October 20: It’s About Substitution

Romans 3:21-26. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Take a minute and soak it in.

These verses are possibly the clearest and most succinct summation of our salvation that we have in scripture.

In Galatians Paul introduced this idea:

Galatians 2:16. yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

But here in Romans we get it in all of it’s glory. These verses are the foundation of “to live is Christ.”

  • All are unrighteous
  • The law can’t bring righteousness
  • Righteousness comes by grace through faith
  • Faith in Christ who is the righteous payment for our sins
  • The cross proves God to be righteous and the giver of righteousness to those who believe.

This doctrine should produce great humility and great hope within us. You simply cannot save yourself. It is literally impossible. “Self Help” is an oxymoron. If you are embracing “to live is Christ,” that is, union with Christ, from any other starting point other than your own sin battered desperation (ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God), then you will miss Christ completely.

If your understanding of Christianity and union with Christ is primarily one of morals you have missed it. If your understanding of your relationship to Christ is primarily one of imitation, you have missed it. If you see God primarily as a parent saying “clean your room,” you have missed it. Christianity is not merely a moral system. It is not behavior modification. It is not DO, DO, DO.

It is DONE.

The heart of Christianity is substitution. It is rescue. It is exchange. It is imputation. It is grace.

2 Corinthians 5:21. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

At the heart of “to live is Christ” is this substitution of Christ’s life for yours. This rescue mission of Christ toward his enemy. This alien grace that invades us from the outside in, and then changes us from the inside out.

How do you primarily see Christianity and union with Christ? Is it a moral system? Behavior modification? Or is it about an exchanged life? Substitution?

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