Going back to a previous question from Caleb: I’m at the house right now, not where my materials are, but MacD did not believe that Adam’s sin simply set a bad example and that Christ’s righteousness simply set a good example offering a path to salvation by works. Even in the sermon where he was (quite correctly) explaining that the Greek term behind what we translate (sometimes) as “imputation” means correct accounting (not false accounting) of a person’s righteousness, he stressed that Abraham’s righteousness would never have satisfied St. Paul, nor did he think it would have even satisfied Abraham.
MacD does strongly stress obeying Jesus Christ, and that nothing less than fully obeying Jesus Christ can be full righteousness for a creature. He does not mean by this that someone can earn their own salvation by obeying Jesus Christ (no more than any Calvinist has ever claimed), nor does he mean that some people manage to stay free from sin by obeying Jesus Christ through an act of will and proper knowledge. (He may allow that for unfallen angels, but not for humans; and even for unfallen angels he does NOT mean that they convince God to regard them as righteous by their obedience as though they are appealing to a standard greater than God which God is obligated to acknowledge and properly judge them on.)
MacD also observes that Christ can and does count obedience to Himself in ways which religious legalists, trying to find salvation in right belief, would never imagine, thus that Christ can regard as faithful servants people who do not recognize yet that they have been serving Christ. But MacD does not mean by this that those people have earned their salvation from sin (or even merely from punishment) by doing good works which convince Christ that they are ‘good enough’; nor does he mean such people don’t have to ‘be more righteous’ than they currently are. The loving father is pleased to see even stumbling steps in his child, but cannot be satisfied with less than a fully healthy walk and run; consequently the loving and perfect Father constantly acts toward bringing about that result in the child, and acts toward bringing about the full and willing cooperation from the child: the child does not convince the Father to act in this regard by the child’s choice to cooperate, the Father is acting toward that result of the child’s cooperation from the beginning.
MacD repeatedly rejects the notion of merit. He does affirm deservedness, including that we (even as sinners) deserve love from God, but his ideas of what we deserve from God are utterly rooted in the foundational reality of God and God alone (and includes deserving the last extent of hell from God! – if that’s what we insist upon as sinners to lead us to stop sinning eventually.) His idea of desert excludes the notion of merit, as cleanly as any Calvinist could properly want, even though he and the Calvinist would disagree strongly about us deserving anything at all from God. (Or deserving anything other than hateful condemnation from God, perhaps I should say – Calvs don’t usually have a problem acknowledging such a deservedness as that. )