If Jesus is God then Old Testament Law cannot apply to him. Christ, being God, is the Authority which gives the Law its coercive power (law and coercive force being corollary). In which case Christ keeping (obeying) the Law is a contradiction…an error of reason. Further, Christ, in keeping the Law, must CHOOSE freely to obey it. The implicit authority to coerce subjects into obedience—or punish them for non-compliance—resides with Christ, and thus he cannot be forced to comply, which makes his relationship to the Law one of choice not of obedience. But law and choice are in both meaning and essence incompatible. The whole point of law is that it doesn’t care what you WANT or what you THINK. Obedience, to be obedience, must be irrespective of one’s will, and thus CHOOSING to obey the law is a contradiction. You don’t have a choice whether or not you pay your taxes, or submit to a traffic stop, or practice certain vocations without a license. That’s the whole idea. The message of the law is: obey or else. That’s not choice. So…how can Christ rationally choose to obey the Law? He doesn’t.
And this is a problem for Christian soteriology, becasue Christians don’t have an answer for this conundrum beyond the bromide of “God’s mystery”.. Jesus cannot be forced to obey the Law because he is God, and he cannot CHOOSE to obey it because this is contradiction in terms.
If Christ is under the Law then he has no choice but to obey, otherwise he’s not under it but over it, and it doesn’t apply to him. And if it doesn’t apply to him then it cannot be the basis for how and why he possesses the moral perfection by which he serves as an acceptable sacrifice to God as atonement for man’s sins. But if Christ does obey the Law, and by this may become the holy propitiation, then his natural moral perfection as God is supplanted by the mere LEGAL perfection of the Law. Morality is a function of one’s nature…his WILLFUL actions are morally valued. Legality is a function of one’s obedience…how his actions comply with legal demands in SPITE of his will. Legality and Morality, you see, are entirely antithetical ethics. They are completely distinct and fundamentally incompatible. And thus through obedience to the Law Christ is valued according to IT, not according to his nature. His divinity, in other words, is moot. He’s no less obligated to the commands of the Law than you or I (and our eternal obligation to the Law is a fact if we accept that Christ’s obedience to the Law is what makes him an acceptable sacrifice…our salvation is fundamentally FROM THE LAW, even if it is Christ who obeys it for us). Thus the only difference Christ’s divinity makes is that it allows him to somehow obey the Law in full where we cannot. He can meet the standard of moral perfection required for entrance into heaven (I will use “moral” and “morality” as a synonym for “ethical” here on out, but you understand that these are not really the same thing).
Now, watch the dizzying rational madness unfold: Christ is God simply because only God can obey the commands of which he is the Author, and over which he is the Authority. The Law comes from God, and yet he must obey it in order to satisfy his own ethical demands. BEING God is not what makes Christ good, then, fundamentally. He is NOT GOOD UNTIL HE OBEYS THE LAW. You see, God, to be Good, must obey the Law, which is only legally binding because of HIS OWN authority to enforce it. In other words, God must force himself to obey himself so that he can be good and serve as the sacrifice for man’s sin.
How’s that for some serious intrllectual contortion? You know what’s a miracle? That people are able to suspend belief long enough to buy any of this. Nevertheless this is orthodoxy. Which is…terrifying.
And here’s another rub: Christ’s obeyance of the Law actually imparts NO morality to HIM, HIMSELF, but merely reaffirms the LAW, not Christ, as the standard of moral perfection. You see, if Christ is the standard of moral perfection then the Law is not, which makes his obedience of it a pointless moral exercise. If Christ, by being Christ, is ALREADY moral then obeying the Law doesn’t do anything for him in terms of how God perceives his sacrifice. But if the Law is the moral standard then any morality which is manifest as a consequence of obeying it is simply proof that IT is good, not the one’who obeys it—Christ, in this case. The one who obeys the Law must obey PRECISELY BECAUSE HE, HIMSELF, IN HIMSELF, IS NOT GOOD. The LAW is what manifests goodness by appealing to an Authority to FORCE the depraved to obey it. By conceding that Christ must obey the Law in order to prove his moral value implies that he has none in his own person. The reason Christ needs to obey the Law is the same reason man does: because his own nature is morally insufficient. There is no reason, nor is it possible, for Christ to obey it otherwise.
The implicit and root ethical message and underlying philosophical argument of the Law is that without it there is only degeneracy. Christ obeys it as a means to manifest morality, which implies that he is not moral, himself, apart from it. Which makes him an imperfect sacrifice. The Law is morally perfect, man is not. NO man, nor GOD even, can be made moral by the Law AT ALL because the LAW is ALREADY perfect. In other words, it is redundant and impossible for the Law to outsource its absolute morality to that which is outside of it. To attempt to integrate the moral perfection of the law with the imperfection of those who must obey it is a contraction in terms, and is an abject redundancy. Integrating the moral perfection of the Law with the imperfect nature of those who will obey it simply dilutes the Law’s moral perfection. The nature of those who must obey, be it Christ or man, is a HINDERANCE to the Law, not an affirmation of it. And THIS is the point of Christ’s death on the Cross. The point is EXACTLY this. The Law doesn’t save men, it KILLS them…even if that man is Christ, and even if Christ is GOD. Men are an offense to the Law, not a friend to it.
But here’s the truth:
Christ had to die because that’s what Law demands. Once the Jews demanded legality instead of morality they replaced God with the Law, and consigned themselves to death. The Law brings death absolutely and indiscriminately. It murders BOTH man and God by replacing THEIR inherent existential morality with its own absolute LEGALITY. It replaces the RATIONAL ethic of morality with that of IRRATIONAL legality. And in his mercy, Christ came to viscerally prove this point, and then to rise again to show that the Law, in fact, cannot ACTUALLY destroy man unless man concedes its power over him. The death it brings is a lie; truth and the concomitant eternal life is found in accepting that MAN is the reason morality exists. It is the life of oneself and his neighbor which makes ideas and actions good, not the Law. Man’s life, not the Law, is what is ACTUALLY Good, and what is ACTUALLY eternal.
So to summarize the main points of this article:
!. Christ obeying the Law implies that Christ is not moral in himself, which makes him an insufficient sacrifice. The source of Christ’s morality is the Law. HIs obedience to the Law nullifies his divinity by making him subject to the Law, just like depraved man.
2. If Christ is not subject to the Law because of his divinity then his obedience of it is irrelevant. Christ is moral ALREADY; the law cannot grant him any righteousness that he does not already possess without it. Christ’s sacrifice does not require the Law AT ALL…Christ’s perfect morality is a function of himself, not the Law, thus the Law is NOT the source of the righteousness which makes Christ’s sacrifice acceptable to God.
3. Further, Chirst cannot CHOOSE to obey the Law because the Law doesn’t recognize the will of the subject. What the subject chooses is irrelvant. The Law demands compliance whether one wants to obey or not.
4. There is an inherent and garrish contradiction in the assertion that God, Himself, as Christ, must obey the Law of which he is the Author and the Authority, in order to prove himself righteous to himself, in order to serve as an acceptable sacrifice to himself on behalf of man.
Clearly Christian soteriology MUST reevaluate how it explicates Christ’s relationship to the Law, and present it in a way which does not mock God by making the salvific process one of stumbling contradictions and intellectual dead ends. One cannot preach eternal life until he can define and defend the process by which this happens in ways which do not conflate “faith” with “blind submission to the Utterly Unknowable Mystery in the Sky”, which is nonsense and doesn’t have a thing to do with God, Christ, or the Scriptures.
Christ is meaning, not mysticism.