Summary: this article was written and published July ’14: In this article I will attempt to explain the profound consequences of the false principle discussed in post #2. What this false system does is attempt to make out a legal righteousness for man in the first Adam under the law, thereby re-establishing the first man, redeeming the child of Adam. It is a legal righteousness because it comes by accomplishing the law. Those that teach this system have a righteousness given by God to the believer through Jesus having kept the law vicariously for us during His lifetime. They label this law keeping by the Lord as “the active obedience” of Christ, or “Christ’s righteousness”, or “the righteousness of Christ”, and is always distinguished by them from what they call “the passive obedience” of Christ suffering and dying on the cross. So when Paul declares “the righteousness of God” is revealed from faith to faith in the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17), and that the believer becomes the righteousness of God in Christ (II Cor. 5:21), they teach that this aspect of redemption results from Christ’s vicarious law keeping.
This is their phraseology and, I believe, a just description of the issue we will discuss here. I add that, in my limited knowledge of individuals and their doctrines, most if not all that teach the “active obedience” of Christ are covenant theologians. Is this “righteousness of Christ” as they define it, part of the official tenants of the covenant theology system? This I cannot answer positively, although I can see why this teaching would be important to their system.
My contention throughout this article is that this teaching is error. And I contend that the consequences of the teaching, where it takes you in its implications and conclusions, are nothing but dangerous. It is a false understanding of God’s righteousness and redemption, even as to whether the righteousness of God is still part of the believer’s redemption. It is a different gospel, a false gospel from what Paul actually preached (Gal. 1:6-12). The ending point of where this false teaching takes you is this – setting up and establishing man in Adam, reconciling the Adam man. Their system does all this, leading us down this certain path. The first Adam is patched up instead of what the believer’s redemption actually does – placing us entirely and absolutely in Jesus Christ, the last Adam. True biblical redemption treats our state and position in the first Adam as dead and gone. In Jesus Christ, the last Adam, we are entirely new, a new creation (II Cor. 5:17-18). Like the previous article, this article contains detailed explanations requiring thought and concentration on your part. If you have the time and commitment, read on…
The righteousness of God does not come to the first Adam. In redemption God does not justify man as we were born into that position in the first man. Man in Adam is man in the flesh – this is not repaired or reconciled, but rather God condemns that position to death. It has to die and end and cease to exist. So in Romans Paul says:
Rom. 8:3 (NKJV)
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.”
Sin in the flesh and man in the flesh were condemned to death by God. Jesus on the cross, as representing man in the flesh and made to be sin by God (II Cor. 5:21), was condemned and had to die. Again this all points to His death and shed blood. Also we read in Romans 6:6, “…knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with…” The old man is man in the flesh; it is man as naturally born in the first Adam.
This is more than our sins are all forgiven in that Jesus bore them away as our substitute when He hung on the tree. More than this, in our redemption God condemns our place and position in the first Adam. Therefore we were condemned by God and had to die. So the Scriptures constantly teach concerning our redemption that we died with Christ. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:3) Again the Holy Spirit says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ…”(Col.2:20) and “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism unto death…” (Rom. 6:2-4, Col. 2:12) and “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death…” (Rom. 6:5) and “Now if we died with Christ…” (Rom. 6:8) So Paul says:
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
“I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
The eternal life we possess is actually Christ living in the believer. “And this is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:11-12) But what is this life based on? Is it the life of Christ in the flesh fulfilling the law for us? Is it the life of Christ before the cross? Is it the life that Christ lived before His death? It is not! The Scriptures never teach such a thought. Instead the word clearly teaches that the believer’s redemption is solely based on His death, and then His life after death. We are united in His death, and then we are united in His life as raised from the dead. The life of Christ that is in the believer is His life in the power of resurrection. So then the Holy Spirit declares, “…who was delivered up for our offences, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) His death was for our sins; His resurrection proves we have been justified. Our having been justified from our sins, the guilt and condemnation removed, is directly connected to His death and resurrection. Eternal life, which is ours only if we have the Son, is connected to His life after His death – His life in resurrection. The testimony of Scripture is:
Rom. 6:5 (NKJV)
“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection”
Rom. 6:8 (NKJV)
“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him”
Rom. 7:4 (NKJV)
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead…
In the first passages above our association (being united together) is with His life in resurrection. The certainty of this is a consequence of our being first united in His death. This passage (Rom. 6:5) gives a sequence that needs to be noted and understood – first the death of Christ, then the resurrection. Our living with Christ is only consequent upon our dying with Him first. And it remains that the life referred to by Scripture, that life that the believer is said to possess, is His resurrected life after His death. There is no association made with His life in the flesh before the cross – not a redemptive association. This sequence – death and resurrection – is re-emphasized in the second and third passage above. The third passage is quite explicit – that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead.” For that matter, wherever redemption is spoken of in any detail in the New Testament, you will find this same sequence, this same pattern describing it. And it never begins with Jesus keeping the law during His life. For example:
Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Romans 4:24-25 (NKJV)
“…but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NKJV)
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
Philippians 3:10-11 (NKJV)
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
I say that the proper sequence is in each passage because resurrection is spoken of in each, and His death preceded His resurrection. But notice, it is never His life in the flesh before His death that is referred to or implied. Those that teach that the believer’s righteousness results from Jesus keeping the law for us vicariously, His life in obedience to God before His death as a substitute for us, are presenting a false teaching and a false understanding of redemption. Such teaching has no scriptural basis or backing.
I see the same truth, the same sequence, presented to us throughout the entire first chapter of Ephesians. When Paul speaks of the counsels of God concerning the individual believer (Eph. 1:3-14), or His counsels concerning the corporate body (Eph. 1:22-23), these plans are centered on Christ’s foundational work of redemption. Notice that it starts with Jesus dead in the grave, and then the demonstration of God’s exceeding great power to raise Him from the dead (Eph. 1:19-21). Of course God’s counsels do not end with His resurrection, but go on to exaltation in glory. The same is true with many aspects of our redemption in Christ – they are associated with Christ’s new position as a Man now in glory. But my point is to show you where the truths concerning redemption begin – redemption is by the blood of Christ, His death, then resurrection.
Hebrews 9:12-14 (NKJV)
“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”
Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV)
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
Redemption starts with the blood, therefore the death of Christ. Now we must expand our sequence – Christ’s death, the blood being shed, His life in the flesh ending; Christ’s resurrection and new life; Christ exalted into the heavens and entering into the glory of God.
All redemptive truths and privileges for the believer, or that for the corporate church, are associations with these three steps. For example, it is a glorified Christ that lives in us, and then is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). This hope of glory will begin to be fulfilled by the glorification of our bodies in the rapture of the church, which is the church’s blessed hope (the second book in my series, The Blessed Hope of the Church). Being glorified – conformed into the image of His Son – we now can enter into the glory of God and the presence of the Father, in the Father’s house (Rom. 8:29, 3:23, John 14:1-3). This image of the Son is Jesus Christ glorified. If we are to be conformed into the image of the Lord Jesus, it is obvious it must be by resurrection and glory – because He is risen and glorified. This is not a Christ in the flesh, come to Israel as their Messiah according to promises and prophecy. It shows us once again how far the believer/church is removed from any connection to Jewish things. All our connections and associations through redemption are with the Son of God as the Son of Man raised from among the dead and glorified to the right hand of God.
Even the existence of the church is dependent on the same – the church is the body of this glorified Man and owes its existence to the fact that its Head, to which the body is in union by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is sitting at the right hand of God in glory (Eph. 1:19-23, I Cor. 12:12-13). The church had to wait for the sending down of the Holy Spirit. That event had to wait until Christ went away (John 16:7). His going away was to the right hand of God in glory (John 7:39). Only then could the Holy Spirit be sent to gather in His body. The baptism of the Spirit unites the body to the Head in glory (I Cor. 12:12-13)
So then the Scriptures never point to the life of Christ in the flesh as the basis of our redemption or righteousness. Jesus did not fulfill the law as a substitute for us, and this specific work of His in obedience to God (His active obedience) is not redemptive. A sacrifice was what we needed – a life freely given on our behalf. Not His life in the flesh. This is of such importance to understand that Paul says:
II Cor. 5:16 (NKJV)
“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”
Read this verse again a few times. We are told to not regard other believers according to the flesh. We are told to regard Christ no longer according to the flesh. We once knew a Christ in the flesh, but no longer do we know Him as such. To what is Paul referring? When you read II Cor. 5:17-21 it is clear this refers to our redemption. Again, our associations are not with a Christ in the flesh, but with a Christ in glory. We know the work was done on our behalf – He was made to be sin on the cross, so that… Where this takes us – a Man sits at the right hand of God. The testimony of the Spirit in scripture concerning God’s counsels for the believer – His purposes which cannot be changed or stopped – are that a man in Christ has been already glorified by God (Rom. 8:28-30). We do not have the glory yet, we are not there yet, we are not conformed into His Son’s image as yet, but our Forerunner has entered into the presence and glory (Heb. 6:20).
John 17:4-5 (NKJV)
“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
The work given to Him to do is what glorified the Father, and is reason why the Father glorifies Him, and in reality, glorifies the believer in Him, for He appears there for us (Heb. 9:24). As we said above, we are not in the glory yet, but again according to God’s counsels, Jesus says, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them…” Notice: the counsels of God are always in the past tense. So then scripture says:
Colossians 1:26-27 (NKJV)
“…the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
But we stray too far from our topic, and need to return. It isn’t that Christ’s life in the flesh had no importance, or no relationship whatsoever with redemption – it does so in this: God required a sacrifice for sin and sins, and the sacrifice had to be sinless. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us…” and also, “…as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God…” and again, “He died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (II Cor. 5:21, Eph. 5:2, I Pet. 3:18) This was important. He had to be the spotless Lamb in order to be the necessary and efficacious sacrifice – one that would be offered only once, never to be repeated, yet eternal in its value. But this points to a proper sacrifice, and everyone knows that a sacrifice is a sacrifice because when it is offered up it is put to death and its blood is shed.
It is a mistake to teach that Christ kept the law for us. Keeping the law, regardless of who is doing the keeping or for whomever the keeping is for, is only ever human righteousness (Phil. 3:9). In Scripture, the act of keeping the law is never described as the righteousness of God. And whenever in Scripture the righteousness of God is discussed, it is never in reference to law keeping. Man was given the law, not God. The law was for man. The law was the perfect measure of what a man in Adam should be and do before a holy God. What was the law really? It was the perfect measure of human righteousness in the Adam man. It was the perfect standard of human responsibility – of human thinking and human behavior – as man had relationship with a holy God. Then how is doing the law represent God’s righteousness? It doesn’t! It only ever represents human righteousness.
Once we are redeemed and are believers, are we under obligation to do the law as a way of life? In scripture the Christian is never said to be under the law. Any person having any association with the law is to be cursed. Any association with it is condemnation and death, regardless of whether one is regenerate or unregenerate – it does not matter. The believer still contends with the flesh. You may say the believer is not under the law for justification, but as a rule of life. The law will say the believer is cursed, because he has not perfectly kept its rule. The believer, however, is delivered from the law and is dead to it (Rom. 7:4, Gal. 2:19). “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14) In Christ the believer is delivered from its curse because in Christ we are delivered from it – from the law itself, entirely (Rom. 7:6). Christ did not die to the law in order to place us back under it, not even as a rule of life. Christ is our rule of life (Gal. 2:20, II Cor. 4:10-11, 5:14-15), not the law. Besides, the whole book of Galatians is against this very thought:
Galatians 3:1-5 (NKJV)
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
Notice once again in the above passage that the principle of faith is in contrast with law-keeping (by the works of the law). How was the Spirit received? By the principle of faith. We may rightly say again that all aspects of redemption are a matter of God’s grace through faith – forgiveness of sins, justification, sanctification, deliverance, the righteousness of God, the seal of the Spirit. Nothing in redemption is by the works of the law. All Christians are dead to it.
Who did God give the law to? The answer is Israel. From the time of Mt. Sinai to the cross of Christ, did God ever take the law and give it to any Gentiles? No He didn’t. The Gentiles never were given the law. Actually, the law was the middle wall of partition that God built up around the Jews to keep them separated from the Gentiles (Eph. 2:14). After the cross, did God tell Christians to be under the law as a way of life? Never. The Spirit says concerning the believer, “…you are not under law but under grace.” Christ is our life. He is our way of life. He is our object of faith in order to live – “…and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Gal. 2:20, also see I John 5:11-12) The Christian’s rule for living is not the law, but rather it is Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” Again that sequence of events – death and resurrection – shows the believer the source of his life:
Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Christianity begins with the death and resurrection of Christ. Keeping the law as a means for attaining righteousness and life is Judaism. Unfortunately the Holy Spirit instructs us that there was never a law given which could give life, for then, truly, righteousness would have been by the law (Gal. 3:21). Here is another important verse to understand:
Galatians 2:21 (NKJV)
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Those that teach that the active obedience of Christ provides the believer with God’s righteousness, simply are not taking seriously this verse of Scripture. To teach this doctrine is to make the death of Christ null and void. I know they do it unknowingly, but this verse is so condemning of their doctrine. If God’s righteousness comes to us from Christ doing the law for us, then His death on the cross is useless. Such a teaching has these consequences. It makes His death unnecessary.
Why do they teach this? What is their reasoning? Ultimately, it is their efforts to maintain unity in their theological system. But they do so by forcing things. And whether they realize it or not, they are teaching the reconciling or saving of man in Adam, man in the flesh (Rom. 8:5-9, 7:5). They make out the righteousness of God for him through the law-keeping of Christ in the flesh. If by Christ’s life the unbeliever becomes the righteousness of God, he need go no further. Being made the righteousness of God, you need nothing else. If you are made the righteousness of God you are forgiven, justified, saved, and sealed – essentially redeemed by God, all inclusive. Since this, in their system, comes through Christ’s life in the flesh, and it accomplishes all, there is no need for His death on the cross. And in consequence, there is no need for the Adam man to die as well. Righteousness is given to him by Christ’s action before the cross – His life in the flesh accomplishing the law. Christ doesn’t need to die (in their system) because the Adam man is already righteous by what was accomplished before the cross. Their system makes the death and resurrection of Christ – the keystones of the Christian faith – null, void, and unnecessary.
The saving or redeeming of the Adam man is not Christianity. The idea of saving the Adam man is the founding principle of Judaism – “do this and live.” This is the principle of human responsibility. God tested and proved man in Adam in this principle, from the time of the garden to the cross. Man innocent, in the garden, could not obey God’s one command. He fell from his state of innocence and was now a sinner. God chased man out of His presence, out of the garden, and placed him on probation.
God would continue to test the Adam man concerning his new state – fallen, a sinner, and in the flesh. When testing responsibility God is looking for the fruit of obedience. In the garden Adam did not obey the will of God, but rather chose to do his own will through lust. And God continued to test and prove man while he was on probation, and He would do so in three major ways:
1) Man in Adam without the law. This phase was basically judged by the flood, only Noah’s family being saved. God’s testimony was that man’s evil filled the earth, and He regretted ever making man (Gen. 6:5-6).
2) Man in Adam with the law. This began at Mt. Sinai and with the nation of Israel. Israel were sinners and in the flesh, just like all the other nations; but they were God’s chosen people, and God privileged them above every other nation on the face of the earth. Israel was the test-case representing all mankind. God gave them ten commandments and looked for obedience.
Israel failed from their beginning, building a golden calf. They never were under a covenant of pure law, the tablets of stone were broken at the foot of the mountain, and God retreats into His own sovereignty, showing mercy and compassion to whom He will (Rom. 9:15, Ex. 33:19). Israel’s performance under the law, even now when it was mixed with mercy, was miserable. They experienced few bright spots in their history. Idolatry and corruption eventually filled the nation. Elijah testifies to the apostasy of the northern kingdom, Jerimiah to the southern. Although Judah was maintained by God longer than the northern kingdom, for David’s sake the Spirit tells us, still judgment comes with the destruction of Jerusalem and temple by the Babylonians. This essentially ends the law. Government is given to the Gentiles, and God’s presence leaves the earth. The ark and throne of God disappears, and a remnant of Judah is in captivity. The times of the Gentiles begin.
3) The final testing of man in Adam also involved Israel representing mankind. God brings back a remnant of Judah from Babylon. They rebuild the walls and temple in Jerusalem. Their resumed practice of the law was hollow, there no longer was God’s presence or throne behind the veil. Their return to the land was for the purpose of God’s last testing of them in responsibility – the sending of Messiah to them. When all responsibility in Israel was tested by God in many different ways – law, priesthood, royalty, worship, prophets, etc. – all failed. Last of all God sent His Son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” (please read Matt. 21:33-44) Israel rejected their Messiah and put Him to death.
This is when God took man in Adam off probation, and condemned him. This is when God condemned the world. It is when God judged Satan (John 12:31). The testing of responsibility was over. By this principle man could not be saved, and could not have a relationship with God. The testing proved man’s depravity, and man in the flesh, child of Adam, was condemned to death (please read Matt. 21:18-19, Rom. 8:3).
Obviously redemption starts with the cross and comes in through an entirely different principle than that of human responsibility. Christianity’s principle is the grace of God through faith – essentially the opposite principle from that of law. So we should be able to easily understand that law keeping is not the correct principle, regardless of who is doing the law, or how well they do it.
But we must go farther and ask this question: Does God redeem man in Adam, or does He condemn him to death? The true gospel of Christ, that which reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith (Rom. 1:16-17), shows man in the flesh condemned by God. The Adam man has to die. And when he dies he ceases to exist. Death ends all connections and relationships. If we die we end all our connection to Adam. And if we are raised from the dead, it is in connection and relationship with Christ, the last Adam. This is not a Christ in the flesh; neither is the believer in the flesh. If we are raised with Christ in resurrection, neither Christ nor the believer is any longer in the flesh. We are in the Spirit (Rom. 8:8-9).
In Christ, the last Adam, the believer is born of God. This is no longer born of Adam. In Christ we are new creations – old things have passed away, all things are new, and all things are of God (II Cor. 5:17-18). Jesus is the beginning of the new creation of God – this idea is confirmed as an intricate part of the counsels of God, “…that He might be the first born among many brethren.” Believers with Christ are the first fruits of this new creation, although He is the firstborn and has the pre-eminence (Rom. 8:29). Being born again is a new existence. It is not the remaking of the first man.
From this point on I will add some biblical thoughts that are, more or less, independent from the flow of the above teaching, yet are detrimental to the error that I oppose in this article.
· The law was only intended for man in Adam. God gave it to the Jews, and what they directly represented was man in Adam, fallen, sinners, and in the flesh. The law can only properly be applied to man in Adam. This is one of the truths implied by I Tim. 1:9. The law cannot be applied to a man in Christ, the last Adam. Therefore also Paul says to those who know the law, “…that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives.” Being under the law is only intended for the old man – that is why, as for the believer, the old man was put to death (Rom. 6:6).
· The law is Judaism and Judaism is the law. God gave the law to Israel, and so we may say, God gave Israel their religion to practice (certainly Israel’s leaders brought changes to its practice over time, but this has nothing to do with God and what He originally gave them). God designed Judaism as a religion of the flesh to be given to man in the flesh to do. You see this character in Judaism with all its fleshly ordinances (Heb. 9:10) and fleshly commandments (Heb. 7:16). Judaism is a walk by sight and senses, a following after signs, and this as opposed to Christianity as a walk of faith – the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen. Judaism is a religion of things seen and things outward in the flesh. It is God’s religion for the world and the Adam man. Judaism is so associated with the flesh that when Paul reviews his previous life and accomplishments at the highest levels of this religion, he describes them simply as “the confidences of the flesh” to be left behind and discarded as dung (Phil. 3:2-9). The law’s true purpose was to test man in Adam, man in the flesh, and this was accomplished by God testing Israel. The Jews miserably failed this testing as representing the entire world (Rom. 3:19) This testing and failure is the just understanding of this verse.
Judaism is the religion of the Jews. It is God’s religion given to man in the flesh. Men in the flesh are sinners. In the flesh there is no good thing (Rom. 7:18). Man in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:7-8). Man in the flesh is man in the first Adam. Judaism is God’s religion given to man in the first Adam. This is all that Judaism was – the teachings of the law designed for man in the flesh, man in the first Adam, and the religion given to Israel. Judaism is given by God to man as part of the world. It is God’s religion for the world, for man as part of the world. If you will closely read Galatians 4:1-5
you will see exactly this point – the law is the elements of the world, the weak and beggarly elements (Gal. 4:9), and only brings bondage. Christianity is for the new creation in the Second Adam. There is a world of difference between the first Adam and the Second Adam.
· The important difference between the law and the commands of Christ is that the law promises life if we fulfil its commands – “do this and live.” The commands of Christ, as with all His words and works, are the expression of the course of that life, His life, which we possess already in Him. If we abide in Christ, then He is our example and rule of living (I John 2:6). Our rule of life is not the law, but Christ.
· The blood is the witness of the accomplishment by Christ of the believer’s eternal redemption. He has entered into the Most Holy Place, not without blood! Nor with the blood of bulls and goats. He has entered with His own blood. He didn’t enter with tablets of stone. Christ’s blood is what made us the righteousness of God. It wasn’t tablets of stone that did this for us.
· Rom. 10:3-12 is a passage that sets up a contrast. It doesn’t join together a righteousness of law with that of faith, but shows that these are entirely different from each other. The passage does not accept the principle of righteousness by law and it does not ask to seek a means of meeting its requirements by another person, but brings in God’s righteousness on an entirely different principle – that of faith. We do not need man’s righteousness which is by the law, but we need God’s righteousness which is through faith. The passage is relatively easy to follow – Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. The two righteousnesses are then contrasted. Moses describes the one, saying, “The man that doeth these things shall live by them.” The law was man’s righteousness; it was God’s perfect rule for a creature, His perfect measure of the creature. It required man to give a righteousness to God; if he did, he would continue to live.
The righteousness of faith, on the other hand, brings a righteousness to man – this is a part of the contrast being made in the passage. A man does not need to ascend up to heaven to bring Christ down from above; He was sent by God from heaven already, and has come down, taking on human flesh, becoming a servant, even unto death (Phil. 2:6-8). No one has to go down into the deep to bring Christ up from the dead; He has risen, and God was the one who raised Him. A dead and risen Christ is set forth as the display of God’s righteousness, in direct contrast to human righteousness by law keeping. We have seen what the righteousness of faith does not say; so now let us see what it does say: “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach, That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” God’s righteousness is not by Christ keeping the law for us. It is connected to the fact that a holy God has judged man’s sin. God did this by the death of His Son. The resurrection of Christ is the vindication of God’s righteousness. This is what the passage is declaring.
· Sin reigned over man in Adam, and it brought death in. Therefore Christ was, in sovereign grace, made sin for me and died. He did this, not to build up the old man again, after death, when it was dead in sin, and then confer righteousness on it. Rather He does His work in order to put us in a whole new position in the heavenly man, who is my righteousness, to set me in the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:21).
· The law is the perfect measure of human righteousness. To speak of the law as the measure of God’s righteousness is simply absurd. God’s righteousness is the expression of the perfection in God’s relationships, if He is pleased to have any. The law is the highest human expression of a man loving God with all his heart, and loving his neighbor as himself. For a human being the law is a perfect rule, but for a divine Person (God) it is only a contradiction of terms. To speak of “God’s righteousness” coming to us by doing the law or someone doing the law for us shows a confusion of who God is and who man is, and the infinite gap that exists between the creature and the Creator, and how man, in his pride and arrogance, always seeks to diminish that infinite gap and steal the glory of God.
· Christ’s obedience to the law is imputed to us as meeting our failure under it? One of our first thoughts should be to ask, when did God ever put the Gentiles under the law? Scripture teaches that those of the works of the law are under a curse (Gal. 3). When did God give the law to the Gentiles or place the Gentiles under it as He did the Jews?
· Is the accomplishment of the promise on which all rests from Adam’s disobedience and fall, founded on fulfilling the law? Gal. 3 says no. The accomplishment of all promise is in the Man Christ Jesus, the one to whom the promises were confirmed (Gal. 3:16). The law was the testing of the first man. The promise is given to and by the second (last) Man.
· The false doctrine of a “legal righteousness” given to us because Christ fulfilled the law for us, this supplementary “righteousness of Christ”, instead of seeing the Christian wholly dead and only alive and righteous in Christ, is seen to keep the Christian still in sin, because death is not then the just wages of sin – it is made up for by the living acts of Christ fulfilling the law. However, the true doctrine is that Christ is my righteousness as only seen in His present risen glory and new life (Rom. 6:10) – “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”This verse speaks of Christ’s present life – His new life beyond death. It speaks of His new life in resurrection power and glory, and His present living unto God. The next few verses bring the believer into association with Christ’s new life by faith, by reckoning (Rom. 6:11-14). I am instructed to reckon myself to be dead and gone and finished, where then there is no such living person whose defects need to be made good. If I have died with Christ, then all my previous existence in Adam is ended. On the other hand, if I am a living person in the flesh (in Adam), I am denying and depriving myself of all privilege in Christ, the second Adam. You are either in one or the other – for any man these are the only two possible states of existence before God. For any true believer, by faith he is not alive in the world (Col. 2:20). By faith he is not alive to sin or under sin (Rom. 6:2). The same is true concerning the law (Rom. 7:1). The same is true concerning the old Adam man (Rom. 6:6).
· The righteousness of God must be of a divine character as well as from a divine source. It cannot be what man owes to God by doing the law – the character of that would be man’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is God’s justice – I believe they are the same word. God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), but revealed without any connection to the law (Rom. 3:21). The believer is justified (made righteous) freely by God’s grace – a grace that comes through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24). This redemption is by Christ’s blood, that is, by His death – this is what clearly demonstrates God’s righteousness, as the passage declares (Rom. 3:25). God’s righteousness is His justice. God was just in condemning His own Son to death. By the death and blood of Christ, God remains just, but also becomes the justifier of anyone who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26) – being justified freely by His grace.
· On the question of life and righteousness the two great principles are law and Christ. It is the old covenant (law) and the great foundation of the new (Christ). These are the two great principles of righteousness. On man’s part, under responsibility before God, and life sought by the law, where under its yoke God is only known as a Judge (Acts 15:10, Gal. 5:1-4). On God’s part He provides righteousness for man, and eternal life given, our sins put away, and God perfectly glorified – here God is known as a Justifier, according to the perfect glorifying of God accomplished By Christ.
· Eternal life was always the gift of God, and it was promised before the world began, but manifested in due time. Our saving and calling were given us in Christ before the foundations of the world. Christ has now appeared who “has abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light by the gospel.” (II Tim. 1:9-10) No man can give himself even natural life, let alone divine life – this is from and in Christ for man. The law did not give it; no law was given that could. No better law was possible to be given than the one that was given – it was the perfect measure of the Adam man. The law did say, “He that does these things shall live in them,” but spoke it to one who had a nature that wasn’t subject to the law of God (Rom. 8:7-8). The phrase in this passage, “…nor indeed can be”, fully declares the utter depravity of man in the flesh.
· Righteousness and life cannot really be separated. If we live before God, it must be as excepted and righteous in His sight. We see the connection between righteousness and life in this verse (Gal. 3:21), “For if there had been a law given that could had given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law saying, “the man that doeth these things shall live by them.”However, the righteousness of faith is not separated from life, as it is plainly for those under law. For the believer, Christ is both life and our righteousness. His death proved the righteousness of God – by His death the sins of Old Testament believers were forgiven (Rom. 3:25) – declaring His (God’s) righteousness. But eternal life was promised before the world was created (II Tim. 1:9-10, Titus 1:2). The question of righteousness was only raised by the entrance of sin into this world.
Adam in the garden was a creature created in innocence. There never was a question of his acceptance, nor that of righteousness. He was what God made him. To suggest that Adam needed anything is to question the workmanship of God. But things changed with his disobedience – the knowledge of good and evil affect and waken his conscience. From this point on the question is asked, “How can a man be just with God?”
Abraham was not justified by law or by works, but by faith without works – “for to him that works is the reward of debt, not of grace.” (Rom. 4) Those under the law were not justified by its works. Those teachers that teach the active obedience of Christ producing for us the righteousness of God are making this very mistake.
· “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ has died in vain.” This is such a condemning verse for the doctrine of the “active obedience of Christ.” If Jesus did the law as a substitute for me, then He has died on the cross in vain (His death was no longer necessary). Further, if the doctrine of the active obedience of Christ as a redemptive substitute is true, it allows me to continue to live in sin (Rom. 6:1) – I do not have to die with Christ, but I can continue to live in the Adam man under the dominion of sin. Why? Because it is, according to this erroneous doctrine, Christ’s life in the flesh that gives me or makes me the righteousness of God. This is all that is necessary. Nothing more is needed. Therefore you understand Paul’s reasoning above, by the Spirit – if you have all that is necessary by Christ’s life in the flesh, then His death is truly unnecessary. This teaching of “the active obedience of Christ” leads to the redemption of the Adam man, instead of his condemnation and death and end (where he ceases to exist). The true gospel and our true redemption before God results in our entire setting aside the old man, his whole condition and existence, by which we get our new place – the new creation in the last Adam.
· If Christ keeps the law for the old man, then the old man must stay alive – but this is not the gospel, nor is it our biblical redemption. God condemned the old man to death – I live by the last Adam only. The Adam man was crucified with Christ and died – nevertheless I live, not I, but Christ in me. But then, in this new man, this new life, I am not under the law, so there is no need for fulfilling it for me – because I am already accepted by God, and have life and righteousness in Christ. So then, there can be no “do this and live” principle, because I already have life. “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ has died in vain.” But if Christ has fulfilled the law for me, then righteousness does come by the law, and Christ has indeed died in vain.
In conclusion: As for the believer’s redemption, the Adam man has been put to death. We are entirely in the second Adam. We are in this new position as born of God (John 1:13). The old position we had was born of Adam. This new position in Christ is the new creation, where it is said all things are of God concerning it. We are the new creation of God. This is a position that did not exist for us before our faith in Jesus Christ. Now ‘in Christ’ old things have passed away, behold all things have become new (II Cor. 5:17).
Those that teach the “active obedience of Christ” producing the “righteousness of Christ” and equating this in meaning to the “righteousness of God” are actually teaching the saving of the Adam man. The true gospel condemns the Adam man to death. There is a big difference between these two understandings. The “active obedience” theory is a false redemption. It is a false gospel.