The Character of Christ’s Obedience

Murray has beautifully captured the character of Christ’s obedience in four terms: its inwardness, its progressiveness, its climax, and its dynamic.6

By its inwardness he means that Christ’s obedience always came from his heart as a willing, joyous yielding up of himself to his Father’s will and law; never was it merely artificial and outward, executed mechanically and perfunctorily. His entire life was one of delight in doing his Father’s will.

By its progressiveness he intends what the Scriptures imply when it records that he “grew … in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52), that he was “perfected” (Heb. 2:10; 5:9), and that “he learned obedience” (Heb. 5:8). Since our Lord was always morally pure, this perfecting and learning process must not be construed to mean that he learned obedience in the same way Christians do, moving from a state of disobedience to a state of obedience by means of the sanctifying process. Rather, it means that as he moved in perfect obedience to the will of God from one trial to the next throughout his entire lifetime, his will to obey was made ever more and more resolute, even in the face of stiffer and severer trials, in his determination to do his Father’s will. This process was necessary to prepare him to face the final ordeal of the cross.

By speaking of its climax Murray seeks to do justice to what is represented by Scripture itself as the heretofore unprecedented testing that Jesus faced in his Gethsemane experience (Matt. 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–44) and then finally in his cross work itself.

Finally, by its dynamic Murray intends to underscore the divinely designed means by which our Lord learned the obedience essential to the full execution of the Messianic task—namely, his suffering (Heb. 2:10; 5:8). His trials, temptations, deprivations, and physical suffering all became the instruments in his Father’s hand by which Christ was “perfected” as the Author of salvation, that he might become everything he had to be and endure everything he had to endure in order to bring many sons to glory.

6 John Murray, “The Obedience of Christ,” in Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977), 2:151–57.