righteousness, likened to a spotless wedding
garment, has been provided and is freely bestowed
upon all who believe (Rom. 3:22)."
A vital difference
between God and man which the Scriptures emphasize is that
God is righteous (1 John 1:5) while the fundamental charge
against man as recorded in Romans 3:10 is that
there is none righteous, no, not
one. So, also, one of the glories of divine grace
is the fact that a perfect righteousness, likened to a
spotless wedding garment, has been provided and is freely
bestowed upon all who believe (Rom. 3:22).
The Scriptures distinguish four aspects of righteousness:
I. GOD IS RIGHTEOUS (Rom. 3:25, 26)
This attribute of God is
unchanging and unchangeable. He is infinitely righteous in
His own Being and infinitely righteous in all His ways.
1. He is Righteous in His Being.
It is impossible for Him to deviate from His righteousness
by so much as the shadow of turning
(Jas. 1:17). He cannot look on sin with the least degree of
allowance. Therefore, since all men are sinners both by
nature and by practise [sic], the divine judgment has come
upon all men unto condemnation. The acceptance of this truth
is vital to any right understanding of the Gospel of divine
2. He is Righteous in His Ways.
It must also be recognized that God is incapable of
slighting sin, or merely forgiving sin in leniency. The
triumph of the Gospel is not in the belittling of sin on the
part of God; it is rather in the fact that all those
judgments which infinite righteousness must of necessity
impose upon the sinner have been borne in substitution by
God's provided Lamb, and that this is a plan of God's own
devising which according to His own standards of
righteousness is sufficient for all who believe. By this
plan God can satisfy His love in saving the sinner without
infringing upon His own unchangeable righteousness; and the
sinner, utterly hopeless in himself, can pass out from all
condemnation (John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32).
It is not unusual for men to conceive of God as a righteous
Being; but they often fail to recognize the fact that, when
He undertakes to save the sinful, the righteousness of God
is not and cannot be diminished.
II. THE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN
In complete accord with
the revelation that God is supremely righteous, there is the
corresponding revelation that, in the sight of God, the
righteousness of man is as filthy
rags (Isa. 64:6). Though the sinful estate of man
is constantly declared throughout the Scriptures, there is
no description more complete and final than is found in
Romans 3:9-18, and it should be noted that this, as all
other estimates of sin which are recorded in the Bible, is a
description of sin as God sees it. Men have erected
legitimate standards for the family, for society, and for
the state; but these are no part of the basis upon which man
must stand and by which he must be judged before God. In
their relation to God, men are not wise when thus comparing
themselves with themselves (2 Cor. 10:12); for not merely
those who are condemned by society are lost, but those who
are condemned by the unalterable righteousness of God (Rom.
3:23). There is therefore no hope for any individual outside
the provisions of God's grace; for none can enter Heaven's
glory who are not as acceptable to God as Christ. For this
need God has made abundant provision.
III. THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF
GOD (Rom. 3:22)
The Bible doctrine of
Imputation transcends all other themes concerning the
Christian, and because it has no comparisons in things of
this world, it is not easily comprehended.
1. The Fact of Imputation.
As Adam's sin is imputed to the human race to the end that
all are constituted sinners by nature (Rom. 5:12-21), and as
the sin of man was imputed to Christ to the end that He
became a sin-offering for the whole world (2 Cor. 5:14, 21;
Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2), so, also, the righteousness of God is
imputed to all who believe to the end that they may stand
before God in all the perfection of Christ. By this divine
provision those who are saved are said to have been "made"
the righteousness of God (1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21). Since
it is the righteousness of God and not of man and since it
is said to be apart from all self works or deeds of law
observance (Rom. 3:21), obviously this imputed righteousness
is not something wrought out by man. Being the righteousness
of God, it is not increased by the goodness of the one to
whom it is imputed, nor is it decreased by his badness.
2. The Results of Imputation.
In like manner, this righteousness, though it is termed "the
righteousness of God" is in no way to be confused with the
fact that God is Himself righteous. It is rather a quality
which is imputed to the believer from God on the basis of
the fact that the believer is, through the baptism with the
Spirit, in Christ. Through that vital union to Christ by the
Spirit, the believer becomes related to Christ as a member
in His body (1 Cor. 12:13), and as a branch in the True Vine
(John 15:1, 5). Because of the reality of this union, God
sees the believer as a living part of His own Son. He
therefore loves him as He loves His Son (John 17:23), He
accepts him as He accepts His own Son (Eph. 1:6; 1 Pet.
2:5), and He accounts him to be what His own Son is -- the
righteousness of God (Rom. 3:22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).
Christ is the righteousness of God, therefore those who are
saved are made the righteousness of God by being in Him (2
Cor. 5:21). They are complete in Him (Col. 2:10), and
perfected forever (Heb. 10:10, 14).
3. Biblical Illustrations of Imputation.
Garments of skin which necessitated the shedding of blood
were divinely provided for Adam and Eve. A righteous
standing was imputed to Abraham because he believed God
(Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:9-22; Jas. 2:23), and as the priests of
old were clothed with righteousness (Psa. 132:9), so the
believer is robed in the wedding garment of the
righteousness of God and in that garment he will appear in
glory (Rev. 19:8). The attitude of the Apostle Paul toward
Philemon is an illustration both of imputed merit and
imputed demerit. Speaking of the slave Onesimus, the Apostle
said: If thou count me therefore a
partner, receive him as myself (the imputation of
merit), If he hath wronged thee, or
oweth thee ought, put that on mine account (the
imputation of demerit -- Philemon 1:17, 18. Note, also, Job
29:14; Isa. 11:5; 59:17; 61:10).
4. Imputation Affects the Standing and not the State.
There is, then, a righteousness from God, apart from all
human works which is unto and upon all who believe (Rom.
3:22). It is the eternal standing of all who are saved. In
their daily life, or state, they are far from perfect, and
in this aspect of their relation to God they are to
grow in grace, and in the knowledge
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet.
5. Imputed Righteousness the Ground of Justification.
According to the New Testament usage, the words
righteousness and justify are from the same root. God
declares the one justified forever whom He sees in Christ.
It is an equitable decree since the justified one is clothed
in the righteousness of God. Justification is not a fiction,
or a state of feeling; it is rather an immutable reckoning
in the mind of God. Like imputed righteousness,
justification is by faith (Rom. 5:1), through grace (Titus
3:4-7), and made possible through the death and resurrection
of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 4:25). It is abiding and unchangeable
since it rests only on the merit of the eternal Son of God.
Justification is more than forgiveness, since forgiveness is
the cancellation of sin; while justification is the imputing
of righteousness. Forgiveness is negative -- the removal of
condemnation; while justification is positive -- the
bestowing of the merit and standing of Christ. James,
writing of a justification by works (Jas. 2:14-26), has in
view the believer's standing before men; Paul writing of
justification by faith (Rom. 5:1), has in view the
believer's standing before God. Abraham was justified before
men in that he proved his faith by his works (Jas. 2:21);
likewise he was justified by faith before God on the ground
of imputed righteousness (Jas. 2:23).
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPARTED BY THE
SPIRIT (Rom. 8:4)
When filled with the
Spirit, the child of God will produce the "fruit of the
Spirit" (Gal. 5:22, 23), and will manifest the gifts for
service which are by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). These results
are distinctly said to be due to the immediate working of
the Spirit in and through the believer. Reference is made,
therefore, to a manner of life which is in no way produced
by the believer; it is rather a manner of life which is
produced through him by the Spirit. To those who "walk
not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," the
righteousness of the law, which in this case means no less
than the realization of the whole will of God for the
believer, is fulfilled in them. It could never be fulfilled
by them. When thus inwrought by the Spirit, it is none other
than a life which is the imparted righteousness of God.
1. What testimony do the
Scriptures give relative to the righteousness of God, of
man, and of the believer?
2. Name the four aspects of righteousness as found in the
3. How can God be righteous and at the same time forgive and
4. What estimation does the Bible make of man's
5. Name three forms of imputation.
6. By whom is imputed righteousness said to be "made"?
7. On what reasonable basis can the righteousness of God be
8. Restate the Biblical illustrations of imputation.
9. Distinguish the believer's standing from his state.
10. On what basis does God justify a sinner?
11. How may justification be eternal?
12. What are the contrasts between forgiveness and
13. Distinguish between justification by works and
justification by faith.
a. How may righteousness be imparted?
b. Who among believers experience imparted righteousness?