Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

Our hymn of the month, #520 in the Trinity Hymnal, is “Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness.” It was written by Count Nicolas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf in 1739. A German from noble stock, he was born Lutheran but was disappointed in the dry and sterile state of the German Lutheran Church at that time. With other likeminded men he tried to promote a revival of true religion focusing on the work of Christ.

He was a landowner and part of the nobility and gave land to a number of refugees fleeing religious persecution. He created a religious community based on equality and unity which was not intended to be a new denomination, but rather a catalyst for change and revival within existing denominations. Some of these immigrants were part of the Moravian church, which probably deserves credit as the first Protestant church, tracing its roots back to the Unitas Fratrum, the followers of Jon Huss who was burned at the stake a hundred years before Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses. Zinzendorf was so impressed with the Moravians and their sincere devotion to Christ that he joined the church, eventually becoming a bishop. He became convinced that only free churches disconnected from the state could promote real piety.

Zinzendorf spent most of his own fortune on mission works in a variety of places. He was especially involved in the Americas among natives as well as among slaves colonies in the Carribean where conditions were particularly horrible. He also wrote more than 2000 hymns.

“Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness” well expresses the piety of Zinzendorf. He tried to focus entirely on what Christ had done for him, on the complete righteousness which is imputed to us and which clothes us before God. He desired to focus entirely on that righteousness, believing that it was a singleminded focus on the complete atonement the believer had because of Christ’s sacrifice which would produce the love and ardor which should characterize the church.

Both the active and passive righteousness of Christ are a focus from the beginning to the end- Jesus’ blood takes away my own transgressions, and Jesus’ perfect righteousness in His own life of service is imputed to me so that I am regarded as a faithful lawkeeper before God. The hymn is an outstanding meditation on the perfect righteousness of Christ which is imputed to the sinner, leaving nothing at all that the sinner needs to do to stand confidently before the judgment seat of God.