Christ’s Obedience

By the obedience of the life of Christ, I intend the universal conformity of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he was or is, in his being mediator, to the whole will of God; and his complete actual fulfilling of the whole of every law of God, or doing of all that God in them required.

John Owen, Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Part 2, Chapter 61

John Owen distinguishes between the actual obedience of Christ, and the root of this obedience.

Habitual Righteousness of Christ

Owen calls the root the habitual righteousness of Christ. By this, he means “the absolute, complete, exact conformity of the soul of Christ to the will, mind, or law of God; or his perfect habitually inherent righteousness.”2 This righteousness describes who Jesus is, rather than what he does.

I wish I knew better firsthand what this is like! I have fleeting glimpses of this in my own life. However, I’m often halfhearted. I want to obey the Lord, but I also want other things. I sometimes begrudge the sovereign plan God has for me. I grumble and complain—inwardly, if not outwardly. Jesus, however, did none of these things. He wants exactly what his Father wants. He loves what God the Father loves. He hates what God hates. I’m so impressed by Jesus’s character.

Actual Obedience of Christ

From that perfect character flows the obedience Jesus actually rendered unto God. Owen defines it this way:

his willing, cheerful, obediential performance of every thing, duty, or command, that God, by virtue of any law whereto we were subject and obnoxious3, did require; and [his obedience], moreover, to the peculiar law of the mediator.4

Jesus obeyed both the laws of nature that were applicable before humanity’s fall into ruin, and laws that God added later.

I appreciate how careful John Owen is in how he thinks about various categories of righteousness and obedience.

1 Owen, John. Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Public domain. Republished by CCEL. Accessed April 10, 2021.

2 Ibid.

3 This used in an archaic sense. I’m not positive what Owen means by the word. He may mean that we, being subject to the law, are harmed by it because we don’t keep it. Or perhaps he just means that the law carried with it the threat of punishment for disobedience.

4 Owen, John. Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.