As we speak the gospel to others we often tend to focus, sometimes solely, on the death of Christ, in the place of those who believe, to pay the penalty for the breaking of God’s holy Law (Rom. 5:18-21). It is a wonderfully glorious truth that Christ died, as a substitutionary atoning sacrifice, absolving our guilt of sin and absorbing the just wrath of God (Isa. 53:4-6, 10; Col. 2:13-15)! However, we often fail to rest in the fact that Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law of God (Matt. 5:17; Gal. 4:4-7) that he may be our substitutionary righteousness as well.
Zach Ursinus, a 16th century theologian, professor, and key author of the Heidelberg Catechism, noted the following about the relationship between the Law, the gospel, and our righteousness in Christ in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism:
“The law promises life to those who are righteous in themselves, or on the condition of righteousness, and perfect obedience. “He that doeth them, shall live in them.” “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Lev. 18:5; Matt. 19:17) The gospel, on the other hand, promises life to those who are justified by faith in Christ, or on the condition of the righteousness of Christ, applied unto us by faith. The law and gospel are, however, not opposed to each other in these respects: for although the law requires us to keep the commandments if we would enter into life, yet it does not exclude us from life if another perform these things for us” (pp. 104-105, emphasis mine).
The righteousness that we have in Christ with God is not based on our performance for him, but rather on Christ’s radical performance and perfect fulfillment of the Law for us. The gospel frees us from the weight of trying to gain favor or keep favor with God through our obedience by pointing us to Christ who has done for us all that God the Father requires. Therefore, God no longer condemns us because of our sin, but by his Spirit he graciously convicts us, freely and fully forgives in Christ, and continues the good work of sanctification that he began in us when he saved us (Phil. 1:6). Thus, we are freed to joyfully and vigorously pursue holiness in the environment of the gospel (Gal. 5:1).
As you live before God today, thank him for sending his Son, and rest in all of Christ’s work for you. Not simply limited to Christ’s life and death, the amazing grace of the gospel is that Christ came, lived, died, rose, ascended, intercedes, and will return to save to the uttermost those who, by faith, receive his work on their behalf.