Sinners Justified by Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ… A Bible Study

Taken from, “Justification by an Imputed Righteousness -or- No Way to Heaven but by Jesus Christ.”
Written by John Bunyan


sacrificial-lambMy intention is to treat of justification, as it sets a man free from sin, and the curse and condemnation of the law in the sight of God, for the purpose of eternal salvation. And that I may with the more clearness handle this point before you, I will lay down and speak to this proposition—

That there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God, than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.


The terms of this proposition are easy; yet if it will help, I will speak a word or two for explication.

1. By a sinner, I mean one that has transgressed the law; for “sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
2. By the curse of the law, I mean that sentence, judgment, or condemnation which the law pronounces against the transgressor (Gal. 3:10).
3. By justifying righteousness, I mean that which stands in the doing and suffering of Christ when he was in the world (Rom. 5:19).
4. By the residing of this righteousness in Christ’s person, I mean, it still abides with him as to the action, though the benefit is bestowed upon those that are his.
5. By the imputation of it to us, I mean God’s making of it ours by an act of his grace, that we by it might be secured from the curse of the law.
6. When I say there is no other way to be justified, I cast away to that end the law, and all the works of the law as done by us.

Thus I have opened the terms of the proposition.

Now the two first—to wit, What the sin and the curse is, stand clear in all men’s sight, unless they be atheists, or desperately heretical. I shall therefore in few words, clear the other four.

First, justifying righteousness is the doing and suffering of Christ when he was in the world.

This is clear, because we are said to be “justified by his obedience” (Rom. 5:19); by his obedience to the law. Hence he is said again to be the end of the law for that very thing—“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” etc. (Rom. 10:4).

The end, what is that? Why, the requirement or demand of the law. But what is it? Why, righteousness, perfect righteousness (Gal. 3:10).

Perfect righteousness, what to do? That the soul concerned might stand spotless in the sight of God (Rev. 1:5).

Now this lies only in the doings and sufferings of Christ; for “by his obedience many are made righteous”; wherefore as to this Christ is the end of the law, that being found in that obedience, that becomes to us sufficient for our justification. Hence, we are said to be made righteous by his obedience; yea, and to be washed, purged, and justified by his blood (Heb. 9:14; Rom. 5:18, 19).

Secondly, that this righteousness still resides in and with the person of Christ, even then when we stand just before God thereby, is clear, for that we are said when justified to be justified “in him”—“In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified.”

And again, “Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness,” etc. And again, “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us of God righteousness” (Isa. 45:24, 25; 1 Cor. 1:30).

Mark, the righteousness is still “in him,” not “in us”; even then when we are made partakers of the benefit of it, even as the wing and feathers still abide in the hen when the chickens are covered, kept, and warmed thereby.

For as my doings, though my children are fed and clothed thereby, are still my doings, not theirs, so the righteousness wherewith we stand just before God from the curse still resides in Christ, not in us. Our sins when laid upon Christ were yet personally ours, not his; so his righteousness when put upon us is yet personally his, not ours. What is it, then? Why, “he was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Thirdly, it is therefore of a justifying virtue only by imputation, or as God reckons it to us; even as our sins made the Lord Jesus a sinner—nay, sin, by God’s reckoning of them to him.

It is absolutely necessary that this be known of us; for if the understanding be muddy as to this, it is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also in temptation, that man will be at a loss that looks for a righteousness for justification in himself, when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ.

The apostle, who was his crafts-master as to this, was always “looking to Jesus,” that he “might be found in him” (Phil. 3:6-8), knowing that nowhere else could peace or safety be had.

And indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world—namely, that a righteousness that resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner, on earth.

Fourthly, therefore the law and the works thereof, as to this must by us be cast away; not only because they here are useless, but also they being retained are a hindrance.

That they are useless is evident, for that salvation comes by another name (Acts 4:12). And that they are a hindrance, it is clear, for the very adhering to the law, though it be but a little, or in a little part, prevents justification by the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 9:31, 32).

What shall I say? As to this, the moral law is rejected, the ceremonial law is rejected, and man’s righteousness is rejected, for that they are here both weak and unprofitable (Rom. 8:2, 3; Gal. 3:21; Heb. 10:1-12).

Now if all these and their works as to our justification are rejected, where but in Christ is righteousness to be found?

Thus much, therefore, for the explication of the proposition—namely, that there is no other way for sinners to be justified from the curse of the law in the sight of God than by the imputation of that righteousness long ago performed by, and still residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.

Now, from this proposition I draw these two positions—

First, That men are justified from the curse of the law before God while sinners in themselves.

Secondly, That this can be done by no other righteousness than that long ago performed by, and residing with, the person of Jesus Christ.