Perkins On Christ’s Active Obedience And Our Gratitude


The second degree, is Justification, whereby such as believe, are accounted just before God, through the obedience of Christ Jesus. 2. Cor. 5. 21. He has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin: that we should be made the righteousness of God in him. 1. Cor. 1. 30. Rom. 5. 19. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (that is, Jesus Christ) shall many also be made righteous.

Quest. Whether did Christ perform full obedience to the Law, for us men alone, or for himself also?

Answ. I. Not for himself, as some not rightly would have him: for the flesh of Christ being hypostatically united to the Word, and so in it self fully sanctified, was even from the first moment of conception, most worthy to be blessed with eternal life. Therefore, by all that obedience which he performed after his conception, Christ merited nothing for himself. II. For us, namely, for the faithful, he fulfilled all the righteoussness of the law and hence it is, that he is called the end of the law unto righteousness, to every one who believes, Rom. 10. 4.

Here may be objected: I. Christ as he is man, is bound to perform obedience to the law for himself.

Answ. He is not bound by nature, but of his own accord: for he was not a mere man, but God and man. And albeit Christ did never suffer nor fulfill the law, but in that flesh which he took upon him; yet by reason of the hypostatical union, this his passion and obedience has respect unto the whole person, considered as God and man, and therefore his obedience was not due on his part, and so was without merit to himself yea, in that the flesh of Christ is united to the person of the Word, and so exalted in dignity and sanctity, above all angels, it may seem to be exempted from this natural obligation of performing the law.

II. Object. If then Christ performed the law for us, we are no more bound to the observance of the same: as we do not undergo eternal punishments for our sins, the which Christ in his person did bear upon the cross.

Answer. If we keep the same respect of performing obedience to the law, the consequence is very true, otherwise it is not so: for Christ performed obedience to the law for us, as it is the satisfaction of the law: but the faithful they are bound to obedience, not as it is satisfactory, but as it is a document of faith, and a testimony of their gratitude towards God, or a means to edify their neighbours: even as Christ suffering eternal punishments for our sins, we also suffer punishments, as they are either trials, or chastisments unto us.

III. Object. The law and justice of God do not togither exact both, namely obedience, and punishment.

Answ. In man’s perfect estate, the justice of God requires only obedience: but in his estate corrupted, he requires both obedience, and punishment. Punishment, as the law is violated: Obedience, that legal justice may be performed. Gal. 3. 10. It is therefore plain, that not only Christ’s passion, but also his legal obedience, is our righteousness before God.

Justification hath two parts: Remission of sins, and imputation of Christs righteoussness.

Remission of sins, is that part of justification, whereby he that believeth, is freed from the guilt and punishment of sin, by the passion of Christ. Col. 1. 21, 22. You has he now reconciled in the body of his flesh thorough death, to make you holy and blameless, and without fault in his sight. 1. Pet. 2. 24. Who, in his own flesh, bore our sins in his body, on the tree, that we being delivered from sin, should live in righteousness, by whose stripes you are healed.

Imputation of righteousness, is the other part of justification, whereby such as believe, having the guilt of their sins covered, are accounted just in the sight of God, through Christ’s righteousness. 2. Cor. 5. 21. Psal. 32. 1. Blessed is he, whose wickedness is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Rom. 4. the whole chapter, where the Apostle repeats imputation eleven times. Phil. 3. 8, 9. I have counted all things loss, and do judge them to be dung, that I might win Christ, and might be found in him, that is, not having my own righteousness that is by the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness [note] which is of faith.

The form of justification, is, as it were, a kind of translation of the believer’s sins to Christ, and again Christ’s righteousness unto the believer, by a reciprocal or mutual imputation. As is apparent in this picture following.


William Perkins | Golden Chain (1590; 1616 edition) (spelling and punctuation modernized; emphasis added).


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