The President’s Column – Every Pastor in the Concordia Lutheran Conference Preaches the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ
The name “Christ” is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah” which means in English “The Anointed One.” It is the title of our Savior’s office for, since His conception and birth, He who is one with the Father and Holy Ghost from eternity has been, according to His human nature, anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him,” (John 3:34). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power,” (Acts 10:38). As the Old Testament priests and kings were anointed with oil before exercising the functions of their respective offices, the Lord Jesus was anointed with the “Oil of Gladness” (the Holy Ghost) to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. “God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the Oil of Gladness above thy fellows.” (Psalm 45:7).
The PROPHETIC OFFICE of Christ began with His Baptism by John in the Jordan River, was exercised during His earthly life by His preaching and miracles through which He revealed Himself as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world, was continued by the Apostles and will continue to the end of time through the verbally inspired writings of the Apostles and Prophets by means of the pastoral office which He has instituted to be established in the visible local Christian congregations for the regular and consistent preaching, teaching, hearing and learning of His Word. Titus 1:5.
The PRIESTLY OFFICE of Christ began with His conception in the womb of the virgin Mary, continued throughout His earthly life, and will continue until the end of the world. To His priestly office belongs His active and passive obedience (to which this article will direct itself), and His intercession for us with His heavenly Father.
The KINGLY OFFICE to which Christ was anointed began at His conception and will continue into all eternity — even though in His state of humiliation, during His earthly life, He did not fully exercise His Kingly Office because, having taken upon Himself the “form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) for our sakes, He did not always and fully use the divine attributes which were nevertheless His also as a true man. In His state of exaltation, which began with His descent into Hell and His triumphant resurrection on Easter morning, the Lord Jesus always and fully uses the divine attributes which are His, also according to His human nature, and by which He rules and fills all things with His divine power and majesty, governing and protecting His Church here on earth and finally leading it to glory everlasting in heaven. As our King, the Lord Jesus, true God and true man, is present everywhere and rules the entire universe (the Kingdom of Power) for the benefit of the true believers (the Kingdom of Grace) whom He will finally receive into the blessedness of His everlasting kingdom in heaven (the Kingdom of Glory).
As mentioned above, the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ belongs to His priestly office. Those, in Old Testament times, who were anointed to the priesthood were to be exclusively from the house of Aaron — descendants of Aaron and his sons, of the tribe of Levi. The Lord God Himself specified what special articles of clothing the priests were to wear and what special sacrifices they were to offer for the people: Offerings of atonement for their sins, peace-offerings, and thank-offerings. They were to represent the people before God. By means of the sacrifices offered by the priests in their behalf, the priests were able to procure for the people the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through the promised Messiah, the Christ, to whom all of the Old Testament sacrifices pointed and from whose sacrifice on the cross they received their power and efficacy. Christ alone is the one and only true Lamb of Sacrifice “which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29).
In Christ we have a perfect High Priest, not of the Aaronic Priesthood, but prefigured by Melchizedek, the priest of Salem (to whom Abram “gave tithes of all,” — Gen. 14:18-20; Heb. 7:1,2), who suddenly appears upon the pages of Old Testament History without any reference to his lineage, his birth or his death (Hebrews 7:3). Because the Lord Jesus, as true God, has no lineage and no beginning or end, the Bible therefore says of Him, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,” (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:6,10; Heb. 6:20; Heb. 7:17,21).
As our “priest forever” (Hebrews, chapters 5-7), the Lord Jesus fulfilled the Holy Law of God perfectly and vicariously, namely, in the stead of every human being ever to be born on earth. The Bible says, “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto righteousness of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many (the many, namely the multitude of mankind) were made sinners, so by the OBEDIENCE of One shall many (the many, namely the multitude of mankind) be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18,19). This, of course, is known as Christ’s active obedience which is proclaimed in all its truth and purity by every pastor in our Concordia Lutheran Conference. It is through His active obedience that our dear Savior has taken away all our guilt, that we might stand righteous and holy before God — clothed alone in Christ’s perfect righteousness, not in the filthy rags of our own good works or merits. As the sin of Adam is imputed (charged) to all people, so that we are all guilty of Adam’s transgression, so the Bible teaches that the very opposite is also true, namely, that the righteousness of the Lord Christ is imputed to all mankind. In this way the Lord Jesus, our Savior, true God and true man, has, as our perfect High Priest, removed all our guilt. As our Substitute, His righteousness covers all our sins.
Not only, however, were we sinners — standing GUILTY before our just and holy God — but, because of our sins, we also stand CONDEMNED by God’s inflexible justice, deserving the wrath of God, death and everlasting torment in Hell. Here, too, the Lord Jesus became our perfect High Priest. He not only took upon Himself our guilt and fulfilled God’s Holy Law perfectly in our stead (His active obedience), BUT He also suffered the punishment of eternal damnation for us (His passive obedience) — that punishment which we and all people deserve by our sins. This, too, our perfect Savior eliminated when He sacrificed Himself on the accursed tree of the cross — thus completing His great Work of Redemption for the whole world when He cried out on Golgotha, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) — that all who believe in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. How sad it is that there are those, even the vast majority of people, who “deny the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction,” (II Peter 2:1) for “he that believeth not shall be damned!” (Mark 16:16).
By the grace of God, in every congregation in our Conference, our pastors, therefore, proclaim both the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ for the eternal salvation of all mankind. Yes, “such an High Priest became us (we needed) who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests (of the Old Testament) to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins and then for the people’s; for this He did once when He offered up Himself,” (Heb. 7:26,27). And we are able to sing with meaningful praise:
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
In these before my God I’ll stand,
When I shall reach the heavenly land.”
— P. R. B.