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Home The Light Articles from 1999 The Righteousness of Jesus

The Righteousness of Jesus

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The Righteousness of Jesus

by Dwight Hendrickson

We cannot doubt that Jesus lived a righteous life while he was on the earth. The Bible says he was as "a lamb without blemish," 1 Pet. 1:19. Furthermore, the Bible declares that he was "made...to be sin for us, who knew no sin," 2 Cor. 5:21. Consequently, Jesus was righteous in the ultimate sense, because he never sinned— not once! He was a perfect man, and that is why he was a perfect sacrifice. Nevertheless, Jesus asked in Matt. 19:17, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God..." How could Jesus be righteous, and not be good? Is it possible that Jesus was bad in some way or in some sense? We would say that Jesus was good, because we would say that Jesus was God. He was the Son of God. Therefore, Jesus was telling them in Matt. 19 that he was God. Since Jesus was God, we must conclude that he was good. This is not just a play upon words. In an indirect way, Jesus was telling them that he is God, and that is why he can be called good.

Why was Jesus righteous? What was the basis for his righteousness? Jesus was not like us. We are righteous because we have been pardoned. God has forgiven our sins. But, in the case of Jesus, he was righteous because he was without sin. God did not need to pardon his sins, for he had no sins. To put it in the simplest terms, he was righteous because he was truly righteous.

In this undeniable fact, there are implications which will allow us to rightly divide the word of God. Let us consider these implications:

1. Sin is transgression of the law. Since Jesus was without sin, he never trans-gressed the law. But, we rightly ask: He never transgressed what law? It was the law of Moses. Gal. 4:4 tells us that Jesus was made under the law. He was made under the law of Moses.

We cannot pretend that Jesus was above the law. We cannot pretend that Jesus was beyond its regulations, and therefore, could ignore its precepts. Clearly, Jesus was under the law. Some might say that Jesus was above the law of Moses because he was led by the Spirit. As a result, they would say he was under the law of the Spirit instead of the law of Moses. But this assumes that Jesus was led by the Spirit in a manner which was contrary to the law. It ignores the fact that Jesus was led by the Spirit in harmony with the law, because he was under the law.

How long was Jesus under the law of Moses; and therefore, subject to the law of Moses? We find the answer in Romans the seventh chapter. Verse one says, "Know ye not, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law), how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?" Jesus was under the law just as long as he lived. He was under the dominion of the law until his death upon the cross. This fact coincides with the fact that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross (Eph. 2:15, Col. 2:14). It cannot be contested that the law of Moses ended with Jesus' death. This is where the subjugation of Jesus to the law of Moses ceased.

Therefore, the righteousness of Jesus is predicated upon his obedience to the law of Moses. Some would impeach the righteousness of Jesus by saying he lived in conflict with the law. They would make Jesus Christ a sinner under the law of Moses because they feel his authority placed him above the law. But his authority did not place him above the law. In fact, his special powers allowed him to fulfill the law to a letter and keep the law "to a T." "One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled," Jesus said. Therefore, Jesus did not teach against the law.

2. Since Jesus was righteous under the law, he overcame death. The first implica-tion stated that Jesus was righteous because he kept the law. He never sinned against the law. Our second implication is that Jesus was righteous, and, by this fact, he conquered death.

In 1 Cor. 15:55 we are asked, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" In verse 56 we are told, "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." Sin is the stronghold of death. From the very beginning, sin amounts to death. But Jesus conquered the stronghold of death. He never sinned. He never violated the law of Moses. If Jesus had violated the law of Moses, we submit that he could not have conquered death. This would undermine the entire system of salvation. "For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:16-17). If Jesus had failed to conquer death, we would still be in our sins. However, Jesus conquered death and obtained the victory because he kept the law of Moses.

In conclusion, there are three things we cannot deny. One, Jesus was righteous. Two, Jesus was righteous in that he kept the law. Three, he overcame death because he was righteous. If we deny these three things, we stand ready to undermine God's entire plan of salvation. Therefore, let us be very careful! —reprint from 11/75

 

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