10 April 2014

The Willing Submission of Jesus Christ

J.C. Ryle
When Christ died, He died of His own voluntary free will. He uses a remarkable expression to teach this: "I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."

The point before us is of no mean importance. We must never suppose for a moment that our Lord had no power to prevent His sufferings, and that He was delivered up to His enemies and crucified because He could not help it. Nothing could be further from the truth than such an idea. The treachery of Judas, the armed band of priests' servants, the enmity of Scribes and Pharisees, the injustice of Pontius Pilate, the rude hands of Roman soldiers, the scourge, the nails, and the spear—all these could not have harmed a hair of our Lord's head, unless He had allowed them. Well might He say those remarkable words, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels. But how, then, shall the Scripture be fulfilled?" (Matt 26:53).

The plain truth is, that our Lord submitted to death of His own free will, because He knew that His death was the only way of making atonement for man's sins. He poured out His soul unto death with all the desire of His heart, because He had determined to pay our debt to God, and redeem us from hell. For the joy set before Him He willingly endured the cross, and laid down His life, in order that we, through His death, might have eternal life. His death was not the death of a martyr, who sinks at last overwhelmed by enemies, but the death of a triumphant conqueror, who knows that even in dying He wins for Himself and His people a kingdom and a crown of glory.

Let us lean back our souls on these mighty truths, and be thankful. A willing Savior, a loving Savior, a Savior who came specially into the world to bring life to man, is just the Savior that we need. If we hear His voice, repent and believe, He is our own.

– J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 214–5.

Further Reading
Beth Moore Prophesies a Coming 'Outpouring,' Warns of 'Scoffers'
Dedicated Pastors Produce Discerning Sheep
Actively Seeking Holiness


  1. I'd put it differently, if I may. I believe it wasn't that Jesus had free will--He wasn't neutral toward righteousness or sin, or the Father's will. He came for one singular purpose: to accomplish His Father's will. He wasn't free to sin. Being God, Jesus is limited by His nature and His Word. I hope you see what I mean.

    1. Of course He wasn't free to sin (I don't think Ryle implies as much in the excerpt above). Christ's nature is perfect, holy and righteous. And He willingly and perfectly submitted to the Father's will at the cross (Luke 22:42). How thankful we are for that truth!

  2. EBenz, I'm rather surprised - pleasantly - that you posted anything with the words "free will" in the headline.

    As God, Jesus could not sin; there is no sin in Him. As man, He was tempted in all points as we are - yet without sin. No potential to sin (as man, not as God) means no temptation ever took place.

    Yet the Spirit of God Himself lead Christ into the wilderness to be tempted. Any testing/temptation implicitly acknowledges a potential to fail; otherwise there is no testing/temptation. And yet God tempts no man (Jms. 1:13) The Scriptures are clear.

    Denise- the concept of freewill (Strongs #5071 & 5069) is a Biblical one, regardless of our theological prejudices or desire to "put it differently". It is a Scriptural reality as undeniable as predestination. When will the Body of Christ stop trying to make these 2 parallel theological lines cross?

    And yet the Scriptures are clear.


  3. I cannot reply at length here now, but I will note that I have changed the title of this post more than once because I felt it failed to properly convey the point of the post. My apologies if the title was a distraction from the content.

  4. Fallen man indeed has a will, but to say that it is free especially with regard to salvation is far from Biblical since the Scriptures go to great lengths to show that man's will has nothing to do with salvation---John 1:13; Eph.1,2,3; Phil. 2:13 for starters.
    The impeccability of Christ (He could not sin) is also spelled out in no uncertain terms. James 1:13-16; 1 John 1:5 &3:5; John 7:18; 8:29. Our problem is that we have been taught the Gospel from a highly narcissistic viewpoint with little or no attention paid to the Attributes of God. To try and read into Ryle's thoughts here that Christ could have sinned or else it was not really a valid "temptation" is to transfer our weak and sin filled will to Christ. The temptations (should be translated 'testing') endured by our Lord were to show that He could not fall, His infallibility to succumb to sin is what is being demonstrated. To say it was "possible for Jesus to sin" is really saying that at one point He WIIL sin because he possesses our fallen nature. In order for Christ to have a fallen nature it would have had to come from the Holy Spirit who was the one who impregnated Mary in the first place-Luke 1:31-35. To believe and to say such a thing puts one on very dangerous ground, even to the point of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Darrel,
      Thank you for this excellent response. I couldn't agree more and definitely could not have expressed it better.


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