As Christ is the permanent object of faith, we cannot know what we receive by faith except by looking to Him. Now He has been given to us by the Father in order that we may obtain in Him eternal life. Jesus said, “Eternal life is that they might know You — You, the only true God, and He whom You have sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3); and again, “He who believes in Me will live, even if he should die” (John 11:25).
However, for this to happen, we who are polluted by sin must be purified in Him, because nothing impure will enter the kingdom of God. This is why we have to participate in Him, so that we, who are sinners in ourselves, may through His righteousness be considered just before God’s throne. In this way, being stripped of our own righteousness, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ; and being unjust by our deeds, we are justified by the faithfulness of Christ.
For we are said to be justified by faith, not because we receive within ourselves any righteousness whatever, but because the righteousness of Christ is credited to us, as if it were really ours; while our own wickedness is not imputed to us. The outcome is that it is possible, in a word, to truly call this righteousness the remission of sins. This is what the apostle so clearly declares in often comparing the righteousness of works to that of faith, and in declaring that the one is destroyed by the other (Romans 10:3-8; Philippians 3:9).
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:1-10
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:7-9
In studying The Apostles’ Creed — which lays out in order all the realities on which our faith is based and on which it stands — we shall see how Christ has earned this righteousness for us, and what it consists of.
John Calvin, Truth For All Time, pp. 30, 31