Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness, an Exegesis
Our hymn of the month, #520, “Jesus, thy blood and righteousness,” is a wonderful meditation on the imputed righteousness of Christ, in which the Christian can stand boldly by faith even in the face of God’s dreadful judgment day.
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
In the first verse, the hymn teaches the double imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that His lifetime of perfect obedience and His death on my behalf combine to guarantee our standing before God. It is Christ’s obedience as a servant, even to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), which provides a full justification on my behalf before God. It was as a perfect and voluntary servant that He went to the cross. He said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (Joh 10:17-18 NKJ) He obeyed where I failed to do so, and He paid the price of God’s justice for my failure.
Even in the face of the fiery judgment of God descending on the world (“midst flaming worlds”), even when the men of the world are crying out for the very hills to fall on them and hide them from God’s horrible wrath, if I stand in Christ’s righteousness I can have joy and confidence in my Savior.
Bold shall I stand in thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
In the second verse the hymn teaches us that Christ’s perfect righteousness for my sake gives me confidence, boldness to stand before the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16), knowing that if I am justified by God, nobody can condemn me, since He is the only judge (Romans 8:33).
This works both humility and boldness in me; humility because I know that my salvation is not because I am better or more worthy than any man alive. It is grounded entirely in Him. And boldness, for the same reason. No failure of mine can ever rob me of that great and perfect salvation.
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
Ev’n then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.
In the third verse, we find there will never come a time in all of the Christian’s life when he stops standing in Christ’s righteousness and starts standing in his own. Roman Catholic theology teaches that Christ enables the Christian to become righteous, and at the judgment day it must be the man’s own righteousness before God which justifies him (enabled by Christ). But the Scriptures teach that it is my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life which guarantees my place in the Kingdom, His name on my forehead, and not my personal righteousness at all. It is true that God will demonstrate His work in me through my works, but those works are never the grounds of my standing before God, not for a million years into eternity. Instead, it is the double imputation of Christ’s righteousness- that He both lived for me and died for me (verse 3).
Christ does not just get me started in the Christian life. Justification by faith alone is not a doctrine which is relevant only at the moment of conversion. It is the absolute bedrock, the solid foundation of the whole Christian life. My justification in Christ’s full atonement must always be the driving force behind all of my good works. All of my efforts at sanctification, if they are to succeed at all, must always be grounded in thankfulness and confidence in the perfect atonement of Christ, and never an attempt to establish my own righteousness before Him, not even in part. As Paul says in Galatians 5:2, “if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” The Galatians sought to establish their own righteousness through ceremonies, and the effect of this would be to make them subject to perfect obedience to the whole law. I must stand entirely in Christ’s perfect righteousness on my behalf or I cannot stand at all.
Jesus, be endless praise to thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me—
For me a full atonement made,
An everlasting ransom paid.
O let the dead now hear thy voice;
Now bid thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness.
His atonement for us is full- nothing is needed from me to make it full. He has fully atoned for all my sin. I need not add one ounce to it. Not one single good deed, not one single act on my part is ever necessary or possible to justify my presence in the glorious New Earth, but only the absolute and perfect righteousness of Christ on my behalf. It is not possible for any sin of mine to ever detract from that righteousness, nor possible for any good work of mine to add to it, and therefore we stand fully in Christ and Christ alone.