Thoughts on the Way Home

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Obedience of Christ - John Murray


Obedience does not define for us the specific character of the other categories but it does point us to the capacity in which Christ discharges all phases of his atoning work. No passage in Scripture provides more instruction on our topic than Isaiah 52:13-53:12. It is in the capacity of Servant that the person in view is introduced and it is in the same capacity he executes His expiatory function (Isa. 52:13, 15; 53:11). The title "Servant" derives its meaning from the fact that He is the Lord's Servant, not the Servant of men (cf. Isa. 42:1, 19; 52:13). He is the Father's Servant and this implies subjection to and fulfillment of the Father's will. Servant defines His commitment, and obedience the execution. Psalm 40:7, 8 points in the same direction. Our Lord Himself confirms what the Old Testament foretold. "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me' (John 6:38; cf. 4:34; 10:17, 18). The pivotal events of redemptive accomplishment He performed in pursuance of the Father's commandment and in the exercise of messianic authority. Paul's witness is to the same effect as that of the Old Testament and of Jesus Himself. Most important is Philippians 2:7, 8. For this text in respect of the capacity in which Jesus acted attaches itself to Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and represents the climactic event of Jesus' commitment, the death of the cross, as an act of obedience. And Romans 5:19 expresses that it is by the obedience of Christ that many are constituted righteous. This evidence shows that our thought respecting the nature of the atonement is not biblically conditioned unless it is governed by the concept of the obedience of Christ in His capacity as the Servant fulfilling the Father's commission.

We must not view this obedience mechanically or quantitatively. It did not consist simply in the sum-total of formal acts of obedience. Obedience springs from the dispositional complex of motive, intention, direction, and purpose. And since our Lord was truly human and fulfilled the Father's will in human nature, we must appreciate the progression in knowledge, understanding, resolution, and will which was necessary to and came to expression in the discharge of the Father's will in its increasing demands upon Him until these demands reached their climax in the death upon the cross. This explains the word in Hebrews 5:8 that "he learned obedience from the things which he suffered." At no point was He disobedient. But the demands of obedience were so expansive and progressively exacting that he had to learn in the furnace of trial, temptation, and suffering. Since His obedience thus attained to the perfection and completeness required for the discharge of His commitments to the fullest extent of their demands, He was made perfect as the captain of salvation (Heb. 2:10) and "being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). This is but saying that it was by obedience that he accomplished the salvation of the many sons who are to be brought to glory, and we see how integral to salvation secured is the obedience of Christ.

--John Murray

Full article here.