Study 9: The Victory of Jesus
The Victory of Jesus | The Blood of Jesus | Offering For Us and Himself | Jesus as Our Representative | Jesus and the Law of Moses | The Sabbath Digressions (The Crucifix, Was Jesus Born on Dec. 25th?) | Questions
9.1 The Victory of Jesus
The previous Study has demonstrated how Jesus had our human nature and was tempted to sin just like us. The difference between him and us is that he completely overcame sin ; whilst having a sinful nature, he always exhibited a perfect character. The wonder of this should endlessly inspire us as we increasingly appreciate it. There is repeated New Testament emphasis upon Christ's perfect character:-
The Gospel records demonstrate how his fellow men recognized the perfection oozing from his character, shown in his words and actions. Pilate's wife recognized that he was a "just man" (Matt. 27:19), undeserving of punishment; the Roman soldier who watched Christ's demeanour whilst hanging on the cross had to comment, "Certainly this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47). Earlier in his life, Jesus challenged the Jews with the question: "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46). To this there was no reply.
Due to his perfect character, Jesus was the manifestation of God in flesh (1Tim. 3:16); He acted and spoke as God would have done had He been a man. He was therefore the perfect reflection of God - "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). Because of this, there is no need for mortal men to physically see God. As Jesus explained, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us (physically) the Father?" (John 14:9).
Living in a sinful world, and plagued with sin in our very nature, it is hard for us to appreciate the totality and immensity of Christ's spiritual supremacy; that a man of our nature should fully reveal the righteousness of God in his character. Believing this requires a more real faith than just accepting the theological idea that Christ was God Himself; it is understandable that the false doctrines of the trinity and the 'Divinity of Christ' are so popular, seeing they are easy to accept.
Because he had our nature, Christ had to die. He was a descendant of Adam through Mary, and all of Adam's children have to die (1 Cor. 15:22). All Adam's descendants had to die because of his sin, regardless of their personal righteousness: "Death reigned...through the offence of one (Adam) many be dead...the judgment was (on account of) one (Adam) to condemnation (to death)...by one man's disobedience many were made sinners", and therefore had to die (Rom. 5:14-19 cp. 6:23). As a descendant of Adam, Christ was 'made' a 'sinner' and therefore had to die, as all Adam's descendants were classified as sinners worthy of death due to his sin. God did not change this principle, He let it affect Christ too. God "made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21).
Apart from Jesus, all of Adam's descendants deserve this punishment, for we have all sinned personally. Jesus had to die because he was of our nature, sharing in the curse which came upon Adam's descendants. Yet, because he personally had done nothing worthy of death "God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:24 N.I.V.). Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). Thus it was due to Christ's perfect character, his "spirit of holiness", that he was gloriously resurrected.
Christ did not die on the cross only because he was of human nature. He willingly gave his perfect life as a gift to us; he showed his love for us by dying "for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3), knowing that through his death he would gain us eventual salvation from sin and death (Eph. 5:2,25; Rev. 1:5; Gal. 2:20). Because Jesus was perfect in character he was able to overcome the result of sin by being the first person to rise from the dead and be given immortal life. All those who identify themselves with Christ through baptism and a Christ-like way of life therefore have hope of a similar resurrection and reward.
In this lies the glorious significance of Christ's resurrection. It is the "assurance" that we will be resurrected and judged (Acts 17:31), and if we have been truly like him, share his reward of immortal life, "knowing (confidently) that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Cor. 6:14; Rom. 6:3-5). As sinners, we deserve eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Yet, on account of Christ's perfect life, obedient death and his resurrection, God is able to offer us the gift of eternal life, completely in accord with all His principles.
To displace the effects of our sins, God "imputeth righteousness" (Rom. 4:6) to us through our faith in His promises of salvation. We know that sin brings death, therefore if we truly believe that God will save us from it, we must believe that He will count us as if we are righteous, although we are not. Christ was perfect; by being truly in Christ, God can count us as if we are perfect, although personally we are not. God made Christ "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21), i.e. being in Christ through baptism and a Christ-like life. Thus for those "in Christ Jesus", he is "made unto us...righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30,31); the following verse therefore encourages us to praise Christ for the great things he has achieved: "In the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith" (Rom. 1:17, N.I.V.). Understanding these things is therefore a necessary part of knowing the true Gospel.
All this was made possible through Christ's resurrection. He was the "firstfruits" of a whole harvest of human beings who will be made immortal through his achievement (1 Cor. 15:20), "the firstborn" of a new spiritual family who will be given God's nature (Col. 1:18 cp. Eph. 3:15). Christ's resurrection therefore made it possible for God to count believers in Christ as if they are righteous, seeing that they are covered by his righteousness. Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25), a word meaning 'to be righteous'.
It takes a conscious, meditated faith in these things to really be convinced that we can be counted by God as if we are perfect. Christ can present us at the judgment seat "faultless before the presence of his glory", "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Jude v. 24; Col. 1:22 cp. Eph. 5:27). Given our sinful nature and constant spiritual failures, it takes a firm faith to really believe this. Just putting our hand up at a 'crusade' or making an academic assent to a set of doctrines is not related to this kind of faith. It is a proper understanding of Christ's resurrection which should motivate our faith: "God... raised him up from the dead...that your faith and hope (of a similar resurrection) might be in God" (1 Pet. 1:21).
It is only by proper baptism into Christ that we can be "in Christ" and therefore be covered by his righteousness. By baptism we associate ourselves with his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5), which are the means of our deliverance from our sins, through being 'justified', or counted righteous (Rom. 4:25).
The marvellous things which we have considered in this section are quite out of our grasp unless we have been baptized. At baptism we associate ourselves with the blood of Christ shed on the cross; believers wash "their robes and (make) them white in the blood of the lamb" (Rev. 7:14). Figuratively, they are then clothed in white robes, representing the righteousness of Christ which has been counted ('imputed') to them (Rev. 19:8). It is possible to make these white clothes dirty as a result of our sin (Jude v. 23); when we do this after baptism, we must again use the blood of Christ to wash them clean through asking God for forgiveness through Christ.
It follows that after baptism we still need to strive to remain in the blessed position which we then entered. There is a need for regular, daily self-examination for a few minutes each day, with constant prayer and seeking of forgiveness. By doing this we will always be humbly confident that, due to our covering with Christ's righteousness, we really will be in the Kingdom of God. We must seek to be found abiding in Christ at the day of our death or at Christ's return, "not having (our) own righteousness...but that which is through the faith (in) Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9).
The repeated emphasis on faith resulting in imputed righteousness, shows that in no way can we earn salvation by our works; salvation is by grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works" (Eph. 2:8,9). As justification and righteousness are 'gifts' (Rom. 5:17), so, too, is salvation. Our motivation in doing any works of Christian service should therefore be that of gratitude for what God has done for us - counting us as righteous through Christ, and thereby giving us the way to salvation. It is fatal to reason that if we do works we will then be saved. We will simply not succeed in gaining salvation if we think like this; it is a gift which we cannot earn, only lovingly respond to in deep gratitude, which will be reflected in our works. Real faith produces works as an inevitable by-product (James 2:17).