“Christ’s obedience was not for Himself but for us” by John Owen

“This was the original glory of Christ’s obedience. This wisdom, the grace, the love, the condescension that was in this choice, animated every act, every duty of His obedience,– rendering it amiable in the sight of God, and useful unto us.

So, when He went to John to be baptized, he, who knew He had no need of it on His own account, would have declined the duty of administering that ordinance unto Him; but He replied, “Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,” (Matt. 3:15).

This I have undertaken willingly, of my own accord, without any need of it for myself, and therefore will discharge it.

For Him, who was Lord of all universally, thus to submit Himself to universal obedience, carrieth along with it an evidence of glorious grace.

This obedience, as unto the use and end of it, was not for Himself, but for us.

We were obliged unto it, and could not perform it;– He was not obliged unto it any otherwise but by a free act of his own will, and did perform it.

God gave Him this honour, that He should obey for the whole church,– that by “His obedience many should be made righteous,” (Rom. 5:19).

Herein, I say, did God give Him honour and glory, that His obedience should stand in the stead of the perfect obedience of the church as unto justification.

His obedience being absolutely universal, and absolutely perfect, was the great representative of the holiness of God in the law. It was represented glorious when the ten words were written by the finger of God in tables of stone; it appears yet more eminently in the spiritual transcription of it in the hearts of believers: but absolutely and perfectly it is exemplified only in the holiness and obedience of Christ, which answered it unto the utmost.

And this is no small part of his glory in obedience, that the holiness of God in the law was therein, and therein alone, in that one instance, as unto human nature, fully represented.

He wrought out this obedience against all difficulties and oppositions. For although He was absolutely free from that disorder which in us hath invaded our whole natures, which internally renders all obedience difficult unto us, and perfect obedience impossible; yet as unto opposition from without, in temptations, sufferings, reproaches, contradictions, He met with more than we all.

Hence is that glorious word, “Although He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered,” (Heb. 5:8).

The glory of this obedience ariseth principally from the consideration of the person who thus yielded it unto God.

This was no other but the Son of God made man,– God and man in one person.

He who was in heaven, above all, Lord of all, at the same time lived in the world in a condition of no reputation, and a course of the strictest obedience unto the whole law of God.

He unto whom prayer was made, prayed Himself night and day.

He whom all the angels of heaven and all creatures worshipped, was continually conversant in all the duties of the worship of God.

He who was over the house, diligently observed the meanest office of the house.

He that made all men, in whose hand they are all as clay in the hand of the potter, observed amongst them the strictest rules of justice, in giving unto every one His due; and of charity, in giving good things that were not so due.

This is that which renders the obedience of Christ in the discharge of His office both mysterious and glorious.”

–John Owen, “Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ,” The Works of John Owen, Volume 1: The Glory of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1684/2000), 1: 339-340.

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