Growing up, I was not much of a rule-follower. I wasn’t malicious in my disobedience, but I certainly liked to push boundaries and test guardrails. When I became a Christian in my teenage years, I learned I wasn’t great at following “Christian” rules either. I always tended toward “freedom” in Christ rather than strict adherence to commands laid down by my pastors.
Of course, we know that to be true rule-followers, we have to be perfect. No mess-ups. No convenient moments of absent-mindedness. But somewhere, somehow, rules always end up broken. We see this in Scripture, not only with regard to obeying the law outwardly, but also in being pure inwardly. We needed God to step into human history if we had any chance at living according to the law.
Paul explains the depths of this truth in his letter to the Philippians. He tells them that Christ “did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity” (Philippians 2:6–7). As the God-man, He didn’t take advantage of His God-ness; rather, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (v.8).
In short, God the Son became a son of Adam. Christ becoming obedient in the incarnation is crucial because God became man, a new Adam, to undo the curse of Adam that we all inherited (Romans 5:12–21). Adam’s sin touches every atom of creation and poisons us in a way that would make cyanide blush. We’re not obedient, no matter how hard we try. But the Son of God’s fleshly subjection and obedience to God the Father in the incarnation secures for us the subjection and obedience we reject in our flesh.
The incarnation itself was a loving sacrifice, not merely because Christ died for us, but because He put Himself in the position to die in the first place. Hebrews 9 tells us that He is our Great High Priest, who sacrificed Himself for us. He could’ve called “twelve legions of angels” to help Him escape arrest or to pull Him down off the cross (Matthew 26:53), but He didn’t. As God, He has the power to still the waves and cast out demons—no Roman cross could stop Him. Christ laid down His life willingly (John 10:18), and He did it with joy (Hebrews.
Praise Jesus, Immanuel, for His truly indescribable grace. Lift your eyes to His throne, but remember Christ left that throne to become something He’d never been—an obedient and perfect flesh-and-blood human being, because you and I are disobedient and imperfect people. God the Son, for the first time, experienced His own Father’s wrath, felt the excruciating pain of nails driven into His hands and feet, and even spent three days in a grave—not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16–17). This is good news for all of us rule-breakers.
Written by Brandon Smith