But God proclaims to us from his own word that there is a righteousness from him that we receive by faith and not by works. This righteousness is not our own but is outside of us. This righteousness that we so desperately need is found in Christ alone. It is not here on earth but in heaven at God's right hand.
No wonder that Gresham Machen expressed his thoughts on it in this way, "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ; no hope without it." No wonder that Zinzendorf looked to the Jesus' blood and righteousness as his refuge on the last day in these words:
When from the dust of death I riseAnd Venantius Fortunatus could write:
To claim my mansion in the skies,
E'en then shall this be all my plea,
Jesus hath lived, hath died for me!
Man's work faileth, Christ availeth,This righteousness by which we are justified in God's sight, involving both his active and passive obedience, was articulated by A. A. Hodge as follows:
He is all our righteousness;
He, our Saviour, has for ever
Set us free from dire distress.
Through his merit we inherit
Life and peace and happiness.
Christ, although a man, was a divine person. As such he voluntarily "was made under the law," and all his earthly obedience to the law under human conditions was as vicarious as his sufferings. His "active" obedience embraces his entire life and death viewed as vicarious obedience. His "passive" obedience embraces his entire life, and especially his sacrificial death, viewed as vicarious suffering.A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, p. 405
Adam represented the race under the original gracious covenant of works. He fell, forfeiting the "eternal life" conditioned on obedience, and incurring the penalty of death conditioned upon disobedience.
Christ, the second Adam assumes the covenant in behalf of his elect just as Adam left it. He:
(a) discharges the penalty--"the soul that sinneth shall die,"
(b) earns the reward--"he that doth these things shall live by them."
His whole vicarious suffering obedience, or obedient suffering is one righteousness. As "passive" obedience it "satisfies" the penal demand of the law. As "active" obedience it merits for us eternal life from regeneration to glorification.
The imputation of this righteousness to us is our justification.