So much about the truth of Christ in the Scriptures respects the obedience He rendered to His Father. Though He is God manifest in the flesh, Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life–as the last Adam–in order to merit righteousness for His people. Jesus kept the Ten Commandments perfectly as the representative of those He came into the world to redeem. Whereas, Adam sinned and broke the law of God in the Garden–soon after God had created him–Jesus obeyed God perfectly from infancy to manhood. Jesus never sinned. Jesus was obedient, the Apostle Paul, tells us “all the way to death on the cross” (Phil. 2:8). In fact, the death of Jesus was the culmination of His life of perfect obedience. Jonathan Edwards tied together the spiritual significance of Jesus’ life of obedience and Jesus’ obedience unto the death on the cross, when he wrote,
“We are saved by Christ’s death as much as it was an act of obedience, as it was a propitiation. For as it was not the only act of obedience that merited, so neither was it the only suffering that was propitiatory: all his sufferings from the beginning were propitiatory, as every act of obedience was meritorious. Indeed this was his principal suffering, and it was as much his principal act of obedience. Heb. 5:8, ‘Yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered.'”
The Westminster Larger Catechism also teaches us about Jesus’ representative law-keeping, in answer to the question, “What special use is the moral law to the regenerate?” The catechism states,
“Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned: yet, beside the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead and for their good…”
Nevertheless (as has been noted in recent years) we have not always adequately explained the various ways in which Christ fulfilled each of the Ten Commandments for us. Many theologians have written helpful expositions of the Ten Commandments. Several of them will end by reminding us that we need Jesus’ death to atone for our violations of each commandment. Some of them will leave off with a statement about the fact that Jesus kept the law perfectly. However, almost none them explain the various ways in which Jesus kept each commandment in the place of His people. It will do much spiritual good to our souls to search the record of the Gospels in order to discover the ways in which Jesus kept the moral law of God in our place. Here are a few ways that Jesus perfectly obeyed the law of God throughout His earthly life:
First Commandment: Jesus never put another God before God. He loved the Lord His God with all His heart, mind soul and strength. He went up to the Temple and worshipped every year (Luke 2:41–52). He grew in wisdom and knowledge, and in favor with God and man (2:52). When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, He–as the last Adam–withstood the temptation to bow down and worship the evil one. Jesus was fully commited to only worshiping the Lord (Luke 4:7-8). Jesus perfectly trusted His Father in the Garden and on the cross (Luke 22:42; 23:24, 46).
Second Commandment: Jesus never worshipped God falsely. His zeal to cleanse the Temple was commensurate with God’s command against false worship (John 2:13-22). Jesus warned the Pharisees that the essence of their hypocrisy was drawing near God with their lips but having hearts far from Him. They were, in the words of Isaiah, “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9). By way of contrast, Jesus always worshiped His Father according to His word. He never embraced or taught man made doctrines or traditions.
Third Commandment: Jesus never took the name of the Lord His God in vain. Jesus taught His disciples the importance of not using God’s name in vain by flippantly taking oaths or vows (Matt. 5:36-37). Jesus only spoke the words that the Father had given Him” (John 12:49). He always represented God as He is in truth. Jesus declared that He Himself is “the Truth” (John 14:6), the eternal “image of the invisible God” (Heb. 1:2). Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10).
Fourth Commandment: Jesus never violated the Sabbath. Luke tells us that He went up to the synagogue to read every Sabbath…”as was His custom” (Luke 4:16). Jesus perfectly delighted Himself in His Father on the Lord’s Day. As the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus performed miracles of healing and mercy (Matt 12:1–14) on the Sabbath to show that He had come to give men the spiritual and eternal rest to their souls (Matt. 11:28–29).
Fifth Commandment: Jesus perfectly honored his mother and legal father. He submitted Himself to their care in the home as a boy. More than that, Jesus always did what His Heavenly Father told Him (Luke 2:48-49). When He was dying on the cross, Jesus provided a home for Mary (John 19:27). Jesus showed respect to those who–in God’s providence–were in positions of authority in the civil sphere (Mark 12:17).
Sixth Commandment: Jesus always promoted life. The many miracles of healings that marked His messianic ministry were foreshadowings of the great healing in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus preserved life when He multiplied the loaves and fish for the multitudes (Matt. 14:13-21; 15:32-39). However, even more importantly, Jesus came to give eternal life to those who would believe in Him. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). By His almighty power and atoning death, Jesus protected and provided for the physical and spiritual life of people.
Seventh Commandment: Jesus never lusted after a woman. Jesus never engaged in sexual sin in any shape or form whatsoever. Rather, He was faithful to the bride the Father had sent Him into the world to redeem. Jesus “loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the end” (John 13:1).” The Apostle Paul tells us that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25–27).
Eighth Commandment: Jesus never took anything that wasn’t His from another. He never gained by unjust weights or measures. Jesus wouldn’t disobey His Father when the devil tempted Him to turn stones into bread (Luke 4:3-4). He wouldn’t allow the people to come and make Him King (John 6:15). He paid the ultimate price for what it would cost for Him to redeem a people and establish the Kingdom of God–His cursed death on the tree under the wrath of God. Jesus gave everything He had for the redemption of His people. He poured out His very lifeblood for the salvation of sinners. Additionally, He gave–out of His own fulness–spiritual and ministerial gifts to His people (Eph. 4:7–8). The eighth commandment requires fathers to lay up for their children. Jonathan Edwards made the following profound observation about the way in which Christ did that for His disciples. He wrote:
“It was the peculiar benefit that he had to bestow on his children, now he was about to leave the world as to his human presence. Silver and gold he had none, for while in his estate of humiliation, he was poor. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had not where to lay his head, Luke 9:58. He had no earthly estate to leave to his disciples who were as it were his family, but he had peace to give them.”
Ninth Commandment: Jesus never bore false witness against His neighbor. He never spoke untruth. When he criticized the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and chief priests he did so in a perfect measure and with a truthful balance. He never slandered or gossiped. He didn’t flatter His neighbor. Jesus bore witness to the fact that all men love darkness.
Tenth Commandment: Jesus never coveted what was not given to Him by His Father. Though, as God, Jesus is the possessor of heaven and earth, as a man He was–at times–homeless (Matt. 8:20) and hungry (Matt. 4:2; 21:18). Women provided for him out of their abundance. Jesus was perfectly content with what the Father had apportioned Him. He waited on His Father for provisions. He never coveted what other men had. He warned against covetousness, when he said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
While so much more could be added to each of these, these examples should suffice to stir up gratitude in our hearts for the law-keeping of the Redeemer. He who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26), is the One who was “born under the law, in order to redeem us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 4:3). He now stands as our great high priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:16).