“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
One of the most beautiful hymns ever written for the Christian Church – Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness – was composed by a German Moravian, Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. The reason why the hymn is so precious to believers is because it reminds us of how Christ fulfills the two necessary requirements for us to receive the blessings of eternal life, neither of which we are capable of fulfilling ourselves.
What are they? In Edward Fisher’s classic, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645), he reminds us (building on the earlier thoughts of Anselm in the eleventh century), that since believers have sinned against an infinite and eternal God, we must have an infinite and eternal satisfaction for our sin. And, further, if we are to abide in a state of eternal blessedness with God, we must also present Him with an offering of perfect and perpetual obedience. If we cannot meet either of these two requirements, the possibility of eternal life in God’s presence is denied us. The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).
Fortunately Zinzendorf’s hymn, based squarely on the Scriptures, helps us to see how Christ has met our need. Of course, the first need is to deal with the problem of our sin. What can we do to remove the guilt and stain of our evil natures? What can wash away our sin? The blood of Jesus can do it. As John reminds us, Christ “has freed us from our sins by His blood.” (Rev 1:5)
But how can we be sure that we will never disappoint God again by failing to render Him perfect and perpetual obedience? Zinzendorf, relying on Paul, tells us that we are clothed in the stainless robe of Christ’s righteousness. This means that since I am adorned in the perfect righteousness of Christ – His life of complete and utter obedience – I no longer need to fear God’s justice but can now rejoice in it. Being clothed in the unblemished righteousness of my Substitute, I am able to ask the Father – even demand on the basis of His justice – that He now receive me because Christ’s obedience has become mine. It is Christ’s good works that save me.
If we wonder whether this doctrine is too good to be true, we need look no further than the story of how God restored the high priest in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah stood before the Lord in filthy clothes depicting his sin (3:3). Satan then began to accuse him before the Lord. Then we read, “the angel said… ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold I have taken your iniquity away, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ (3:4) What a wonderful picture of what God does for us in Christ’s death upon the cross! He places our sins upon Jesus and puts Jesus’ righteousness upon us as a glorious robe. What a great comfort! Our sins are not only washed away, but now we need never fear that we aren’t good enough for God.