Christ, Our Righteousness

The gospel ministry with its proper emphasis on justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the repenting and believing sinner does not need a new perspective but a renewal of spirit-filled preaching.

The subject of our essay is to consider how the perfect obedience of Christ to the Mosaic law does apply to those who believe in Him. The answer to this question, according to the Reformed understanding of Scripture, is “the active obedience of Christ is imputed to the justified believers as their positive cover in the last judgment.” The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “Those whom God . . . freely justifieth . . . accepting their persons as righteous . . . by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them” (11:1).

 

“To know that one has died and been raised is far, far more pastorally significant than to know that one has, vicariously, fulfilled the Torah.”
—N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Visionp. 233

N.T. Wright in his advocacy of a “new perspective” on Paul and his teaching makes a special plea that “justification” should relate to the question “who belongs to God’s covenant with the world?” rather than “how can you be saved?” Wright’s answer to the question is “Jews and Gentiles alike, who believe in Jesus the Messiah.” This position is discussed widely in the present issue of Tabletalk. The subject of our essay is to consider how the perfect obedience of Christ to the Mosaic law does apply to those who believe in Him. The answer to this question, according to the Reformed understanding of Scripture, is “the active obedience of Christ is imputed to the justified believers as their positive cover in the last judgment.” The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “Those whom God . . . freely justifieth . . . accepting their persons as righteous . . . by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them” (11:1).

First, this position is articulated in an emphatic way in Romans 4:3–24. The pivot of this passage is the word logizomai, to credit, to include in one’s accounting. This word is used ten times in this context in Romans, and the word is used elsewhere in a similar fashion in Psalm 106:31Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23.

What is credited is not the believer’s good works in obedience to God’s law (vv. 9–11). Not even his faith is meritorious, but one is justified by grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ (3:24).

The effect of justification is that no one can boast of being better than others; rather, each one must own that, being no more worthy of the divine choice, he was saved by God’s grace alone (Eph. 2:5, 9).

Second, the fact that salvation is a blessing apprehended here and now, and not merely a hope to be realized at some point in the future, is made very clear in Scripture (see John 5:24Rom. 8:1Eph. 2:5, 8; 1 John 3:14).

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