You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
Someone swindled us.
They appealed to our pride and sold us the idea of moralism, and told us that acting religious is expected of us. And we went along with it.
We’re tempted to strut as if we are wearing royal robes of spirituality and morality. But the truth is that we are really parading in filthy rags. That is the picture offered in Isaiah 64. Most biblical commentaries say that these “filthy rags” God is referring to are actually “menstruation cloths” associated with one of the most extreme forms of uncleanness under the Law of Moses. They were treated with the great disgust, disposed of immediately, and never reused. Sit with that for a second. All your best moments, your most selfless and spiritual acts—God calls them filthy rags.
“Justification is the opposite of condemnation.”
There is a reason we do not boast in our morality and spirituality. If we have faith in Christ, we are not left draped in our own filthy rags but we get the robe of righteousness from Christ. Isaiah writes: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). From filthy rags to robes of righteousness. That’s beautiful! Jesus takes on our filthy rags, and he robes us in his righteousness. This is imputed righteousness. This is justification—the declaration of your righteous status before God.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation. When a person is condemned, they are declared to be wicked and sentenced to death. When a person is justified, they are declared to be righteous and set free to live. Condemnation doesn’t make a person wicked; it simply declares their state of wickedness. If you trust in Christ for your righteousness, then by faith you are declared righteous before God. His righteousness becomes your righteousness.
“There is no waxing and waning of your righteousness before God.”
This is the wonderful doctrine of imputed righteousness. The righteousness of Christ is really given to us, credited to our account. It covers our sins like a spotless white robe of righteousness.
Imputation is an awesome liberating truth that can give us great assurance and confidence before God. You may be strong today and weak tomorrow. Life will always have its peaks and valleys. “Old sins” may re-emerge, or God may deliver you from them. You may progress or regress spiritually. But there is no waxing and waning of your righteousness before God. For you are clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ to which you can never add and from which you can never subtract.