A gracEmail subscriber writes: “The substitutionary atonement seems very clear biblically, i.e., that Jesus paid the penalty (that we were required to pay) through his death. I understand the transfer of our sin to him. From my perspective, that seems sufficient for God to call us just. Why does there need to be a transfer the other way of Jesus’ righteousness?”
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Our primary and original obligation to the Father is a lifetime of faithful loving obedience. That is what sin prevents. The penalty for sin is secondary to the real issue. Even if we are forgiven, we still have not (and in our fallen state, cannot) give God what he wants in the first place. To remedy this situation and to reconcile us to himself on an eternally solid and satisfactory basis, the Son of God became man as Jesus of Nazareth, to live and to die as our representative — presenting his life-record to God for judgment in our name.
As our representive, Jesus lived a perfectly-faithful life of loving obedience in total fellowship with the Father. He then presented that life (in his body, on the cross) to the Father in the place of our faulty lives. In the process, he shed his blood, as our representative atoning for our sin. God judged Jesus’ “doing” and “dying,” found it perfect, raised him from the dead (again as our representative), exalted him to his right side in heaven where he remains “the man Christ Jesus” — now glorified man — “OUR MAN IN HEAVEN.”
Without the positive life-record of Jesus to undergird our relationship to the Father, we would constantly be needing new forgiveness for new sins, like a person with a chronic fatal illness running several times each day to the Emergency Room for lifesaving treatment that will have to be repeated again and again. But because of the perfect doing and dying of Jesus, we stand secure before God, accepted in Jesus Christ from first to last. For scriptural developments of the above, please see One Life, Death & Judgment and The Grace of God, both on my website at www.edwardfudge.com/written.