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Friday, April 01, 2011

The fiction of Imputed Righteousness

In light of the lessons study for this week here is a more Biblical view then offered by our Lesson Study Guide which seems to think tradition is more important then a logical view of what the Bible actually says.

Forgiveness; The Robe of Christ's Righteousness

Christ's Death a Necessity. For a loving God to maintain His justice and righteousness, the atoning death of Jesus Christ became "a moral and legal necessity." God's "Justice requires that sin be carried to judgment. God must therefore execute judgment on sin and thus on the sinner. In this execution the Son of God took our place, the sinner's place, according to God's will. The atonement was necessary because man stood under the righteous wrath of God. Herein lies the heart of the gospel of forgiveness of sin and the mystery of the cross of Christ: Christ's perfect righteousness adequately satisfied divine justice, and God is willing to accept Christ's self-sacrifice in place of man's death." 5 (Seventh-day Adventists Believe...A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines Review and Herald Pub Assn. 1988.p.111
Footnote 5 refers to Hans K. LaRondelle, Christ Our Salvation Mountain View, CA; Pacific Press, 1980 pp.25, 26)

...We are covered with His garment of righteousness. When God looks at the believing, penitent sinner He sees, not the nakedness or deformity of sin, but the robe of righteousness formed by Christ's perfect obedience to the law. 12 None can be truly righteous unless covered by this robe. (P.114 footnote 12 refers to White, Christ's Object Lessons. p.312)

 One of the interesting tenets of those who hold to the substitutionary atonement is the idea that Christ's Righteousness can be imputed into the Christian. One of the methods or illustrations, which is commonly used within the SDA community, is the idea that Christ covers our sinfulness with his righteousness. Using the parable of the wedding feast they determine that the robe the guest puts on is Christ's Righteousness.

The parable found in Matt 22:1-14
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' 5 "But they paid no attention and went off-- one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.12 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless.13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen." (NIV)

To this the following verse is often related: Rev 3:18

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (NIV)

And Isa 61:10

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (NIV)

 It should be noted that the term Christ's Righteousness or even the Righteousness of Christ are not terms the Bible ever uses. Is the idea, common among SDA's that by accepting the Robe of Christ's Righteousness when God looks at the person He sees Christ, actually what the Bible teaches?

Some in theology call this a legal fiction; the answer however may be far simpler then many of the Theologians of the past 500 years have envisioned.

The Bible in several places speaks of those clothed in White, (Rev 3:4-5, 6:11,7:9,7:13-14,) unfortunately too many people are missing the clear picture of the Bible in order to create a complex legal fiction.

Let us try for a moment to look at these verses used above in a slightly different light. The light of forgiveness.
Isa 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (NIV)

 The following is information on Forgiveness from _The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible_ pages 306-7 should help us see how these concepts work together. I have added the Strong's number in front of the words.

Forgiveness. In the O.T. several Hebrew roots contain the concept of "forgive". The verb 5545 calach (saw-lakh') a primitive root; to forgive: signifies literally "forgive, pardon" (Lev. 4:20, 26: I Kings 8:30, 34: Ps. 86:5: 103:3: Jer. 31:34). The root 3722 kaphar (kaw-far') (cover) which is used to express the idea of atonement or propitiation, in some cases means "forgive" (Ps. 65:3; 78:38;79:9; Isa. 6:7; 22:14; Jer. 18:23; Ezek. 16:63). The root 4229 machah (maw-khaw') signifies that sins may be wiped or blotted out (Neh. 4:5; Ps. 51:1; 109:14; Isa. 43:25; 44:22; Jer. 18:23). The verb 3680 kacah (kaw-saw') suggests that sins may be covered or concealed (Neh. 4:5; Ps. 32:1; 85:3). The root 5375 nasa' (naw-saw')
(lift up, take away) may also mean "forgive" (Gen. 50:17;Ex. 10:17; 32:32; 34:7; Ps. 32:5; 85:3). God forgives sin, but this presupposes repentance and prayer on the part of the sinner (Ps.51:1-17).
Forgiveness is the covering, the concealment, the blotting out or removal of sins. Think about how well the concept of forgiveness fits with those clothed in White, and those at the wedding feast. "The connection with the O.T. is evident when forgiveness is presented in the language of sacrifice (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:11-28). It is God's gracious pardon to sinful men and is effected through Christ and through faith in him (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18: Eph. 4:32; col. 1:9-14). In divine forgiveness the guilt and debt of sin are canceled, and repentant man is received back into fellowship with the Father. " (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible_ pages 306-7)

We who were enemies of God are offered forgiveness and acceptance back into a relationship with God,a God we can trust to accept and forgive us because He offers the acceptance and forgiveness to us first.

Col 1:21-23
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (NIV)

Christ who while enduring physical torture on the cross loving offered them His forgiveness. Showing all who are willing to see that God is in fact loving, forgiving, and accepting the return of his prodigal sons. The author of life killed by His creation, though He was rejected He continues to offer reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Acts 3:14-16 
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (NIV)

It is the Righteousness of God, the grace, the love which offers us the "garments of salvation" the forgiveness which is offered to all who are willing to accept His gift. A gift at present we can only see by faith based upon the evidence which Christ brought to us by His life death and resurrection. A faith in the character of our God.

I John 3:2-5
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (NIV)

The following quote from a nineteenth century shows how misleading the doctrine of the Robe of Christ's Righteousness can become.

The Lord Jesus Christ has prepared a covering, the robe of his own righteousness, that he will put on every repenting, believing soul who by faith will receive it. Said John, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Sin is the transgression of the law; but Christ died to make it possible for every man to have his sins taken away. A fig-leaf apron will never cover our nakedness. Sin must be taken away, the garment of Christ's righteousness must cover the transgressor of God's law. Then when the Lord looks upon the believing sinner, he sees, not the fig-leaves covering him, but his own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.

The legal fiction of a God who needs to pretend that the Christian is perfectly obedient to the Laws. Instead of a God who sees our imperfections yet offers us forgiveness and reconciliation out of His love.No games, no legal maneuvers are necessary for God to forgive and accept us back from our wanderings in a far country. Just love.

From the CD The Robe by Wes King (1993) Words by Wes King music by Phil Naish
The Robe
"Come as you are and He will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God" --Charles H. Spurgeon
Anyone whose heart is cold and lonely/ Anyone who can't believe/ Anyone whose hands are worn and empty/ Come as you are
Anyone whose feet are tired of walking/ And even lost their will to run/ There is a place of rest for your aching soul/ Come as you are
Chorus: For the robe is of God/ that will clothe your nakedness/ And the robe is His grace/ It's all you all you need/ Come as you are
Anyone who feels that they're unworthy/ Anyone who's just afraid/ Come sinner, come and receive His mercy/ Come as you are.

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