The robe of righteousness is a good illustration, yet it is not a perfect illustration. In the Old Testament, Jacob cheated his father in order to receive his blessing. Jacob’s brother was a hairy man, but he was a smooth man. Rebekah gave to Jacob the coat of Esau and covered his hands and neck with the skin of goats in an effort to steal his father’s blessing. This is a disguise; it is falsehood. This is not the way Christians come before God. We have not put on a robe of righteousness; we have put on Christ Himself. We have not put on the garment of Christ; we have put on Christ Himself. Galatians 3:27 speaks of the putting on of Christ. The righteousness which we now have far exceeds our own righteousness. It is Christ Himself becoming our righteousness. Hence we are perfect, and God can now accept us.
What is our basis when we come to God? What is in our mind when we come before Him? Are we fearful when we think of our sin and bold when we think of our righteousness? Or do we think of Christ? Many people are occupied with either their sins or their righteousnesses. Let me allude to the sister that I spoke of earlier. I eventually went to her home and asked about her prayer life. She answered, "I cannot pray well because I have a bad temper." I said, "God does not answer you when you have a bad temper, and He does not answer you when you have a good temper either." She could not understand my word. I sat in my chair and said, in an apparently arrogant way, "I am better than you are in one thing: I have confidence that the Lord answers my prayer. What do you think?" She said, "I do not believe this. This is only what you claim." I said, "I may be as good or as bad as you are, or I may be worse than you are. But the righteousness that I have believed and received is different from yours. I come to God through Christ as my righteousness, not through the righteousness of Christ. Before the Lord I have my own righteousnesses as well as my own unrighteousnesses. Of course, my own unrighteousnesses cannot be reckoned as righteous in His eyes, but my righteousness cannot be reckoned as righteous in His eyes either. This has nothing to do with me loving Him but with Him loving me. I do not preserve myself; He preserves me. It is not my hands that are holding Him but His hands that are holding me. It is not a matter of my faithfulness but His faithfulness." I may have sinned more than all of you sitting here, but I can be bold before the Lord because my righteousness is Christ alone.
A new believer’s condition can be quite high, like Paul’s experience in the third heavens. At other times it can be quite low, as if he has descended into the abyss. However, we have to realize that the problem of sin has been dealt with by Christ on the cross, and the problem of righteousness has also been settled by Christ on the throne. The righteousness that God has given us is just Christ. Once He gives Christ to us, He will never change His mind. In Christ, God cannot find anyone more advanced than He has already found. This is why our heart rejoices today. When we first believed, the basis of our coming to God was Christ. After being a believer for many years, the basis of our coming to God is still Christ. Our advancement cannot make us more qualified to come to God, and our evil cannot make us less qualified to come to God. Hebrews 4:16 says that we can come forward boldly to God at any time.
(Christ our Righteousness, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)