I love Starr Meade’s book of family devotions based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. To catechize our children during family worship, we’ve been using Training Hearts, Teaching Minds for many years. In fact, we’re on our second copy of it — the first one just fell apart after some years of heavy daily use.
Tonight at our church catechism class, I have the joy of teaching Lord’s Day 23 again. Lord’s Day 23 deals with justification, God’s declaration that we are right with him on account of Christ’s righteousness. Included in justification is the crucial notion of imputation. Our sins are imputed or accounted to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed or accounted to us. This goes to the basis of our justification. Starr Meade has an excellent illustration that explains the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience, his obedience to the law and his suffering obedience. I plan to use this illustration tonight with my catechism students:
Imagine that you need a great deal of money for something important. However, not only do you not have a great deal of money; you are deeply in debt. Along comes your friend who has worked hard for years to build a big savings account in the bank. He feels sorry for you and offers to pay your bills. Now you are no longer in debt. This is something like Jesus paying for our sin by his death on the cross. Now we no longer owe God anything for all our sins against him.
However, just because your friend paid your debt does not mean that you have solved your problem. You still need a great deal of money and you have absolutely none. So now your friend does something else for you. He has your name added to his bank account so that now you can use all his money. This is something like Jesus living a life of perfect obedience to God in our place. He is the One who is righteous. He is the One who did the obeying, but all his righteousness is credited to us. God counts the righteousness of Christ as ours. (Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, 111-112)
To put it another way, through Christ we don’t merely have our slates wiped clean of all our sins. We also have our slates filled with all of his God-pleasing obedience in our place. This, and this alone, makes us acceptable in God’s sight.