Sunday, February 28, 2016

To Obey or Not to Obey. That Is the Question.

I have been very puzzled lately by the number of Christians with whom I have spoken, who say that we are not under an obligation to obey God. The reason, I am told, is because Jesus did it all and we are now under grace. The verse they quote for this attitude is Romans 6:14 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." They then follow that up with the statement that obedience would be works, and Christians cannot work their way to heaven. I have been dumbfounded by the total lack of understanding of what obedience is. My response is always to say that while I do not think I can work my way to heaven, for the price for my sins was paid by Christ on the cross, and I have obtained justification by grace through faith, that does not give me a license to disobey God's laws and commands. The next response generally is that we do not have to worry about that for it is all good. That was the Old Testament and now we can be led by the Spirit, so I should not feel that I need to obey the commands, for we are covered by grace. The only command we have is to "love." That is the only thing we are required to do. I sometimes wonder from their actions if they know which "spirit" is leading them. I also wonder if they really understand what God's definition of sin and love are.

Where did people ever get the idea that grace eliminates the necessity to obey God? I know it has been around since the beginning, for Paul addressed this exact same problem with the early church, specifically the Romans. The only excuse I have for today's Christians to have this attitude is that they are so completely ignorant of what their Bible says, that they believe this lie.

Long before Moses came along, God issued laws for obedience. In spite of what dispensationalism teaches, that there were no laws before Moses as Israel was the "time when people were under Law,"  obedience to laws was not really some new thing with Israel. There were simply not carved in stone laws given to an entire people. Adam and Eve were told to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." They had this one rule to obey,  and they failed. People tend to think that between Adam and Moses, there were no rules to be obeyed. Those who loved God (the patriarchs) did do things in obedience to God. Abel knew that God had rules about sacrifices. Cain offered a sacrifice that was not acceptable to God and God was angry about it. God commanded that nobody kill Cain and set a punishment if they did. Noah knew there were rules.  Genesis 7:2 " Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." As up until that point, vegetarianism was the only acceptable diet, these clean and unclean animals had to do with sacrifice. So there were laws to be obeyed about sacrifices having to do with clean and unclean animals, which were a requirement of obedience since Adam's sin. The Sabbath was set aside as holy from the first week of creation,  and people were to observe it, although God did not specify exactly what observing it meant, as far as we know. We know this because Israel was told not just to observe a Sabbath, but to remember the Sabbath. Exodus 20:8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." You cannot remember something that had never existed or you had never heard of  before. Abraham would have observed the Sabbath and passed that knowledge on. The Sabbath was lost due to the slavery situation in Egypt. Now Israel needed to remember it. How do we know this? We are told that Abraham knew of God's laws, statutes, and commandments (which includes the Sabbath) and obeyed them. Genesis 26:5 "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." This was long before the laws were given to Israel, so there were laws that God expected people to obey before the entirety of the Law was given to Moses. These laws spoken of (the moral laws or commandments) in the above verse were moral laws for all of mankind who would love God and obey Him. They had apparently been given to and passed on through the godly line of patriarchs or told by God to the people He wanted to know them, such as Job. Moses, however, was given these moral laws (the Commandments) plus the laws to rule Israel as a nation. Those latter laws were new and for Israel alone to set them apart from the rest of the world. And God expected obedience to the laws that He did give. It would seem that obedience was very important to God right from the beginning, before people were "under the Law."

Now the argument comes that this was before Christ, so obedience was expected as a part of their works to try try to what? Gain salvation? Works do not gain salvation, do they. Even sacrifices did not do anything for the Israelites when it came to salvation. In fact sacrifices never gave them salvation from Adam on. Hebrews 10:4 "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." They were a way to temporarily appease God and remind people that they had sinned against God and needed forgiveness.  It was also a way to look forward to the ultimate sacrifice which would take away their sins, the Messiah. So why on earth would obedience be necessary, if nothing they did could earn them salvation?

Herein lies the purpose of obedience. Obedience was (and is for us) the demonstration of their (and our) faith in a promise that one day God would send (has sent) a Savior, who would take (has taken) away their (our) sins. It was a mark of their righteousness that set them apart from the rest of the world. Hebrews 11:4 "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Hebrews 11:8 " By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."  Abraham also obeyed when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, trusting God would supply a ram, or resurrect Isaac, because He had promised that a great nation of people would come through Isaac for Abraham. God knew that Abraham now feared Him because he obeyed even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son. Obedience was the key that demonstrated his faith.

Job lived around the time of Abraham, and had nothing to do with Israel, but he also knew about obeying God. He was considered a righteous man above all others by God, because He did obey God. Job 1:8 "And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"  In this book we learn that there is incentive for obedience, not for salvation, but for God's approval. Job 26:5-12 " Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom. He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor. He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.  If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge." Obedience brought blessing. Disobedience brought death.

Israel was told to obey God, not for the purpose of earning their salvation, but for another reason. Exodus 19:5 "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine."  Obedience to God's rules and commandments always set people apart as a peculiar people of God, for the rest of the world ignored (and still does ignore) God's laws. This was not just Israel, but all of the patriarchs before and after the Flood. They were all a people known by God. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Why? Because he was a righteous man who obeyed God.

Getting back to Israel, obeying also brought some benefits. Exodus 23:20-22 "Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries." While obedience brought benefits, disobedience again brought some very harsh consequences. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known."  It would again seem that God considers obedience to His laws and rules a very serious business.

Isaiah 50:10 is talking about the servant of God, or Christ. Here is what it says, "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God."  This is speaking of obeying the voice of Christ. That is speaking to Christians, not Old Testament saints.We are expected to obey Christ, and He too told us this. John 14:15 " If ye love me, keep my commandments." When Christ says "keep," He means to obey. Obeying Him is a sign that we love Him, that we are a peculiar people set apart for God. John 14:23-24 "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.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." Obeying allows Christ and the Father to make their abode or home with us. If we do not obey, then Christ says we do not love Him. There is another who makes His home with us when we obey. Acts 5:32 " And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."  

 As for the question of whether or not obedience plays any part in our salvation, we are told this. Hebrews 5:9 "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."  Christ is the author of salvation to those who obey Him. In James we are told that faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 " What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  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.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Obedience to God's commands is a work, but without the evidence of those works, our faith is nonexistent. Abraham was obedient and his faith was justified by that work of obedience. We are told that we have to conform to the image of Christ, and He was obedient even to the cross. If He obeyed His Father, should we not also? Acts 5:29 " Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men."

The  argument comes that "love" is all you need. I have already written on that argument, so I will not repeat it here. It can be found at this address

What I would like to study now is the passage in Romans where Paul talks about grace. 

Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" 
Just before Paul said this, he had been telling the Romans that sin and death came by one man, Adam, and that through the righteousness of one man, Jesus, justification came by grace for all unto life. By one man's disobedience all were made sinners, but by one man's obedience, many were made righteous. Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. In other words, the worse the sin, the greater the grace has to be to cover it in righteousness. Then Paul followed that up with the above passage. Are we to show how much grace can cover by sinning all the more? In other words, having the attitude that I described above where people are not concerned about obedience, because they are covered by grace. Paul's response to that is an emphatic, "God forbid!"  Of course we should not use grace as an excuse for disobedience. If we are dead to sin through Jesus' death, then how can we let sin continue to reign in our lives?

Paul continues with that subject. Verses 12-14 "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Paul again tells us to not let sin reign in our lives and obey its lusts. We are to yield ourselves in obedience to God's laws, for we have  been set free from the bondage of sin through Jesus. We are no longer under the dominion of sin to obey the lusts of the flesh, but have the freedom and power to obey the laws of righteousness. We have been freed to obey the laws, not ignore them. In our sinful state, we can't obey the moral laws of God, but now we have been set free to obey. 

Now understanding that we are not under the dominion and condemnation of the law of sin unto death because we have been freed by grace, we can look at the statement Paul made in verse 15. "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Again Paul asks should we sin because we are not under the condemnation of the law, but have been freed by grace? Again the answer is "God forbid!"  The Law was not given as a means of salvation, it was given to show us our sin, for the Ten Commandments are God's moral laws which are the moral standards which we should now be able to achieve through Christ Jesus, because He has freed us from the dominion sin has had over us that has prevented us from being able to obey God's moral laws.

Again Paul uses the word "obey" when speaking of sin and righteousness. Verses 16-19 "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.  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."   The purpose of obedience to God's righteous commands is to yield ourselves to holiness. He wants His children to live holy lives, for God cannot have communion with unholiness. When we have sin in our lives, it disrupts our communion and fellowship with God. It also hinders our prayers.The way to avoid that is to obey God's commands.

 So we have seen that we need to obey, so that we yield our lives to righteousness and are holy. Doing so allows us to have unhindered prayers and communion with God. It also allows God to give us blessings instead of punishments. And it testifies to the world that we are a marked and peculiar people set apart as holy or sanctified unto God. Love, in some generalized vague sense is not the command God gave us. He has a particular definition for love and He gave us the Ten Commandments to show us how to love Him and love our neighbor. This is why we should obey them. Nor is love (using God's definition of love) the only command He gave. He also gave us many other directives which He expects us to obey. If we truly want a good relationship with God and make our salvation secure, we need to obey Him, and to do that we need to obey the command found in 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

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