From DGH on Undervaluing Christ's Obedience Submitted on 2014/12/17 at 10:35 am


So glad you see that Christ’s obedience is of a different character than ours.

We must be careful not to speak flippantly about Christ’s obedience. The nature, quality, and difficulty of what he actually went through in order to save us will always be beyond our abilities to fully grasp in this life; but that does not mean we should not try to understand something of what it meant for him to obey under the most extreme difficulties. Statements, such as “Jesus was under a covenant of works for us,” can become a form of vain repetition if we are not careful. . . . Christ’s obedience for us was no stroll in the park. It was rather agony in the Garden before the greatest indignity on the cross.

So why did you draw so many analogies between Christ and us before? And did you notice that for all of Christ’s work, he didn’t make it into Hebrews 11’s Hall of Faith?


30 thoughts on “From DGH on Undervaluing Christ's Obedience Submitted on 2014/12/17 at 10:35 am

  1. There’s a reason that Hebrews 12 follows the Hall of Faith immediately with “Let us look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our obedience faith


  2. In summary:

    1) It is hard to exhaustively grasp Christ’s obedience

    2) Some talk about it flippantly.

    3) Please try to not talk about it flippantly.


  3. Kind of like “don’t throw out all your empty plastic jars, send them to me and I’ll throw them out for you.”

    We can’t be shocked, we just simply categorize “ignore immediately”.


  4. Bob, read again –

    “looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of his our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

    Jesus by his finished work (his work of perfect obedience not faith) of the cross is the object of our faith and thus the author of our faith and through his intercession the perfector of our faith…


  5. Bob, was Jesus rewarded with sitting at the right hand of the father because of his obedience or because of his faith?

    And if you say faith (or both), are we having faith in Christ who perfectly believed or in Christ who perfectly obeyed? That is to say, are we imputed Christ’s faith or his obedience?


  6. Nate,

    You need to read the Bible and the Reformed tradition. Name one Reformed theologian who denied that Jesus had faith. Just one…

    Vos and Owen are good places to start, but I could give you about 50 others who don’t quite get your either/or dichotomy.


  7. ” as the one perfect, ideal believer.”

    Vos’ comments qualify themselves. He argued that Christ had eschatological faith, a hope for things unseen. The joy set before Him was the salvation of His brothers (and sisters). Christ is the Son of God; Adam and Israel’s failures magnify the necessity and glory of Christ’s obedience. Vos is not saying Jesus had justifying faith.

    Christians have both eschatological and justifying faith. Their faith looks back to the cross as the way forward to glory


  8. Bob, students, after taking a test believe they will receive an “A” when they know they knew and answered all the questions correctly and know their Teacher grades properly. But the teacher doesn’t give them an “A” because they believed, but because they actually answered all the questions correctly.

    So Jesus, believed God would vindicate him – and he had assurances on both fronts – because God was perfectly just and He (Jesus) had obeyed perfectly.


  9. OPC Report on Justification:

    At least two “Federal Vision” proponents [James Jordan, Lusk] have argued that Philippians 2 actually rules out the notion of merit in regard to Christ’s obedience, because in Philippians 2:9 Paul uses the word echarisato, which etymologically derives from the word for “grace,” charis, to describe God’s giving the name above every name to Christ. This indicates, they claim, that the Father exalted the Son not meritoriously but graciously.

    This argument as it stands fails, however. One reason it fails is its fallacious reasoning that etymological derivation determines the meaning of a word apart from context. The context of Phil 2:5- 11 shows that MERIT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED from Paul’s teaching here. The context is one of “work rendered and value received.”The Father exalted the Son because the Son perfectly fulfilled his course of obedience. The Son obeyed, therefore the Father exalted him.

    mcmark: Faith is not imputed to the elect as their righteousness. The faith that God gives the elect is not their righteousness. The faith that Christ is not the righteousness imputed to the elect. The death of Christ is Christ’s merit.

    green baggins: Piscator emphasizes that faith itself is excluded as a part of our righteousness before God. Even the righteous acts that we do after grace and faith are excluded from our justification, which, according to Piscator, continues to rest solely in the satisfaction of Christ imputed to us. Piscator argues against Bellarmine that all of our works are excluded from our justification before God. He argues from the fact that Paul “speaks of works in general, whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace,because Romans 4 speaks of Abraham’s works, those which he had done of grace and faith”. Even those works that flow out of faith are clearly excluded from our justification. The same pronunciation that gave us comfort in this life that we have a righteous standing before God will then be pronounced openly by the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are righteous on the basis of My satisfaction imputed to you.”

    What are the results of this justification? For Piscator, we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we also have a right to the lasting life of the age to come, for when someone is justified, God “receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” Piscator—“It comes about that he to whom God forgives sins, is so accounted as if he had not only committed nothing which God has forbidden in his law, but also omitted nothing of that which he has commanded: and therefore, as if he had perfectly fulfilled the law of God.”


  10. “Jesus didn’t believe that his Father would justify/vindicate him? Isaiah 50:8.”

    Again, that is eschatological faith. Not “saving” faith.


  11. Eschatological faith is a bit more broad. It believes that God will reward the righteous and punish the guilty. That God’s Kingdom will be fully established, righting all of the wrongs. Those with Eschatological faith know that their works will not waste away, because they are firmly established. They will eternally resonate. It is the “Hope for things unseen”. Jesus certainly gives us a perfect pattern of that, (The OT saints give us an imperfect pattern)

    Saving Faith is a bit more narrow, it has Jesus as the object of our faith, instead of the “pattern”. Otherwise you have the “Believe in yourself” understanding of salvation.

    Vos, himself, makes that distinction. In the same material you quoted

    “In Romans and Galatians faith is in the main trust in the grace of God, the instrument of justification, the channel through which the vital influences flowing from Christ are received by the believer. Here in Hebrews the conception is wider; faith is ‘the proving of things not seen, the assurance of things hoped for’.”

    Machen makes the same sort of comment, you could probably find it on this blog somewhere;

    “The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ.”


  12. When one makes a distinction between “the Reformed faith” which one learned over many years by reading many books and one’s experience of “conversion” in which even a false gospel was ‘close enough” for God’s sovereignty, then one SHOULD be asking forgiveness for paying too much attention to what Jesus did and not enough to what we do.

    Forgive us when our love for the truth of the gospel and the doctrines of grace is more obvious than our love for you… as impossible as that may seem.

    Forgive us when we enjoy exposing legalistic, pragmatic and moralistic teaching more than we crave spending time with you in fellowship and prayer.

    Forgive us when we invest great energy in defending the imputation of your righteousness but have very little concern for the impartation of your transforming life.

    Forgive us when we are quick to tell people what obedience is not, but fail to demonstrate what the obedience of faith actually is.

    Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” or “recovering legalists,” but in reality, we’re not really recovering from anything.

    Forgive us when our multiplied uses of the word “gospel” in our conversations does not translated into multiplied evidences of the power of the gospel in our lives.

    Forgive us when we don’t use our gospel freedom to serve one another in love, but rather use it to put our consciences to sleep.

    Forgive us for creating gospel-fraternities and gospel-posses which taste to outsiders like ingrown tribes or “clubish” elitism.

    Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives yet only a kindergarten certificate in the imperatives of the gospel.

    Forgive us when our passion for the gospel does not translate into a passion for holiness and world evangelism, and caring for widows and orphans.


  13. Bob, isn’t there something qualitatively different about a sinless individual’s faith in God’s goodness, wisdom and providential care, vs. a sinner who must despair of his own ability to do good and place faith in the works of another (i.e. a mediator)?

    This breaks at some point, but to stretch Nate’s analogy, the one gets an A because he has learned and mastered the material; the other is getting an F, but is told “you’re getting an A… now let’s learn something.” One is judged strictly on a standard (a covenant of works), the other on grace with nothing of himself to recommend the grade he received. One has faith in the justice of the grader; the other has faith in the promise.


  14. Mark Jones—Antinomianism, p 73—If fear of punishment and hope of reward provide the ONLY motivation for for holy living, then Horton certainly makes a valid point. However, this is another point where the Christian life is both-and and not an either-or on the matter of motivation. The fact is, that one will have a difficult time finding many classical Reformed theologians denying that Christians should hope for rewards as a motivation for holiness.”

    mcmark–. On the one hand, there is no condemnation for those resting in the death of Christ Jesus. But on the other hand, one still needs to be obedient (enough) in order to assure oneself of future justification. For Mark Jones, not everything is as either-or as Galatians sounds, because the distinction between the obedience of Christ and the obedience grace enables us to do is not a distinction between law and grace. Nor should we pay so much attention to the distinction between what the law demands and what we fail to do, warns Mark Jones, since we only need to remember that grace has now given us the ABILITY to obey..

    Jones points instead to the distinction between law misunderstood and law correctly used as one motivation to threaten Christians in the assurance of their future salvation (and also more extra crowns for elite Christians)


  15. Mark Jones—Antinomianism, p 73—If fear of punishment and hope of reward provide the ONLY motivation for for holy living, then Horton certainly makes a valid point. However, this is another point where the Christian life is both-and……””

    This is a blatant distortion of Horton. He is not claiming it can’t be a both and. Through the years if one listens and reads Horton it is clear his point is critical of those who mainly focus the head line spotlight on our works, our fruit or yes an over focus on reward or punishment instead of the rightful top billing going to Christ and His work. To that end he is Biblically correct. Reformed theological history is on his side as well.


  16. Was Christ’s faith more obedient than Abraham or Mary’s?

    As a model of the obedience of faith, the Catechism offers to us the Old Testament patriarch Abraham as “the father of all who believe.” Fr. Hardon summarizes the Catechism’s teaching on how Abraham is our father in faith by listing the following three reasons: 1) he was chosen to be the ancestor of all believers on account of his faith; 2) he fulfilled the definition of faith in the New Testament in Heb. 11:1 (as quoted earlier in the column); and 3) his faith is a prelude of what our greater faith should be, “believing in Jesus, the Son of God” (see The Faith, p. 35). St. Paul writes, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Romans 1:4), and in a parallel Old Testament passage we find similar words: “[Abraham] believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).

    Let’s consider just one example from Sacred Scripture of the depth of Abraham’s obedience of faith. He was promised by God that he would be the “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5). Yet it was not until he was far advanced in years that “Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age” (Gen. 21:2). He “was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him” (Gen. 21:5). Now fast-forward a few years to the account of the sacrifice of Isaac in Gen. 22. Abraham, in obedience of faith, was but an instant from plunging a knife into his dearly beloved son Isaac in sacrifice to God when the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. What incredible faith Abraham possessed in not withholding his only son! Is it any wonder that he is referred to as the father of all who believe, and that he is a model for us?

    Just as Abraham is the model of “the obedience of faith” offered to us by Sacred Scripture, the Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment (cf. CCC, n. 144). “By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that ‘with God nothing will be impossible’ and so giving her assent: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:37-38)” (CCC, n. 148). Mary’s response perfectly expressed the disposition of complete and unconditional obedience — she is the model for what our response should be to God’s will in our daily lives. Her faith never wavered, and for this reason “the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith” (CCC, n. 149).


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