Are believers today righteous because Jesus kept the Law for us?
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
The Heresy of Vicarious Law-Keeping
At some point in our Christian walk, we will hear someone claim that we are declared righteous because Jesus perfectly kept the Law for us, and it is this law-keeping righteousness that has been imputed to us. On the surface it sounds reasonable and logical, but it’s false on multiple levels. First, Gentiles were never under the Law. Therefore, we never needed Jesus to keep it for us. It was given exclusively for the nation of Israel. Second, although Israel was under the Law of Moses while Jesus walked the earth, He was not under it or bound to it. He observed it so as not to offend His fellow Jews, but He was the fulfillment of it, having never been bound to it. In Him the perfect righteousness contained in the Law was lived out before the eyes of His fellow Jews. He was righteous, not because He kept the Law. He was righteous because He was fully God, who was by nature righteous.
The Law was only a tutor to lead Israel to Christ (Gal. 3:24). One of Its purposes was to show His fellow Jews that their God had something much better for them-salvation through faith in His Son, not through dead works. No one was ever justified by keeping the Law, not ever (Gal 3:11). Both Jews and Gentiles were and are justified (declared innocent) only through faith in Jesus (Rom.3:21-24). We look back to what Jesus did for us on the cross. Old Testament believers looked forward to what the coming Messiah would do for them.
AS I SEE IT
Let’s look deeper into the claim that Jesus kept the Law for us. The proponents of this teaching want us to believe that Jesus’ righteous Law-keeping while he walk the earth is reckoned to us for our “active” righteousness; while His death in which He put away our sins, is the “passive” side. This heresy leaves both us and Christ under the authority of the Law. This is Not what God’s Word teaches.
This belief springs from our refusal to believe that we are as wretched as the Bible says we are. We cling to the illusion that we are fixable. With enough determination and a little help from Jesus, we’re sure we can reach God’s righteous standards. We likewise refuse to believe that our old man, our old nature must be crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20). “Both Calvinists and Arminians think that the flesh is not so bad that it cannot be acted on for God by Christ using the Law of God and giving it power through the Spirit.”
Romans 7:1 says that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives. Combine our refusal to die with Christ (allowing Christ to live through us) and our natural bent toward legalism and we find ourselves in a self-imposed subjugation to a law that never had any jurisdiction over us. No wonder the Bible says we’re like dumb sheep. Until we are convinced that we needed to die with Christ, our old man being crucified with Him, and that we were buried, and that our history before God in Adam came to an utter end at Calvary, we will never break free from the claims of Law (legalism) upon our consciences.
The Law was neither given to Adam nor to the human race; but only to Israel (Deut. 4:5-8; 33:1-5; Ps. 147:19, 20). Again, the Law was never given to Jesus, the “Last Adam.” The Last Adam became a “life-giving spirit”: this is Christ, risen from the dead, at God’s right hand, communicating spiritual life. Is He under law? It is only the desperate legality of man’s heart, his self-confidence, that makes him drag in the Law, and cling to it even though Christ must fulfill it for him! This vicarious law-keeping was the heresy that prompted Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia.
The risen Christ is our righteousness. His earthly life under the Law is not our righteousness. We have no connection with a Christ on earth and under the Law. We are expressly told in Rom. 7:1-6, that even Jewish believers who have been under law were made dead to the Law by the Body of Christ, that they might be joined to Another, even to Him who was raised from the dead. “Christianity begins with the resurrection.”
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ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Why is it called “after dark” when it really is “after light”?
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