Why Has the Church De-Emphasized Jesus’ Obedience to God?

Why Has the Church De-Emphasized Jesus’ Obedience to God? March 5, 2022

Baker has a new book out by Dr. Brandon Crowe of Westminster Theological Seminary entitled Why Did Jesus Live a Perfect Life? The Necessity of Christ’s Obedience for Our Salvation. Westminster is an Orthodox Presbyterian seminary in Phily. That church denomination is Calvinist, thus Reformed in theology. That means they are deterministic, sometimes viewed as fatalism, but what Christians usually call unconditional predestination. I am opposed to that viewpoint and believe more like Arminian-Wesleyans do, in which humans have real choice in deciding for salvation.

Dr. D. A. Carson, emeritus of the seminary Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago, has endorsed this book by saying (back cover), “In the extensive debates over justification that have captured a great deal of attention in the last quarter century, relatively little space has been allotted to the role of Jesus’s obedience. That lacuna has now been admirably filled by Crowe.” Carson is also Reformed.

But “little space has been allotted to the role of Jesus’s obedience” since the 4th century, when the church officially, and wrongly I believe, decided that Jesus is God. Many Christians who believe Jesus is God have asked, “How can Jesus be called to obey God when he himself is God?” Indeed, James, Jesus’s brother, writes, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1.13). If one cannot be tempted by evil, then that one cannot sin, plain and simple. But the Bible tells us that Jesus certainly was tempted by the devil, and Jesus did not succumb to that temptation and thus sin (e.g., Matthew 4.1-10).

Thus, the church de-emphasized Jesus’s obedience to God because his obedience doesn’t make much sense if he was not tempted and did not sin. Many such Christians conclude that Jesus could not sin because he was God. I believe that is damaging to a person’s Christian faith. If Jesus could not have sinned, then the temptations he experienced were not real. In contrast, the book of Revelation quotes the risen, heavenly Jesus as challenging his people to overcome sin because he overcame sin. Jesus says, “I am coming quickly; hold fast to what you have, in order that no one take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (Revelation 3.11-12 NASB). In vv. 12-13, Jesus says “My God” four times. How can Jesus have a God if he himself is God?

Jesus further states therein, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father [God] on His throne” (Revelation 3.20-21). Jesus is so exalted in heaven right now because he overcome, thus living a perfectly obedient life before God, and that qualified him to go the cross and die for our sins if we truly believe. That is the salvation of God, that is, the God who sent Jesus to overcome and die for us.

(I was a Trinitarian Christian for 22 years before reading myself out of that in the Bible and writing a very extensive book about it entitled The Restitution of Jesus of Christ. The book is not available now but I expect it to be in perhaps 1-2 months as an e-book at amazon.com. In the meantime, readers can read about 150 1-2 page articles I’ve written on my blog that are condensations of this book by clicking on “Christology” in the menu bar of my Kermit Zarley Blog to view a list of the those article titles.)


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