Justification by Faith Proved

Romans 4   |   Sunday, July 1, 2007   |   Code: 2007-07-01-PJ

 by Phil Johnson

     Last time we were together, we looked at the second half of Romans 3, which is the very heart of the gospel. I mentioned last session that I think Romans 3:21-28 might be the single most important text about the gospel in all of Scripture. It is the very nucleus of Paul's epistle to the Romans, which is an extended exposition of the gospel. And Romans 3:21 is the turning point of his systematic gospel presentation, where he stresses for the first time that we are justified by faith, not by works we perform. He also stresses that we are saved because of a righteousness Christ earned on our behalf, not because of any righteousness we can attain.

     So the passage we looked at last session is a vitally important passage. It establishes a right view of our justification; it establishes a right view of the atonement; and it establishes a right view of the law.

     And as Paul moves on into Romans 4, he has one aim in mind; to provide biblical proof from the Old Testament of the doctrine of justification by faith.

     Now I mentioned last session that Romans 3 was a battleground during the reformation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers. And verse 28, where Paul sums up his point, was the subject of the most intense debate. That verse in the English Bible reads, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." But in his German edition, Martin Luther made the point of that verse even more emphatic, by putting the German word for "alone" in there, so that it read, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone, apart from the deeds of the law." And Luther's Roman Catholic critics accusing him of twisting the meaning of the verse by adding the word alone.

     Now if I were translating Scripture, I personally would try to be as literal as possible and would not deliberately add any words. But as I pointed out last session, if you properly understand this passage, the clear sense of what Paul is saying is that faith alone is the instrument of our justification. Look at all Paul says to support this view, starting in 3:24: We are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Verse 27 says boasting is excluded because we are justified under a principle of faith, not works. Verse 28: "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."

     So he eliminates legal obedience; he eliminates works of all kinds, which would include religious ritual (as we are about to see in chapter 4); and he expressly says that we are justified freely. There's no way to read anything other than faith alone. from this passage. And as we get into Romans 4, you are going to see that faith alone is precisely the formula Paul is defending here. Nothing but a deliberate spiritual blindness would permit anyone to study this passage and conclude that sacraments or rituals or works of any kind are the instruments of our justification.

     And yet that is precisely what the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Listen to this from session 6, chapter 7 of the Roman Catholic council of Trent. This is the council that was convened in the 16th Century to try to answer the Protestant Reformation. Here is what they said about justification: "The instrumental cause [of justification] is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified."

     In other words, at the height of the controversy during the Reformation, Rome's bishops got together and conceded that grace and faith are essential to our justification, but they suggested that salvation by grace through faith alone is not sufficient to save anyone. They insisted that a work—a sacrament—is the instrument by which justification must be obtained. The Catholic Church still insists on that idea today. And I think you'll see that what the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 4 cannot be reconciled with the Roman Catholic view.

     If you read the history of the Protestant Reformation, you'll notice that the Reformers often differed among themselves about various things. But one thing that they all agreed on, without exception, and without any wavering whatsoever, is that faith alone is the instrument of our justification. We do not obtain justification by any work or ritual, but by faith and faith alone. And the doctrine of justification by faith alone became the center and the rallying point for all Protestants in the Reformation. As I said last session, they made the latin phrase for "faith alone," sola fide, into a motto.

     They had another motto—sola Scriptura, or "Scripture alone"—which acknowledged Scripture as the one supreme authority by which all spiritual truth is evaluated. Sola Scriptura had to do with the source of spiritual authority; sola fide had to do with the way of salvation. Sola Scriptura is sometimes known as the formal principle of the Reformation; sola fide is the material principle.

     Now there were several similar mottoes that were often placed alongside sola fide during the reformation. Remember, sola fide means "faith alone." Sola gratia means "grace alone." Solus Christus means "Christ alone." And soli deo gloria means "glory to God alone." We sometimes refer to those Reformation mottoes as the solas. There were five great solas that the Reformers all agreed upon: They began with Scripture alone as our sole and supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice. And with that as their starting point, they insisted that the Bible teaches no other way of salvation except a salvation that is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Furthermore, they said, God's glory alone is the reason and the result of our salvation. Ultimately, it's not about us and not merely for our sakes; it's about God, and it's all for His sake.

     So these five solas became the rallying-cry of the Reformation: Scripture alone as our authority; faith alone as the instrument of our justification; grace alone as the means of our justification; Christ alone as the source and security of our justification. And the glory of God alone as the purpose and end for which everything was made.

     Here's what I want you to see this morning: All those solas are affirmed in principle by Paul here in Romans 4. The Protestant Reformers recognized that. They virtually made this very passage their manifesto for reforming the teaching of the church about the gospel. And as we go through the passage, I want to point these Reformation principles out to you.

     It is interesting, by the way, that every one of those principles is under attack in the church today. Even among protestants, the principles of sola fide and sola gratia are under constant attack today. Today there is a massive amount of pressure to set aside our doctrinal differences with Rome and reunite all Christians in a way that ignores these great biblical principles. But even where these doctrines are not under direct attack, they are subject to horrible neglect. So that the church today is rather ill-equipped to deal with error.

     Frankly, the Protestant church of this current generation is every bit as much in need of reformation as the church of Rome was before the 16th century. We have forgotten the gospel. We have traded the simplicity of the gospel for a confused and confusing message. We have moved away from biblical terminology and biblical ways of thinking and substituted a message that sounds softer and easier to accept, and more broad-based and friendly—but it's actually a corrupted gospel that confuses people who hear it and obscures the great truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

     Even the best of evangelicals have exchanged the principle of sola fide for a lot of nonsense about inviting Jesus into your heart. Multitudes of Protestants today believe there is something the believer must do in order to acquire justification—whether it's walking the aisle, praying a prayer to invite Jesus into your heart, getting baptized, or whatever. We have our own little Protestant rituals, and these have become the instruments of justification in many, many people's minds. All of that is a denial of sola fide, and it incorrectly diverts the focus of the gospel away from what God does for the believing sinner, to something that the believer is supposed to do for himself.

     The true gospel is focused on Christ and His work alone. He supplies all the righteousness that is necessary for us to be acceptable with God. That is the doctrine of justification by faith. That is what Paul has been stressing in the latter half of Romans 3.

     And as we reach chapter 4, Paul is going to use Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) to prove the principle of sola fide ("faith alone"). And along the way, he also stresses the principles of sola gratia ("grace alone"), solus Christus ("Christ alone"), and soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone"). And we'll see these one at a time, beginning with—


1. Sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone")

     I'm not going to spend a great deal of time on this point, but I want you to notice to start with that Paul uses Scripture to prove his case. Notice the question he raises in verse 3 is the question Paul always ultimately came back to: "what does the Scripture say?" He points to the one supreme authority that decides every debate; the source that settles every doctrine; the Word that answers every question; the infallible revelation that adjudicates every religious dispute: the Bible itself. And he systematically demonstrates that what he is teaching in Romans is rooted and grounded in truth that has always been there in the Word of God from the beginning.

     In fact, he goes back to the beginning and draws from an array of Scriptures starting in Genesis, showing that Abraham, and David, and all who were saved in the Old Testament were justified by faith, so that the system of salvation Paul proclaims—the doctrine of soteriology he outlines in the book of Romans—is the very same gospel by which Abraham and all his spiritual offspring have ever been saved. But now for the first time we see the gospel with all the meat on its bones—not just in outlines and shadows, but the substance, which is Christ, is clear to us for the first time. Now we can finally see, Paul says (Romans 3:26), How God can "be [both] just and the justifier of [sinners who believe]."

     So the gospel is not a departure from what the Old Testament taught—it is the final and complete fulfillment of what the Old Testament promised. And Paul proves that from Scripture (Romans 4:3): "what does the Scripture say?"

     That's the same question the Bereans asked in Acts 17. "What does the Scripture say?" Acts 17:11: "[They] searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."

     Think of this: Paul had total apostolic authority. When he taught or proclaimed the gospel message in its apostolic power and purity, the oral message he proclaimed was likewise the Word of God, with full and infallible authority. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, He commended the Thessalonians for receiving his teaching as divinely inspired. Listen to that verse (1 Thessalonians 2:13): "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God." It was commendable for them to believe. When they believed Paul's oral teaching, they were believing infallible and authoritative truth, and they were receiving the gospel by faith. That was a good thing.

     But notice what Acts 17 says about the Bereans: "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." The Bereans received what they heard from the apostle Paul, but they also checked it against the Old Testament scriptures, and thus affirmed the truth of it by consulting the ultimate authority.

     That's the principle of sola Scriptura. It doesn't mean Scripture is the only source of truth. You can check the Scriptures front to back and you will never discover in the Bible what the boiling point of water at sea level is. There are truths we can learn and know from other sources besides Scripture.

     But sola Scriptura means that no other source of truth is ever as sure, as infallible, as trustworthy, as important, as profound, or as authoritative as the Bible. Scripture is the highest, most reliable, most permanent, and most definitive source of divine revelation. And for us who have no access to apostolic teaching or other forms of special revelation, Scripture is the only Word from God we have access to.

     So Paul turns, as he always does, to Scripture. He never makes an argument based on raw apostolic authority alone unless he is giving fresh revelation that was not available in the Old Testament. When he is expanding on principles that were revealed or foreshadowed in the Old Testament—or even truths that were implied but shrouded in mystery—Paul always draws his strongest arguments from the Old Testament, as he does here.

     In this case, his subject (as we saw last time) is the principle of justification by faith. That's the second Reformation principle I want to show you in this passage. The first was sola Scriptura—and we see that in the way Paul goes to Scripture and makes his decisive argument there.

     Now he turns to another of the principles that became the very ground and foundation of the Protestant Reformation:


2. Sola Fide ("Faith Alone")

     In order to make his case biblically, Paul first turns to Abraham, the great father of the Jewish race, and he says, Let's see how Abraham was justified. I'll read, beginning with verse 1:

4:1  What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory

Now, let me passe there and say that the Jewish rabbis of Paul's day did teach that Abraham was justified because he was perfect in his obedience to God. One of the apocryphal Jewish writings is known as "The Prayer of Manasseh"—supposedly the prayer of repentance prayed by Judah's king when he repented. It says this:

Therefore you, O Lord, God of the righteous,

have not appointed repentance for the righteous,

for Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who did not sin against you,

but you have appointed repentance for me, who am a sinner.

Genesis 26:5 says, "Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." The mishna, a rabbinical commentary included a note on that verse that said this: "We find that Abraham our father had performed the whole law before it was given." And another source, The Book of Jubilees, said, "Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord, and well-pleasing in righteousness all the days of his life."

     So there was a deep strain of thought in Jewish tradition that since Abraham was justified, he must have had a perfect righteousness that he obtained by living righteously all the days of his life.

     So Paul cuts through to the very heart of the matter: "if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory." If it's true that Abraham was justified because he was inherently righteous, then he really has something to brag about.

     But keep reading:

but not before God. [But in God's eyes, even Abraham has nothing to boast about. Why?]

3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Paul is quoting from Genesis 15:6. Keep a marker here in Romans 4, and let's look at Genesis 15 for a minute. Here's the setting for Genesis 15:6: Abraham and Sarah were already well past child-bearing age. Abraham had obeyed the Lord and left his homeland and his family, believing that God would give him a land and that he would be the father of many nations. But now Abraham was becoming an old man. He was living in tents as a vagabond. He hadn't inherited any land, and he had not yet fathered a single child.

     And suddenly, in Genesis 15:1, "the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."

     And Abraham said, That's great, Lord, but "what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?"—I'm going to die someday, and my servant is currently in line to inherit my household. What happened to all those promises you gave me in Ur of the Chaldees? (verse 3): "Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir."

4  And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

5  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

Abraham looked at those stars. There he was, already an old man—probably in his eighties at this point, never having fathered a child—and he looked at those millions of stars (verse 6): "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

     Now, notice what happens next. The Lord reaffirms His covenant:

7  And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.

8  And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?

9  And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

10  And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.

11  And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

12  And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

And in verses 13-16, the Lord reaffirms the specific terms of the covenant. Now look at verse 17:

And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

18  In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land,

Abraham fell asleep, and the Lord executed the covenant unilaterally, to emphasize that this was a totally unconditional covenant. It was the Lord's doing, and His alone. Abraham contributed nothing. He simply laid hold of the promise by faith.

     Now, back to Romans 4. Abraham didn't have to work for his blessing. No promise was extracted from him, on his side of the covenant. He was required to do nothing. In fact, God put him to sleep, to emphasize the point. It was a one-sided, unconditional covenant.

     Now read what Paul says in Romans 4:4:

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [In other words, if you want to work for your justification, you will get what you earn. But be forewarned; all our righteousnesses are filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), and the wages of sin is what?]

5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Now, let me say something about this expression "his faith is counted for righteousness." You have to be careful how you read that, and let the context determine its meaning. It doesn't mean the faith is a substitute for righteousness. It doesn't mean God pretends our faith is righteousness. It doesn't mean our faith is as good as righteousness, or that God accepts our faith in trade in place of a genuine righteousness. It means that our faith appropriates a legitimate righteousness that God imputes to the account of the believing one. Look ahead at verse 6: "David . . . describe[s] the blessedness of the man, unto whom God impute[s] righteousness [apart from] works."

     He is saying that there is a perfect righteousness that is put to the ledger of the one who believes. It is the righteousness of Christ, and if we had time this session, I would show you why I believe this is a righteousness Christ merited by His perfect obedience to the law all the days of his earthly life. He said to John the baptist, "Go ahead and baptize me; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." By obeying every jot and tittle of Moses' law, Christ was earning merit He did not even need, for He was the sinless, perfect Son of God. But if you are a believer, that merit He earned is credited to my account and to yours, just as our sins were imputed to Him.

     This is not (as some have complained) "a legal fiction." This is a real and valid righteousness that is imputed to us. It is the perfect righteousness of Christ, our substitute. And there's nothing we can do to earn it. In fact, if you try to earn it, you will be paid a wage according to what you deserve. And trust me, you do not want that.

     Now let me point out that these two verses—Romans 4:4-5—are a clear and irrefutable statement of the principle of sola fide. Here is the doctrine of "faith alone," which our Catholic friends so often claim is nowhere found in Scripture: "Now to him that worketh"—the one who is doing rituals and performing sacraments and adding up good works to try to accumulate merit in God's eyes—to such a person "is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." Once you blend any form of human work into the mix, what you thought was grace is no longer grace. "If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace" (Rom. 11:6).

     Romans 4:5  "But to him that worketh not"—the one who has given up trying to earn merit for himself—"but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Where is there room for anything but faith in a formula like that? There isn't. Faith alone is the sole and sufficient instrument of our justification.

     So Paul has established sola fide and proved his point with the justification of Abraham. But someone will say, "That's all fine for Abraham, because he lived before the law. But those who are under the law are surely expected to earn merit for themselves, aren't they?"

     Even a lot of Christians have this misconception. Last session I read to you the statement of a well-known Christian author who wrote, "Under the Old Testament Law, righteousness came by man behaving; but under the Gospel, righteousness comes by believing."

     Listen, if that were true, it would again nullify the need for grace. But right here in Romans 4, Paul proves that it was not true. He moves from Abraham, who lived before the law, to David, who lived under the law. And this is our second point: here he proves the principle of—


3. Sola Gratia ("Grace Alone")

     Verse 6:

6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Here Paul is quoting from Psalm 32, that great psalm of repentance after David confessed his sin with Bath-sheba. And Paul shows that the very heart of David's confession was a recognition that he was justified through faith alone by grace alone. Listen to the first 2 verses of Psalm 32:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2  Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity

Now I want to call your attention to this word impute. In both of these passages that Paul cites from the Old Testament—Genesis 15:6, where righteousness is imputed to Abraham by faith, and Psalm 32, where David says iniquities are not imputed to the justified person—you'll find the same Hebrew verb used for the concept of imputation. It's the Hebrew word chashab, which means "to reckon," "to account," "to consider, or regard, or compute." The Greek equivalent, a word used 11 times right here in Romans 4, is logizomai, meaning "to impute, to reckon, to number, to account."

     Both the Hebrew word and its Greek equivalent have legal overtones when used in a context like this. They are forensic words, and by that I mean they have overtones that pertain to courtroom verdicts. The reckoning these words describe is a legal reckoning, such as would be made in a court of law. And they describe a verdict that is given in the court of God's judgment, so that the justified one is both declared righteous and accounted righteous because of the merit Christ has brought to the ledger.

     And all the sin and guilt on the debt side of the ledger is erased, because Christ has paid it in full. That is why David could rejoice in the reality that God does not impute our sins to us. He doesn't ignore those sins; he imputes them to Christ, who paid the full penalty for them, and thus God can impute Christ's merit to us and justify us completely apart from any woks on our part.

     Isn't that a wonderful truth?

     And I want you to see how grace comes into it. Under the law, God says he will by no means clear the guilty. (Numbers 14:8). So justification is something that pertains to grace, not law. If you're looking for a remedy for your sin by legal obedience or religious ritual, you won't find it there. But the gospel offers grace to those who lay hold of the promise by faith.

     Now Paul is going to prove further that justification has nothing whatsoever to do with legal obedience, ritual, race, or birthright. And so he returns to the example of Abraham. And here we come to the third great Reformation principle that finds its foundation in this passage—


4. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)

     As I said earlier, Jewish tradition held that Abraham was blessed because he was so perfect and righteous in the obedience he rendered to God. If that were the case, Paul says, Abraham would have something to boast about. Some of the glory would belong to Abraham, not to God.

     But Abraham had nothing to boast about. None of the glory was Abraham's. Remember the rabbi's claim that I read earlier? They claimed Abraham had perfectly obeyed the whole mosaic law, even before the law was given, and that is why God justified him. What about that claim? Verse 9:

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

10  How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

11  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Now Paul's point, as the apostle to the Gentiles, is that justification by faith is for circumcised and uncircumcised people alike—both Jews and Gentiles. And to make the point, he points out that Abraham is said to be justified in Genesis 15, at least 14 years before he was circumcised in Genesis 18:26.

     Paul's point is that if Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, the circumcision cannot be the instrument of justification.

     The same point could be made against Roman Catholic doctrine, and against all who believe that baptism is essential to salvation. In acts 10, cornelius receives the Holy Spirit and is wonderfully converted. And the reality of his conversion is confirmed when he speaks in tongues and manifests the same gifts the apostles had done at Pentecost. But it is only afterward, at the end of Acts 10, that Cornelius is baptized.

     No human work or religious ritual enters into our justification. The glory is God's alone. And Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that even the faith we appropriate justification with is a gift of God, a gracious work he does in our heart.

     We must move on. For the sake of time, I'm going to read quickly through verses 13-23:

13  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

14  For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

15  Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

16  Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

17  (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

18  Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

19  And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:

20  He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21  And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

22  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Now let me move to the final point, the one remaining Reformation slogan that is affirmed in this chapter—


5. Solus Christus ("Christ Alone")

     Notice how sweeping this doctrine of justification by faith is. Paul is essentially demonstrating that it is the only means of salvation for everyone who ever lived. There is not one plan of salvation for those who are under the law, and a different one for those under grace. Lewis Sperry Chafer used to teach that the dis­pen­sa­tion­s alternated between law and grace. He suggested that Abraham was under grace, but Moses brought in a dis­pen­sa­tion­ of law, and then Christ brought a new dis­pen­sa­tion­ of grace, and the kingdom age will be another dis­pen­sa­tion­ of law.

     Well, that's nonsense. Every dis­pen­sa­tion­ has elements of law and grace. But salvation is always by grace. No one is ever justified in God's sight except by grace through faith, and the glory is always God's alone. If you miss that point you will corrupt the gospel.

     Abraham was justified by faith; David was justified by faith; the Gentiles are justified by faith. And finally, verse 24:

24  But for us also, to whom [righteousness] shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25  Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

The only way you and I can be justified is by faith. If you imagine that God's assessment of you rises or falls with your performance, you don't understand the gospel at all. God's assessment of you in yourself is as bad as it could possibly be. You are a sinner, and even your righteousnesses are filthy rags. But if you are in Christ, God has clothed you in a cloak of perfect righteousness—His own son's perfect righteousness. And it doesn't get any better than that.