As we continue to focus on the person and work of Christ, it is time to consider the obedience of Christ and its role in our salvation. As the Protestant Reformers noted again and again, there is no salvation for God’s people apart from Christ’s obedience during His earthly ministry. In fact, as we will see when we cover the doctrine of justification, the obedience of Christ is the only ground of our being declared righteous in God’s sight. Only His perfect obedience grants us citizenship in the kingdom of God.
As a helpful summary of biblical, Reformation doctrine, the West-minster Confession of Faith in several places emphasizes the role of Christ’s obedience in salvation. In 8.5, for instance, the confession states, “The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience, and sacrifice of himself, which he, through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased, not only recon-ciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him.” This statement refers to what theologians have traditionally identified as the active and passive obedience of Christ. The active obedience of Christ refers to His keeping the law of God in our behalf, obeying every statute the Lord gave to humanity. Christ’s passive obedience, on the other hand, refers to the suffering and death by which He paid the penalty for the sins of His people. His active and passive obedience are equally necessary—Christ’s passive obedience discharges the debt our transgressions have incurred, and His active obedience gives us the positive status of covenant keepers so we can inherit eternal life.
Our Savior’s active obedience can give us this positive status be-fore God because it is perfect. Jesus never failed to do what His Father commanded Him to do, and He never did anything contrary to the will of His Father. No one could convict Him of sin (John 8:46). Consequently, Christ’s obedience encompasses His entire life. From birth until death, Jesus always followed the Lord’s will.
Today’s passage points us to the obedience Christ rendered as a child and teenager as He grew to maturity. Though as the Son of God He was always pleasing to His Father, as the incarnate Lord He grew in favor with God as a man. The Father’s favor for His Son as the Messiah who does what we should have done in keeping the law never declined or reached a standstill (Luke 2:52). Even as a young man, He was doing what was necessary for our salvation.