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 15:10).
(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.)