Christ's Obedience and Ours
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who … became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross…. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed…" (Philippians 2:5-12).
The obedience of Christ was marked by the unvarying character of perfect uniformity with the Father's will, and the manner of His conformity with that will was always unhesitating and unquestioning. Hence the obedience of Christ was of the very highest order, and could never be exceeded nor equalled. It is, however, the standard of excellence towards which His followers must strive to attain.
Christ's Matchless Obedience
Among men, obedience may be the result of persuasion or perhaps of fear, but the obedience of our Lord had no such mixed character. It was pure at its source. It was His food to do the will of Him that sent Him. He lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. "I delight to do Thy will, O My God" (Psalm 40:8), was the constant language of His heart. His will was always in faultless unison with the Father's.
It is true that in heaven the will of God is perfectly obeyed, but the unfallen angels in their ministry are only fulfilling the purpose of their creation by "hearkening unto the voice of His Word" (Psalm 103:20; Hebrews 1:14). But the obedient Man, Christ Jesus, was the beloved Son of God, in whom the Father was well pleased when He humbled Himself, and became a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death (Hebrews 2:9). It was the transcendent dignity of His person that elevated His obedience beyond all comparison on earth or in heaven. As the Eternal Son, Christ is "over all, God blessed for ever" (Romans 9:5). From the smallest creature on the earth to the most exalted archangel in the heavens nothing stirred but at His bidding, yet Christ "humbled Himself" by His own choice, and "descended into the lower parts of the earth" (Ephesians 4:9) in the course of His obedience.
What a marvel of marvels it is, that the Eternal Son should take the place of "bondman" and should learn "obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). This lesson of submission was "learned" perfectly at the time and in the manner appointed. From first to last not a single exhortation from God to quicken His service was needed by the Lord, for without exception, the Son invariably did those things that pleased the Father.
The Obedience of Believers
All that are Christ's are bound to exhibit the same moral attitude of implicit obedience toward Him who has called them. For as surely as we are elect, sanctified, and sprinkled, so surely are we called unto the obedience of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2). This manner of obedience to the will of God should apply not only to our outward deeds but also to our inward desires, for we are expected to bring even every thought to "the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
But, owing to the insubjection of our nature, we cannot in any degree set forth the obedience of Christ unless we possess the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit prefaces His portrayal of Christ's humiliating stoop to bondmanship with the exhortation, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). Our conformity to Christ in His lowliness must commence in the heart and in the mind. The mind of the obedient saint must ever be open in patient expectation to receive directions from on high, and his obedience will consist of complete subjection to whatever he hears.
Acceptable obedience is to run in the way of God's commandments, to have a holy care to know God's will and a saintly willingness to do it. Such ready and cheerful obedience yields a fragrance to Christ, acceptable to God our Father. Let us remember that "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). Let us delight to do the will of our God, and let us thank God that He has made us "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) and given us of His Holy Spirit that the yoke of obedience may be easy and the burden of doing His will may be light.
—W.J. Hocking (adapted)