Obedience is a Scriptural concept that has been questioned by Satan and carnal men. From the time of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, obedience to God is weighed with other options. “Yea, hath God said?” If God said it, did He mean it? Can another response be acceptable? Many of the varieties in Christian circles are a result of foundational differences in how people view obedience to God. The place of human existence in the eternal worlds will be the result of obedience versus disobedience.
Today, some beasts of the earth respond in obedience better than their masters have learned to respond in obedience to God. Many parents are better educated in bringing cats and dogs into obedience than their own children. Homes, schools, churches and nations would greatly enhance their social functions and relationships if all subjects would be obedient to the authority over them, whether the authority be God or man.
The account of our first parents in Genesis helps us understand some principles concerning this doctrine. God gave some commandments to Adam in his perfect spiritual condition. Naming the animals does not seem to be a command with which Adam would have struggled. He had the knowledge, time, and interest in fulfilling God’s desire. The command to dress and keep the garden also seems to be more of a duty of pleasure than of difficulty. The only negative command God gave was a test of Adam and Eve’s obedience. To not eat of one tree when they had the options of all other trees should not have been a grievous restriction. The command to not eat allowed man to exercise his free will. It allowed man to obey or disobey. It allowed man to serve God from the heart or to serve self interests.
Whenever a person does not choose to fully obey, he chooses to disobey. There is no middle ground. Until we give a positive response to a commandment, we are in the state of disobedience. King Saul was faced with this truth when he failed to obey God in all the instructions that were given. God’s view of his partial obedience placed this sin of disobedience in the same category as other sins of witchcraft, stubbornness, and idolatry (1Sam 15:23). We may feel the association is too strong, but God gave the verdict. These sins have the same root. They are promoted by the same father. They all contribute to a path away from God. He will not overlook the sin of disobedience.
Noah’s life stands in sharp contrast to those who were disobedient to God. Noah chose to obey the incredible directions from God (Genesis 6:13-22). A partially constructed ark would not have met the need. The job was great, but God assisted Noah in doing what He had commanded. God provided Noah with the blueprint. He had the resources available for the project. He gave Noah the time to construct the ark. The five hundred year old man had the physical strength to do what most of us at fifty would despair of doing.
God’s provisions and assistance did not minimize Noah’s commitment to the project. Noah’s relationship to the many, many details and choices are summarized in the few words, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen 6:22). Noah was obedient to God.
The men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 were individuals of obedience to God’s commandments. Abel offered the approved sacrifice. Abraham obeyed and went out. He sojourned in a strange country. He looked for God’s city. He offered up his only son. Moses accepted God’s claim on his life rather than his adopted heathen mother’s claim. He had respect for God’s values; He forsook Egypt; He endured the trials of life. Being obedient to God was worth more than living in acceptance of the world.
Jesus made it clear that He will only recognize a relationship with those who obey Him (Matt 12:48-50). He also illustrated the difference between the doers and those who were not doers in the story of the wise man and the foolish man (Matt 7:24-27). Doing as God directs is needed to begin our relationship with God and is needed to maintain our relationship with God.
There is a faulty theory in Christian circles that a person does not need to do anything to become a Christian. Peter told the audience in Acts 2 what to do. Those who refused to repent were not saved. Our salvation is a result of our obedience to foundational works of repentance, confession, and forsaking our sins (Heb 6:1). Our obedient response to the provisional plan of salvation qualifies us to be recipients of the Gospel.
Our maintenance of the Christian life also requires obedience to God’s Word and will. Many times the word ‘if’ qualifies a promise to those who live in obedience to the prerequisite. Notice the acts of obedience required in the following verses:
Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth (John 9:31).
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14:23).
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Gal 6:9).
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christhis Son cleanseth us from all sin (1Jo 1:7).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jo 1:9).
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments (1Jo 2:3).
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us (1Jo 4:12).
In I John 5:2-3, we find a few challenges to the faulty concepts of apostate Christianity. Keeping the commandments is directly related to our love for God and the children of God. To claim one of these in the absence of the other is faulty reasoning. Loving God and keeping His commandments includes a healthy attitude toward His commandments. Chafing with obedience indicates the lack of fervency of love toward the One we are called to obey. Our selfish carnal nature is the root problem of willing obedience to God. Romans 12:1 says obedience is our reasonable response to God for what He has done for us.
Jesus warned us of the faulty concept of feeling we are maintaining our salvation while living in disobedience. Matthew 7:21-23 gives the sad disappointing end of disobedient professing Christians. These workers of iniquity had some religious activity, but they did not have a relationship with Christ. Doing a few religious activities is no promise of a faithful life of obedience to God. The parable of the wise man and the foolish man illustrates the difference between those who “doeth” the sayings of Christ and those who “doeth them not.”
Is it possible for a person to come to the end of life and suddenly realize he does not have the approval with God he thought he had? according to John 16:8, God’s Spirit will faithfully convict individuals of what is the right way to live and what is the wrong way to live. The Spirit of God will convict a disobedient person. Only as we stay sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit can we be assured of our salvation.
The Scriptures conclude with another promise for the obedient children of God. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev 22:14). These eternal blessings should inspire our deepest commitment to obey our Father in Heaven. The costs of our obedience will be richly rewarded by the eternal benefits.