The Obedience of Christ

Behold Your God Podcast

We spent a few episodes before Christmas discussing different types of spiritual correspondence. We talked about encouraging letters written from pastors to congregants. We also looked at love letters from godly men to their wives. This week we return again to spiritual correspondence, but this time it is in the form of a telegram.

Just before his death, Dr. John Gresham Machen dictated a telegram to his friend and fellow professor Dr. John Murray. In it, he said, “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. There is no hope without it.”

The active obedience of Christ.

What does that phrase mean? Why was it so important to Machen as he prepared to enter eternity? The obedience of Jesus is tied to several spiritual realities and precious doctrines for the Christian to grasp. Sadly, it is a thought few spend a great deal of time meditating on. Our aim in this podcast is to whet your appetite and encourage you to study the Scriptures and read about Jesus’ perfect obedience to God the Father.



It is important to note that the obedience of Jesus has traditionally been thought of in two camps: His active obedience and His passive obedience. John and Matthew discuss why we use the term passive, even though Jesus was very active in His obedience, and how we can live (and die) upon the hope and comfort found in these realities.

0:00-6:00 Matthew introduces the telegram and its content by Machen. He also gives more context by reading an excerpt of a radio address Machen gave shortly before. John explains the importance of the doctrine for each individual believer because, at its heart, it is the question of how a man can be right with God.

6:00-10:00 John illustrates and simplifies what is meant by the terms passive and active obedience of Christ. He also describes how we can take the truths of Jesus’ passive and active obedience and apply them in a way that is wrong and offensive to God.

10:00-13:00 Did the perfect life of Christ (active obedience) provide us with a perfect sacrifice with our sin? Yes. But some Christian leaders, especially John Wesley, have said that is all the life of Jesus did. After that, Wesley taught that Christians must lead holy lives that would be added to the work of Christ on the day of judgment. John explains why this view is unbiblical and how we should understand the relationship between Jesus’ obedience and our holiness.

13:00-17:00 Wesley’s last words were, “God was with us,” referring to the work of the Great Awakening. Those were great words, but not as powerful as Machen’s. This is brought up because Wesley’s statement was sourced in a view that his righteousness depended on what he did after conversion. He was afraid that teaching imputation would leave no motivation for practical holiness. John explains why that fear cannot become a reality for the Christian. One major difference between Machen and Wesley was the belief of imputed versus imparted righteousness.

17:00-19:00 We go deeper into theological terms with double and triple imputation. John shares how, as a baby believer, he was afraid he would abuse the freedom that comes with the doctrine of imputation. As he began to truly understand the love of God, and how God wisely gives that love, he realized how unfounded that fear was.  

19:00-22:00 John gives Scripture’s three big teachings on imputation. First, Adam imputed sin to his children. Second, the believer’s sin was imputed to Jesus Christ on the cross. Third, the perfect life of Christ has been laid upon the Christian.

22:00-26:00 Some Christians feel tension with the phrase passive obedience of Christ. How could Jesus be passive in His obedience to the Father? John and Matthew explain what the doctrine means and why it is appropriate to use this word in this context. Matthew also explains why Christians are in a better position than Adam before the fall because of the active and passive obedience of Christ.

26:00-28:00 John describes how the biblical doctrines discussed in this podcast are an engine for holiness.

In this week’s Supporter Appreciation Episode, John and Matthew take a question from a listener. I just listened to Take Care How You Listen and have a question. If you attend a church like Joel Osteen's, are you still to come under that teaching with a plowed heart?

While there are many nuances behind the question we are not privy to, there are biblical principles we can discuss. Each of them is worthy of your consideration, no matter what church you attend. 

We give access to the Supporter Appreciation Episode as a tangible way of showing appreciation for those who partner with Media Gratiae monthly. If you are a monthly supporter, click here for the additional content. As with everything we do, we never want finances to be a genuine barrier between our content and those who want to access it. If that's you, reach out to us at

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Show Notes

Luke 2:49

Hebrews 10:9 / Psalm 40:8

Luke 10:19-20

Transcript of J. Gresham Machen's radio program on the active obedience of Christ.

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