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The Active and Passive Obedience of Isaac – A Shadow of Christ

“In this way they came to the place which God had told him and there Abraham built the altar and arranged the wood on it. He bound Isaac, his son, and set him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.”

(Genesis 22:9-10)


It is at this point where the faith of Isaac comes to surface next to the faith of his father. There is no longer any doubt as to whether Isaac understands what is going on for he has likely seen his father make many such sacrifices of animals. Even still, Isaac allows his father to bind his hands and feet like one would bind an animal for the slaughter and then lay his bound body on the fire. There is also no question that if Isaac chose to resist, this teenager could have easily maneuvered around his centenarian father. Yet, Isaac chooses to submit to his father’s will and his obedience to his father here moves from an active obedience to a passive one, trusting the call of God upon his life.

How, in Isaac’s submission, we see an image of Christ. Being God, Christ could have chosen not to go to the cross — yet such a choice would have condemned us all. In love for us and in submission to his Father, Jesus chose to go to the cross and submit to the cruelty of the sacrifice that was laid out before him. Isaac gives us a picture of that submission in his own life though we rarely give Isaac the credit for being a man of faith.

Abraham, too, stands as a man of faith, trusting God to fulfill his promise even through resurrecting his son from the dead. There will be another son (Jesus) who will indeed do just that — die and be raised from the grave to glory. While the promise to Abraham was through Isaac, the one who the promise is ultimately guaranteed by is Christ Jesus, who indeed is the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15 as well as being the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). Abraham believed the promise would be fulfilled through Isaac even if God had to raise him from the dead; God made his promise fulfilled and consummated through Christ, His Son, by resurrecting him from the dead that our hope and life may be in Him. Isaac is a shadow for us of the Christ to come. Praise be to God that he has indeed come and given us life and life eternal.

And He was Raised! (1 Corinthians 15:4)

“and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures,”  (1 Corinthians 15:4)


There should be no sweeter words in the Christian’s ears than, “and he was raised…”  For it is the raising of Christ that assures our hope.  Had Jesus not risen, there would be no afterlife, there would be no promise of the resurrection, and there would be no assurance of our justification before God.  Were that the case, we would be a sorry fellowship indeed.  But he was raised!  Jesus is alive!  And he has promised us that on the last day he will raise us up with him!  Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

And all of this happened according to the scriptures.  The prophesies of the Old Testament which speak of the Messiah all point to the person of Christ.  There was nothing that he did that was outside of the scope of God’s plan, and there was nothing in God’s plan that was meant to be a total surprise.  It is all laid out in the Old Testament scriptures.  The reason that it was such a surprise is that the people of Jesus’ day were not putting the puzzle pieces together properly—they were trying to force pieces together that did not belong together to make the puzzle turn out their way.  Of course, this is not how God works.

Yet, are we not guilty ourselves of trying to put God in a box or to make his puzzle pieces fit like we think they ought, rather than how God designed them?  Do we not have a tendency to tell God how he “ought” to do things?  Oftentimes we are just as guilty of interpreting scripture according to our own preferences. 

In the end, Paul is driving the Corinthians to remember the first things, or primary doctrines, of the faith.  Yet, in doing so, he deliberately ties it all to scripture.  It would do us well to keep that principle before us at all times.  God’s word is our only rule for faith and practice; it is the only guide that will keep us on a straight path.  As a people, we must affirm the things that God’s word affirms and deny the things that it denies—of course, to be able to do this, we must constantly have God’s word before us so that we know what it affirms and denies!  But, if we would be faithful to make God’s word our foundation in all things, we would fall into much less error in the doctrines that we hold.