Analysis of Obedience

We are taught in scripture that only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21).  Obedience to the will of God is therefore a life and death matter for the Christian who would live his or her life in pleasing manner before God.  Jesus went on to teach the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7, starting in verse 24.  He said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it”.

In our previous lesson, Analysis of a Command, we learned that we are to obey direct and implied commands and approved examples.  we also learned that it is vitally important not to add anything or take anything away from what inspiration recorded for us.  If it were permitted to add or remove things from scripture then we could change anything we wanted in the word and do anything we desired and still expect to live our lives acceptably before God.  Paul taught the Romans that we cannot approach God with our own righteousness.  We must submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3).   The commandments of men make our worship vain (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7), so we know that the only way we can be assured of living after God’s righteousness is to follow his commandments explicitly, adding nothing to, nor taking anything away from them.

In this study, we are going to examine what obedience is from a Biblical perspective, what it means, how it works for us, how to approach it and why.  Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  Since obedience is the duty of man, we need to give attention to this topic and determine what the Lord expects from us in obedience.

What Obedience is:

Hearing the word of God precedes obedience.  Until one hears the word of God, one cannot know what God wants obeyed.  In the OT, Samuel wrote: “Strangers shall submit themselves unto me: as soon as they hear, they shall be obedient unto me” (2 Samuel 22:45).  In the NT, Paul wrote of the commandment of God which was made known to all nations of the earth for the “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).  Everything we do, every commandment we obey is by and because of our faith in God.  Faith and obedience are inseparable in scripture.  Those who have faith obey and those who obey have faith.  On the other side, those who do not have faith do not obey and those who do not obey, do not have faith.   “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

In Psalm 18:44, inspiration says, “As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.  Obedience is connected with submission and humility.  In Philippians 2:8, Paul wrote “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”.  Jesus was willing to suffer the humiliation of the cross in order to be obedient to God the Father.  We are commanded to submit to the authority of God. James wrote, “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7).  Submission and humility means doing it God’s way, in the way He has prescribed, completely and without pride.  Those who obey, submit in humble penitence to the authority of God.  Those who do not obey have not submitted.  Obedience is submission and submission is necessary for obedience.  Disobedience is rebellion to God as King Saul learned when he refused to obey the commandment of the Lord, (1 Samuel 15:22-23).   Obedience and submission cannot be separated.

Obedience is a yielding, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18).  We are going to yield to something in life.  We are going to be the servants of something, either good or evil, either righteousness or sin.  We are going to serve someone in this life, either God or Satan.   One cannot have obedience without yielding, neither can there be a yielding without obedience.  The two cannot be separated.  We must have one in order to have the other.

Obedience is motivated by love.  Jesus said, “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. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings…” (John 14:23-24).  Our love is demonstrated through our actions, “I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.” (2 Corinthians 8:8) and then 2 Corinthians 8:24 which reads, “Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf”.  Claiming to love God and each other but not demonstrating that love is not the kind of love God requires. God requires our love to be sincere and to prove that sincerity through actions  “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 John 3:18-19).

Obedience comes from a pure heart, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).  “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:16).  Obedience and a pure heart cannot be separated.  One cannot have a pure heart without obedience, likewise one cannot be obedient without a pure heart and expect God to be pleased.

Obedience acts without question.  Abraham gave us two examples of obedience without question when he was commanded to get up and leave his country and then when he was told to get out of his country, leave his kinsmen and go into a land that God would show him when he got there (Genesis 12:1).  “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him” (Genesis 12:4).  After his son Isaac was born, God commanded him to offer him up as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:2).  Hebrews 11:17 records that, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son”.  Abraham did not try and back out of obeying God.  When God commanded, Abraham acted and left us an example of trusting obedience.

Obedience is a trial.  As we saw earlier, Abraham was tested by God to see if he would obey.  “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17).  James wrote concerning trials, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-5).  we can expect our obedience to produce trials in our life.  One cannot successfully overcome trials without obedience.

Obedience requires sacrifice.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).   One cannot offer one’s body a living sacrifice without obedience to God’s will.  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:3).   Obedience and sacrifice are inseparable in scripture.  One cannot have one without the other.

Obedience is Faith.  “But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).  Hebrews 11 is sometimes called the great hall of faith.  It lists numerous Biblical characters who by faith, were obedient to the will of God, who did what God commanded and were blessed for it.  Faith and Obedience are inseparable in scripture.  One cannot have faith without obedience and one cannot have obedience without faith.  “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

The Necessity of Obedience:

Obedience is necessary if we love God,  Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Obedience is necessary of we say we know God.  John wrote, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4).

Obedience is necessary if we love one another, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (1 John 5:2).

Obedience is necessary for purification, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22).

Obedience is necessary for Salvation, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

The Results of Obedience:

Obedience results in the reception of God’s grace, “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name” (Romans 1:5).

The obedient have the right to the tree of life, “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” (Revelation 22:14).

Obedience results in our prayers answered, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22).

Obedience results in glory, honor and peace, “But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile (Romans 2:10).

Obedience results in righteousness,  “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7).

Obedience results in the commitment of our souls to God, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19).

Obedience results in Salvation, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).  “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

The Results of Disobedience:

Disobedience will result in God’s wrath, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6).

Disobedience results in God’s indignation, “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil…” (Romans 2:8-9).

The disobedient will receive severe judgment, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).  Peter went on to say in verse 19 to “commit the keeping of their [our] souls to him in well doing”.  Well doing meaning “in obedience”.

Disobedience results in the chastening of God, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).  The Psalmist wrote, “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:12).

Christians are to have no company with the disobedient, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).  This does not mean we are not to interact with the lost or the disobedient.  We must interact in order to carry the gospel to the lost.  we must interact in order to let our light shine before the world.  But we must remember that our light is to shine and we are to live our lives as examples of obedient faithfulness to the lost.

Disobedience will result in eternal destruction, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Saved by Grace through Faith:

Obedience will not earn or merit us a home in heaven, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We must never set back on the laurels of our obedience and think that God owes us anything.  Jesus Christ had to die for us.  There is no way we can repay the incredible sacrifice that was done on our behalf.  It was a gift by the favor or grace of God.  we can never allow ourselves to be boastful or prideful because of our obedience to God’s will.

In the parable of the unprofitable servant, Jesus taught that even if we were to obey everything God commanded, we should still count ourselves as servants who are unprofitable.  “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).

God does not owe man anything simply because man obeys Him.  Salvation cannot be deserved, nor bought, nor earned by anything man does.  Man is lost and without hope unless he submits to God in obedience to His will.  Obedience to God was the duty of man since the beginning and it is God’s just right to demand it.  Disobedience resulted in the downfall of man.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But by God’s grace/favor, He provided a way for man to be redeemed.  All man has to do is obey that plan of redemption given by the grace of God.

Jesus Christ had to die so that we could live.  There is nothing we can do either individually or collectively to deserve that gift or merit the salvation it makes possible.  The only thing man can earn or deserve is death because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  We cannot work our way out of that penalty without the grace of God.  In the end, Jesus still had to die for us.  Jesus paid our sin debt so that we could have a hope of life.  We can’t pay the cost of that gift with our obedience.  We are saved by grace through faith.  We learned earlier that faith and obedience were inseparable in scripture.  We are therefore saved by grace through an obedient living faith which is demonstrated in our love to God and to one another and in our submissive obedience to the will of God in all things.

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