Why do you think Christ has to live for about 33 years on earth? Couldn’t He just simply die on the cross to pay for the sins of His people? These questions go to the heart of the issue on the need for the Son of God to live on earth.
THE NECESSITY OF A PERFECT LIFE
It was not enough for the Son of God to become a Man; it was required that He live a life of perfect obedience under the law of God. His righteousness as the Eternal God is not the righteousness that He clothes to His people, but a positive righteousness that He earned by perfectly obeying the will of His Father in His incarnation.
If He had been found guilty of even one violation of the law in mind, desire, speech, or act; He would have disqualified Himself as a sacrifice for sin.
Only a perfectly obedient Second Adam could undo what the first Adam caused by his moral failure (Romans 5:12-19).
The table above shows a brief comparison between Adam and Christ.
Adam is the first Adam and Christ is the second, for nothing came between them. Christ is also the Second Adam for nothing will come after Him.
Adam is the federal head of all humanity. Jesus is for the elect. As federal heads, they were acting for and in behalf of their descendants. Both of them in their single act of disobedience (for Adam) and obedience (for Christ) resulted in death and life respectively. When Adam fell, we fell in Him. But in Christ, since He accomplished and obeyed the law of God perfectly which Adam was not able to do, His people fulfilled the law in Him.
If you are in Adam as an unbeliever and outside of Christ, you are condemned. But in Christ by faith, you are justified. In Him alone, you can find the righteousness that you need to be made right in the sight of God.
THE NATURE OF HIS Human life
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the fleshRomans 8:3
Our text does not say that God sent His Son in sinful flesh but in the likeness of it. John Gill, in his commentary on this verse, writes, ‘“in the likeness of sinful flesh”; which expresses the reality of his incarnation, of his having a true real human nature; for flesh is not to be taken strictly for a part of the body, nor for the whole body only, but for the whole human nature, soul and body; which though it looked like a sinful nature, yet was not sinful: the likeness of it denotes the outward appearance of Christ in it; who was born of a sinful woman; was subject to the infirmities of human nature, which though not sinful, are the effects of sin; was reckoned among transgressors…’
Paul Washer notes, “In the incarnation, the Son of God did not take upon Himself the body of pre-fall mankind; rather, He took a body that, though untainted by sin, was subject to all the terrible consequences of our fallen race.”
He was subject to the same limitations, frailties, afflictions, and anguish of fallen humanity.
There are passages in the Scripture that tell us Christ experienced things that we experience. He wept upon knowing that His loved one died (John 11:35). As a man, He grew weary, rested, and slept (Mark 4:38). Since He has a true human nature, He needed food and drink. He was hungry and thirsty (John 4:6-7). Some people use these human traits and experiences to argue against the deity of Christ but if they understand the union of His divine and human nature, it would not be hard to accept this truth.
This is a great consolation for the believers since they have a perfect Savior who is able to sympathize with their weaknesses, He is the One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
It would have been a great humiliation if He had taken the nature of humanity before the fall when it was in its full glory and strength. However, He was sent in the “likeness of sinful flesh”!
The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the Son of GodLuke 1:35
Another thing that we need to understand that must be given emphasis is that He was sinless. He was conceived without the depraved Adamic nature. In the verse above, the word “holy” is the same word used of the Spirit. Again, as we pointed before, the child didn’t need to be born of a sinless virgin in order to be kept pure from sin. He was the “Holy Child” because He was conceived of the “Holy Spirit.”
There were heresies in the past that were put forth in order to preserve the sinlessness of Christ but fail short of what the Bible teaches. Some say that His flesh was sent from heaven, and passed through Mary (Valentinians), and others say that the Word was turned into flesh, with a human soul and divine spirit (Apollinarists, and some modern Anabaptists). These are erroneous views since Jesus received His flesh from the virgin. Let us take a look at the following passages:
- Gen. 3:15 – “the seed of the woman”
- Gen. 22:18 – “the offspring of Abraham”
- Rom. 1:3 – “the son and descendant of David”
- Lk. 1:31, 42 – “the seed of the Virgin & the fruit of her womb”
- Gal. 4:4 – “made of a woman”
Francis Turretin’s1 remarks on the verses above are helpful, he writes,
- He is called the son of Abraham or of David because he was promised to them; for thus he might equally be called the son of all believers, to whom also he was promised.
- He is the son of David in the same way in which he is said to be the son of Joseph.
- He is called the son of Joseph only equivocally because he seemed to be such in the opinion of others (as “we supposed” [hōs enomizeto], as Luke says, 3:23), but he ought to be called the son of David properly and univocally, having sprung from the fathers and from the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3; 9:5).
- Or he is called the fruit of Mary’s womb because he was conceived in it, not from it. By womb, there is not denoted only the place of conception, but also the matter (as explained in Rom. 1:3 and Gal. 4:4 when he is said to be “made of a woman”). Nor if Christ was Mary’s Lord according to the Spirit, does it follow that he could not be her son according to the flesh.
Again, it is important to observe that the Messiah is “the fruit of…” and “born of…”, not the fruit in or something that denotes that the Messiah was just simply put inside Mary’s womb.
But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to youActs 3:14
Notice that in the verse above, Peter says that they disowned the “Holy” and “Righteous” One. It was not a description of who the Son of God was prior to His incarnation but after He lived His life on earth.
Paul Washer observes that the word “holy” refers to one who is undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, and morally pure. The word “righteous” means conformity to the nature and will of God.
From the passages above we learned that Christ as a human is sinless, perfect, and undefiled and He lived His life in perfect obedience to the will of God. In our next lessons, we will see the testimony of the New Testament to the overwhelming sinlessness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A PERFECT LIFE
The point of this all is that only a Lamb unblemished and spotless could give His life for the sins of the world (John 1:29; I Peter 1:19). In the Old Testament, the burnt offering for the sins of the Israelites should be without blemish (Exodus 12:5, Leviticus 1:10). They were commanded to offer only that which are unblemished since to offer anything with defect is a detestable thing to the LORD their God (Deuteronomy 17:1). The Holy God wouldn’t accept anything that is tainted with sin.
But the Son is more than that, He is not only without the taint of sin, but He also did not commit any sin. Unlike us, we sinned and we are sinning against the LORD daily (both intentional and unintentional). The good news is that the Son lived a perfect life not only because He is God in flesh but also because He perfectly obeyed the will of His Father.
John Murray commenting on the obedience of Christ (called as the active and passive obedience of Christ which refer to the fulfillment of the precepts of the law and the payment of the penalty for sin respectively) points clearly,
The truth expressed rests upon the recognition that the law of God has both penal sanctions and positive demands. It demands not only the full discharge of its precepts but also the infliction of penalty for all infractions and shortcomings. It is this twofold demand of the law of God which is taken into account when we speak of the active and passive obedience of Christ. Christ as the vicar of his people came under the curse and condemnation due to sin and he also fulfilled the law of God in all its positive requirements. In other words, he took care of the guilt of sin and perfectly fulfilled the demands of righteousness. He perfectly met both the penal and the preceptive requirements of God’s law.2
We cannot be accepted by God through our own good works, for the best of them are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We need the righteousness of another, perfect righteousness which can only be found in Christ. This is a much greater solution than if God punished us for breaking His law; if He did that His law would still be broken. In Jesus, we have God’s law completely kept, while at the same time God can declare sinners righteous.3
We need Christ’s perfect life—a life marked with perfect obedience—because, without it, we cannot be accepted by God. His obedience is the ground of our justification. Aside from Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross, without Christ’s righteousness, we do not have the righteousness that satisfies the justice of the Righteous and Holy One. That’s why we sing…
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these, arrayed
With joy shall I lift up my head.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
1 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol. 2, 13th Topic: The Person and State of Christ; 5th Question: The Nature Assumed, sec. 5
2 John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied. pp. 21-22
3 Horatius Bonar, Absolutely Basic, p. 31
2 thoughts on “The Son’s Perfect Life I”
So thankful for Jesus and his ministry of saving grace.
Thanks for the insight.
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Amen! We are really in need of His grace daily.
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