Lyrics and Music by Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760
Translated by John Wesley, 1703-1791
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnesses by the Law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.”—Romans 3:21-22
“Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness” is one of more than 2,000 hymns written by Nicolaus von Zinzendorf1. He was born in Dresden, Germany, to a noble, wealthy, and highly cultured family. He was educated at Halle and Wittenberg but was most influenced by the religious devotion of his maternal grandmother and by Francke, a teacher at Halle. Both instilled in him the principles of personal devotion over religious formality and orthodoxy2.
After completing his legal studies at Wittenberg, Zinzendorf assumed the role as Councilor to the Elector of Saxony. While serving in this role, he purchased a large estate and offered it for use as a home for religious refugees3. The largest group of refugees was the Moravians, over 300 of which were said to have flocked there between 1722 and 1729,establishing a religious community called the Herrnhut. Zinzendorf later became a Moravian minister and bishop4.
In 1735, the Herrnhut congregation published its own hymnal containing 999 hymns, of which 208 were written and composed by Zinzendorf himself; many deal with the death and suffering of Christ5. It has been said that the real birth-moment of Zinzendorf’s religious life was during his study of “Ecce Homo” in the Dusseldorf gallery, a beautiful painting of Jesus crowned with thorns.
It is through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God, that Zinzendorf focused not only on what he was doing for Christ, but on the complete and entire sufficiency of what Christ had done for him.
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Reflective Thoughts: There has always been a connection between salvation and God’s righteousness. Jeremiah 23:6 says, “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘the LORD our righteousness.’” God tells us that we need to measure up to His righteousness, but we cannot do it. In Romans 3:22, God says that through faith in Jesus, the righteousness of God is for all those who believe and that there is no distinction: it doesn’t matter where you are, what you’ve done or how weak or strong you think you are. The righteousness of God that you possess is independent of the Law! There is no abiding in the Law or keeping of the Law that can make you right with God. It is by faith in Christ and faith in Him alone. What are you trusting in to make yourself right with God? Have your efforts ever achieved the righteousness of God Himself that He requires? If you had a choice to possess your own righteousness or the righteousness of God, which would you choose? Which one are you choosing?
Bold shall I stand in Thy great day;
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
Reflective Thoughts: This stanza seems inspired by Romans 8:33-39. All things that God gives, whether in heaven or on earth, do not equal the display of God’s free love in the giving of His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He, who has prepared a crown and a kingdom for us, will be certain to give us what we need until we arrive at the place of eternal joy in the presence of God Himself. If God is the One who justifies, who can accuse us? By Christ we are secure! By His merit we are free from the penalty of death and sin and guilt and shame. Romans 8:1 teaches us that “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Is there something in your life that has you bound up by sin and fear and guilt and shame? Do you think that you are only partially absolved from these things? Remember that you possess no human ability that can atone for the least of your sins. If that were the case, God would not have had to sacrifice His own Son. In what way are you failing to trust in the full efficacy of Jesus’ sacrifice? Repent and return to Him!
When from the dust of death I rise
To claim my mansion in the skies,
Ev’n then this shall be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died, for me.
Reflective Thoughts: Every true believer will say that his claim to anything in heaven, in and of himself, is a foolish claim. Apart from Christ we are nothing, and without Him we are hopeless. Have you arrived at that place where you have fully acknowledge that all you are and all you have is because of Jesus?
Jesus, be endless praise to Thee,
Whose boundless mercy hath for me—
For me a full atonement made,
An everlasting ransom paid.
Reflective Thoughts: The doctrine of absolute inability says that people can only be saved if God saves them, and therefore that salvation is based solely on the decree of God, the sovereign doctrine of election. You cannot expect the sinner—no matter how emotionally he’s prodded or how psychologically he is prompted, no matter how he’s threatened, and no matter what is said to him—to turn on his own to God for salvation. Those who will come to Christ are those whom the Father draws and the Father gives to the Son because He has chosen to do so. The question is, did Jesus die an actual atonement or did Jesus die a potential atonement? Is it for those who would believe because God calls them and God grants them repentance and faith, because God, in eternity past chose them?
O let the dead now hear Thy voice
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice;
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness.
The hymn writer now returns again to the only glorious dress with which one should adorn himself. There is a way that seems right to men, but its end is the way of death. The way of life, however, is to trust in the love and the mercy of God that is in Christ Jesus. Trust in the One who loved you and gave Himself up for you! Jesus came that you might have life and have it more abundantly. Come to Jesus and find life! Trust in the total efficacy of the Lord Jesus for your salvation!
1Ian Bradley, The Book of Hymns (Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1989), 92.
2Elgin S. Moyer, Who Was Who in Church History (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), 451.
4Bradley, Hymns, 92.