His Righteousness

Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
~ Psalm 130:7-8

And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
~ Isaiah 12:1-2

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
~ Isaiah 33:22

And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
~ Ezekiel 37:24-28

But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
~ Hosea 1:7

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
~ Jeremiah 30:10

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.
~ 1 Kings 4:25

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
~ Isaiah 9:6

In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.
~ Jeremiah 33:16

Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
~ Isaiah 45:24-25

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
~ Isaiah 54:17

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
~ Daniel 9:24

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
~ Romans 3:22

Christ Our Righteousness, by George Whitefield. 1741.

In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the lord our righteousness.—Jeremiah 23:6

I am to consider who we are to understand by the word Lord: “the lord our righteousness.” If any Arians or Socinians are drawn by curiosity to hear what the babbler has to say, let them be ashamed of denying the deity of that Lord that has bought poor sinners with His precious blood. For the person mentioned in the text under the character of Lord is Jesus Christ. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the lord our righteousness” (Jer 23:5-6).

By the righteous Branch, all agree that we are to understand Jesus Christ. He it is that is called “the Lord” in our text. If so, if there were no other text in the Bible to prove the deity of Christ, that is sufficient. For if the word Lord may properly belong to Jesus Christ, He must be God. For as you have it in the margins of your Bibles, the word Lord is in the original Jehovah, which is the essential title of God Himself. Come then, ye Arians, kiss the Son of God, bow down before Him, and honor Him even as you honor the Father. Learn from the angels, those morning stars, and worship Him as truly God. For otherwise you are as much idolaters as those that worship the Virgin Mary.

And as for you Socinians, who say Christ was a mere man and yet profess that He was your Savior, according to your own principles you are accursed. For, if Christ be a mere man, then He is only an arm of flesh. And it is written, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer 17:5). But I would hope there are no such monsters here. At least, that after these considerations, they would be ashamed of broaching such monstrous absurdities anymore. For by the word Lord, we are to understand the Lord Jesus Christ, Who here takes to Himself the title of Jehovah, and therefore must be very God of very God, or, as the apostle devoutly expresses it, “God blessed for ever” (Rom 9:5).

How the Lord is to be man’s righteousness comes next to be considered. And that is, in one word, by imputation. For it pleased God, after He had made all things by the word of His power, to create man after His own image. And so infinite was the condescension of the high and lofty One, Who inhabiteth eternity, that although He might have insisted on the everlasting obedience of him and his posterity, yet He was pleased to oblige Himself, by a covenant or agreement made with His own creature, upon condition of an unsinning obedience, to give them immortality and eternal life. For when it is said, “The day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen 2:17), we may fairly infer (that) so long as he continued obedient and did not eat thereof, he should surely live. The third (chapter) of Genesis gives us a full but mournful account how our first parents broke this covenant and thereby stood in need of a better righteousness than their own to procure their future acceptance with God. For what must they do? They were as much under a covenant of works as ever. And, though after their disobedience they were without strength, yet they were obliged not only to do, but continue to do all things, and that too in the most perfect manner which the Lord had required of them. And not only so, but to make satisfaction to God’s infinitely offended justice for the breach they had already been guilty of.

Here, then, opens the amazing scene of divine philanthropy: I mean, God’s love to man. For behold, what man could not do, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father’s love, undertakes to do for him. And that God might be just in justifying the ungodly, though He was “in the form of God,” and therefore “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” yet He “took upon him the form of a servant,” even human nature (Phi 2:6-7). In that nature, He obeyed and thereby fulfilled the whole moral law in our stead, died a painful death upon the cross, and thereby became a curse for, or instead of, those whom the Father had given to Him. As God, He satisfied at the same time that He obeyed and suffered as man; and being God and man in one person, He worked out a full, perfect, and sufficient righteousness for all to whom it was to be imputed.

Here, then, we see the meaning of the word righteousness. It implies the active as well as passive obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. Generally, when talking of the merits of Christ, we only mention the latter, namely His death, whereas the former, namely His life and active obedience, is equally necessary. Christ is not such a Savior as becomes us unless we join both together. Christ not only died, but lived; not only suffered, but obeyed for, or instead of, poor sinners. And both jointly make up that complete righteousness that is to be imputed to us, as the disobedience of our first parents was made ours by imputation. In this sense, and no other, are we to understand that parallel which St. Paul draws in the fifth (chapter) of the Romans between the first and second Adam. This is what he elsewhere terms our being “made the righteousness of God in him” (2Co 5:21). This is the sense wherein the prophet would have us to understand the words of the text; therefore Jeremiah 33:16 (says), “She (that is the church itself) shall be called, (having this righteousness imputed to her) The LORD our righteousness”—a passage, I think, worthy of the profoundest meditation of all the sons and daughters of Abraham…

But it is time for me to come a little closer to your consciences. Brethren, though some may be offended at this doctrine, and may account it foolishness, yet to many of you I doubt not but it is precious, it being agreeable to the form of sound words, which from your infancy has been delivered to you, and coming from a quarter you would least have expected, may be received with more pleasure and satisfaction. But give me leave to ask you one question: can you say, “The Lord our righteousness”? I say, “the Lord our righteousness.” For entertaining this doctrine in your heads without receiving the Lord Jesus Christ savingly by a lively faith into your hearts will but increase your damnation. As I have often told you, so I tell you again: an unapplied Christ is no Christ at all. Can you then, with believing Thomas, cry out, “My Lord and my God” (Joh 20:28)? Is Christ your sanctification as well as your outward righteousness? For the word righteousness in the text not only implies Christ’s personal righteousness imputed to us, but also holiness of heart wrought in us. These two God hath joined together. He never did, He never does, He never will put them asunder. If you are justified by the blood, you are also sanctified by the Spirit of our Lord.

Can you then in this sense say, “The Lord our righteousness”? Were you never made to abhor yourselves for your actual and original sins, and to loathe your own righteousness (or, as the prophet beautifully expresses it, your “righteousnesses”) “as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6)? Were you never made to see and admire the all-sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness, and excited by the Spirit of God to hunger and thirst after it? Could you ever say, “My soul thirsts for Christ, yes, even for the righteousness of Christ? Oh, when shall I come to appear before the presence of my God in the righteousness of Christ! Oh, nothing but Christ! Nothing but Christ! Give me Christ, O God, and I am satisfied! My soul shall praise thee forever.” Was this, I say, ever the language of your hearts? And after these inward conflicts, were you ever enabled to reach out the arm of faith and embrace the blessed Jesus in your souls, so that you could say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his” (Song 2:16)? If so, fear not, whoever you are. Hail, all hail, you happy souls! The Lord, the Lord Christ, the everlasting God is your righteousness. Christ has justified you; who is he that condemneth you? Christ has died for you, nay is risen again, and ever liveth to make intercession for you (Rom 8:33-34). Being now justified by His grace, you have peace with God (Rom 5:1), and shall ere long be with Jesus in glory, reaping everlasting and unspeakable redemption both in body and soul. For there is no condemnation to those that are really in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). “Whether Paul, or Apollos…or life, or death…all are yours” (1Co 3:22), if you are Christ’s, for Christ is God’s!

O my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! Oh, think on the love of Christ in dying for you! If the Lord be your righteousness, let the righteousness of your Lord be continually in your mouth. Talk of, oh, talk of and recommend the righteousness of Christ, when you lie down and when you rise, at your going out and coming in! Think of the greatness of the gift, as well as of the giver! Show to all the world in Whom you have believed! Let all, by your fruits, know that the Lord is your righteousness, and that you are waiting for your Lord from heaven! Oh, study to be holy, even as He Who has called you and washed you in His own blood is holy! Let not the righteousness of the Lord be evil spoken of through you. Let not Jesus be wounded in the house of His friends; “but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” day by day (2Pe 3:18). Oh, think of His dying love! Let that love constrain you to obedience. Having much forgiven, love much. Be always asking, “What shall I do to express my gratitude to the Lord for giving me His righteousness?” Let that self-abasing, God-exalting question be always in your mouths. Oh, be always lisping out, “Why me, Lord? Why me? Why am I taken, and others left? Why is the Lord my righteousness? Why is He become my salvation, who have so often deserved damnation at His hands?”

Oh, my friends, I trust I feel somewhat of a sense of God’s distinguishing love upon my heart! Therefore, I must divert a little from congratulating you, to invite poor Christless sinners to come to Him and accept of His righteousness that they may have life.

Alas, my heart almost bleeds! What a multitude of precious souls are now before me! How shortly must all be ushered into eternity: and yet, O cutting thought! was God now to require all your souls, how few, comparatively speaking, could really say, “The Lord our righteousness.”

And think you, O sinners, that you will be able to stand in the day of judgment if Christ be not your righteousness? No, that alone is the wedding garment in which you must appear. O Christless sinners, I am distressed for you! The desires of my soul are enlarged! Oh, that this may be an accepted time! Oh, that the Lord may be your righteousness!

For whither would you flee if death should find you naked? Indeed, there is no hiding yourselves from His presence. The pitiful fig leaves of your own righteousness will not cover your nakedness when God shall call you to stand before Him. Adam found them ineffectual, and so will you. Oh, think of death! Oh, think of judgment! Yet a little while, and time shall be no more; and then what will become of you if the Lord be not your righteousness? Think you that Christ will spare you? No, He that formed you will have no mercy on you. If you are out of Christ, if Christ be not your righteousness, Christ Himself will pronounce you damned. And can you bear to think of being damned by Christ? Can you bear to hear the Lord Jesus say unto you, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mat 25:41)? Can you live, think you, in everlasting burnings? Is your flesh brass and your bones iron? What if they are? Hellfire, that fire prepared for the devil and his angels, will heat them through and through! And can you bear to depart from Christ? Oh, that heart-piercing thought! Ask those holy souls who are at any time bewailing an absent God, who walk in darkness and see no light, though but a few days or hours; ask them, what it is to lose a sight and presence of Christ? See how they seek Him sorrowing and go mourning after Him all day long! And if it is so dreadful to lose the sensible presence of Christ only for a day, what must it be to be banished from Him to all eternity?

But thus it must be if Christ be not your righteousness. For God’s justice must be satisfied; and unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed and applied to you here, you must be satisfying the divine justice in hell-torments eternally hereafter. Nay, as I said before, Christ Himself, the God of love, shall condemn you to that place of torment. And oh, how cutting is that thought! Methinks I see poor, trembling, Christless wretches, standing before the bar of God, crying out, “Lord, if we must be damned, let some angel or some archangel pronounce the damnatory sentence.” But all in vain. Christ Himself shall pronounce the irrevocable sentence. Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the Lord, let me persuade you to close with Christ, and never rest until you can say, “The Lord our righteousness.” Who knows, but the Lord may have mercy on, nay, abundantly pardon you? Beg of God to give you faith; and if the Lord give you that, you will by it receive Christ with His righteousness and His all. You need not fear the greatness or number of your sins. For are you sinners? So am I. Are you the chief of sinners? So am I. Are you backsliding sinners? So am I. And yet the Lord (forever adored be His rich, free, and sovereign grace!), the Lord is my righteousness. Come, then, O young men, who (as I acted once myself) are playing the prodigal and wandering away afar off from your heavenly Father’s house, come home, come home, and leave your swine’s trough. Feed no longer on the husks of sensual delights. For Christ’s sake, arise and come home! Your heavenly Father now calls you. See, yonder the best robe, even the righteousness of His dear Son awaits you. See it, view it again and again. Consider at how dear a rate it was purchased, even by the blood of God. Consider what great need you have of it. You are lost, undone, damned forever, without it.

Come then, poor, guilty prodigals, come home. Indeed, I will not, like the elder brother, be angry. No, I will rejoice with the angels in heaven. And oh, that God would now bow the heavens and come down! Descend, O Son of God, descend; and as Thou hast shown in me such mercy, oh, let the blessed Spirit apply Thy righteousness to some prodigals now before Thee, and clothe their naked souls with Thy best robe!

When (Jesus) berated the two disciples for their slowness of heart to believe, we are told that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luk 24:27). The Divine Oracles are designated “the word of Christ” (Col 3:16) because He is the substance of them. Where the Scriptures have not gone, Christ is unknown. Clear proof is this: that an acquaintance with Him cannot be gained apart from their inspired testimony.
—A. W. Pink