Christ Our Exemplar
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Guest post by Andrew J. Belcher. For more on Andrew, visit https://www.olivetbiblechurch.org.
1560 in Geneva, Switzerland, John Calvin finalizes the definitive edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Within these pastoral pages are points of much controversy, not least of which is his “third use of the Law.”
Calvin writes, “the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth” . He thought that if the Psalmist was speaking truthfully when he wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet” then there certainly must be a persistent use of the Law for Christians.
Thus, enters a mantra, one of the five pillars of the Protestant Reformation, Solus Christus. As genuine Christian believers, Christ is the ultimate manifestation of the Image of God. Everything about the Christian faith is for Christ, through Christ, and to Christ (Rom 11:36; Col. 1:16).
We must then connect this to when Jesus claimed not to do away with the Law but, to “fulfill them” (Matt.5:17). That includes this “third use.” Christ obeyed the Law perfectly! Because he obeyed the Law perfectly, he is our exemplar for how to obey the Law, i.e. live with holiness in the presence of God.
Let us take a single illustration of this which may be commonly mistaken.
Luke 23:46 is a statement from Jesus when hanging on the cross. Christ speaks in a loud voice “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” It is not uncommon to think that Jesus is simply making a declaration about his death, iterating that he had control and was voluntarily giving it up. In fact, this is one of the most prevalent ways of reading this text. Ralf Wilson writes concerning the text, “He gives up his human life to his Father who gave it to him 33 years before. The word "spirit" is the common word pneuma, ‘breathing, breath of life.’”
But what we miss is that Jesus is not merely making a theological statement that he is pulling out of his hat. Jesus is quoting Psalm 31:5.
Psalm 31:1-5 reads,
LORD, I seek refuge in you; let me never be disgraced.
Save me by your righteousness.
Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me.
For you are my rock and my fortress; you lead and guide me
For your name’s sake.
You will free me from the net
That is secretly set for me,
For you are my refuge.
Into your hand I entrust my spirit;
You have redeemed me, LORD, God of truth .
Jesus was not merely making a declarative statement about his death, he was making a richly theological statement about his covenant relationship with the Father, the God of truth. Robert Karris writes, “Instead of trying to save himself, Jesus gave himself trustingly into the hands of His Father. In this way, he was saved from the hands of his enemies. In this way, he proved himself to be the righteous one and son of God” .
I would like to offer three ways Christ’s words from the cross are an example to us and a means of grace by which we are made more holy.
1. Jesus rested in his covenant relationship with the Father.
We know that Jesus had a relationship with the Father. The heavens literally parted and told humanity about this relationship (Matt. 3). But it was also covenantal as we read about in the Psalms. It is a relationship predicated of God’s faithful love. “Faithful love” must have a promise, or an agreement to be faithful to. Namely, this is the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis. This is the covenant that Jesus is redeeming. This is also the covenant that Jesus participates in, that we all, as Christians, participate in. By quoting Psalm 31:5 in his dying moments Jesus gave his people an example of resting in the Father’s faithful love.
2. Jesus laid his entire life into the hands of the Father’s will.
In Psalm 31, we observe the Psalmist being surrounded by enemies. They are people who want to hurt, to kill, to destroy. The writer knew what would happen to him, hence the pleas for protection. Yet, knowing and resting in the covenant relationship that they had with the LORD, God of truth, the Psalmist has the ability and stability to lay their outcome into the hands of the LORD’s will. With the statement in verse 5, “Into your hand I entrust my spirit” the psalmist is making plain that it is not my will, but yours be done. Jesus is facing similar hostilities in the passion and crucifixion. Enemies surrounding, presently in the process of killing him; but he still is laying his life into the hands of the Father’s will. Praying in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
3. Jesus died for the glory of God.
Jesus did not merely lay his life down in submission to the Father’s will for the benefit of his people to be in the Kingdom. The death of Christ was for the glory of God. We can make this claim and at times genuinely mean it, but when it comes to the death of Christ we often get a bit squeamish saying that it was glorifying for Christ to die. It was heinous. It was shaming. It was a pouring out of the cup of wrath (Jer. 25:15, cf. Matt. 26:39). But we must remember that Jesus wasn’t making a random statement in Luke 23:46; he was quoting Psalm 31 which makes the point explicit in verse 3, “you lead me and guide me for your name’s sake.” The leading and guiding, the protection and lack of protection, the enemy surrounding, the pain, and crucifixion was for his name’s sake. For the glory of God. Jesus knew this as he was hanging on the cross. It was all for the glory of God.
May we look to Christ, not only as our Savior and Redeemer, but also as our Lawful exemplar of how to live this sojourning life on earth. As we go through our lives, in triumph and turmoil, and shout to the Lord in a loud voice, “Father, into your hand I entrust my spirit.” And in so doing, rest in the covenant relationship we have, lay our lives into the hands of the Father’s will, and die for the glory of God!
Soli Deo Gloria
 Christian Standard Bible 2017.
 Robert J. Karris, “Luke 23:47 and the Lucan View of Jesus’ Death,” 67.