Mondays with MacDonald (on imputed righteousness)

There has been much cherishing of the evil fancy, often without its taking formal shape, that there is some way of getting out of the region of strict justice, some mode of managing to escape doing all that is required of us; but there is no such escape. A way to avoid any demand of righteousness would be an infinitely worse way than the road to the everlasting fire, for its end would be eternal death. No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it—no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather! Neither shalt thou think to be delivered from the necessity of being good by being made good. God is the God of the animals in a far lovelier way, I suspect, than many of us dare to think, but he will not be the God of a man by making a good beast of him. Thou must be good; neither death nor any admittance into good company will make thee good; though, doubtless, if thou be willing and try, these and all other best helps will be given thee. There is no clothing in a robe of imputed righteousness, that poorest of legal cobwebs spun by spiritual spiders. To me it seems like an invention of well-meaning dulness to soothe insanity; and indeed it has proved a door of escape out of worse imaginations. It is apparently an old ‘doctrine;’ for St. John seems to point at it where he says, ‘Little children, let no man lead you astray; he that doeth righteousness is righteous even as he is righteous.’ Christ is our righteousness, not that we should escape punishment, still less escape being righteous, but as the live potent creator of righteousness in us, so that we, with our wills receiving his spirit, shall like him resist unto blood, striving against sin; shall know in ourselves, as he knows, what a lovely thing is righteousness, what a mean, ugly, unnatural thing is unrighteousness. He is our righteousness, and that righteousness is no fiction, no pretence, no imputation.

George MacDonald
from Unspoken Sermons, vol. 1, “The Last Farthing”

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  • This one confused me a little. He seems to say Christ does not impute to us righteousness, yet he is our righteousness. What’s the difference?

    • His main point is that righteousness is not a legal standing, something God accepts from Christ on our behalf, but rather that righteous is as righteous does, and we do righteousness through Christ within us. You’d have to read more of his sermon to get his meaning fully.