(Owen, Christologia, Part 11)

Chapter XI. Obedience unto Christ--The Nature and Causes of it 
II. All holy obedience, both internal and external is that which we 
proposed as the second part of our religious regard unto the person of 
Christ. His great injunction unto his disciples is, "That they keep 
his commandments"--without which, none are so. 
 Some say the Lord Christ is to be considered as a lawgiver, and the 
gospel as a new law given by him, whereby our obedience unto him is to 
be regulated. Some absolutely deny it, and will not grant the gospel 
in any sense to be a new law. And many dispute about these things, 
whilst obedience itself is on all hands generally neglected. But this 
is that wherein our principal concernment does lie. I shall not, 
therefore, at present, immix myself in any needless disputations. 
Those things wherein the nature and necessity of our obedience unto 
him is concerned, shall be briefly declared. 
 The law under the Old Testament, taken generally, had two parts,-- 
first, the moral preceptive part of it; and, secondly, the 
institutions of worship appointed for that season. These are jointly 
and distinctly called the law. 
 In respect unto the first of these, the Lord Christ gave no new law, 
nor was the old abrogated by him--which it must be if another were 
given in the room of it, unto the same ends. For the introduction of a 
new law in the place of and unto the end of a former, is an actual 
abrogation of it. Neither did he add any new precepts unto it, nor 
give any counsels for the performance of duties in matter or manner 
beyond what it prescribed. Any such supposition is contrary to the 
wisdom and holiness of God in giving the law, and inconsistent with 
the nature of the law itself. For God never required less of us in the 
law than all that was due unto him; and his prescription of it 
included all circumstances and causes that might render any duty at 
any time necessary in the nature or degree of it. Whatever at any time 
may become the duty of any person towards God, in the substance or 
degrees of it, it is made so by the law. All is included in that 
summary of it, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 
and thy neighbour as thyself". Nothing can be the duty of men but what 
and when it is required by the love of God or our neighbour. 
Wherefore, no additions were made unto the preceptive part of the law 
by our Saviour, nor counsels given by him for the performance of more 
than it did require. 
 In this regard the Gospel is no new law;--only the duties of the 
moral and eternal law are plainly declared in the doctrine of it, 
enforced in its motives, and directed as to their manner and end. Nor 
in this sense did the Lord Christ ever declare himself to be a new 
lawgiver; yea, he declares the contrary--that he came to confirm the 
old, Matt. 5: 17. 
 Secondly, The law may be considered as containing the institutions of 
worship which were given in Horeb by Moses, with other statutes and 
judgments. It was in this sense abolished by Christ. For the things 
themselves were appointed but unto the time of reformation. And 
thereon, as the supreme Lord and lawgiver of the Gospel Church, he 
gave a new law of worship, consisting in several institutions and 
ordinances of worship thereunto belonging. See Heb. 3: 3-6, and our 
explanation of that place. 
 Obedience unto the Lord Christ may be considered with respect unto 
both these;--the moral law which he confirmed, and the law of 
evangelical worship which he gave and appointed. And some few things 
may be added to clear the nature of it. 
 1. Obedience unto Christ does not consist merely in doing the things 
which he requireth. So far the church under the Old Testament was 
obliged to yield obedience unto Moses; and we are yet so unto the 
prophets and apostles This is done, or may be so, with respect unto 
any subordinate directive cause of our obedience, when it is not 
formally so denominated from his authority. All obedience unto Christ 
proceeds from an express subjection of our souls and consciences unto 
 2. No religious obedience could be due unto the Lord Christ directly, 
by the rule and command of the moral law, were he not God by nature 
also. The reason and foundation of all the obedience required therein 
is, "I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me." 
This contains the formal reason of our religious obedience. The 
Socinians pretend highly unto obedience to the precepts of Christ; but 
all obedience unto Christ himself they utterly overthrow. The 
obedience they pretend unto him, is but obeying God the Father 
according to his commands; but they take away the foundation of all 
obedience unto his person, by denying his divine nature. And all 
religious obedience unto any who is not God by nature, is idolatry. 
Wherefore, all obedience unto God, due by the moral law, has respect 
unto the person of Christ, as one God with the Father and Holy Spirit, 
blessed for ever. 
 3. There is a peculiar respect unto him in all moral obedience as 
 (1.) In that by the supreme authority over the church wherewith he 
was vested, he has confirmed all the commands of the moral law, giving 
them new enforcements; whence he calls them his commands. "This," 
saith he, "is my commandment, That ye love one another;" which yet was 
the old commandment of the moral law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour 
as thyself." Hence the apostle calls it an old and new commandment, 1 
John 2: 7, 8. 
 This law was given unto the church under the Old Testament in the 
hand of a mediator; that is, of Moses, Gal. 3: 19. It had an original 
power of obliging all mankind unto obedience, from its first 
institution or prescription in our creation; which it never lost nor 
abated in. Howbeit the church was obliged to have a respect unto it, 
as it was given unto them, "ordained by angels in the hand of a 
mediator." See Mal. 4: 4. Hereon many things hard and difficult did 
ensue, which we are now freed from. We are not obliged unto the 
observance of the moral law itself, as given in the hand of that 
mediator, which gave it the formal reason of a covenant unto that 
people, and had other statutes and judgments inseparable from it. But 
the same law continueth still in its original authority and power, 
which it had from the beginning, to oblige all indispensably unto 
 Howbeit, as the Church of Israel, as such, was not obliged unto 
obedience unto the moral law absolutely considered, but as it was 
given unto them peculiarly in the hand of a mediator--that is, of 
Moses; no more is the Evangelical Church, as such, obliged by the 
original authority of that law, but as it is confirmed unto us in the 
hand of our Mediator. This renders all our moral obedience 
evangelical. For there is no duty of it, but we are obliged to perform 
it in faith through Christ, on the motives of the love of God in him, 
of the benefits of his mediation, and the grace we receive by him: 
whatever is otherwise done by us is not acceptable unto God. 
 They do, therefore, for the most part, but deceive themselves and 
others, who talk so loudly about moral duties. I know of none that are 
acceptable unto God, which are not only materially, but formally so, 
and no more. 
 If the obligation they own unto them be only the original power of 
the moral law, or the law of our creation, and they are performed in 
the strength of that law unto the end of it, they are no way accepted 
of God. But if they intend the duties which the moral law requireth, 
proceeding from, and performed by, faith in Christ, upon the grounds 
of the love of God in him, and grace received from him--then are they 
duties purely evangelical. And although the law has never lost, nor 
ever can lose, its original power of obliging us unto universal 
obedience, as we are reasonable creatures; yet is our obedience unto 
it as Christians, as believers, immediately influenced by its 
confirmation unto the Evangelical church in the hand of our Mediator. 
 (2.) God has given unto the Lord Christ all power in his name, to 
require this obedience from all that receive the Gospel. Others are 
left under the original authority of the Law, either as implanted in 
our natures at their first creation, as are the Gentiles; or as 
delivered by Moses, and written in tables of stone, as it was with the 
Jews, Rom. 2: 12-15. But as unto them that are called unto the faith 
of the Gospel, the authority of Christ does immediately affect their 
minds and consciences. "He feeds" or rules his people "in the strength 
of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God," Micah 5: 
4. All the authority and majesty of God is in him and with him;--so of 
old, as the great Angel of God's presence, he was in the church in the 
wilderness with a delegated power, Exod. 23: 20-22: "Behold, I send an 
Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the 
place which I have prepared: beware of him, and obey his voice, 
provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my 
name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all 
that I speak," &c. The name of God the Father is so in him--that is, 
he is so partaker of the same nature with him--that his voice is the 
voice of the Father: "If thou obey his voice, and do all that I 
speak". Nevertheless, he acts herein as the Angel of God, with power 
and authority delegated from him. So is he still immediately present 
with the church, requiring obedience in the name and majesty of God. 
 (3.) All judgment upon and concerning this obedience is committed 
unto him by the Father: "For the Father judgeth no man," (that is, 
immediately as the Father,) "but has committed all judgment unto the 
Son," John 5: 22; He "has given him authority to execute judgment, 
because he is the Son of man," verse 27. And his judgment is the 
judgment of God; for the Father, who judgeth none immediately in his 
own person, judgeth all in him, 1 Peter 1: 17: "If ye call on the 
Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every 
man's work." He does so in and by the Son, unto whom all judgment is 
committed. And unto him are we to have regard in all our obedience, 
unto whom we must give our account concerning it, and by whom we are 
and must be finally judged upon it. To this purpose speaks the 
apostle, Rom. 14: 10-12, "We shall all stand before the judgment seat 
of Christ For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee 
shall bow to me, and every tongue shall conferee to God. So then every 
one of us shall glee account of himself to God." He proveth that we 
shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, or be judged by 
him, by a testimony of Scripture that we shall be also judged by God 
himself, and give an account of ourselves unto him. And as this does 
undeniably prove and confirm the divine nature of Christ, without the 
faith whereof there is neither cogency in the apostle's testimony nor 
force in his arguing; so he declares that God judgeth us only in and 
by him. In this regard of our moral obedience unto Christ lies the way 
whereby God will be gloried. 
 Secondly, All things are yet more plain with respect unto 
institutions of divine worship. The appointment of all divine 
ordinances under the New Testament was his especial province and work, 
as the Son and Lord over his own house; and obedience unto him in the 
observance of them is that which he gives in especial charge unto all 
his disciples, Matt. 28: 18-20 And it is nothing but a loss of that 
subjection of soul and conscience unto him which is indispensably 
required of all believers, that has set the minds of so many at 
liberty to do and observe in divine worship what they please, without 
any regard unto his institutions. It is otherwise with respect unto 
moral duties; for the things of the moral law have an obligation on 
our consciences antecedent unto the enforcement of them by the 
authority of Christ, and there hold us fast. But as unto things of the 
latter sort, our consciences can no way be affected with a sense of 
them, or a necessity of obedience in them, but by the sole and 
immediate authority of Christ himself. If a sense hereof be lost in 
our minds, we shall not abide in the observance of his commands. 

John Owen, Christologia

(continued in Part 12...)

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