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Heaven's Perspective on the Cross: Submission

Monday, September 23, 2013 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

Truth isn’t subjective. That’s an unpopular perspective today, but a vital one—especially when it comes to studying the Bible. Too many people take a self-centered approach with God’s Word. They’re not as interested in what it means as they are in what it means to them.

That subjective mindset is particularly dangerous when it comes to dealing with the Person and work of Christ. Rather than pursuing the true nature and character of Jesus, too many people attempt to re-create Christ in their own image. Depending on whom you ask, He was a political leader, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a guru, or a folk hero. Most people see what they want to see when they look at Christ.

Instead, we need to see Christ the way God sees Him. Specifically, we need to look at Jesus’ death from the perspective of heaven and understand what it means from an eternal viewpoint. We discussed last time how Christ’s death was a sacrifice; today we’ll see it was also an act of submission.

Every element of Christ’s life was submitted to God in perfect obedience—including His death. Jesus delighted to do the will of His Father. In John 4:34 He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” He was obedient and righteous throughout His life. He never contradicted the character of God or took independent action that set Him against the Father (John 5:19, 30). He lived in perfect submission to the law and actively fulfilled the will of God (John 6:38; 8:29).

Theologians through the years have called Christ’s submission active obedience. From the moment of His incarnation (as well as any time before), there was never any sin in Him, nor could there be. Always, at all levels—even with the limited understanding of a child—Jesus obeyed God to the fullest. His whole life was marked by complete and perfect obedience.

His obedience at the cross, however, was different. Rather than fulfilling the law in active obedience, He accepted the full wrath of God for sins He never committed. That can be referred to as Christ’s passive obedience. Not passive in the sense that Jesus wasn’t engaged in what was happening to Him (passive, in this case, comes from the Latin term for His passion). He was still a willing participant, surrendering Himself to the Father, even as He was arrested, tried, mocked, scourged, and crucified.

Whereas Christ’s active obedience was a delight, His passive obedience came at a significant cost. Scripture is clear that Jesus agonized over the suffering He would endure (Luke 22:44), and that it caused Him great distress long before it ever occurred (Luke 12:50). Submitting to the wrath of God on the cross was no easy task, even for the Son of God.

But the fact is, the submission He demonstrated in the hours before His death was no different from the submission He had always demonstrated. He didn’t need to switch gears at the end to find the resources necessary to obediently endure the cross.

Just as Christ’s character cannot be divided, neither can His obedience. He was—and is—always obedient, in both the active and passive senses. And that perfect submission was most vividly and graphically displayed at the cross.


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#1  Posted by Nancy Alvarez  |  Monday, September 23, 2013at 8:25 AM

I am so thankful that I heard my Lord and God call my name all those years ago and give me understanding that I needed his forgiveness for my sins. Ephesians 4:32 were the words the Lord spoke to my heart with. Instantly I saw life in an different realm. He told me Nancy I forgive you in that verse. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice on the day and Praise you for this day in my life!

#2  Posted by Thomas Walker  |  Monday, September 23, 2013at 12:51 PM

Maybe the next conference should be on Active Submission or The Power of Submission.

People can't seem to get that poverty of spirit can end up in jumping for joy in the presence of persecution.Mt.5

It is fascinating to ponder the full power of a life of submission. To us and those in the period of time in which we live it seems counter-intuitive to even entertain such a conundrum and paradox. But Paul saw the potential Phil.3:10

Our only recourse is to look to the Master to discover all that submission reveals to us and for us.

May we all explore the length and bread and depth of submission to our Lord Jesus Christ so we can be powerful in perceived weakness and make a prominent progress in our present period.

(this blog brought to you by the letter "p.")

#3  Posted by Don Patrick Pitzer  |  Sunday, October 13, 2013at 2:06 AM

Thank you Pastor MacArthur. You state, "...too many people attempt to re-create Christ in their own image. Depending on whom you ask, He was a political leader, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a guru, or a folk hero. Most people see what they want to see when they look at Christ." The world's view can most certainly be that of nice guy, philosopher or master communicator, but it appears many in the neo-church are attempting to 're-create' Christ into Mr Magic Man, Jesus the bearer of gifts but no consequences, or their very own personal butler named Gimme This. It seems the self-centered approach has come into the church like aroma therapy under the doors, and its message is primarily about feeling good, where sin (past, present and future) is simply labeled inappropriate behavior, and I get my salvation tweeted to me in 40 instant characters. It's marketing. Genius marketing. Just as Nike doesn't need to make the best shoes, or Apple doesn't need to make the best phones, the neo-church doesn't have to seek His Face. It doesn't need to study the Truth. It's all about WHAT I PERCEIVE to be the truth. It's about WHAT I WANT TO HEAR...what makes me feel good. And I don't want to study, I want it in a small little pill I can take every morning. I want my Jesus Genie in a Bottle. Like cologne, I spray a little Jesus on. And the neo-church is my supplier. So, if I'm constantly told that I am special and I'm led to believe it's all about me, then I'm writing that check (well, direct deposits in today's tech church) and they're selling more books and they're buying their private jets, and they're building mega-churches with 25,000 members and thousands of non-mentored 'small groups', and Larry King gives them their credibility on a soundbite stage. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4