Jesus’ Obedience of the Law – For Us

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. In an article entitled “Hallelujah! Jesus Fulfilled the Law for us” he writes:

And when they [Joseph and Mary] had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40 (ESV)

Lord Jesus, though you began your life in our world totally on your parent’s care, Mary and Joseph didn’t realize how even more dependent they were on you. As obedient Jewish parents, they performed “everything according to the Law of the Lord” on your behalf. But for the next thirty-three years of your life, you perfectly fulfilled everything required in the Law for Mary and Joseph, and for us. Hallelujah, many times over!

You didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill for us. What we could never do, you’ve accomplished for us, once and for all. What we could never be, you became for us. You are our Substitute to trust, before you are our example to follow.

We praise, worship, and adore you, for so great a salvation, so firm a standing in grace, and so deep a rooting in the love of God. God’s favor, in which you’ve always lived, now rests fully and freely on us. Praise be to God!

Your last words from the cross, “It is finished!” have become our first and perpetual words of freedom. It’s not our obedience, but yours, in which we trust, boast, and hope. It’s not our righteousness, but yours, which has forever reconciled us to God. Now we obey you out of love and gratitude, not because of fear and pride.

By the same grace you’ve saved us, you’re now changing us. As you have fulfilled the Law for us, you are now fulfilling it in us. One Day we will see you as you are and we’ll be made like you. O the joy and wonder of such a gospel. Until that Day, keep us groaning and growing in grace, and free us to love others as you love us. So very Amen we pray, in your mighty and merciful name.

Jesus and His Active Obedience

In this excerpt from his teaching series, What Did Jesus Do?, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains what is meant by the active obedience of Jesus.

Transcript

I don’t think there’s any more important text in all the New Testament that defines the work of Jesus than this one. That Jesus was sent to fulfill all righteousness. And what that meant to the Jew was to obey every jot and tittle of the Law. Because now Jesus is not acting in His baptism for Himself, but for His people. And if His people are required to keep the Ten Commandments, He keeps the Ten Commandments. If His people are now required to submit to this baptismal ritual, He submits to it in their behalf. Because the redemption that is brought by Christ is not restricted to His death on the cross.

We’ve seen that in the work of redemption God didn’t send Jesus to earth on Good Friday and say, “Die for the sins of your people and that will take care of it.” No. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but He had to live for our righteousness. If all Jesus did was die for your sins, that would remove all of your guilt, and that would leave you sinless in the sight of God, but not righteous. You would be innocent, but not righteous because you haven’t done anything to obey the Law of God which is what righteousness requires.

So we have a doctrine in theology that refers to the active obedience of Jesus, as distinguished from the passive obedience of Jesus. And this doctrine is in great dispute right now particularly among dispensational thinkers, which I find extremely, extremely unsettling. The passive obedience of Christ refers to His willingness to submit to the pain that is inflicted upon Him by the Father on the cross in the atonement. He passively receives the curse of God there. The active obedience refers to His whole life of obeying the Law of God whereby He qualifies to be the Savior. He qualifies to be the Lamb without blemish. He qualifies for the song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” through His total righteousness. He fulfills the Law’s demands, and if you remember the covenant with Moses, everybody who fulfills the Law receives the blessing, those who disobey the Law receive the curse.

What does Jesus do? He obeys the Law perfectly, receives the blessing, and not the curse. But there’s a double imputation that we will look at later at the cross, where my sin is transferred to His account, my sin is carried over and laid upon Him in the cross. But in our redemption, His righteousness is imputed to us—which righteousness He wouldn’t have if He didn’t live this life of perfect obedience. So what I’m saying to you is that His life of perfect obedience is just as necessary for our salvation as His perfect atonement on the cross. Because there’s double imputation. My sin to Him, His righteousness to me. So that, that is what the Scripture is getting at when it says Jesus is our righteousness.

The Active Obedience of Christ

Dr. R. C. Sproul:

Transcript:

I don’t think there’s any more important text in all the New Testament that defines the work of Jesus than this one. That Jesus was sent to fulfill all righteousness. And what that meant to the Jew was to obey every jot and tittle of the Law. Because now Jesus is not acting in His baptism for Himself, but for His people. And if His people are required to keep the Ten Commandments, He keeps the Ten Commandments. If His people are now required to submit to this baptismal ritual, He submits to it in their behalf. Because the redemption that is brought by Christ is not restricted to His death on the cross.

We’ve seen that in the work of redemption God didn’t send Jesus to earth on Good Friday and say, “Die for the sins of your people and that will take care of it.” No. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but He had to live for our righteousness. If all Jesus did was die for your sins, that would remove all of your guilt, and that would leave you sinless in the sight of God, but not righteous. You would be innocent, but not righteous because you haven’t done anything to obey the Law of God which is what righteousness requires.

So we have a doctrine in theology that refers to the active obedience of Jesus, as distinguished from the passive obedience of Jesus. And this doctrine is in great dispute right now particularly among dispensational thinkers, which I find extremely, extremely unsettling. The passive obedience of Christ refers to His willingness to submit to the pain that is inflicted upon Him by the Father on the cross in the atonement. He passively receives the curse of God there. The active obedience refers to His whole life of obeying the Law of God whereby He qualifies to be the Savior. He qualifies to be the Lamb without blemish. He qualifies for the song, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,” through His total righteousness. He fulfills the Law’s demands, and if you remember the covenant with Moses, everybody who fulfills the Law receives the blessing, those who disobey the Law receive the curse.

What does Jesus do? He obeys the Law perfectly, receives the blessing, and not the curse. But there’s a double imputation that we will look at later at the cross, where my sin is transferred to His account, my sin is carried over and laid upon Him in the cross. But in our redemption, His righteousness is imputed to us—which righteousness He wouldn’t have if He didn’t live this life of perfect obedience. So what I’m saying to you is that His life of perfect obedience is just as necessary for our salvation as His perfect atonement on the cross. Because there’s double imputation. My sin to Him, His righteousness to me. So that, that is what the scripture is getting at when it says Jesus is our righteousness.