Thanks in large to the influence of Dr. Michael Barrett, I have come to a great appreciation of the role Christ’s active righteousness plays in our salvation. In fact, it was at Dr. Barrett’s suggestion that I added verse two to His Robes for Mine (explained here), focusing on Christ’s fulfilling God’s Law on my behalf (His vicarious life) in addition to bearing God’s wrath in my behalf (His vicarious death):
“His robes for mine: what cause have I for dread?
God’s daunting Law Christ mastered in my stead.
Faultless I stand with righteous works not mine,
Saved by my Lord’s vicarious death and life.”
These are thoughts worthy of our consideration. However, something I read from Jonathan Edwards tonight makes me think that saying that Christ’s life is His active obedience and Christ’s death is His passive obedience may be a little simplistic, though generally accurate. Specifically, in his sermon “Christ Was Worthy of His Exaltation upon the Account of His Being Slain” (available here), Edwards argues that the obedience of Christ’s suffering and death is part of the righteousness credited to the believing sinner via justification. Here’s a germane portion (as edited by Nancy Guthrie for her book, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross):
“‘Tis commonly said that Christ satisfied justice by his suffering and merited by his righteousness. But then this is to be understood thus—that Christ by his sufferings considered enduring the punishment of the law without any consideration of the holiness and excellency of the act of submitting to those sufferings. Christ’s death thus may be distinguished from his righteousness, but consider it as it was—a holy act of obedience, an expression of love and respect to God and his glory, an act infinitely lovely in the eyes of the Father. So it was not only an expiation for sin but a part, and the principle part, of his righteousness by which he merited.”
Interesting. It is certainly true that Christ’s death included the taking of the sinner’s penalty, thereby propitiating the holy wrath of God. However, it makes sense to see it also as a meritorious work, as the ultimate “obedience” to His Father (Phil 2:8), and therefore part of the righteousness imputed to the repentant and believing sinner.
What a glorious Savior, and what a glorious salvation!
(Note: More on Christ’s active righteousness here.)
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