Scripture teaches two very important things about God. On the one hand, it teaches that God is perfectly holy and perfectly just. On the other hand, it teaches that God is a merciful god of love who delights in forgiveness. Ever since humanity fell into sin, we have been rightly under the wrath of God who must punish every sin. And while it seems like this could easily be the end of the story, God also delights to show mercy. This naturally leads to the question—how can a holy God show mercy to sinful people?
When Jesus lived on earth, he lived under the righteous requirements of God’s law. This law shows exactly what God requires of all people—absolute perfection. Jesus Himself understood the law in this way and taught as such. He said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). While no human being who came before Jesus and none who came after could ever fulfil the righteous requirements of God’s law, Jesus did. He obeyed God perfectly from the moment of his birth to the moment of his death. He never sinned, and his perfect, sinless life has two very important implications for sinful humanity.
First, Jesus’ perfect, sinless life made him an acceptable substitute. From the very earliest days of the sacrificial system, God was very clear that only unblemished animals were acceptable for sacrifice. In the same way, only a perfect, unblemished human being could serve as a substitute for sinful humanity. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore the full wrath of God for sin. Instead of punishing sinful humanity, God punished Jesus in their place. By so doing, the requirements of God’s perfect justice were met. Sin was fully punished and completely dealt with on the cross.
Second, Jesus’ perfect, sinless life forms the foundation of righteousness that becomes ours when we are united to Him. It is important to remember that Jesus’ work on behalf of His people doesn’t merely bring forgiveness—it brings righteousness as well. We aren’t merely forgiven and brought back to a neutral state—we are actually clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus such that, in the eyes of God, it is as though we ourselves obeyed every command of God perfectly our entire lives. Jesus’ perfect obedience is credited to anyone who turns away from their sin and trusts in Him alone for forgiveness.
On the cross, Jesus bore the full weight of God’s wrath for sin. In His resurrection, Jesus was vindicated and became the first in a new, restored humanity. And for those who have faith in Him and are united to Him by the Holy Spirit, His perfect righteousness is credited to their account. No wrath remains for those who are in Jesus, and only the assurance of full and complete acceptance from God remains. In the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
All the best,