he New Testament is clear: Jesus was sinless. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus had to have a perfect record in regard to God’s law, so that in His sinlessness He could atone for our transgression of the law. His obedience becomes credited to us by faith, and His perfect record of lawkeeping becomes ours in God’s sight. This is the essence of justification by faith.
And though Christ’s sinlessness was a necessary
condition for Him to be our Savior, it wasn’t sufficient
. A sinless being alone wouldn’t be enough to solve our problem, even if this being died for us, as did Jesus.
Ellen White wrote: “The angels, as God’s intelligent messengers, were under the yoke of obligation; no personal sacrifice of theirs could atone for the guilt of fallen man. Christ alone was free from the claims of the law to undertake the redemption of the sinful race” (Testimonies for the Church
, vol. 4, pp. 120, 121).
The angels, though sinless, were still created beings, still under “the yoke of obligation.” They were answerable to the claims of the law. Unlike Christ, they didn’t stand equal to the law, or even above it, because unlike Christ, they are not divine, they are not God. Jesus, of course, is.
Hence, Christ alone, unlike sinless angels, or even another sinless human being, could “undertake the redemption of the sinful race.” As the great lawgiver, as the one who created the law, Jesus was free from its claims because He stood above the law. Only as God, only as one equal to God, could Christ meet the full demands of that law.
Think what it says about the sacredness of the law if, in fact, only the Lord Himself could meet its claims. A created, sinless being, no matter how exalted, no matter how holy, no matter how faithful to the law, could not suffice. If every angel in heaven offered to die for our sins, all of them together couldn’t atone for a single transgression. The law is so holy, so sacred, so exalted, that only the One who created the law, Jesus, could cover the sins of those who violated that law.
Again quoting Ellen White: “Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race” (Patriarchs and Prophets
, p. 63).
It’s simple: The law is as sacred as God; so only a being as sacred as God could make atonement for transgression of the law. Angels, though sinless, are not as sacred as their Creator, for how could anything created be as sacred as that which created it? No wonder, then, that again and again Scripture teaches that Christ is God Himself.
The sacrifice of Christ centers on the sacredness of God’s law. It was because of the law, or, more precisely, because of the transgression
of the law (because without the law there could be no transgression [see Rom. 7:7]), that Jesus—if we were to be saved—had to die for us.
In the garden Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Obviously it wasn’t possible to let the cup pass—not if humans were to be saved. How serious, how deadly, how disrupting, how evil and bad must sin be that only the self-sacrifice of God Himself could solve the problem?
And sin is so bad, so evil, because God’s law is so sacred, so good. The severity of sin is seen best in the infinite sacrifice needed to atone for it; that severity itself speaks to the very sacredness of the law. If the law is so holy that only the sacrifice of God Himself could answer its claims, we have all the proof we need of just how exalted the law is.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. This article was published December 15, 2011.