April 09, 2024

Imputed Righteousness

Barry Cooper
Imputed Righteousness

No royal wedding is more shocking than that of Christ and His church. On this episode of Simply Put, Barry Cooper explains why.


Imagine one day you switch on the TV, and you see a news report about a royal family. And your jaw drops. The prince has married a prostitute.

And then you see her.

She’s been living on the streets. She is dealing with a mountain of unpaid debt, so she’s homeless, she’s filthy, she’s emaciated with hunger, and her lips are chapped with thirst. She’s clearly an addict of one kind or another.

And then the cameras cut to an interview with the prince himself. And he says that he’s always loved her. That he loved her from the very beginning, and that nothing will separate them.

And then the cameras cut away to members of the public. And there is an uproar. They think it’s a disgrace to the entire royal family.

And of course, in a sense, they’re right. Because for the prince to marry her, he’s going to have to accept the shame and disgrace connected with her. He has to be willing to be associated with her, pay off the debts she can’t pay. He has to pay a huge price.

Not only that, of course, but she gets to be associated with the royal family. Her legal status changes forever. Whatever else she may have been, she is now queen. Having been irretrievably in debt, she now finds herself enjoying the limitless wealth of her husband.

Now, as shocking as that marriage would be, it’s nothing compared to the shock of Christ’s marriage to His people.

We’ve given our hearts and bodies to a thousand other lovers. We have, in other words, treated things that are not God as if they were God. We’re filthy and addicted and wildly in debt, and yet He comes to us and says: “I want you for My bride. I want us to become one flesh.”

Having dressed us in perfectly white robes, He publicly stands with us, before witnesses. He places a royal signet ring on our finger; He places a dazzling crown on our heads. Christ the King takes our hand and walks the aisle with us.

That is imputed righteousness. Because of this supreme and sublime royal wedding between Christ and His bride (the church), all His righteousness has been conferred on His people, forever. It’s not simply that our past sins are forgiven, it’s that the perfectly sinless life of Christ is now credited to us as if we ourselves had lived it.

His righteousness is now our very own because we’ve been united to Him, become one with Him. The Father now looks at us as He looks at His own dear Son—with approval, tenderness and love—because He regards us as having now met all the demands of His law. He has credited the perfect obedience of Christ to us through faith in Him alone. And just as it is impossible for the Father to stop loving the Son, so it is impossible for the Father to stop loving us. His love for us is eternal and unshakable.

None of this would be possible, of course, were it not for the cross. We get the robe of righteousness because Jesus was stripped naked. We get the royal signet ring on our hand because nails were driven into His. A crown is placed on our head because a mass of knotted thorns were thrust onto His.

What groom has ever sacrificed so much for the sake of his bride?

Listen to Martin Luther writing in The Freedom of a Christian, published in 1520:

“Who can even begin to appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can comprehend the riches of this glorious grace? Christ, the rich and divine bridegroom, marries this poor, wicked whore, redeems her from all of her evil, and adorns her with all of His goodness. It now is impossible for her sins to destroy her, for they are laid on Christ and swallowed up by Him. She has her righteousness in Christ, her husband, which she now can boast is her very own. She can set this righteousness over against all of her sins and, in the face of death and hell, say with confidence: ‘Though I have sinned, nevertheless, the One in whom I trust, my Christ, has not sinned. Through our marriage, all that is His is mine and all that is mine is His.’”

That is imputed righteousness.

The King marries a prostitute.

The prostitute is declared pure.

The call girl becomes queen.