How Jesus Magnifies God’s Righteousness
“God set [Christ] forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. This was in order to exhibit his own righteousness.”—ROM. 3:25.
THE Biblical account about rebellion in the garden of Eden is well-known. All of us feel the effects of Adam’s sin as explained in these words: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) No matter how hard we try to do what is right, we make mistakes, for which we need God’s forgiveness. Even the apostle Paul lamented: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. Miserable man that I am!”—Rom. 7:19, 24.
2 Our sinful nature gives rise to these important questions: How was it possible for Jesus of Nazareth to be born free from inherited sin, and why was he baptized? How did Jesus’ life course magnify Jehovah’s righteousness? Most important, what did Christ’s death accomplish?
God’s Righteousness Challenged
3 Our first parents, Adam and Eve, foolishly rejected God’s sovereignty in favor of being ruled by “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” (Rev. 12:9) Consider how this happened. Satan questioned the righteousness of Jehovah God’s way of ruling. He did so by asking Eve: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Eve repeated God’s clear command that one specific tree was not to be touched, on pain of death. Satan then accused God of lying. “You positively will not die,” said the Devil. He went on to deceive Eve into believing that God was withholding something good and that by eating the fruit, she would become like God, having moral independence.—Gen. 3:1-5.
4 Basically, Satan implied that mankind would be happier following a path of independence from God. Instead of upholding the righteousness of God’s sovereignty, Adam listened to his wife and joined her in eating the forbidden fruit. Thus Adam forfeited his perfect standing with Jehovah and brought us under the cruel yoke of sin and death. At the same time, mankind came under the rival sovereignty of Satan, “the god of this world.”—2 Cor. 4:4, King James Version; Rom. 7:14.
5 True to his infallible word, Jehovah passed the sentence of death on Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:16-19) But that did not mean God’s purpose had failed. Far from it! When sentencing Adam and Eve, Jehovah gave their future descendants a bright ray of hope. He did so by announcing his purpose to raise up a “seed” whom Satan would bruise in the heel. That promised Seed, however, would recover from the heel wound and would “bruise [Satan] in the head.” (Gen. 3:15) The Bible elaborates on this theme by stating the following respecting Jesus Christ: “For this purpose the Son of God was made manifest, namely, to break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) But how did Jesus’ conduct and death magnify God’s righteousness?
The Meaning of Jesus’ Baptism
6 As a full-grown man, Jesus was to be the exact equivalent of the once perfect Adam. (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:45) This means that Jesus had to be born perfect. How was that possible? The angel Gabriel gave this clear explanation to Jesus’ mother, Mary: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35) Early in Jesus’ life, Mary apparently disclosed to Jesus certain facts about his birth. Thus, on one occasion when Mary and Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, found Jesus in God’s temple, the young child asked: “Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” (Luke 2:49) Evidently from an early age, Jesus knew that he was God’s Son. Magnifying God’s righteousness was therefore of great importance to him.
7 Jesus showed his keen interest in spiritual things by regularly attending meetings for worship. With his perfect mind, he must have absorbed everything he heard and read in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Luke 4:16) He also had another precious possession—a perfect human body that could be sacrificed in behalf of mankind. When he was baptized, Jesus was praying and may have been thinking about the prophetic words of Psalm 40:6-8.—Luke 3:21; read Hebrews 10:5-10.*
8 John the Baptizer initially wanted to prevent Jesus from getting baptized. Why? Because John was immersing Jews in symbol of their repentance over sin against the Law. As a close relative, John must have known that Jesus was righteous and therefore in no need of repentance. Jesus assured John that it was fitting for Him to be baptized. “In that way,” Jesus explained, “it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.”—Matt. 3:15.
9 As a perfect human, Jesus could have concluded that he, like Adam, had the potential for fathering a perfect race. However, Jesus never desired such a future because it was not Jehovah’s will for him. God had sent Jesus to the earth to fulfill the role of the promised Seed, or Messiah. This included Jesus’ sacrificing his perfect human life. (Read Isaiah 53:5, 6, 12.) Of course, Jesus’ baptism did not have the same meaning as ours does. It did not involve dedication to Jehovah, since Jesus was already part of God’s dedicated nation of Israel. Rather, Jesus’ baptism symbolized the presentation of himself to do God’s will as outlined in the Scriptures for the Messiah.
10 Jehovah’s will for Jesus involved preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom, making disciples, and preparing them for future disciple-making work. Jesus’ presentation of himself also included his willingness to endure persecution and a cruel death in support of Jehovah God’s righteous sovereignty. Because Jesus truly loved his heavenly Father, he was delighted to do God’s will and found it deeply satisfying to present his body as a sacrifice. (John 14:31) It also pleased him to know that the value of his perfect life could be offered to God as a ransom to buy us back from slavery to sin and death. Did God approve of Jesus’ presentation of himself to shoulder these great responsibilities? He did indeed!
11 All four Gospel writers testify to Jehovah God’s clear expression of approval as Jesus came up from the waters of the Jordan River. “I viewed the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven,” testified John the Baptizer, “and it remained upon [Jesus] . . . And I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34) Moreover, on that occasion Jehovah declared: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”—Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22.
Faithful Till Death
12 For the next three and a half years, Jesus poured himself out in teaching people about his Father and the righteousness of God’s sovereignty. Journeying the length and breadth of the Promised Land on foot tired him out, but nothing could stop him from bearing thorough witness to the truth. (John 4:6, 34; 18:37) Jesus taught others about God’s Kingdom. By miraculously healing the sick, feeding the hungry crowds, and even raising the dead, he demonstrated what the Kingdom would accomplish for mankind.—Matt. 11:4, 5.
13 Instead of personally taking the credit for his teachings and works of healing, Jesus set an outstanding example by humbly directing all praise to Jehovah. (John 5:19; 11:41-44) Jesus also made known the most important matters about which we should pray. Our prayers should include requests that God’s name, Jehovah, “be treated as holy” and that God’s righteous sovereignty replace Satan’s wicked rule so that His “will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10; ftn.) Jesus also urged us to act in harmony with such prayers by “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.”—Matt. 6:33.
14 As the time for his sacrificial death drew near, Jesus became increasingly aware of the weighty responsibility he bore. His Father’s purpose and reputation depended upon Jesus’ enduring an unjust trial and a cruel death. Five days before his death, Jesus prayed: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour.” After expressing these natural human feelings, Jesus unselfishly switched his focus to the matter of greater importance and prayed: “Father, glorify your name.” Jehovah immediately responded: “I both glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27, 28) Yes, Jesus was willing to go through the greatest test of integrity any human has ever had to face. But hearing those words of his heavenly Father undoubtedly gave Jesus strong confidence that he would succeed in magnifying and vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty. And succeed he did!
What Jesus’ Death Accomplished
15 As Jesus hung on the torture stake about to take his last agonizing breath, he said: “It has been accomplished!” (John 19:30) What great things Jesus was able to accomplish with God’s help during the three and a half years from his baptism until his death! When Jesus died, there was a violent earthquake, and the Roman army officer in charge of the execution was moved to say: “Certainly this was God’s Son.” (Matt. 27:54) The officer had apparently seen Jesus being mocked for claiming to be God’s Son. Despite everything that he suffered, Jesus maintained his integrity and proved Satan to be a monstrous liar. Regarding all who support God’s sovereignty, Satan had made this challenge: “A person will give up everything he has to save his life.” (Job 2:4, Complete Jewish Bible) By his faithfulness, Jesus showed that Adam and Eve could have proved faithful under their much easier test. Most important of all, Jesus’ life and death upheld and magnified the righteousness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. (Read Proverbs 27:11.) Has Jesus’ death accomplished anything more? Indeed it has!
16 Many servants of Jehovah lived before Jesus came to the earth. They enjoyed a righteous standing with God and were given the hope of a resurrection. (Isa. 25:8; Dan. 12:13) But on what legal basis could the holy God, Jehovah, bless sinful humans in such a wonderful way? The Bible explains: “God set [Jesus Christ] forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. This was in order to exhibit his own righteousness, because he was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past while God was exercising forbearance; so as to exhibit his own righteousness in this present season, that he might be righteous even when declaring righteous the man that has faith in Jesus.”—Rom. 3:25, 26.*
17 Jehovah rewarded Jesus with a resurrection to a position superior to the one he had before coming to the earth. Jesus now enjoys immortality as a glorious spirit creature. (Heb. 1:3) As High Priest and King, the Lord Jesus Christ continues to help his followers to magnify God’s righteousness. And how thankful we are that our heavenly Father, Jehovah, is the Rewarder of all who do this and loyally serve him in imitation of his Son!—Read Psalm 34:3; Hebrews 11:6.
18 Faithful humans all the way back to Abel enjoyed a close relationship with Jehovah because they exercised faith and had confidence in the promised Seed. Jehovah knew that his Son would be an integrity keeper and that his death would provide a perfect covering for “the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Jesus’ death also benefits people living today. (Rom. 3:26) So, what blessings can Christ’s ransom bring you? That will be the subject of the next study article.
The apostle Paul here quotes from Psalm 40:6-8 according to the Greek Septuagint translation, which includes the words “you prepared a body for me.” This phrase is not found in available manuscripts of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.
See “Questions From Readers” on pages 6 and 7.
How Would You Answer?
• How was God’s righteousness challenged?
• What did Jesus’ baptism symbolize?
• What did Jesus’ death accomplish?
1, 2. (a) What does the Bible teach us about mankind’s condition? (b) What questions will this article consider?
3. How did Satan deceive Eve?
4. How did mankind come under Satan’s rival sovereignty?
5. (a) How did Jehovah prove true to his word? (b) What hope did God give Adam and Eve’s descendants?
6. How do we know that Jesus did not inherit sin from Adam?
7. Jesus had what precious possessions?
8. Why did John the Baptizer try to prevent Jesus from getting baptized?
9. What did Jesus’ baptism symbolize?
10. What did the doing of God’s will as the Messiah include, and how did Jesus feel about this?
11. How did Jehovah show his acceptance of Jesus as the promised Messiah, or Christ?
12. What did Jesus do for three and a half years after his baptism?
13. What did Jesus teach regarding prayer?
14. Although Jesus was perfect, why did it require effort for him to fulfill his role in God’s purpose?
15. Just before he died, why did Jesus say: “It has been accomplished”?
16, 17. (a) Why was it possible for pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah to have a righteous standing with him? (b) How did Jehovah reward the faithfulness of his Son, and what does the Lord Jesus Christ continue to do?
18. What will be the focus of the next study article?
[Picture on page 9]
Do you know what was symbolized by Jesus’ baptism?