Question 56. What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
Answer: That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long; but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.
Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?
Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.
What a beautiful word: notwithstanding.
1. in spite of; without being opposed or prevented by
I am a wicked, waivering, waste of life and grace; but God can, will, and has saved me by faith in Christ.
There is only one righteousness before God: Christ's. All self-righteousness will be exposed as counterfeit, fraudulant, insufficient, and sardonic (not to mention Satanic). The approval of other men on whose shoulders one arrives before God will shrivel in His presence. Those who have elevated themselves either in their inner eye or in the eyes of others will find themselves being asked to move down from their assumed seats of honor unto their shame.
I love the simplicity and the complexity of this confession. It is so clear and clean. So easy to articulate and preach, yet so difficult to believe. It is only by the grace of the Spirit of God that it finds any of us receptive. It is then in the knowledge and belief of this Gospel that we struggle and strive the rest of our lives against the world's alternatives, the old man's desires, and the Devil's lies. We do not ascertain perfection through exertion, but imputation. It is not something to be grasped, but to be granted. It is not our pursuit of Him that saves us, but His pursuit and preservation of us.
Our only hope is to be seen as we are not by Him Who ever is. Though we have broken the entire Law, we can be seen as innocent of its charges. Furthermore, we are not only seen as innocent of evil, but as doers of good. Double imputation. Christ takes our sin. We take Christ's righteousness. He not only absorbs that sin that is not His, but clothes us in a righteouness that was not ours. Both of us end up looking silly wearing clothes that do not belong to us. We both take on humiliation to wear the other's clothes. Jesus on the Cross and us by our faithful abandonment of all else. Jesus looked ridiculous hanging on a tree. He did not belong there. It was not His Cross. We look ridiculous abandoning what used to produce our comfort. We claim a righteousness that is not ours. It is not our righteosness. Jesus by grace wore my despicable shame on the Cross. We by faith wear His robe of righteousness before the Father.
We are sinners by nature and by choice; notwithstanding, God sees us saints by grace through faith in Christ.