Sibbes now moves on to the paradox of the church in this age. How can we be both simultaneous a saint and a sinner? “My undefiled.’ Undefiled is a high word to be applied to the church of God here; for the church, groaning under infirmities, to be counted perfect and undefiled.”
First argument: we cannot judge correctly. Only God is in a position to judge our state
But Christ, who judgeth aright of his church, and knows best what she is, he yet thus judgeth of her.
Second, on way basis does God make that judgement?
But, how is that? The church is undefiled, especially in that it is the spouse of Christ, and clothed with the robes of his righteousness.
Sibbes takes this from the doctrine of penal substitution atonement, such as set forth in
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor. 5:21
For there is an exchange so soon as ever we are united to Christ. Our sins are upon him, and his righteousness is made ours; and therefore in Christ the church is undefiled.
Since the church bears Christ’s righteousness, the church is undefiled. The Christian’s righteousness is gifted. The beauty of the Son is the greatest worth:
Christ himself the second person is the first lovely thing next the Father; and in Christ all things as they have relation to him are loved, as they are in him. Christ’s human nature is next loved to the second person. It is united, and is first pure, holy, and beloved.
He then comes back to the basis of the church’s righteousness: the righteousness of Christ is possessed by the church on the basis of the union between Christ and the church. “Christ mystical” means not a shadowy idea; but rather the spiritual union between Christ and his people:
Then, because the church is Christ mystical, it is near to him; and, in a manner, as near as that sacred body of his, both making up one Christ mystical. And so is amiable and beloved even of God himself, who hath pure eyes; yet in this respect looks upon the church as undefiled.
Christ and his church are not to be considered as two when we speak of this undefiledness, but as one. And the church having Christ, with all that is Christ’s, they have the field, and the pearl* in the field together. And Christ giving himself to the church, he gives his righteousness, his perfection, and holiness; all is the church’s.