I love the way John Stott describes the great exchange we have in Christ.
“When we are united to Christ a mysterious exchange takes place: he took our curse, so that we may receive his blessing; he became sin with our sin, so that we may become righteous with his righteousness.” (Stott: The Cross of Christ)
In short, Christ takes our sin and gives us His righteousness.
Why is this important? Because forgiveness of sin is not enough to be reconciled to God.
If all we had was forgiveness of sin, (the negative taken away), would there be anything positive in us (righteousness) to please God? Consider Romans 5:19:
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Praise God that the last line doesn’t say, “so by the one man’s (Christ’s) obedience the many will be made morally neutral!
The beauty of justification is found not only in Christ’s forgiveness of Sin, but also in His imputation of righteousness. In this way, the Father sees me through the righteousness of Christ –pleasing to Him –not by my merit, but solely upon Christ’s!
Because imputation of righteousness is a part of justification (see Romans 5:17), there is no possibility of being saved without being made righteous. They two work together.
So why bring it up? Because we are prone, in our thanksgiving for forgiveness, to ignore the gift of our righteousness. It would be like a parent replacing a child’s worn out bicycle with a new bicycle. If the child went on and on about how glad he was that “the old piece of junk” was gone, but never rejoiced over the new bike, we would all assume the child didn’t understand the magnitude of the action.
In the same way, to rejoice over forgiveness and never contemplate the weight of righteousness should cause us to think we’ve missed something –something tremendously beautiful!
So today, take time to rejoice that you are:
“Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.”