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The Priest with Dirty Clothes

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Dr. R.C. Sproul tells of a young priest who falls from his horse. The mud ruins his garments, dashing his hopes of appearing before the king. But the great prince offers his own beautiful clothes, echoing the timeless message of the Lord Jesus Christ atoning for our sin and clothing us with the robe of His perfect righteousness, without which no one can see God.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Christ Our Righteousness

  2. article

    Justified by His Blood

  3. blog-post

    Jesus' Death Wasn't Enough

Christ Our Righteousness

Clarity on the role of faith in our justification is essential if we are to understand the biblical witness regarding our right standing before God the Father Almighty. Like every other biblical doctrine, justification is rightly comprehended only when we take all of Scripture into account. If, for example, we were to take a passage like Galatians 2:15–16 in isolation from the rest of the Bible, we might be tempted to believe that justification is a reward for our faith. In other words, we might think that faith merits our right standing before the Lord.

Yet when we say that justification is by faith alone, we are not saying that God considers our faith meritorious and, on that basis, justifies us. If we see justification as a reward for our faith, we rely on the merit of something we do, and nothing sinners do — even the act of faith — is good enough before the bar of the Lord’s justice. Of course, faith is God’s gift. His Spirit must change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh before we have the moral ability to believe the gospel (Ezek. 11:17–20; Eph. 2:8–10). All whom God regenerates in this manner will come to faith. However, though the Lord enables us to have faith, the faith we exercise is still our faith. It still comes from flawed hearts, even if these hearts beat with love for God on account of His work. At times, we have to cry out for Him to help our unbelief (Mark 9:24). If justification were a reward for our faith, no one could be justified, for we must turn from unbelief to belief in God’s promises every day of our lives.

We say that we are righteous through faith alone because faith is the only means by which we can lay hold of Christ’s righteousness (The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 61). The Apostle Paul tells us in today’s passage that Christ is our righteousness. His work is the material cause of our justification, the stuff out of which the Father formulates His declaration that we are just in His sight. Faith, on the other hand, is the instrumental cause of our justification, the instrument by which we lay hold of this righteousness and enjoy its imputation to our accounts. Our faith need not be absolutely perfect to lay hold of this righteousness, for, thanks be to God, Jesus atoned also for the sin of doubt. Those whose faith is real, albeit imperfect, demonstrate such faith in a life of repentance (1 John 1:8–9; 2:1).

Justified by His Blood

Anthony Carter

Have you ever wondered why God loves you and desires you in His eternal blessed presence? Have you ever contemplated (seriously) why God would look favorably on you and bless you rather than condemn you? Most of us (dare I say, all of us?) think more highly of ourselves than we ought. While very few of us would actually say it, we do live our lives as if there is something about us that makes God want to be our friend.

Amazingly, we treat God like one of our earthly friends — we can’t help ourselves. We know why we like our friends and, to some degree, why they like us. We treat them in certain ways and do certain things so that they will like us. In many regards, this is how we relate to God, as well. We believe if we do this or don’t do that, then God will like us. He must. After all, what is there not to love?

Well, the apostle Paul would answer that question by answering, “Everything.” The human condition is not just a bucket of errors; it is an ocean of iniquity, similar to Murphy’s Law: Whatever could be wrong with humanity is.

Someone once wrote: “I never had a slice of bread, particularly large and wide, that did not fall upon the floor, and always on the buttered side.” Such is the state of humanity in relationship to God. Man is in a perpetual, ever-deepening abyss of separation from God because of sin and rebellion. The better he tries to make himself, the more offensive he becomes to God (Isa. 64:6). Talk about seemingly irreconcilable differences. And this poses the greatest dilemma and question ever faced by the human condition, namely, “How do sinful, rebellious human beings stand accepted and loved in the presence of God?” How are we ever to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God? How are we ever to be made right with God and reclaim what Adam and Eve lost? The Bible reminds us that it is only by the blood of Christ that our justification is secured.

The Bible states in Romans 5:6–8: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Justification is God’s declaration that sinners are in a right and acceptable relationship with Him based solely on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the benefits of which are received by faith alone. It is the fact that those who were once enemies of God are now, through faith in Christ, friends and beloved. According to the Bible, this justification comes to those who believe through the blood of Christ. It comes to those who are “weak” and “ungodly.” “Weak” speaks to our inability to save ourselves. It is the connotation that we are without strength and power. “Ungodly” speaks to our activity in opposition to the ways of God. It is the designation of sinners as impious, refusing to worship the God who created them, while living and loving contrary to His holy character and commands. Remarkably, Jesus Christ died for the weak and ungodly.

“Christ died for the ungodly.” Here are five of the most heart-humbling, awe-inspiring, and joy-producing words you’ll ever hear. As one writer has well said, “Here is the gospel in five words.”

At the heart of this gospel is the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ secures our justification. And the Bible reminds us that our justification is grounded in the love of God.

Someone once asked the question, “What’s love got to do with it?” Again, Paul would answer by saying, “Everything!” Last month, we looked at propitiation through the blood of Christ. In propitiation, justice goes up to God’s court. In justification, love comes down to us. All because of the blood of Jesus. All because of the love of God. Christ left heaven. He laid aside glory, concealing His majesty. He subjected Himself to the creature’s scorn, outcast from a world He created. He suffered demonic attack, lies, and public ridicule. Friends forsook Him. He was brutally beaten, stripped, and put to open shame. Spat upon and slapped, publicly and shamefully executed, He assumed the guilt and punishment for every sin we ever committed. He reconciled us to God and secured our acceptance before God. Why? Because justice demanded it and our justification required it. Because He loved us even before we ever knew Him or understood what He was doing.

Thankfully, now we do, and it is the sweetness and glory of our song (as Stuart Townend writes): How deep the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure; That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure.

Jesus' Death Wasn't Enough

R.C. Sproul

By His obedience, He redeemed His people for eternity. —R.C. Sproul

Any six-year-old child who has spent a few Lord's Day mornings in Sunday school is able to give an accurate answer to the question, "What did Jesus do for you?" Usually that child will say, "Jesus died on the cross for my sins." That's a true and profound statement, but it is only half of the matter.

If Jesus merely needed to die on the cross to save His people, He could have descended from heaven as a man on the morning of Good Friday, gone straight to Golgotha, died on the cross, risen, and left again. Our sin problem would be fixed. He did not need to be born to Mary in a stable, go through all the trials and tribulations of growing up in this fallen world, or endure the animosity of the Jewish leaders during His ministry.

However, Jesus did not live those thirty-three years for nothing.

In order for Him to qualify as our Redeemer, it was not enough for Him simply to go to the cross and be crucified. If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one. We would no longer be guilty, but we still would have absolutely no righteousness to bring before God.

So, our Redeemer needed not only to die, but also to live a life of perfect obedience. The righteousness that He manifested could then be transferred to all who put their trust in Him. Just as my sin is transferred to Him on the cross when I trust in Him, His righteousness is transferred to my account in the sight of God. So, when I stand before God on the judgment day, God is going to see Jesus and His righteousness, which will be my cover.

By His obedience, He redeemed His people for eternity.

It is important, then, that we not minimize the work of Christ throughout His life by focusing too narrowly on the work of Christ in His death. Thus, my purpose in my new book, The Work of Christ, is to give a brief overview of Christ's sojourn in this world, looking at the major events of both His life and His death to show that He fulfilled a lifelong mission. It is my prayer that The Work of Christ will help you see that by His whole life our Lord wrought a complete salvation for His beloved people.

Adapted from R.C Sproul's Preface in The Work of Christ (David C Cook, 2012)

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