In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:7-10
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:18-19
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:8
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book. – Hebrews 10:7
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” – Matthew 3:13-15
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
And because of him (the Father) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Cornithians 1:30-31
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— Philippians 3:8-9
Whereas a prophet speaks for God to man, a priest mediates between man and God on behalf of man. Christ is our High Priest. During his life, there were two major strains of his priestly work. One was to fully obey the law of God and fulfill all righteousness on our behalf. The other strain was to bear the penalty of our sin and thereby provide forgiveness for our sins. We most often hear about his sin-bearing work which provides forgiveness.
Go back with me to the garden of Eden. God made a covenant with Adam and Eve (Hosea 6:7) in which, if they fully obeyed God, they would be allowed to partake of the tree of life and have eternal life in the garden. What a different story that would have been. This was a covenant of works, not grace. As we know, they didn’t do so well, and we all pay the price as the descendants of Adam.
Christ came to, among other things, fulfill that covenant of works by fully obeying the law of God being then righteous. Why is that so important to us? Well, first it allowed him to be the Lamb of God without spot or blemish to die effectively for us. Second, and at least as important, when we believe the gospel, his righteousness which he earned by perfect obedience is credited to us. As my Pastor often says, we get his resume instead of ours.
If all we got when receiving Christ were forgiveness, we would be in the same spot as Adam and Eve before they sinned; innocent but not positively righteous. Because Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life on our behalf and that sinless life is credited to us when we believe the gospel, we are counted as righteous by faith. I will trade my resume for the resume of Christ any day, and I have. No amount of obedience on my part will ever equal the perfect obedience of Christ. No amount of paying tithes, attending church meetings, following my church’s rules about how to live, what food and drink to avoid, doing my devotional reading and prayers or any other religious activity will ever add to the righteousness that Christ has already given me; his righteousness earned by his perfect obedience to God’s law.
Does that mean I can live like hell because I have Christ’s righteousness credited to me and I cannot improve on it? As Paul says, “God forbid!” We cannot earn a righteous standing before God, but we are called to grow in the grace and knowledge of God. We are in the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus. Put another way; we are declared righteous by faith; now we are growing up and learning to live like what we have been declared to be, positively righteous.
My point is for us to recognize the glorious work Jesus Christ has already done on our behalf, he lived a perfectly obedient righteous life on our behalf. Not only was his death substitutionary on our behalf, but his entire life was also substitutionary on our behalf. That is grace. He did it for you. Rejoice in his unspeakable gift.