THE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
Our desire is to contemplate here, by the help of the
Holy Spirit, that lovely perfection of the Lord Jesus which was the very
life and beauty of His mediatorial holiness. His obedience was the absolute
conformity of His entire spirit and soul to the will and mind of His Father;
His ready and cheerful performance of every duty and everything which God
commanded Him. This obedience He performed perfectly, amid the greatest and
sorest trials, with infinite respect unto Him whose "Servant" (Isaiah 42:1)
He had become. The laws which He obeyed were, first, those to which He was
subject considered simply as man (Gal. 4:4), namely, the Ten Commandments or
moral law. Second, those to which He was subject considered as Son of David
(Matt. 1:1), namely, the ceremonial law of Israel. Third, those to which He
was subject as Mediator, namely, fulfilling the commandments which He had
received from the Father to preach the Gospel, perform miracles, call
disciples, and die upon the Cross. The closer the four Gospels are read in
the light of our present subject, the more will it be seen that obedience
to the Father was Christ's supreme mission on earth. As He Himself
declared, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me" (John 4:34); and
again, "For I came down from Heaven not to do My own will, but the will of
Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). Familiar as are these verses to many
Christians, few have seen the fullness of His obedience, or perceived that
every act of Christ during the thirty-three years He tabernacled among men
was distinctly and designedly an act of submission unto God. Limited space
will not allow us to attempt much more than an outline of this blessed fact
and truth as it was realized in the life of Him who always did those things
which pleased the Father (John 8:29).
Christ's birth was an act of obedience. This will
be the more evident if we recognize that every prophecy of God concerning
His Son was for Christ a command and the fulfillment of each prophecy was a
designed act of obedience on His part. Hence, in Matthew 1:20-23 we find an
angel announcing to Joseph, "You son of David, fear not to take unto you
Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
And she shall bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus: for He
shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might
be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a
virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son." Thus, in
subjection to His Father's decree the Lord of glory condescended to be made
of a woman. Compare Hebrews 10:5-9.
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to
be baptized by him. But John tried to stop Him, saying, "I need to be
baptized by You, and yet You come to me?" Jesus answered him, "Allow it for
now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matt.
3:13-15). Here it is distinctly said that Christ's baptism had to do
with the fulfilling of "righteousness" or right doing, measuring up to the
required standard. His words to John signified, "Neither you or I can do the
will of the Father except I submit to baptism, and you baptize Me."
The perfect obedience of Christ appears next in His
resistance to Satan's temptations. There we see the great Enemy seeking
to turn aside the Savior from the path of complete surrender to God's will;
but in vain. Christ unhesitatingly refused to perform the Devil's bidding,
meeting each assault with an "It is written," which was the same as though
He had said, "I decline to go contrary to the Divine precepts, I refuse to
disobey My Father." Possibly Matthew 4:1-10 will appear in a newer or
clearer light if the reader turns to and sees in its contents a studied
effort on the part of the Serpent to induce the last Adam unto an act of
disobedience, and His steadfast refusal to take one step contrary to the
revealed will of God. The perfect servant of God chose His place of labor in
obedience to God's revealed will. "Now when Jesus had heard that John was
cast into prison, He departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came
and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea-coast in the borders of
Zabulon and Naphtali: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah
the prophet" (Matt. 4:12-14). It was not the force of circumstances which
drove the Lord Jesus to select Capernaum as His ministerial headquarters,
nor was it of personal inclination; that town had been singled out by God
long before His Son came to earth, and it was in subordination to the Divine
will that He went there. How this shows us that Christ made obedience unto
God the one great business of His life!
His miracles of mercy were wrought in obedience to
the Father's revealed will. "When evening came, they brought to Him many who
were demon-possessed. He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all
who were sick, so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be
fulfilled: He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases." (Matt.
8:16, 17). How striking is the particular aspect of truth here made known to
us! Christ was tender, sympathetic, and full of compassion, yet the first
and deepest motive which moved Him to heal the sick was that the will of God
might be done. Beautifully does this come out in John 11. Though Martha and
Mary had sent a message unto Christ that their brother was sick, He
responded not to their appeal until the Father's hour arrived: see verses
4-6. His saving of sinners was in order to render obedience unto God. "All
that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and him that comes to Me I will
never cast out; for I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the
will of Him that sent Me." What a view does this present to us of the
redemptive work of Christ! How it magnifies His blessed submission unto the
One who had sent Him into this world!
The Redeemer's preservation of His people is in
obedience to the Father. "This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should
lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day"
(John 6:39). Thus, the security of the saint depends not only upon the
Savior's love unto His own, or His all-mighty power, but is as well His act
of subjection to God.
His very death was itself an act of submission to
the Father, for He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross"
(Phil. 2:8). As He Himself declared concerning His life, I have power to lay
it down, and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I
received of My Father" (John 10:18).
Thus, there were no limits to His obedience, no reserve
in His subjection to the Father's will, but complete and perfect compliance
with the same throughout the whole of His earthly life. How blessed it is to
perceive that through and by His Son's obedience God has been more honored
upon earth than He has been dishonored by all the disobedience of all the
sons of Adam!
In seeking to make an application of that which
has been before us, let us point out, first, that this perfect obedience of
Christ is reckoned to the account of all and each of His people, being that
"righteousness" which is imputed by God to them; as it is written, "For as
by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One
shall many be made (legally constituted) righteous" (Romans 5:19).
Second, Christ has left us an example that we should
follow His steps: "he who says he abides in Him ought himself so to walk,
even as He walked" (1 John 2:6).
Third, obedience is to be the one aim and mission of the
Christian. To us Christ says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John
14:15); and again, "If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love,
even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love" (John
(N.B. For much of the above we are indebted to an article by J.W. Gillon,
which appeared in the "Western Recorder" of November 15, 1917.)