And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
Wayne Grudem defines the atonement as "the work Christ did in his life and death to earn salvation." Jesus life was significant to his death. Too often we focus on the cross forgetting that without Christ's perfect obedience to the Father we do not have a righteousness but our own. The bible clearly addresses our righteous deeds apart from Christ calling them "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Our best deeds are disgusting in the eyes of a holy God. This is why we must not skip over the life of Jesus and go straight to his death.
In the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) we see the life of Jesus and that his purpose in coming to earth was to obey the Father's will. As our example, we want to look at his life so we can, by the Holy Spirit, learn how to live like Christ. But the most significant aspect is seeing Christ's perfect obedience through his life. Grudem says, "Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us."
This is the exciting news: Not only are our sins taken away through his death but because of his perfect obedience in his life, his perfect righteousness is counted to sinners who repent and trust in Jesus. His perfect righteousness is counted to us as our own because we inherit the life of Christ when we put our faith in Christ. To deny the perfect righteousness of Christ is to live in the filthy righteousness of self.
Grace upon grace,