Concordia Theological Monthly

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active obedience, law, redemption, vicarious satisfaction, suffering

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Bible Study; Lecture; Sermon Prep


The vicarious satisfaction rendered by Christ includes, besides His suffering and death, His fulfilment of the divine Law given to man in place of man (loco hominum). In other words, in order to satisfy the divine justice, Christ not only bore the penalty of man's disobedience of the Law, but also rendered in His holy life that obedience to the Law which man is obligated to render, but does not render (active obedience of Christ, obedientia. Christi activa). As our guilt and punishment was imputed to Christ, so also our obligation to keep God's Law , Gal. 8, 13; 4, 4. 5. In treating of the redemption, some have kept the active obedience in the background, while others have denied outright that it belongs to the vicarious satisfaction. Anselm (Cur Deus Homo, II, 11) excluded it on the ground that Christ was bound to yield this obedience for His own sake-"omnis enim rationalis creatura debet hanc obedientiam Deo." (It should be pointed out however, that, when Anselm permitted his faith and heart to speak, he abandoned his scholastic theory. When he prays: "I refused to obey; but Thou, through Thy obedience, didst expiate for my disobedience; I caroused, Thou didst suffer thirst," he distinctly included the active obedience of Christ in His vicarious satisfaction.) The Lutheran superintendent George Karg (Parsimonius), misapplying the proposition (which indeed lends itself to misapplication) that "the Law obligates either to obedience or to punishment, not to both at once," argued that, "since Christ bore the punishment for us, He rendered the obedience for Himself.” (His thesis aroused a general protest; he was brought to see his error and retracted in 1570.) A. number of Reformed theologians, in particular John Piscator (1625), held that Christ, as a human being, was required to render the active obedience. Modern theologians in general deny that Christ fulfilled the Law given to man in man's stead, insisting that His obedience consisted solely in His willing assumption of the Saviorship and of the suffering attending upon the performance of His office in the midst of sinful humanity". (See Lehre u. Wehre, 1896, p.137. On the modern "vocational obedience" sec Nitzsch-Stephan, pp. 55'1 ff.) The ποῶςον ψεv̄δοζ, of this position lies in placing the "vocational obedience'' and the obedience which Christ rendered the Law given to man, in place of man, in opposition.


Practical Theology

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:4-5; Matthew 5:17; Romans 5:18-19; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 1:19; Psalm 40:7-9; Matthew 12:8; Romans 6:1ff; Matthew 1:21; Romans 10:4; Philippians 3:9; Romans 1:17; Luke 2:24; Matthew 4:4-10; John 15:10; John 8: 46; Luke 2:10-20;

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Laity; Ministers; Scholars