Covenant Reformed News
July 2019 • Volume XVII, Issue 15
“The Lord Our Righteousness”
Jeremiah 23:5-6 proclaims, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.”
In the last issue of the News, we saw how Jeremiah’s prophecy of the “Branch” (5) is fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we turn to what is probably the most distinctive and amazing thing about this passage of Holy Scripture: it calls our Saviour “The Lord Our Righteousness” (6).
First, He is our righteousness as One who is God according to His Person, namely, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. In our text, Christ is called “Lord” (6), that is, Jehovah, the “I am that I am” (Ex. 3:14), the eternal and unchangeable One. This is a clear proof of the Deity of Jesus Christ, for “this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).
This is not the only passage to speak directly and explicitly of Christ’s divinity, even in the Old Testament. In Psalm 45:6, Christ is addressed thus: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.” Isaiah 9:6 calls Him “the mighty God” (cf. 10:21).
But what is more striking is that Jeremiah 23:6 confesses that Jesus Christ is not only Jehovah but that he is “The Lord Our Righteousness.” That is astounding and it comes in the Old Testament too!
Second, He who is our righteousness is not only God according to His Person but also a man according to His human nature. Jeremiah 23:6 teaches our Saviour’s humanity in that it presents Him as a descendant of David, of his family, which presupposes His birth and human nature (Matt. 1:1; Acts 2:29-30; II Tim. 2:8).
Thus the full picture of our text, in keeping with the rest of God’s Word (e.g., John 1:1-3, 14; Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5), is that Jesus Christ is both God and man, for He is both Jehovah and a descendant of David (Jer. 23:5-6).
Now the question is, How is He “The Lord Our Righteousness”? First, is this a reference to Christ’s righteous character? After all, He is called “a righteous Branch” (5). However, this is His personal righteousness, not “The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jesus’ personal righteousness is the basis and presupposition of His being “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Second, does this title of Christ speak of His righteous rule? Does not Jeremiah say He “shall execute judgment [or righteousness]” (5)? But this is the exercise of our Saviour’s righteousness in His reign of grace over us. It is not what is meant by His being “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Third, does “The Lord Our Righteousness” refer to His righteousness infused or poured into us by the Holy Spirit? This is a biblical truth but it is not the idea of our text, for nowhere in Scripture is Christ called “The Lord Our Righteousness” (or anything like this) with respect to infused righteousness, the inwardly transforming righteousness of sanctification.
Instead, “The Lord Our Righteousness” speaks of the imputed righteousness of justification. To impute means to reckon to one’s account. It is a legal or accounting term. In our justification, Christ’s righteousness is made over to our account as belonging to us. Thus God the judge declares us righteous. This is our legal standing because Jesus is “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Here are four simple proofs that “The Lord Our Righteousness” refers to the imputed righteousness of justification. First, we note the similarity between this name for our Saviour and “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-22; 10:3; II Cor. 5:21; II Pet. 1:1; cf. Phil. 3:9), a key phrase in the biblical teaching regarding justification. Both “The Lord Our Righteousness” and “the righteousness of God” speak of righteousness, a divine righteousness and a divine righteousness that is ours, because “the righteousness of God” is graciously imputed to us and received by us through faith alone.
Second, II Corinthians 5:21 explains how Jesus is “The Lord Our Righteousness”: “For he [i.e., God] hath made him [i.e., Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Likewise, third, I Corinthians 1:30’s statement that “Christ … is made unto us … righteousness,” that is, righteousness in justification, gives the reason why the incarnate, obedient, crucified and risen Son of God is called “The Lord Our Righteousness.”
Fourth, Romans 3:21-22 teaches the same precious truth: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” “The righteousness of God” (21, 22) is in “Jesus Christ” (22). This is “witnessed by … the prophets” (21), including Jeremiah, who calls Christ “The Lord Our Righteousness” (23:6)!
Rev. A. Stewart, Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N. Ireland
Martin Luther: “Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say: ‘Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did’ … Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours.”
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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