Christ’s Obedience and Ours
Tom Wilson, Levin, New Zealand
Obedience has to be learned. Disobedience is part of human nature, inherited from Adam. Paul taught that 'as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners', Rom. 5. 19. He contrasted this with the obedience of Christ through which many will be made righteous.
In His manhood our Lord was made in the likeness of man, apart from sin. He suffered all the constraints under which we labour, 'For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with ('unable to sympathize with', Newberry) the feeling of our infirmities', Heb. 4. 15.
It is a remarkable fact that He who had only ever been obeyed, during His earthly sojourn learned obedience through the things which He suffered. Had obedience come to Him effortlessly He could not have known testing. To Him the only unknown aspect was surrender to sin, for that would have been disobedience. In His holiness He could never respond to the evil that surrounded Him.
Thy stainless life,
Thy lovely walk, In every aspect true,
From the defilement all around
No taint of evil drew.'
He was obedient to the Father in what He said. This involved constantly listening to the Father's voice, 'For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever 1 speak therefore, even as the Father said (perfect or continuous tense, 'hath said') unto me, so I speak', John 12. 49, 50.
He spoke what He heard from the Father to those around Him, accurately and precisely. At all times His words were a reflection of a sinless life, as they were an affirmation of the Father's will.
He was obedient to the Father in what He did. His actions were always consistent with His words, 'Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him', John 8: 28, 29.
Doing may be accompanied by speaking, but not necessarily so. It used to be commonly said: 'Actions speak louder than words'. Our Lord's life was in all respects consistent with what He said. In this, too, He learned obedience to the Father's will.
'No broken service, LORD, was Thine,
No change was in Thy way;
Unsullied in Thy holiness,
Thy strength knew no decay.'
He was obedient to the Father in His suffering. Even in His perfect humanity our Lord had to learn obedience in the school of suffering, 'Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered'", Heb. 5. 8. It was the Father's will, and it was for our sakes, that through His afflictions His people would be made righteous. His obedience led inexorably to the cross.
The vow was on Thee - Thou didst come
To yield Thyself to death
And consecration marked Thy path,
And spoke in every breath.'
He was obedient to the Father right to the end. In the prayer of the Son He was able to say, 'I [have] finished the work which thou gavest me to do', John 17. 4. Perhaps reflecting on this, Paul wrote, 'and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross', Phil. 2. 8.
In His path of obedience there was no question of side-stepping the Father's will, though it meant death on a cross. If we should be tempted to think that His path was a relatively easy one, let us reflect anew on His words as He knelt before the Father in prospect of Calvary, 'Father, If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done', Luke. 22. 42.
The ultimate discipline of obedience was that He must endure the wrath of God on behalf of those He had come to save. His obedience to the Father's will took Him into those depths of His soul's anguish when He was made sin for us, after which He cried with a loud voice, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me'? Matt. 27. 46.
But it could not be otherwise. He must endure the cross. It was not in His nature to disobey. In that dread hour of deepest woe, 'scorned by man, by God forsaken', His perfect obedience found its fullest expression.
To view the Son's suffering such untold agony for our sakes is more deeply affecting than words can express. With the apostle we think of the Psalmist's words, 'The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me', and consider with wonder that 'even Christ pleased not himself, Rom. 15. 3; cf. Ps. 69. 9.
There is certainly a difference between ourselves and the Lord. He 'learned obedience' so that He might be revealed as 'a lamb without blemish and without spot', 1 Pet. 1. 19. Our failure to obey only serves to remind us of the fact that in us 'the fiesh iusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would', Gal. 1. 17. Yet the challenge always remains, 'If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit', v. 25.
John also puts it pointedly, 'And he that keepeth his commandments (or obeys Him) dwelleth in him, and he in him', 1 John 3. 24. 'Keeping His commandments' is only possible as we abide in Him and His words abide in us, see John 15. 7. These commandments are fully revealed in the scriptures which, as we read and obey them, show us the secret of this 'abiding life'. This is the path of obedience that we must learn.
In our speech and behaviour, our trials and suffering, through constant obedience to the Father's will, we shall become more like Christ. The totally obedient One. By our obedience, in some measure, we may become like Him.
'Thou wouldst like sinful man be made
In everything but sin,
That we as like Thee might become
As we unlike have been -
'Like Thee in faith, in meekness, love,
In every heavenly grace,
From glory unto glory changed
Till we behold Thy face'.