The Righteousness of Christ

“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Hebrews 2:17, 18

The above scripture makes it very plain that Jesus suffered temptations during His life on earth. We are given a hint of just how severe those temptations were in the following passage:

“Christ alone had experience in all the sorrows and temptations that befall human beings. Never another of woman born was so fiercely beset by temptation; never another bore so heavy a burden of the world’s sin and pain. Never was there another whose sympathies were so broad or so tender. A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with, every burdened and tempted and struggling one.” Education, 78

In Hebrews 4, Paul reaffirms the fact of Christ’s temptations: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Verse 15

The fact that He was tempted, yet without sin, tells us two things: (1) although He was tempted, by exercising self-denial, He did not yield to those temptations; and (2) being tempted is not a sin.

“When man was lost, the Son of God said, I will redeem him, I will become his surety and substitute. He laid aside His royal robes, clothed His divinity with humanity, stepped down from the royal throne, that He might reach the very depth of human woe and temptation, lift up our fallen natures, and make it possible for us to be overcomers—the sons of God, the heirs of the eternal kingdom. Shall we then allow any consideration of earth to turn us away from the path of truth? Shall we not challenge every doctrine and theory, and put it to the test of God’s word?” The Review and Herald, July 17, 1888

Note the final sentence in that passage: “Shall we not challenge every doctrine and theory, and put it to the test of God’s word?”

Anytime we believe that error is being preached, we have a responsibility to the speaker, to those who heard, and to ourselves to “put it to the test of God’s word” and bring the results of our study forward. Satan’s efforts to promote error are only going to become more and more subtle as time passes. Every soul must be on guard against the spreading of falsehoods. Our prayer should be for the Holy Spirit to give us discernment to recognize error, even in its most subtle form, and when we determine that error has been presented, we must act to correct it.

There are several important points to consider in the previous passage from The Review and Herald:

Although Christ “laid aside His royal robes,” He did not give up His divinity.

Although He maintained His divinity, He clothed it with humanity.

He did, however, step down from the royal throne.

Although all of this is part of the mystery of godliness, we have been given some degree of insight into what this passage means:

“Christ pleased not Himself, but took upon Him the form of a servant. He left the royal courts [stepped down from the royal throne], and clothed His divinity with humanity, that by His own example He might teach us how we may be exalted to the position of sons and daughters in the royal family, children of the heavenly King. But what are the conditions upon which we may obtain this great blessing?” Thankfully, Inspiration not only asks that question, but answers it as well—and answers it by quoting scripture. “ ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters’ [2 Corinthians 6:17, 18].” Christian Education, 179

We can only “come out from among them and be separate” if we are willing to deny self and to practice the humility and self-sacrifice that Christ so selflessly exemplified in His own life.

“In His lessons of instruction to His disciples, Jesus taught them that His kingdom is not a worldly kingdom, where all are striving for the highest position; but He gave them lessons in humility and self-sacrifice for the good of others. His humility did not consist in a low estimate of His own character and qualifications, but in adapting Himself to fallen humanity, in order to raise them up with Him to a higher life. Yet how few see anything attractive in the humility of Christ! Worldlings are constantly striving to exalt themselves one above another; but Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself in order to uplift man.” Ibid.

In the following texts, we find one indisputable example of Christ’s self-sacrifice:

“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.’ ” Matthew 27:39–42

To blaspheme someone means to curse or swear or issue oaths at and against them. So, here is the King of the universe, blood running from His head, His back pressed against the rough-cut lumber of the cross, His pierced hands and feet, witnessing those He came to save, curse and swear at Him, demanding that He save Himself, the one thing He could not do if they were to be saved.

This incredible scene is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels. Commenting on the record in Mark, Inspiration writes the following:

“ ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save’ (Mark 15:31). It is because Christ would not save Himself that the sinner has any hope of pardon or favor with God. If, in His undertaking to save the sinner Christ had failed or become discouraged, the last hope of every son and daughter of Adam would have been at an end. The entire life of Christ was one of self-denial and self-sacrifice; and the reason that there are so few stalwart Christians is because of their self-indulgence and self-pleasing in the place of self-denial and self-sacrifice.” This Day With God, 236

Now let’s consider the contrast between what Christ did when He clothed His divinity with humanity and what He promised to do for us.

“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” Zechariah 3:3–5

The Angel does not merely cover our filthy garments—our character flaws—He removes them.

Job recognized the significance of this act and, while doing so, acknowledged his own role in achieving sanctification. In his defense of the accusations thrown at him by his three “miserable counselors,” he said, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.” Job 29:14

Inspiration also acknowledges the role we must play in Selected Messages, Book 1, 52:

“If those whose errors are pointed out make confession of their wrongdoing, the spell of the enemy may be broken. If they will repent and forsake their sins, God is faithful and just to forgive their sins, and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness. Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer, will remove the filthy garments from them, give them change of raiment, and set a fair miter upon their head. But so long as they refuse to turn from iniquity they cannot develop a character that will stand in the great day of judgment.”

There are three requirements necessary to be eligible for that change of raiment:

  1. Confession of sin
  2. Repentance of sin
  3. Forsaking of sin

Developing the character that will stand in the great day of judgment is explained to some degree—and a bit subtly—in Revelation 19:8: “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” These righteous acts are what are necessary as we strive to develop a character that will stand in the great day of judgment. And notably, these righteous acts can only be accomplished through faith in our Redeemer. Faith in His merits is the only thing that can add righteousness to our acts.

In Isaiah 61:10, 11, we are given a wonderful promise regarding this incredible change of character that the Lord will bring about as we cooperate with Him in developing righteousness:

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”

Let us claim the promises in God’s word and cooperate with Him as we practice the self-denial exemplified in the life of Christ.

[Emphasis supplied.]

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: