Christ’s Obedience and Justification

“It is only Christ’s keeping the commandments that entitles me to enter life.”

This is a quote from Spurgeon and I have a problem with it. If Christ’s keeping of the Law is what gives me life then I am justified by deeds of the Law, which Paul tells me is not possible.

I am not justified by my keeping the Law nor am I justified by someone else keeping the Law. I am justified by the blood of Christ and His resurrection.

Scripture does not teach that Christ keeping the Law justifies anyone. The closest you may get is, “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”

It does a disservice to this verse to make “obedience” apply merely to Christ’s keeping of the Law. Christ’s obedience extended to His death, even death on the cross.

Christ did need to keep the Law in order to be a proper sacrifice, but His obedience to the Law saved no one apart from His death and Resurrection. Christ’s proper Sabbath keeping does not justify me; it showed He was the perfect sacrifice and made His subsequent death and resurrection satisfying to God.

This is a fine line of theology many have argued over. I will not end the argument. I will defend the point that no flesh is justified by the Law, “for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.”

Spurgeon is better than I in many ways, but I think he is wrong here.

12 thoughts on “Christ’s Obedience and Justification”

  1. Not knowing the context of the quote, or whether it was part of a larger thought process, I think it would be unfair to build a case on that one sentence that Spurgeon thought that Christ’s keeping of the law was the sole prerequisite for eternal life.


    Here is a link to the larger quote. It’s merely an explanation of Calvinism, which I have some problems with. Christ does everything; man has no choice in the matter and I think it goes too far. It’s an attempt to counter Catholic meritorious works by saying we can’t do anything, Christ did all our obedience for us. True in a sense, not in another sense. I think they (Calvinists) blur the line and go to an opposite extreme in their efforts to not be Catholic.

  3. Jeff, the next paragraph Spurgeon declares that Christ death alone without His obedience to the commands of God would not be sufficient to save us from our unrighteousness. It’s Christ’s obedience in keeping of the law and the Father’s will unto death, that makes those who trust in Him, righteous. It’s the spotless Lamb who justifies those who put their faith in Him.

    “We find the apostle Paul putting Christ’s obedience in contrast to the disobedience of Adam: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many he made righteous.” Now this is not Christ’s death merely, but Christ’s active obedience, which is here meant, and it is by this that we are made righteous. . . .”

  4. I hear ya. But note in the paragraph you quote he says it is Christ’s active obedience–his keeping the law–“which is here meant, and it is by THIS we are made righteous” when I don’t think so. Christ’s obedience to His Father’s will did indeed accomplish salvation–being the perfect sacrifice, dying and being resurrected. But this is not the same as saying it was “Christ’s obedience to the commandments” that saves me, which is what the quote I had in the post.

    It’s trying to make obedience unnecessary for the believer, the Calvinist notion that I can do nothing because I’m dead worthless scum, before during and after salvation. I agree I am scum before salvation, I believe that during salvation (the life of faith) I have scummy tendencies but also a completely glorified spiritual nature that can obey God, and after, in heaven, all scum is gone.

    Spurgeon and Calvinists say that we are scum all the way through, maybe not in heaven, but probably. (somewhat facetious sarcasm). Therefore I cannot obey so good thing Christ kept the Law for me. I’m hesitant to buy into their strong language on the issue, that’s all. Feel free to disagree.

  5. Hmmm… I don’t pretend to know all the in and outs of Calvinism but I have never heard that they don’t believe that they are a new creation in Christ. That seems very different from what I have been told. If Calvin professed as you say…
    “to make obedience unnecessary for the believer, the Calvinist notion that I can do nothing because I’m dead worthless scum, before during and after salvation.”
    Are you sure you have that right Jeff? I have never heard that Calvin believe that obedience was unnecessary for the believer.
    I would be interested in seeing some info on that teaching it seems very different from what I have read and gathered from Calvin’s teachings.

  6. As I said, I’m being somewhat sarcastic. Very few Calvinists say what I said they say, but there are a few who have, and quite honestly, it is a logical conclusion of Calvinism. Calvin would not agree with much of modern Calvinism, I’m guessing.

    To me it’s a point stressed out of balance that does lead to a dangerous view. I think there should be a stress on Jesus obeying the will of His Father, and not an emphasis on Jesus keeping the Law, since the Bible rarely addresses Jesus keeping the Law and certainly does not make a point of it when discussing salvation and justification, whereas Calvinists tend to bring up Jesus keeping the Law as a pinnacle of justification. I just don’t see what they stress being stressed in Scripture.

  7. Thanks for the links Jeff, I too believe that Calvin’s followers take his teachings to a hyper view, perhaps even one that Calvin would not support. I do believe that those who have been chosen by God will persevere, but we do have a part in the working out of our faith. I guess I’m some sort of hybrid, I’m not a one size fits all theology type of guy.

  8. I like this verse:

    “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” Isa. 53:11

    His “obedience”, His “death”, His “knowledge”…they all seem to be tied together, don’t they?

  9. They are. My contention is the fact that I am not saved by Christ’s law keeping. No flesh is justified by deeds of the law. I’m justified by His blood and resurrection.

  10. Paul meant exclusively that no fallen flesh is justified by attempts at compliance to the Law. The good Law (good-righteous-holy – Romans 7:12) only fails to save when it interacts with fallen humanity. You are absolutely correct that it is Christ’s blood that justifies. Now here is a key to the mystery that your struggle with: What calls for and even demands shed blood? It is the holy Law of God that demands the blood of an innocent lamb. Jesus was the innocent perfect Lamb that complied with 100% of the Law so that we could be justified through faith. You, my friend, are indeed justified through perfect compliance to the Law by the Christ. If He did not comply, then our justification would not exist. This is what Spurgeon meant.

  11. Saying that Christ’s keeping the law makes him a perfect sacrifice, which I completely agree with, is not at all the same thing as saying that Christ keeping the law justifies me.

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