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New City Catechism 25.3

Question 25: Does Christ’s death mean all our sins can be forgiven?

Answer: Yes, because Christ’s death on the cross fully paid the penalty for our sin, God graciously imputes Christ’s righteousness to us as if it were our own and will remember our sins no more.

In the previous installment I noted that there are two things that must happen for us to have eternal life: (1) we must have our sins forgiven, which removes God’s wrath from us; (2) we must have righteousness counted to us, which entitles us to the reward of eternal life with God. Having addressed forgiveness of sins, we turn now to the counting of righteousness.

It is not enough that we be merely forgiven of sins, for if we stood in a state of mere innocence before God, we would be back in the condition of Adam in the garden of Eden: neither having obeyed God nor having disobeyed him. Although Adam’s condition then was better than ours now, the fact remains that he still fell into sin in that condition. A state of mere innocence does not entitle us to the reward of eternal life. For that blessing, we must have a status of righteousness before God, a standing in which we are counted as though we had fully obeyed God in everything demanded of us. This gift is given to us in the gospel, when the very righteousness of Jesus Christ is counted, or imputed, to us (2 Cor. 5:21). Whenever the New Testament uses the language of being “in Christ,” it uses language that describes a covenantal relationship in which Christ, as our covenant head, represents us before God, and thus his righteousness counts as our own righteousness. This doctrine, known as the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, has long been central to the doctrine of justification, or how we are set right with God in his judgment. It is not by our righteousness, but by Christ’s. Therefore, we must trust in him alone for salvation, and not in ourselves.

Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Romans 5:12-21. How are Christ and Adam similar? How are they different? How do their actions affect us in similar and different ways? How should we respond to this passage?

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