In this series of posts, I am reflecting on some key points John Murray makes in each chapter of his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. My goal is not to put together a thorough summary of all that Murray says in the book, but rather to write out some of my own thoughts and reflections in response to what I’ve read. For this post I read chapter 2, “The Nature of the Atonement.”
What would be the one word you would use to describe the work of Christ in his earthly ministry? Maybe “love” comes to mind, for Jesus certainly loved others. Or “save”, since he came to secure the salvation of his people. Murray offers (or rather, finds in the Scriptures) an all-inclusive term to characterize the work of Christ, and that is “obedience”. Whatever else we might say about what Jesus did while on earth, above all else he obeyed the will of his Heavenly Father: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38; cf. Rom. 5:19, Phil. 2:8).
Being a father of five young children, as you might imagine much of my domestic life is taken up with issues of obedience and disobedience. We make rules. Our children break them. We discipline them. Then they break the rules again. It can get old fast. But if you are a father or mother of little ones, you know how important it is that your children learn to obey you. It’s obviously not the end-all be-all of child rearing, especially not mere external obedience, but it is absolutely crucial for the family’s and the child’s well-being.
You also know that when a very young child disobeys, say 2 or 3, it is relatively harmless. It can even be cute. Many a time I’ve had to suppress a smile while disciplining a child for disobedience. But even so, a toddler’s seemingly innocuous rule-breaking betrays what is the most fundamental problem we have. And that is, we are disobedient. Rule-breaking is what we do by nature. And we do not just defy human authority, but at our core we rebel against God. And there’s nothing cute about it; ever since Adam and Eve’s first defiant act, our disobedience results in guilt, misery, death, and eternal judgment.
But the obedience of Christ answers to our own disobedience. His obedience was perfect: he kept the entirety of God’s law (active obedience), and he suffered the awful penalty required by God’s law for our sin (passive obedience). And the glory of the gospel is that God reckons Christ’s perfect obedience as our own. Because I am united to Christ, God counts the obedience of Christ as though it were mine (and in Christ, it really is mine!). There is no good work I can do to add to this righteousness, and there is no sin I have committed or will commit for which the sacrifice of Christ does not cover.
So the obedience of Christ is no dry theological truth – but it is the ground of all hope and the fountain of all true joy and blessedness. I thank God that Christ obeyed – for me.