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Zechariah 3 and Imputation

August 8, 2006

Zechariah 3:3-5 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

Christ says I will put them on you. He doesn’t say I will make you into a person who does righteous things and who doesn’t get his clothes filthy so much anymore.  Although that is true, he does begin to change us progressively from the inside out when he saves us, it’s important to see that this is not what He says here.  What he says is I will put righteousness on you.  This is the essence of the gospel.  Adam was naked and unashamed in the garden.  Then he sinned and tried to cover himself with fig leaves. But Christ offers a robe of righteousness.  Doesn’t matter how elaborate your fig leaf garment is, you’ll still feel exposed on judgment day in fig leaves.  You need robes of righteousness.   Christ doesn’t give lessons in sewing fig leaves, he puts robes of righteousness on you.  The righteousness by which you are saved is an alien righteousness. It is not your own.

Zech 3 is a picture of imputed righteousness.  Justification is God imputing/crediting Jesus’ righteousness to your account when you believe.  So on judgment day he looks at your account and sees the perfect righteousness of Christ.  That’s it.  That’s all justification does.  Now sanctification does more. Sanctification is the process where after God declares you righteous through your faith in Christ’s death for you, he begins to progressively make you righteous.  But that inner transformation is not the righteousness by which you are saved. The righteousness in which you are growing is not the righteousness by which you are saved.

So the doctrine I am trying to establish says: “Justification is imputed righteousness” The doctrine that I oppose says:  “Justification is infused righteousness”    

This view teaches that when you believe, God infuses righteousness into your heart, he transforms you so that you really have a righteousness of your own and by this righteousness you are saved.  But this is not what Pp3:9 teaches “not having a righteousness that is my own” nor is it the picture that Zechariah gives us.  Joshua is not given needle and thread to make for himself a garment of righteousness with the help of the Lord.  Rather, Christ puts a garment of righteousness on him once and for all.

How does this doctrine affect your life this week?  Well, as 21st century American evangelicals we have a tendency to be very subjective.  To be constantly taking our spiritual temperature to see how we are doing.  To base our confidence in Jesus on whether or not we are having a bad day. Richard Lovelace, professor at G-C, writes, “Many have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day to day existence rely on their sanctification for their justification, drawing their assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious willful disobedience.  Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance.”

So if you have, like most of us in this generation, a tendency to morbid introspection and you look in your heart and on a bad day do not find much evidence to strengthen your assurance, what you must NOT do is buy a book on 43 ways to restore the joy of the spirit and once you get all your psychological furniture rearranged then you’ll have confidence that you’re saved. NO! That’s what this picture of Joshua in Zechariah 3 should cure us of.  You don’t need another baptism, a deeper work of the spirit, or a renewal conference, you just need to look outside of yourself to the cross.  The cross of Christ is enough to save even a Christian. The way forward is the way back. Put your trust anew today in that cross, those nails, that blood, and that empty tomb.  That is our objective hope.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2006 12:31 pm

    I like this … umm, blogging series? It’s not really a sermon series… but in any case, it’s a good reminder to someone who is easily caught in the snares of the last paragraph (and indeed, the whole post)… Even as you write against it, there’s a little voice that says “Oooh, a conference! You should find one and go to it!” because the spiritual “high” one gets from that is much easier to point to as evidence of sanctification than “Well, today I screwed up again, but my hope is in Christ, not in me.”

  2. Duska permalink
    August 9, 2006 2:52 am

    Hi there! Great post. I needed to read that today! Thank you!

    Also, wanted you to know that I came to your blog after reading a comment you left on Brant Hansen’s blog “Letters From Kamp Krusty.” I thought it was funny that you and I both recommended Good Measure International to Brant! Actually, Bernard and Jena are wonderful friends of ours from way back, and I’m excited about their new ministry. You should go back and read my comment on Brant’s post where I mention them as well. Brant is also an old friend, and I currently live in Texas, serving with Gospel For Asia. Just thought it was a “small world” that you and I read the same post and recommended the same friend’s ministry. :o)

    Blessings to you!

  3. August 9, 2006 7:03 am

    amen Mike!

  4. Tony permalink
    January 14, 2009 6:48 pm

    Thanks I enjoyed reading this post and your other NPP posts.

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