A Vicarious Life in Christ?
by David Neal
God’s original intent for His creation, man, was that he would freely and lovingly submit to and obey Him and offer God due worship, glory and honor. God stated at the very beginning that if man transgressed (violated) His will that he would surely die (Gen 2:16-17). Rather than obey God, man accepted (believed, bought into) the devil’s lie which proposed that man could violate God’s will and surely not die (Gen 3:3-4). Thus a separation occurred between God and man (Is 59:2, Rm 5:12 ). Man sought his own way! Rebellious (and often religious) man has since sought to justify his wickedness (his way) based upon this false premise (basis, argument, hypothesis) that he could sin (transgress) against God and live. They do that which they have seen of their Father (the devil); his deeds (John 8:38, 41, 44). God in His loving, merciful1, longsuffering, and forgiving nature, provided “His Way” to bring reconciliation between Himself and any man who would willingly (lovingly) submit to and obey Him – to come back under God’s authority. However, a great transgression had been committed by man and this had to be atoned for before any peace could be realized (Rm 5:11 ). Atonement is reconciliation after enmity whereby reparation is made by giving an equivalent for a wrong committed. Due to man’s fallen nature and resultant iniquity (sin), he could not possibly provide (Prov 20:9, Rm 3:23 ) the due reparation (amends, recompense). Man also could not in and of himself correct his condition. Therefore God in an overwhelming display of His true love for the world provided the atonement by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the only acceptable sacrifice (Jn 3:16, Is 53:6). Galatians 1:4, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Christ would restore2 that which was lost (Ps 69:4). Before Jesus could be an acceptable sacrifice, He had to do that which man (Adam) had failed to do. Man (Adam) had disregarded God’s will and disobeyed to seek his own will. Jesus would have to renounce (relinquish, give up, die to) His own will and fully perform God’s will. Man (Adam) disobeyed God; Jesus would have to absolutely obey the Father. To accomplish this, Jesus totally died to self as led by the Spirit. Christ absolutely did the Fathers will (Jn 6:38 , Heb 10:7) by speaking God’s Words3, performing God’s works4, forsaking the things of the world (Mt 4:8-9), and laying His life down for man’s transgressions. Jesus did this as a man while led by the Holy Spirit in submission and obedience to the Father – Jesus was in the likeness of Adam and had no advantage over us (Rm 5:14 , Heb 2:16 -18). By totally and lovingly submitting His will to the Father, Jesus kept the commandments (law) perfectly (with correct intent, Lk 24:44, Jn 1:17 ) and lived a sinless life (without transgression, Jn 8:46 , Heb 4:15 , 1 Pt 2:22 ) that was acceptable to the Father (Mk 1:11 ). Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” However, for any of this to be meaningful, man would now have to relinquish (surrender, lay down, abandon) his rebellion and also submit freely to God through Christ (God’s Way, Jn 10:25-26, 14:6, Acts 4:12, 1 Jn 5:11).
God (not man) set the terms of reconciliation. Man would acknowledge Christ’s Lordship and authority over himself and would live accordingly. Our faith would now bring us back to God through Christ (Jn 14:6, Heb 11:6). Jesus stated throughout His gospel an invitation to come and “follow” Him (Jn 12:26 ). Jesus was telling us to deny self (as He had done), to take up our cross (as He had done) and to follow5 (walk as He walked)6. In doing so we were to die to self (that which we rebelled against God to obtain, Rm 8:13 ) and to live for Him (come back under God’s authority)7. Christ was telling us to conform8 to His image! Jesus’ earthly walk was perfect and well pleasing to the Father – our example, walked by God Himself (1 Pt 2:21-24). Christ has given us His Spirit9 such that we will be able to follow Him in “The Way.” This is where our faith will take us. This is the narrow path (Mt 7:14 , Lk 13:24 )! The righteousness of the law is fulfilled as we walk after the Spirit (Rm 8:4-5). God gives us His grace (ability) to see us through the journey (Titus 2:12-14). Grace is the divine influence on the heart as reflected (realized) in one’s actions (or life) – through righteousness (Rm 5:21 ). Grace is where we stand – it works in us (God upholds, Rm 5:2, 15). This is a genuine daily walk (applying and doing) and not a religious observance or protocol. Jesus’ purpose in dying for us was to deliver us from our sins (Mt 1:21 , Jn 1:29 , Acts 3:26 , 1 Jn 3:5) – to destroy the works of the devil (his lie: ye shall not surely die, 1 Jn 3:8-9). Jesus brings deliverance such that we, through a walk of faith, can enter into that strait gate (Christ, Jn 10:9) and journey down the narrow path (led by the Spirit) that leads to God (Mt 7:13-14, Lk 13:24, Rm 8:14).
Herein lies the problem; not all want such deliverance (Jn 8:31-59). Consider those dreadful verses, just a few down from the great promise of John 3:16 (which nullify it for many): John 3:19-20, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” It was pointed out earlier that religious men (those seeking “their way”) often want to justify their darkness (rebellious transgressions against God), rather than be truly free through Christ (Jn 8:34-36, Acts 4:12 ). They may have a mental identification (words) with Christ‘s “just” Lordship, but no substantive (real, essence of something) evidence in their lives (heart) as demonstrated in their actions. Many in the religious world acknowledge the sin, but don’t see the need for deliverance – they’ve accepted it! However, forgiveness has no meaning (application) if one continues in the wrong. Forgiveness can only be offered when one acknowledges and forsakes the wrong (Prov 28:13). These who justify iniquity have bought into the lie: that you can transgress God and “ye shall surely not die” (Gen 3:3-4). Those that seek the flesh cannot please God (Rm 8:8). They see a profession of Christ as a means whereby God now overlooks or excuses continuance in sin (Jn 8:34 ). This is not continuing in the truth (Word) – its rejection of the truth! The love of sin must be dealt with.They will say that we live vicariously through Christ’s righteousness and we do not need our own righteousness. To be vicarious10 is to share-in or undergo another’s experience through “imagined participation.” Are we to “imagine” or “pretend” to conform to Christ’s image or are we to actually “do it” through His Spirit as we follow Jesus (James 1:22 )? Is following merely “observing” (as in viewing from afar, scrutinizing, watching, monitoring – without participation) and “abstract agreement” (in theory, but without action) or is it rather “walking therein?” This is a great point of diverging views or paths, with eternal consequences (Mt 7:13 -14). They claim Christ’s righteousness and do not desire any of their own (Rm 13:14 ). Again, the condemnation is that men love darkness (Jn 12:46 , 1 Jn 1:5-7) – they shun the light and walk away (opposite) from God. To embrace the light and God’s reign over you is to be walking toward God (to Him). To love one is to reject the other!
Their argument goes something like this: Since salvation is a gift of God and cannot be earned by man, then it cannot be sustained or maintained by anything that man does now or in the future. They deny God’s work in them (Php 2:13 ) and the Holy Spirit’s leading. They say we will sin against God everyday in thought, manner, and deed, and have thereby resigned themselves (and their followers) to a life of defeat. They even allude to (hint, strongly suggest) those who are seeking after righteousness (in a true sincere walk) as denying the free gift of salvation (re-defined faith) and trying to earn their salvation. They miss the point! Man doesn’t earn anything, he just willingly lovingly submits to God and is led. Those who are led do not set the agenda! Those who are led follow the pre-determined path; the path that Christ tread before them. God transforms us and performs His work in us through our obedience. The religious man’s (who likes to do the leading, lordship) presumption keeps man in his sinful rebellious state with no true repentance or forsaking of wrong – and no reconciliation. Please consider the absurdity: God would not overlook or excuse man’s transgression, and thereby sent His precious Son to provide the atonement (Is 54:8). Does it make any sense that Christ would come and die such that man would have a covering (license) to continue in the transgression (that which God hates)? – the very reason in which Jesus had to come! This would be circular confusion. Such reasoning works against God’s purposes to draw man unto Himself by keeping man in a state of rebellion. Scriptures say that God shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied (Is 53:11). Jesus justified many and bore their iniquities (Is 53:11). Can you possibly come to the conclusion that this was done such that you can continue to transgress? These men make Christ their minister of sin (Gal 2:17, 1 Cor 15:34). They turn God’s grace into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4) – tolerance of continued sin? They twist the gospel. They turn the true gospel into a “once saved always saved” message, meaning that once some profession of God is made (maybe a superficially repeated sinner’s prayer type) that God is obligated (hands tied) to that person eternally regardless of their future behavior (actions) or relationship (attitude) toward God. Sounds like something the devil would like – bingo! This says one cannot lose salvation due to any effort of their own (because it was a gift undeserved or merited). They suppose that God is caught up in His own Words/promises (which they misinterpret and misapply). We must call these religious men, who are not submitted to God, what they are – workers of iniquity (Lk 13:27 ). They labor for sin rather than righteousness; for darkness and not light (Rm 1:17 ). Their workings are subtle, but deceptive nonetheless. They have submitted to Satan’s lie: that you can transgress God’s will to seek your own and not die (and God is even obligated to you?). God’s kingdom is one of righteousness11. Knowingly (deliberately, purposely, intentionally) or not, they mislead. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Those who are not submitted to God refuse to have Christ reign over them and the end thereof is death (Lk 19:14, 27). They are submitted to the father of the lie, “ye shall not surely die.” To whom do you yield – to sin (death) or obedience (righteousness)? – that’s whose servant you are (Rm 6:16 ). Perhaps your soul is at risk? Where is your trust? – In Christ? Dear reader, submit to God in true sincerity of heart and obedience. Renounce your self will and live (daily) righteously for Christ (Php 3:12 ).
1 God’s mercy – Num 14:18, Ps 86:5, 15, 103:11-12, 112:1
2 Christ restores – Ps 23:3, 69:4, Rm 5:1, 10-11, 2 Cor 5:18-19, 20, Col 1:21
3Speaking the Father’s Words – Deut 18:18, Jn 3:34 , 7:16 -17, 8:28 , 38, 12:49 -50, 14:10 -11
4Performing the Father’s works – Lk 2:49, Jn 5:17 , 36, 9:4, 14:10 -11, 31, 17:4-5
5Taking up cross and following – Mt 10:38 , 16:24 , Mk 8:34 , 10:21 , Lk 9:23, 14:27
6Walk as He walked – Ps 119:3, 128:1, Hos 14:9, Col 2:6, 1 Jn 2:6, 2 Jn 1:6
7Live for self and die; die to self and live – Mt 10:39 , 16:25 , Mk 8:35 , Lk 9:24 , 17:33 , Jn 12:25 , Rm 8:13 , 2 Cor 5:15 , Gal 2:20 , Eph 4:24 , Col 3:2-3
8Conforming to Christ’s image – Lk 6:40, Rm 8:28-29, 2 Cor 3:18 , 4:10 -11, Gal 3:27 , Eph 4:13 , 15, Col 1:20 , 3:10 , Heb 13:21
9 Holy Spirit – Jn 7:38-39, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-8, 13-15, Acts 2:38, 5:32, Rm 8:1, 4, 1 Cor 2:10-16
10 Defined by Websters’ New World Dictionary, Third College Edition; and as lived (practiced) by a multitude of “professed believers.”
11 God’s kingdom (nature) is righteousness – Ps 5:12, 9:8, 11:7, 15:1-2, 18:23-24, 24:3-4, 32:11, 33:5, 34:15, 17, 21, 45:7, 83:13, 92:5, 13, 97:2, 6, 12, 106:3, 118:19, 119:142, 145:117, 146:8, Pv 8:20, 10:2, 11:5-8, 30, 11:4-5, 18-19, 23, 30, 12:3, 7, 28, 13:6, 9, 25, 12:28, 14:2, 15:9, 16:8, 18:10, Is 26:7, 45:23-24, 51:1, Dan 12:3, Hos 10:12, Zeph 2:3, Mal 3:18, Lk 1:74-75, 2 Cor 6:7, 7:1, Heb 1:8-9, 7:2, 1 Pt 2:24, 1 Jn 2:29, 3:7, 5:17-18, Rev 19:11