The Active Obedience of Jesus
Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but He had to live for our righteousness.
The Bible says that Jesus was sent to: “fulfill all righteousness.” That meant He was to obey every jot and tittle of the Torah Law. If His people are required to keep the Ten Commandments, He keeps the Ten Commandments. If His people are required to submit to a baptismal ritual, He submits to it on their behalf. Why? Because the redemption that Christ brings is not restricted to His death on the cross, it is also accomplished in the life He lived.
In the work of redemption, God didn’t send Jesus to earth on Good Friday and say, “Die for the sins of your people, and that will take care of it.” No. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but He had to live for our righteousness. If all Jesus did was die for your sins, that would remove all of your guilt, leaving you forgiven in the sight of God, but not righteous. You would be innocent but not righteous because you haven’t done everything to obey the Law of God, which is what righteousness requires.
So, we have a doctrine in theology that refers to the active obedience of Jesus, as distinguished from the passive obedience of Jesus. The passive obedience of Christ refers to His willingness to submit to the pain inflicted upon Him by the Father on the cross in the atonement. He passively receives the curse of God there. The active obedience refers to His whole life of obeying the Law of God, whereby He qualifies to be the Savior. He qualifies to be the Lamb without blemish. He qualifies for the anthem, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” through His complete righteousness. He fulfills the Law’s demands, and if you remember the covenant God made with Moses, everyone who fulfills the Law receives the blessing, and those who disobey the Law receive the curse.
What does Jesus do? He obeys the Law perfectly, and receives the blessing, not the curse. Thus, making possible a double imputation then that takes place at the cross, where my sin is transferred to His account, and his righteousness is credited to me - which righteousness He wouldn’t have if He didn’t live a life of perfect obedience. Christ’s life of perfect obedience is just as necessary for our salvation as His perfect atonement on the cross, making possible the transmission of my sin to Him and, His righteousness to me. ~ Dr. R.C. Sproul