For the last couple of weeks we’ve been considering the three atoning aspects of Christ’s work of redemption: that Jesus is able to save us by virtue of His perfect life in fulfillment of God’s law, His substitutionary death under God’s wrath, and His victorious resurrection over all the powers of hell and death.
As we noted last Friday, the most obvious aspect of Jesus’ atoning work is His crucifixion. The New Testament clearly presents Christ’s death as the key to our salvation: He died under the Father’s holy wrath, which is His just and rightful response to the rebellion of humanity.
Somewhat less widely understood is how Jesus’ perfect life plays a role in saving people. If the death of Christ for our sin were the only aspect of His saving work, it would not have been necessary for Him to have lived among humanity for over thirty years: He could simply have appeared as a full-grown man and died a short time later. We get a hint as to the purpose of His living when He is standing in the Jordan River about to be baptized: when John protests that Jesus does not need baptism, Jesus replies, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).
Clearly, Jesus came to earth not only to die on our behalf under the righteous wrath of God for our sins. He also came to obey God’s righteous requirements, or as He put it, “to fulfill all righteousness.” The glorious thing in which we can rejoice is that Christ did this for us. He was already righteous before the Father, so His fulfillment of the law was not something He did for Himself: instead, He did it on our behalf.
The wonder of grace is that for all who trust Christ, His righteous life and fulfillment of God’s law is credited to us. Because of His life of sinlessness and perfect obedience on this earth, God legally credits believers with the righteous acts that Christ performed on our behalf. Thus, those who trust in Christ are given by God the same position or standing with the Father that the Son obtained by His obedience.
This position of “right standing” before the Father is the source of tremendous benefits to the believer. Because God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, we can come boldly before God in prayer, knowing that He accepts us as He accepts His Son (Hebrews 4:14-16); we are assured of peace with God because Christ’s perfection earned our peace (Romans 5:1-3); we have the child-blessings of God’s family established for us by Christ (Romans 8:16-17); and we are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1-4).
And how do you receive this righteousness of Christ? Only by the instrument of faith alone, plus nothing; and even this faith is a gift of God, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-10). Trust in Christ’s atoning work, and His righteousness is given to you.
Next Week: By His Victorious Resurrection