 (NASB)

I do believe in the doctrine of imputation.  I have read the works of some who disagree.  They hold that the Bible never says anywhere that we are “imputed with Christ’s righteousness.”  They hold that the Bible declares us to be righteous by virtue of being in Christ by faith but they hold that the Bible never says that the righteousness of Christ is ever imputed to us.  Even the passages that are appealed to for the doctrine of imputation such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 or Philippians 3:9 do not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.

However, to me this is simply semantics.  While the Bible never uses the phrase “imputed with Christ’s righteousness,” the doctrine is based on not just the New Testament but the Old Testament as well.  For example, in the famous story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 12, the blood of the Passover lamb would serve as a substitute for God’s judgment against the Egyptians.  The Israelites were protected by the blood.  The blood served as a sin offering substitute by which the Israelites’ sins were imputed to the lamb and the lamb bore them on their behalf.  This looked forward to God’s perfect sacrifice of His own Lamb (John 1:29).  The Lamb of God would take away the sins of the world and would bear the sins of the people of God.  God’s Lamb would be our perfect sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22-24).  Jesus’ blood now cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His blood is our defense before a holy God.

Hebrews 9:11-22 reads:

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus then is our substitute before God.  He bore our sins on the cross.  His blood alone is able to cleanse us from sin (Romans 5:9).  Jesus’ blood not only cleanses us from all sin but He is our mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Jesus Christ is our salvation.  He is our everything before God.  We have nothing apart from Him (John 15:5).  He is our salvation, our redemption, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Our boasting must be in Him alone (1 Corinthians 1:31)!  In Jesus we have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22).

Just as the Old Testament sacrifices were imputed with the sins of the Israelites, so the New Testament saint had their sins imputed upon Christ our Lord and He bore our sins.  Thus all He accomplished for our forgiveness is now imputed toward us.

This, however, should not ignore the passages that speak of practicing righteousness.  To merely claim Christ’s righteousness apart from pursuing holiness is not biblical.  Full salvation looks to Christ alone for salvation but we also look to Christ alone to sanctify us.  We are holy in Christ but are also being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14 reads:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We look to Christ Jesus to help us not just to be forgiven of our sins but to be made holy before Him.  Jesus came to bear our sins and to give us complete victory over our sins (Matthew 1:21).  We don’t have to be slaves to sin (John 8:34-36).  Those who are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4) are no longer slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:5-23).  Through the Lord Jesus we are able to live a holy life (1 John 2:1-2).  We don’t have to live a life of defeat in sin.  We can be set free by His grace from sin and its domain (Titus 2:12-14).  Our hearts are cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and the Lord wants to continue that deep work of cleansing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

My earnest prayer has been for the Lord to give disciples full victory that we have in Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin.  We can be slaves of righteousness.  If we are not slaves of righteousness, John the Apostle says that we are not righteous at all.  The doctrine of Christ’s imputation should never be used as a basis for sinning.  If that is the heart of the person living in sin, they know nothing of the grace of God.  While I acknowledge that true saints of God can (and will) sin, this is not the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 John 2:1).  May our hearts be to live a life of holiness, pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:9-10).

Our Doctrine Must Destroy Sin

Our doctrine must not be a doctrine that allows for people to continue without repentance in a life of sin.  This is why Jesus came, to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8).  When we live in sin, we are showing that we are slaves to sin (John 8:34).  By being slaves of sin, we show that we are in turn children of the devil (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:3).  We are then to avoid sinning (1 John 3:4-10).  We are to not walk as the Gentiles (unbelievers) do (Ephesians 4:17-20).  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:34 that the Corinthians were not to go on sinning.  When we do sin, we have the assurance of 1 John 1:9, that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins (Galatians 1:4).

Any doctrine then that takes the sacrifice of Christ who came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21) and teaches that we can continue in sin is not biblical (Hebrews 10:19-39).  Jude 4 reminds that we are not to teach God’s grace for continued sinning:

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Yet God’s true grace enables us to overcome sin as we read in Titus 2:11-12:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.

Notice what the grace of God does for the disciple: trains.  God’s grace trains us to renounce ungodliness and not indulge in it further the grace of God helps us live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.  The grace of God does not allow for continued sinning (Romans 6:1-4).

2 Corinthians 7:1 is a wonderful promise given to disciples:

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

The grace of God enables the disciple to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and to avoid sin.  The grace of God trains us and it doesn’t give us a free license to live in sin.  We are now slaves of Christ and not slaves of sin (Romans 6:20-23).  We have been bought with a price and are to glorify God with our bodies which is His (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

There is a subtle way in which the enemy takes the truth of God’s grace given in Christ for sinners and he turns it so that people start to believe that since Jesus died for our sins, we can indulge in sin.  A person is taught that they can live in sin because they are “once saved, always saved” despite no repentance over sins.  Another person is taught that since they died with Christ and are hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4), God does not see their sins anymore so even when they sin, God only sees the righteousness of Christ imputed to them by a one time act of faith.  They ignore 1 John 3:7:

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

According to 1 John 3:7, a person who is practicing righteousness is righteous.  There is nothing mentioned here about imputation but about practical living.  A person can claim all day that they are imputed with Christ’s righteousness but 1 John 3:7 tells us that if we are truly righteous through Christ, we will live righteously.  Those who do not live a righteous life by the grace of God will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:7-8).  We are to repent of our sins and turn to Christ alone to help us overcome sin (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Christ shed His blood for our sins and He delivers us from the power, penalty, and pleasure of sin.

Do you hate sin?  I do.  I despise sin.  I am not perfect but I long to be like Jesus in every way (Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 John 2:6).  I praise God for the sacrifice of Christ for my sins (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7).  I praise God that the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sins (Hebrews 10:14).  1 John 1:7 is a wonderful passage of Scripture that speaks of the cure for dirty feet:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This passage is all in the continued present tense of the Greek.  In other words, as we walk in the light (present tense), the blood of Jesus cleanses (present active tense) us from all sin.  The cure for our sins is not found in the laws of men.  It is not found in morality.  The cure for overcoming sin and its power is the precious blood of Jesus as we walk in the light (Galatians 5:16-17).  We have a faithful high priest who was tempted as we are but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  Thus through Christ we are able to approach the throne of God and receive help in our time of trouble (Hebrews 4:16).

Praise God for our merciful and faithful high priest who lives to pray for us (Hebrews 7:25)!  He is able to deliver us and help us to be holy by His gospel that sets us free and empowers us to be holy as He is holy.

Jesus is My Righteousness

I once heard a testimony of a brother saved out of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  What drew him to faith in Christ was when he was reading Philippians 3:9 and the thought struck him about how much he was doing to try to earn or be righteous before Jehovah. He noted that Paul said that his righteousness came not from himself but from Christ.  This brother said he knew in his heart that he was not deriving his righteousness from his faith in Christ but from his good works for the Watchtower or in his terms, “Jehovah’s organization.”  This led him to begin to question his beliefs and led him to abandon his self-righteousness for the righteousness that comes through faith.

How easy it is to fall prey to this thinking, that we earn God’s favor by being righteous in of ourselves.  We labor in prayer or labor in Bible study or labor in meetings with the saints or labor in evangelism hoping, at least in our minds, that God is pleased with our behavior.  Yet the Bible makes it clear that salvation is accomplished through Christ Jesus and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our righteousness is but filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  The wonderful truth of the gospel is that Jesus saves sinners (Matthew 1:21) and that He makes us righteous before God by His own blood.  Our righteousness is thus not our righteousness but comes through faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus is my righteousness!  Jesus is my salvation!  Jesus is my faithful high priest who intercedes for me before the Father (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).

My labor then flows not from seeking to earn God’s favor or His salvation.  My labors flow from the Spirit of God (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14).  I am zealous to honor the Lord because He has saved me by His own power (John 1:12-13).  I am not saved because I have joined the right group or because I was baptized in this church.  I am saved because of Christ and Christ alone.  Cultists hate this doctrine.  They despise the idea that God alone saves sinners.  Man-centered theology focuses on what man does and what we do to either earn God’s righteousness or keep His righteousness.  Not so with biblical theology.  Our salvation comes through Christ and through Christ alone (John 14:6).

Arminius wrote about this salvation accomplished in Christ:

Justification is a just and gracious act of God as a judge, by which, from the throne of his grace and mercy, he absolves from his sins, man, a sinner, but who is a believer, on account of Christ, and the obedience and righteousness of Christ, and considers him righteous, to the salvation of the justified person, and to the glory of divine righteousness and grace.

Notice what Arminius states: that justification is the just and gracious act of God given to us through Christ and is accomplished only by Christ.  Perfect righteousness is not obtained by works or obedience to laws.  Perfect righteousness comes through the work of Christ alone.

Arminius goes on to write:

The form is the gracious reckoning of God, by which he imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, and imputes faith to us for righteousness; that is, he remits our sins to us who are believers, on account of Christ apprehended by faith, and accounts us righteous in him. This estimation or reckoning, has, joined with it, adoption into sons, and the conferring of a right to the inheritance of life eternal.

Again notice that all of this is accomplished by Christ.  Christ is our focus.  Christ is our salvation.  Christ is our righteousness.  Even in the end of our lives, Christ is our everything.  Arminius wrote about this as well writing:

But we have yet to consider justification, both about the beginning of conversion, when all preceding sins are for, given, and through the whole life, because God has promised remission of sins to believers, those who have entered into covenant with him, as often as they repent and flee by true faith to Christ their propitiator and expiator. But the end and completion of justification will be at the close of life, when God will grant to those who end their days in the faith of Christ, to find his mercy, absolving them from all the sins which had been perpetrated through the whole of their lives. The declaration and manifestation of justification will be in the future general judgment.

Make sure today that Christ is your salvation.  Never trust in your works or your goodness or your self-rigtheousness to earn God’s salvation.  Salvation comes only through faith in Christ.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/28/2012 at 10:00 AM

A Word of Warning from Adam Clarke

Here is a solid word of warning from Adam Clarke about the abuses of God’s grace that can sometimes come when an overemphasis is placed upon the doctrine of imputation of righteousness.  I believe his points are very helpful in the shallow Christian world that we live in today.  And now here are the words of Clarke:

This doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is capable of great abuse. To say that Christ’s personal righteousness is imputed to every true believer, is not Scriptural: to say that he has fulfilled all righteousness for us, in our stead, if by this is meant his fulfillment of all moral duties, is neither Scriptural nor true; that he has died in our stead, is a great, glorious, and Scriptural truth; that there is no redemption but through his blood is asserted beyond all contradiction in the oracles of God. But there are a multitude of duties which the moral law requires, which Christ never fulfilled in our stead, and never could. We have various duties of a domestic kind which belong solely to ourselves, in the relation of parents, husbands, wives, servants, &c., in which relations Christ never stood. He has fulfilled none of these duties for us, but he furnishes grace to every true believer to fulfill them to God’s glory, the edification of his neighbor, and his own eternal profit. The salvation which we receive from God’s free mercy, through Christ, binds us to live in a strict conformity to the moral law; that law which prescribes our manners, and the spirit by which they should be regulated, and in which they should be performed. He who lives not in the due performance of every Christian duty, whatever faith he may profess, is either a vile hypocrite or a scandalous Antinomian.

God is said to be “no respecter of persons” for this reason, among many others, that, being infinitely righteous, he must be infinitely impartial. He cannot prefer one to another, because he has nothing to hope or fear from any of his creatures. All partialities among men spring from one or other of these two principles, hope or fear; God can feel neither of them, and therefore God can be no respecter of persons. He approves or disapproves of men according to their moral character. He pities all, and provides salvation for all, but he loves those who resemble him in his holiness; and he loves them in proportion to that resemblance, that is, the more of his image he sees in any the more he loves him, and e contra. And every man’s work will be the evidence of his conformity or nonconformity to God; and according to this evidence will God judge him. Here, then, is no respect of persons. God’s judgment will be according to a man’s work, and a man’s work or conduct will be according to the moral state of his mind. No favoritism can prevail in the day of judgment; nothing will pass there but holiness of heart and life. A righteousness imputed, and not possessed and practiced, will not avail where God judgeth according to every man’s work. It would be well if those sinners and spurious believers, who fancy themselves safe and complete in the righteousness of Christ, while impure and unholy in themselves, would think of this testimony of the apostle?

As eternal life is given IN the Son of God, it follows it cannot be enjoyed WITHOUT him. No man can have it without having Christ; therefore “he that hath the Son hath life,” and “he that hath not the Son hath not life.” It is in vain to expect eternal glory if we have not Christ in our heart. The indwelling Christ gives both a title to it and a meetness for it. This is God’s record. Let no man deceive himself here. An indwelling Christ and glory; no indwelling Christ, no glory. God’s record must stand.

Who are Christ’s flock? All real penitents; all true believers; all who obediently follow his example, abstaining from every appearance of evil, and in a holy life and conversation show forth the virtue of Him who called them from darkness into his marvelous light. “My sheep hear my voice and follow me.” But who are not his flock? Neither the backslider in heart, nor the vile Antinomian, who thinks the more he sins the more the grace of God shall be magnified in saving him; nor those who fondly suppose they are covered with the righteousness of Christ while living in sin; nor the crowd of the indifferent and the careless; nor the immense herd of Laodicean loiterers; nor the fiery bigots who would exclude all from heaven but themselves, and the party who believe as they do. These the Scripture resembles to swine, dogs, goats, wandering stars, foxes, lions, wells without water, &c., &c. Let not any of these come forward to eat of this pasture, or take of the children’s bread. Jesus Christ is the good Shepherd; the Shepherd who, to save his flock, laid down his own life.

To forsake all, without following Christ, is the virtue of a philosopher. To follow Christ in profession, without forsaking all, is the state of the generality of Christians. But to follow Christ, and forsake all, is the perfection of a Christian.

Talking about Christ, his righteousness, merits, and atonement, while the person is not conformed to his word and Spirit, is no other than solemn deception. The white robes of the saints cannot mean the righteousness of Christ, for this cannot be washed and made white in his own blood. This white linen is said to be the righteousness of the saints, Rev. xix, 8; and this is the righteousness in which they stand before the throne; therefore it is not Christ’s righteousness, but it is a righteousness wrought in them by the merits of his blood and the power of his Spirit.

We must beware of Antinomianism, that is, of supposing that, because Christ has been obedient unto death, there is no necessity for our obedience to his righteous commandments. If this were so, the grace of Christ would tend to the destruction of the law, and not to its establishment. He only is saved from his sins who has the law of God written in his heart, who lives an innocent, holy, and useful life. Wherever Christ lives he works; and his work of righteousness will appear to his servants, and its effect will be quietness and assurance for ever. The life of God in the soul of man is the principle which saves and preserves eternally.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/07/2012 at 10:26 AM

Atonement Theories

Let me state before I even start that I hold to the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement.  I hold this view because I believe it is the “best” alternative to other theories about the atonement that I have read and studied.  I recognize that not every Arminian nor every Christian for that matter holds to the penal view.  Some of my friends hold to the moral government view though I believe that Arminius did not.  I once had a man e-mail me and ask if I held to the penal view and when I replied that I did, he said that he had no debate with me then.  This man held that the penal substitutionary view was the only biblical view of the atonement.

Now while I hold to the penal view, let me state that I believe that theories of the atonement often fill the holes that the penal view doesn’t fill.  For example, open theist Greg Boyd holds that the death of Jesus on the cross was part of a cosmic war between good and evil, God and Satan.  Boyd points to passages such as Mark 10:45 or 1 John 3:8.  Others such as Wesleyan Joel Green believe what he calls “the kaleidoscope theory” where he believes that the atonement of Jesus Christ was so powerful, so wonderful, and so great that no one view can encompass all that the Bible teaches about the atonement.  While he believes that the penal view does hold truth, he believes that many other theories such as the ransom theory all hold some truths that can be seen in the cross.  In some ways, I believe that Green is correct.  The atonement of Jesus Christ is indeed so wonderful that a theory is hard to nail down just what God did for us when He gave His Son upon the cross (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Yet the penal view for me remains the best alternative.  Isaiah 53 pictures the suffering servant of the Lord as giving His life for all people (Isaiah 53:11).  God the Father placed the sins of the world upon the Son of God, the Lord Jesus, for our salvation (Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 26:28).  Romans 3:22-27 pictures perfectly this glorious event when Jesus offered Himself as our propitiation to God the Father.  Jesus fully satisfied the wrath of God on the cross for our forgiveness (Romans 5:1-11).  The cross completed our salvation (John 19:30; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  We are now saved through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:14, 22; 1 John 1:7) and now we can approach the Father because of the fact that Jesus Christ has taken away God’s wrath against our sins on the cross (Hebrews 8:8-11).  We can confess our sins to God because of Jesus (1 John 1:9) and the Father forgives us because of the blood of His Son.

While other theories about the atonement of Jesus do sometimes offer reasonable answers for the death of Jesus on the cross, the penal substitutionary view, to me, offers the best view as found in the New Testament.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/05/2011 at 10:35 AM

Luther’s Preface to Galatians

Note: The following is Martin Luther’s preface to his commentary on the book of Galatians.  If you have never read R.C. Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God, I recommend it.  Sproul points out Luther’s struggle with how can a person ever be righteous enough before God before coming to see that we are justified by God’s grace through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all, we speak of the argument of this epistle: in it Paul is seeking to establish the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness in order that we may know the difference between Christian righteousness and all other kinds of righteousness. There are many other kinds of righteousness. There is a civil or political righteousness, which kings, princes of the world, magistrates and lawyers deal with. There is also ceremonial righteousness, which the traditions of men teach. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law, or the Ten Commandments.

Above all these, there is yet another righteousness: the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, which we must diligently discern from the others. The others are quite contrary to this righteousness, both because they flow out of the laws of kings and rulers, religious traditions, and the commandments of God; and because they consist in our works, and may be worked by us either in our natural strength, or else by the gift of God. These kind of righteousness are also the gift of God, like all other good things which we enjoy.

But the most excellent righteousness of faith, which God through Christ, without any works, imputes to us, is neither political, nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God’s Law, nor consists of works, but is contrary to these; that is to say, it is a mere passive righteousness, as the others are active. For in the righteousness of faith, we work nothing, we render nothing to God, but we only receive, and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God. This is a righteousness hidden in a mystery, which the world does not know. Indeed, Christians themselves do not thoroughly understand it, and can hardly take hold of it in their temptations. Therefore it must be diligently taught, and continually practiced.

The troubled conscience, in view of God’s judgment, has no remedy against desperation and eternal death, unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by free grace, freely offered in Christ Jesus, which if it can apprehend, it may then be at rest. Then I can boldly say: I seek not active or working righteousness, for if I had it, I could not trust it, neither dare I set it against the judgment of God. Then I abandon myself from all active righteousness, both of my own and of God’s law, and embrace only that passive righteousness, which is the righteousness of grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sins. I rest only upon that righteousness, which is the righteousness of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The highest wisdom of Christians is not to know the law and be ignorant of works, especially when the conscience is wrestling with God. But among those who are not God’s people, the greatest wisdom is to know the law and is assuredly persuaded in his heart there is now no law, nor wrath of God, but only grace and mercy for Christ’s sake, he cannot be saved; for by the law comes the knowledge of sin. Conversely, works and the keeping of the law is strictly required in the world, as if there were no promise, or grace.

A wise and faithful disposer of the Word of God must so moderate the law that it may be kept within its bounds. He that teaches that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passes the bounds of the law, and confounds these two kind of righteousness, active and passive. Conversely, he sets forth the law and works to the old man, and the promise and forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy to the new man, divides the Word well. For the flesh or the old man must be coupled with the law and works; the spirit or the new man must be joined with the promise of God and His mercy.

When I see a man oppressed with the law, terrified with sin, and thirsting for comfort, it is time that I remove out of his sight the law and active righteousness, and set before him the gospel, the Christian or passive righteousness, which offers the promise made in Christ, who came for afflicted and sinners.

We teach the difference between these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive, to the end that manners and faith, works and grace, political and religious, should not be confounded, or taken the one for the other. Both are necessary; but each must be kept within its bounds: Christian righteousness pertains to the new man, and the righteousness of the law pertains to the old man, which is born of flesh and blood. Upon this old man, as upon a donkey, there must be laid a burden that may press him down, and he must not enjoy the freedom of the spirit of grace, except he first put upon him the new man, by faith in Christ. Then may he enjoy the kingdom and inestimable gift of grace. This I say, so that no man should think we reject or forbid good works.

We imagine two worlds, the one heavenly, the other earthly. In these we place these two kinds of righteousness, the one far separate from the other. The righteousness of the law is earthly and deals with earthly things. But Christian righteousness is heavenly, which we have not of ourselves, but receive from heaven; we work not for it, but by grace it is worked in us, and is realized by faith.

Do we then do nothing? Do we do nothing at all for the obtaining of this righteousness? I answer, Nothing at all! For this is perfect righteousness, to do nothing, to hear nothing, to know nothing of the law, or of works, but to know and believe this only, that Christ is gone to the Father, and is not now seen; that He sits in heaven at the right hand of His Father, not as judge, but made unto us of God, wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption — briefly, that He is our high priest entreating for us, and reigning over us, and in us, by grace. In this heavenly righteousness sin can have no place, for there is no law; and where there is no law, there can be no transgression (Romans 4:15). Seeing then that sin has here no place, there can be no anguish of conscience, no fear, no heaviness. Therefore John says (1 John 5:18): “He that is born of God cannot sin.”

But if there is any fear, or grief of conscience, it is a token that this righteousness is withdrawn, that grace is hidden, and that Christ is darkened and out of sight. But where Christ is truly seen, there must be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which thinks this way: Although I am a sinner by the law and under condemnation of the law, yet I do not despair, yet I do not die, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, no fear, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner as touching this present life, and the righteousness thereof, as a child of Adam. But I have another righteousness and life eternal; by whom this my body, being dead and brought to dust, shall be raised up again, and delivered from the bondage of the law and sin, and shall be sanctified together with my spirit.

So both these continue while we live here. The flesh is accused, exercised with temptations, oppressed with heaviness and sorrow, bruised by the active righteousness of the law; but the spirit reigns, rejoices, and is saved by this passive and Christian righteousness, because it knows that it has a Lord in Heaven, at the right hand of His Father, who has abolished the law, sin, death, and has trodden under His feet all evils, led them captive, and triumphed over them in Himself (Colossians 2:15).

St. Paul, in this epistle, goes about diligently to instruct us, to comfort us, to hold us in the perfect knowledge of this most Christian and excellent righteousness. For it the article of justification is lost, then all true Christian doctrine is lost. He who strays from Christian righteousness falls into the righteousness of the law; that is, when he loses Christ, he falls into the confidence of his own works. Therefore we also earnestly set forth, and so often repeat the doctrine of “faith”, or Christian righteousness, that by this means it may be kept continual exercise, and may be plainly discerned from the active righteousness of the law.

Let us diligently learn to judge between these two kinds of righteousness. We have said before that, in a Christian, the law ought not to pass its bounds, but ought to have dominion only over the flesh, which is in subjection to it, and remains under it. But if it creeps in to the conscience, play the cunning logician, and make the true division. Say: “Law, you would climb up into the kingdom of my conscience, and there reprove it of sin, and take from me the joy of my heart, which I have by faith in Christ, and drive me to desperation that I may be without hope, and utterly perish. Keep within your bounds, and exercise your power upon the flesh: for by the gospel I am called to the partaking of righteousness and everlasting life.”

When I have Christian righteousness reigning in my heart, I descend from heaven as the rain makes fruitful the earth; that is to say, I do good works, how and wherever the occasion arises. If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the broken-hearted, I administer the Sacraments. If I am head of a household, I govern the house and family well, and in the fear of God. If I am a servant, I do my master’s business faithfully.

To conclude, whoever is assuredly persuaded that Christ alone is his righteousness, does not only cheerfully and gladly work well in his vocation, but also submits himself through love to the rulers and to their laws, yes, though they might be severe, and, if necessity should require, to all manner of burdens, and to all dangers of the present life, because he knows that this is the will of God, and that this obedience pleases Him.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/16/2011 at 12:03 PM

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