More Thoughts on Christ's Active Obedience and its Relation to The Imputation of Christ's Righteousness
Active obedience: â€œChristâ€™s full obedience to all the prescriptions of the divine lawâ€¦[making] available a perfect righteousness before the law that is imputed or reckoned to those who put their trust in him.
Passive Obedience: â€œ[Christ's] willing obedience in bearing all the sanctions imposed by that law against his people because of their transgressionâ€¦[being] the ground of Godâ€™s justification of sinners (Rom. 5:9), by which divine act they are pardonedâ€¦â€ Dr. Robert L. Reymond
By taking on the covenant obligations of the law as our representative we are made righteous in Him by His obedience. Romans 5:19 states: "For as by the one manâ€™s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one manâ€™s obedience the many will be made righteous."
Something important to consider related to this:
God desires obedience, not sacrifice. God through history is looking for a man who would obey Him. He is not looking for someone who merely makes a perfect score on the test, but a human who is unfailingly devoted to Him as an image bearer - someone who mirrors his love, holiness, justice and truth. This is a constantly repeated theme throughout Scripture. Psalm 40, which Hebrews 10 quotes is one example:
Psalm 40:6-8 (English Standard Version)
6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7Then I said, "Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."
Obedience is better than sacrifice - a Psalm which is refers to Christ. He is the one who has come to do God's will, to obey rather than simply provide another hypocritical sacrifice. IN fact, his sacrifice would be accepted because He did obey.
Jesus himself descends providing in his own flesh faithful covenant obedience recapitulating the history of both Adam and Israel, picking up where they failed in order to lead those he represents into the Promised Land. A sample of this can be seen in each response Jesus gives to Satan in his temptation in the wilderness. Notice that he quotes directly from a response by Moses to Israel's failure in their wilderness. (Deut 8:3 in Matt 4:4 and so on). Jesus passes these ethical tests so that he can lead those united to Him in triumphal procession. In other words, even before his work on the cross, Jesus was already purchasing our redemption with his life. His active obedience is therefore just as crucial as his passive obedience --- they belong together as one act. Not by sacrifice alone but "by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous" (Rom 5:19)
Hebrews is a letter that emphasized Christ's Priestly acts during His incarnation. It says, "in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek." Heb 5:7-9
In other words, in his incarnation, the time of his life on earth, Christ served as our federal head, Jesus' prayers, supplications and sinless obedience were the ground of his being heard by God. His being made perfect as a human being who fulfilled the law qualified him to be the once for all High Priest. Some might argue that He was God and perfect already. Yes, he was perfect in His essence, but in being our Savior He obligated himself to obey the Law that he might become the source of eternal salvation.
The active obedience of Christ is concerned with the thirty three years Jesus spent in loving submission to God's will. The sacrifice could never replace a life of covenantal obedience and a loving relationship with God. So, the Text says, sacrifice and offering is not what God delights in most. obedience is what God delights in. Jesus placed himself under the law and was circumcised. Paul states that those who are circumcised are "obligated to obey the whole law" (Gal 5:3). Jesus therefore obligated himself to the whole law FOR US. He is David's greater Son. Thus his whole life is a self-offering that culminates in the cross. Christ's own life of obedience indeed corresponds to the sacrifice that He offers. Because Jesus was the only covenant keeper in history, he can claim his just reward in his high priestly prayer (John 17). The Psalmist, Hebrews and Jesus in John 17 are, therefore, appealing to His obedience the ground for life both for himself and all who the father has given him. His obedience for us as our federal head is therefore, not limited to his death but to his whole life. The forgiveness of the sin offering is good, but rendering loving obedience is better. So Jesus whole life up unto his death is part and parcel of his self-sacrifice for us.
Recommended Book: The Law Is Not of Faith by Bryan D. Estelle, J.V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen (Editors)