Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why did Christ have to be righteous & sinless?

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened
not his mouth..." (Isaiah 53:7)
Jesus Christ was a good man. I mean a really, really a good man in an exceptional sense. St. Peter says He has never committed any sin, and neither was deceit found in his mouth (1 Pe. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9). St. Paul made it plain that He has led a life of consistent submission to His Father's will and has known no sin (1 Co. 5:21; Php. 2:11). St. John says the same thing to that effect (1 Jn. 3:5). Our Lord himself admitted that He's sinless (Jn. 8:29, 46). Old Testament prophecies speak of Him as the "holy One" of God (Psa. 16:10; Isa. 49:7). It was announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive in her womb God's holy Son, and indeed Christ was (Luk. 1:35). There are plenty of other evidences throughout Scripture that proves Jesus' sinless perfection.

But why did Christ have to be righteous? Why did He have to be sinless? Some may respond and say: "Well, he didn't really have to. Being God, He is by nature holy. So if He lived righteously, it's because that's just what He is in the first place." I am in full agreement that Christ is divine and is by nature holy, but the Lord himself testifies that one purpose for which He came into this world was to fulfill God's holy precepts (Mat. 5:17). In short, He had to. It was His mission (Jn. 6:38). So the question remains: What for?

The answer to the question lies in God's law itself. In Hebrews 9:22 we are told that "under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (see Lev. 17:11). In the OT sacrificial system, an animal without blemish or spot was required in order to make a sacrifice to the Lord for the forgiveness of sin or for a worship or devotion offering (Lev. 4:3-5). The New Testament regards these Levitical sacrifices as divine in origin and obligatory, but they are viewed to be imperfect and only a type of Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-7). They are but a shadow of the good things to come which pertains to the shedding of "the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pe. 1:19, KJV; cf. Isa. 53:6-7). Thus, Christ had to be sinless because He had to offer Himself as an atonement for the sins of His people, i.e. to satisfy God's demand of payment for the non-obedience of those who believe in Him (Rom. 3:24-25; 5:10-11). If He weren't blameless, God could not have been pleased with His sacrifice (Mal. 1:8).

Another significant reason for the necessity of Christ's living a life of perfect holiness is that we are so sinful that we cannot keep God's moral precepts perfectly ourselves (Rom. 3:9-12). In fact, we cannot even obey God's law in our unregenerate state (Luk. 6:43; Rom. 3:12, 8:6-7). Now the problem is, we are told in the Bible over and over that heaven is not for sinners but for the righteous (Rom. 2:6-7; Rev. 21:27; cf. Mat. 5:48). The Bible is also plain that if God would judge us according to our own works, none of us would qualify (Psa. 130:3; 143:2). We are all guilty of sin (Rom. 3:19, 23). Simply put, we can never earn our way to heaven by our works or performance because God's law condemns and curses us due to our imperfections (Gal. 3:10; cf. Deut. 27:26; Isa. 64:6; Hab. 1:13; Rom. 3:20; Jm. 2:10).

Yet what we were powerless to do, God did in Christ. It is with the problem of our sinfulness that Christ had to perfectly keep the divine law so that by being in union with Him through faith we may be counted as righteous (on the account of His own merits) in God's sight (Rom. 1:16-17, 3:26; 4:4-6, 5:19; Gal. 4:4-5). [This is one main reason why reformed evangelicals like me reject the idea that human works or efforts play a role in the obtainment of the grace of justification. We believe that Christ's merits, death, and resurrection are super-abundantly sufficient to justify everyone who put their trust in Him alone as Savior.]

Moreover, Christ's perfect obedience to God's law is significant not only to our justification but also to our daily growth in holiness, or what theologians call sanctification. By living a life of perfect submission to God, Jesus left us with an example to follow as God's children (1 Pe. 2:21). The Bible says we ought to walk in the same way in which He walked (1 Jn. 2:6) and to have an attitude with that of Christ Jesus (Php. 2:5). He is our motivation and prime example for holiness.

But Jesus should not be thought of as a mere role model. His being righteous avails us more. He infuses in us His own righteousness by the internal working of His Spirit dwelling in us (Jn. 14:16-18, 26; Php. 2:13; Heb. 4:15-16; 12:2; 1 Jn. 5:4-5). In other words, we are being transformed continually to His likeness day after day as we focus our eyes upon Him as Captain of our souls (2 Cor. 3:18). All these benefits are in virtue of Christ's own righteousness.
    We Christians are always in a spiritual battle field, and we fall into different temptations from time to time. This should not, however, cause us to drift away from the faith. We have an Advocate with the Father -- Jesus Christ the righteous (1 Jn. 2:1). He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we confess our sins to Him (1 Jn. 1:9). He is our High Priest who intercedes for our sakes, sympathizing with our weaknesses because He himself was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Rom. 8:26; Heb. 4:15-16).

    We cannot actually live lives pleasing to God by our own powers. Listen to Christ's words: "...without me you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). Our strength is no match against the evil forces of this world. The good news is that Christ came and defeated the world so that we, too, may gain victory through faith Him (Jn. 16:33; 1 Jn. 5:4-5). In His High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17, the Lord Jesus says: "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" (Jn. 17:19, KJV; Rom. 8:3-4). He has consecrated Himself so that he may present us holy and blameless in God sight for His own glory (Eph. 5:26-27). Where then is boasting? Indeed, Jesus Christ alone is our righteousness and none other. Praise God!

    "Christ Jesus. . . became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and 
    redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.' "
    (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)


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