The Righteousness of Christ by John Bunyan (1628-1688)
For a long while I used to worry that I was not saved after all.
Certain Scriptures especially troubled me, for they seemed to argue that I could never be secure in my salvation. This fear would come upon me often, like a nightmare of fire comes to those who have been burned. Every sound I heard I thought was someone crying, “Fire, fire!” The slightest touch hurt my tender conscience.
But one day, as I was walking in the field, my conscience once again nervous that something was wrong, this sentence suddenly fell into my mind: “Your righteousness is in heaven.” I seemed to see with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand, and I knew that Christ Himself was my righteousness. Wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God would not be watching for me to lose my righteousness, for all along it would be right there beside Him. My feelings, whether they were good or bad, had nothing to do with my righteousness, for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself,“the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Now my chains truly fell off my legs. I was set free from my worry, the captivity of fear; my temptations also fled away; so that ever since then, those frightening Scriptures (Numbers 15:30; Jeremiah 7:16; Hebrews 10:31, 12:17) no longer bother me. I went home rejoicing in the grace and love of God. When I got there, I looked to see if I could find the sentence that had come to me, “Your righteousness is in heaven.” When I could not find it, my heart began to sink again, but then I remembered, “He is the One who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and He gave Himself to purchase our freedom” (1 Cor. 1:30). Based on this verse, I saw that the other sentence is true.
By this Scripture I saw that the man Christ Jesus is our righteousness and sanctification before God. I lived with this thought comfortably, at peace with God through Christ. Oh, I was always thinking, Christ! Christ! Christ was the one thing always before my eyes. Now I looked at the whole of Christ, not just His death, burial, or resurrection, but all of Him, all His other qualities, the stories He told, the things He did, all the things that made Him who He was, met together in my mind, culminating in this realization that He now sat on the right hand of God in heaven.
Even better, the Lord also led me into a mysterious union with the Son of God – I was joined to Him, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone (Eph. 5:30) – and this understanding comforted my heart. My faith in Christ became a firmer, more solid thing, and I no longer worried about my own righteousness, for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His worth belonged to me, and His power had already won my victory. As a result, I looked at life in a new way: I saw myself living both in heaven and on earth at the same time. My heavenly existence was based in Christ, my source of righteousness and life, while my physical existence continued on earth.
Whichever way divine infinite justice looks, it always finds the One who can match it. For if justice says, “I will require humanity to meet my standards,” the Man Christ satisfies its cry; and if it says, “But I am infinite, and I require infinite satisfaction,” here also is One who is infinite, a partner with God who shares His every essence and being, power and strength, wisdom, mercy, and grace, as well as all the other qualities of God. That is why, wherever justice turns, it confronts a complete Person who gives complete satisfaction.
“The law,” you say, “must be obeyed.” I answer, “Christ Jesus has already done that just by being Himself, and His life has justified me. So why should I exhaust myself trying to fulfill the law, trying to earn my justification, since that would only waste the worth of all that Christ Jesus has done for me? And yet I would try my best to follow ten thousand laws, if I could, if there were so many – but only because I love my sweet Lord Jesus. My love for Him impels me to change the way I live.”
Even though no one can be declared innocent simply by obeying the law, still the righteousness and holiness that opens this kingdom’s door must have its foundation in the law; it is a waste of time to think we can enter this narrow gate otherwise. The law cannot absolve our sins, but we can enter heaven’s gate through Christ’s righteousness; we draw on His account to pay our way.
Without Him, the law will only block our way though heaven’s door, forever denying us entrance.