Obedience of Christ
OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST (ὑπακοή, G5633). The submission of Jesus to the commandments of God, particularly to His uniquely Messianic calling.
Birth and childhood.
The events of Christ’s birth and childhood are described in terms of obedience to God. The obedience of Mary (
Ministry and death.
Paul’s explanation of the Gospel has at its heart the obedience of the one man, Christ, as undoing all the evil introduced by the disobedience of Adam (
Although it would appear at first that this teaching of Scripture has had only a peripheral effect upon the history of theology, closer examination reveals its immense impact in many areas.
The protest against nominalist speculation, which divorced God’s grace from the work of Christ, was under the leadership of the new covenant theology of the late middle ages (); which was expanded by Anabaptist and Ger. and Eng. Calvinist theologians. This theology was the affirmation that “God had bound himself by his Word,” and that in particular the cross was not a theological accident, but the manifestation and the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation.
Amyraldianism (or New England theology).
The Amyraldian attempt to preserve the sovereign, gracious activity of the Spirit in conversion while denying the limited (personal) atonement of Christ, was countered frequently by pointing out that the work of the Spirit with individuals was itself an aspect of the reward given to Christ in virtue of His obedient atonement, so that to speak of a particular work of the Spirit apart from the particular atonement accomplished by Christ was to make of the Spirit a nominalistic, mysterious, impersonal force, not the Spirit of Christ.
Active and passive obedience.
Classic Protestant theology distinguished between the work of Christ in fulfilling the requirements of the law for us (active) and suffering the penalty of sin for us in His expiatory death (passive); active obedience can be regarded also as the general requirement for all men as revealed in divine commandment, while the passive obedience would be the specific, Messianic mandate given to Christ alone. Medieval thinking considered that only non-required virtue had an “extra,” transferable character. (Anselm regarded only the death of Christ as making satisfaction since as a man he must be obedient to the law in any case), and even Protestants made use of the same perspective. Lutherans affirmed that Christ as God-man was above the law, and so His obedience of it was not required and hence meritorious. The Calvinist Piscator, endeavoring to protect the true humanity of Christ, held that Christ was under the law, and hence His active obedience was not meritorious. Later Protestantism saw the Biblical necessity for a pure sacrifice, making the active obedience the presupposition for the passive; further, the ongoing work of the risen and ascended Christ also must be regarded as vital to our salvation, and can be thought of under the active aspect.
Most less-sophisticated Christians have been convinced that to speak of the passive character of Christ’s death implies that it is something which happened to Him, not something He willingly did for us. While this has never been intended by theologians, it may be wise to avoid these particular abbreviations and explain what is intended: that those who trust in Christ do not only receive the forgiveness of sins, but also the positive approval and reward of the Father, as the obedience of Christ is imputed to the believer and he partakes of the promised Holy Spirit and His gifts.
Emphasis on the active obedience is valuable also in considering the parallel with the disobedience of Adam and its consequences. The sinlessness of Christ (in the reality of His temptations) is perhaps the central issue in considering His divine/human character, and obviously can be more easily grasped from a consideration of His obedience (including the incarnation itself as an act of obedience). Finally, even the dual aspects of the believer’s obedience to God (his obligation to obey God’s revealed will and also to fulfill his own personal calling) are given new depth in terms of his Lord’s obedience.
A. A. Hodge, The Atonement (1867), 212-227, 248-264; G. Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement as taught by Christ Himself (1871), Sections XI, XII, XIV, XV, XXII, XXVIII-XXX, XXXIV-XLIV; G. C. Berkouwer, The(1952), 239-270; G. C. Berkouwer, The Work of Christ (1953), 314-327; J. Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (1955), 25-30; J. Murray, “The Heavenly Priestly Activity of Christ” (1958); A. Stöger, “Obedience” in Sacramentum Mundi (1970) II, 616-620.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The "obedience" (hupakoe) of Christ is directly mentioned but 3 times in the
1. As an Element of Conduct and Character:
2. Its Christological Bearing:
3. In Its Soteriological Bearings:
kindred question whether it was not the spirit of obedience in the act of death, rather than the act itself, that furnished the value of His redemptive work, it might conceivably, though improbably, be said that "the one act of righteousness" through which "the free gift came" was His whole life considered as one act. But these ideas are out of line with the unmistakable trend of Scripture, which everywhere lays principal stress on the death of Christ itself; it is the center and soul of the two ordinances, baptism and the
See also ATONEMENT. LITERATURE.
DCG, article ""; Denney, , especially pp. 231-33; Champion, Living Atonement; Forsythe, Cruciality of the Cross, etc.; works on the Atonement; Commentaries, in the place cited.