My Substitute

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

There are those who argue that a God of love would not send a major part of civilization to the pit of hell fire for eternity. My kneejerk reaction to that statement is God sent His Son to the cross. His only begotten Son who was sinless and was sent to the Roman cross and died there nailed to a tree. This is a most shameful thing in the Jewish culture, as it is of the greatest shame to hang on a tree. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13) My long term answer is that there can be no love if there is no justice. Man has been given every opportunity to know the truth. If he rejects the truth, then when all is said and done in history, there will be an accounting. Those who have forsaken God’s love will spend eternity without His love.

Early in the ministry of Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount Jesus set the standard of those who would be granted entry into the Kingdom of God. That Standard is complete divine righteousness. Not the righteousness of Adam before the fall in the Garden of Eden but the divine righteousness of a holy God. This was for man born with a sin nature a standard that could not be achieved. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Those who were listening to the teachings of Jesus and many a person today had a misunderstanding of the Law. The Pharisees who were considered the most righteous of all were the model that many of the people looked up to and tried to measure their own righteousness to. Jesus told them that the righteousness of the Pharisees was far below the mark of entrance into the Kingdom. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

For the Pharisees and those of their trade to live in near obedience to the Law of God was good enough. Theirs was an outward righteousness and they prided themselves to have gained the appearance of holiness before men. But as hard as that would be for us the whole purpose of the law is spiritual. It is not disciplining our outward actions but also our inward thoughts. Later in His ministry Jesus rebuked the Pharisees. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27) The point here is that it is not a question of our actions but a question of the heart which governs our actions. We cannot be righteous if our hearts remain darkened with sinful motives.

At this point people are saying there is no way that I can be perfectly positioned in divine righteousness to enter into the Kingdom of God. This is a perfectly true statement. Jesus summarized the Law of God by quoting Deuteronomy which narrows it down to a fine point. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

As simple as this sounds it is still beyond the reach of man to completely fulfill. Has anyone loved the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? Has any man loved his neighbor with the same degree in which he loves himself? This would require that everything we say, and think would have to be thought, said, and done for the love of God and our neighbor. Being honest with ourselves none of us has ever achieved this level of spiritually.

To live a perfectly righteous live is not in the realm of possibility for man with his sin nature to accomplish. There is no hope for any man to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. Sin is at the very core of our nature and effects everything we think, say, and do. Our whole life is tainted by the sin that is within us. No matter how hard we strive to be in perfect righteousness we will never meet the standard set before us by God. All of the righteousness that we do accomplish is as polluted garments. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

This is why Jesus, as tempted by Satan as He was, lived a perfectly divine righteous life in every thought, word, and deed. The mission of Jesus was more than to come and die on the cross for the salvation of mankind but was also to live a life in perfect righteousness. If He hadn’t His work on the cross would have been fruitless, as He would not have been the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Jesus lived His life here amongst men in perfect obedience to the will of the Father. Even to the cross Jesus went willingly without refusal to complete the will of His Father. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

If we trust that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross in our place that we could be forgiven our sin, if we accept that His blood was spilled out to cleanse us from all sin, and if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth the truth of Jesus, then we shall be saved from the wrath of God to come in judgment. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction.” (Romans 3:21-22)

By our faith in Jesus the righteousness of God is given to us, thus, fulfilling God’s standard for entry into the Kingdom of God. By our faith in Jesus the righteousness of God is imputed to our account and God can now see us as divinely righteous. This is the exchange that occurred on the cross that also our sin was imputed to Jesus. Therefore this allowed Jesus to pay the sin debt that we owed, which is death. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

As Jesus hung on the cross for you and me, He being sinless bore the sin that we are guilty of. He paid the wage that we owed for our sinful behavior. Our account was paid in full and forever. The righteousness that is His was transferred to us that we may be seen by God in the same righteousness as God. There is no other way that man can find salvation and receive eternal life. This is why the Apostle Paul could give us our true identity with these words. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 8, 2017

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