“Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
“For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“. . . not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9)
Justification is not merely the cancellation of my unrighteous- ness. It is also the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to me. I do not have a righteousness that commends me to God. My claim before God is this: “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9).
This is Christ’s righteousness. It is imputed to me. That means Christ fulfilled all righteousness perfectly; and then that righteousness was reckoned to be mine, when I trusted in him. I was counted righteous. God looked on Christ’s perfect righteousness, and he declared me to be righteous with the righteousness of Christ.
So there are two reasons why it is not abominable for God to justify the ungodly (Romans 4:5). First, the death of Christ paid the debt of our unrighteousness (see the previous chapter). Second, the obedience of Christ provided the righteousness we needed to be justified in God’s court. The demands of God for entrance into eternal life are not merely that our unrighteousness be canceled, but that our perfect righteousness be established.
The suffering and death of Christ is the basis of both. His suf- fering is the suffering that our unrighteousness deserved. “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). But his suffering and death were also the climax and completion of the obedience that became the basis of our justifica- tion. He was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). His death was the pinnacle of his obedi- ence. This is what the Bible refers to when it says, “By the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Therefore, Christ’s death became the basis of our pardon and our perfection. “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). What does it mean that God made the sin- less Christ to be sin? It means our sin was imputed to him, and thus he became our pardon. And what does it mean that we (who are sinners) become the righteousness of God in Christ? It means, similarly, that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and thus he became our perfection.
May Christ be honored for his whole achievement in suffering and dying! Both the work of pardoning our sin, and the work of providing our righteousness. Let us admire him and treasure him and trust him for this great achievement.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.”