“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

4.2 Obedience

(A Servant of Christ)

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments [commands].” – John 14:15

Obedience to Christ’s Commands. This chapter explains that obedience to the commands of Christ as given in the New Testament is a vital component of genuine saving faith. This chapter is also intimately tied to the next chapter on the role of works in the plan of salvation. Both chapters in fact could have been combined into one, but due to the length of material and the fact that the role of works is grossly misunderstood today, I felt it best to spread the material across two chapters.

One cannot have truly saving faith without the natural result of that faith being obedience to the commands of Christ. Christianity is as much about action as it is about profession, for a Christian is a servant of God. And if one is obedient to the commands of Christ, one cannot help but to bear fruit (good works) for the Lord – obedience and works are therefore closely interrelated with each other. Furthermore, a professing Christian who is willfully and repeatedly disobedient to the commands of Christ is not following the plan of salvation as laid out in Scripture. So, let us first talk about obedience and what its true motivation is.

A Christian’s true motive for obedience is love, not coercion:

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” – John 14:15

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. – 1 John 4:7-12

We should always look back on the cross and remember the love of God and Christ, which God demonstrated to us while we were still sinners, hostile to God, foreign to God, enemies of God and separated from God in sin:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

While we serve the Lord out of love with a glad heart and thanksgiving, we also equally recognize the authority of Christ as our Lord and King – for He created us. When we come to Christ, we are giving Him our life to do with as He pleases – and we have a duty to God. We therefore willingly place ourselves under His command  (and His will); we choose to be obedient to Christ. We further read in Scripture that a Christian is described as a “bond-servant,” “slave” or “servant” of Christ, for He redeemed (bought and paid for) us from slavery to sin and death (and Satan) with His blood:

Paul, a bond-servant [slave, servant] of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. – Romans 1:1

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. – Ephesians 6:5-6

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. – Colossians 3:23-24

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. – 1 Peter 2:16

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16

…but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God… – 2 Corinthians 6:4

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God… – Romans 6:22

Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” – Acts 16:17

And even further, Christ has elevated us from bondservant to friend! We read that we are now friends of God (and Christ), having been formerly His enemy in disobedience:

“You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:14-15

And above all, as Christ loved the Father and was obedient even unto death, we are to be obedient to Christ out of love for Him. Scripture tells us that it’s not enough to simply profess to be a Christian – for what use is there to profess faith in Christ and then not do what Christ has commanded us to do through obedience? Can you claim to love Christ and then not do what He has asked (commanded) you to do? Such a faith is dead, worthless; Christ condemns “lukewarm” faith – typically characterized by a lack of obedience.  Also, remember it was the disobedience of man in the first place (back in the Garden of Eden, Genesis) that started the whole mess of sin, suffering and death and this fallen world to begin with! Matthew Henry writes: [1]

Of his obedience to his Father: “As the Father gave me commandment, even so I did – did the thing commanded me in the manner commanded.” Note, the best evidence of our love to the Father is our doing as he hath given us commandment. As Christ loved the Father, and obeyed him, even to the death, so we must love Christ, and obey him. Christ’s eye to the Father’s commandment, obliging him to suffer and die, bore him up with cheerfulness, and overcame the reluctancies of nature; this took off the offence of the cross, that what he did was by order from the Father. The command of God is sufficient to bear us out in that which is most disputed by others, and therefore should be sufficient to bear us up in that which is most difficult to ourselves: This is the will of him that made me, that sent me.

The kind of faith that is pleasing to Christ is not one born out of a casual commitment, or one of convenience, nor foxhole faith, but a lifelong commitment to Christ – one that dies to self each day, one that picks up the cross of Christ and follows Him in obedience and action, one that seeks to do God’s will (not our will), one that “seeks the things above” (not the things of this world) and one that perseveres to the very end. Foxhole faith is like foxhole prayers – it is fleeting in duration and only appears for a moment, soon to vanish again into the darkness and nothingness once the immediate circumstance (usually danger) has passed, it seldom leads to a truly repentant and changed life.

Furthermore, Jesus exhorts us to be found by Him as obedient servants of His, actively doing His will and His work:

“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 24:45-51

And as you just read, there are also the hypocrites who have heard the word of the Lord and profess faith, but then continue to do the selfish works of the flesh and not the will of God, who go on living just as they have always lived. Mere professors and pretenders of faith in hypocrisy (“make believers”) will be sorted out by the Lord on the great Day of Judgment:

“But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them. So when it comes to pass—as surely it will—then they will know that a prophet has been in their midst.” – Ezekiel 33:30-33

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:21-27

THE COMMANDS OF CHRIST

To be obedient, we must know the commandments (commands) of Christ as given in the New Testament. Just as in Old Testament times where the Mosaic Law had been given to the Jews, the New Testament also has a Law of Grace which is expressed in the commandments of Christ. Most people (even non-Christians) can recite the two most important commandments given by Christ:

  • Love God, and
  • Love others as yourself

However, Christ’s commands go into much more detail than that; a few are listed below:

  • Forgive others as you were forgiven,
  • Don’t judge others,
  • Do not commit adultery,
  • Let your light shine before others,
  • Love and pray for your enemies,
  • Render unto Caesar…,
  • Go into all the world and share the gospel

To be obedient therefore, you must learn and obey Jesus’ commands/instructions as given in the New Testament. I’m not going to reiterate all of them here; and in fact, it’s better if you read the Bible and seek them out for yourself. That way, they take on a deeper meaning. To know and therefore obey Christ’s commands, one must read and diligently study the Bible – I hope you are starting to see that everything about the Christian life is connected together, and ultimately linked back to reading and studying the Word of God – for it is our instruction manual, and the source of all Godly wisdom.

And finally, we read in Scripture that we are to “perfect”:

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

Now you are probably wondering what that verse has to do with a chapter on obedience. For the longest time, several years in fact, I was confused by this verse even after becoming a Christian. I’ve heard it explained that this verse means that a Christian no longer commits sin; however, that is simply yet another false teaching of man (see the Beware the Wolves chapter). Scripture is clear that the only Person who ever lived a sinless life was Jesus. So, how in the world could I be perfect? I didn’t feel perfect nor did I act perfect, nor did I see a way to become perfect. If you ask anyone who knows me, you will certainly hear them confirm that I am indeed not perfect. In fact, the closer I got to Christ the less perfect I felt, for I started to see my own wretched nature more clearly!

That verse didn’t become clear to me until I wrote this book – and this very chapter. And now I see how that verse directly relates to obedience. It is through obedience to Christ that we press on towards perfection, being made to conform more and more each day to the image of Christ. We have been set free from the law of sin and death, having been raised a new creature in Christ, so we are no longer slaves of sin. So, this verse is actually a beautiful exhortation to be obedient to Christ – to be “like Christ,” to be “imitators of Christ (God),” and to follow His examples. This is also how Jesus was able to live a perfect and sinless life – He lived His life in 100% obedience to the Father. We see this written:

“So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” – John 14:31

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” – John 5:19

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” – John 12:49

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. – Hebrews 5:8

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” – John 6:38

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Luke 22:41-42

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:8

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:7-10

And so imitating Christ (as best we can) is perfection for us, and this comes from being obedient:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. – Ephesians 5:1-2

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

While we are still here in our mortal, fleshly, sinful bodies, we cannot attain the perfection of Christ, but we can strive to be more like Christ (to be conformed to Christ, and to imitate Christ) each and every day. Perfection for us in this world therefore means to abide in Christ daily, and He in you, and to strive to imitate Christ every day in obedience to His commands. To do this we must also continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, which we do by studying and reading His Word; this is also described as “continuing in the Word.”  When you do this, you are living under His power, His Spirit, His strength, His might and His wisdom, and you will be triumphant in obedience. If you were to ever be completely obedient to all the commands of Christ, you would look just like Christ (not as a God, but in behavior). Hence, we strive to be perfect, and that is obtained through obedience. As with the changes to your thoughts and behavior which start to happen by living in the Spirit, the process of obedience doesn’t happen instantly, but is developed over a lifetime of conscious commitment to reading the Word and following Christ. As you continue to be obedient, you will find that you are moving towards perfection.

As you will read in later chapters, you will also need to change your worldly habits, entertainment choices, etc. If you fail to do those things, “sin is crouching right at your door” again, waiting to pull you back into it. In fact, the more obedient you are, the more that you will find that sinful fleshly temptations of the world will come your way in an attempt by the powers of darkness to turn you back from following Christ.

So, in closing: a truly saving faith is not simply a one-time profession of faith (in words only) followed by idleness – it is followed by obedience to the commands of Christ, as a thankful servant of Christ, as a friend of Christ, and a child of God in love. We are called to be “perfect” – to be “imitators of Christ,” which we see by the example Christ set for us comes through obedience. This obedience will therefore of necessity lead to action, for you cannot be obedient without “doing something.” And action cannot happen without “good works” also happening. The discussion of obedience therefore continues in the next chapter on the role of works in the plan of salvation (i.e. “producing fruit” for the Lord). Works are the natural outpouring of genuine saving faith and obedience to Christ.

 SPECIAL FALSE TEACHING WARNING – BEWARE: 

I want to call your attention in particular to the danger of the “sabbath keeping” false teaching (i.e., legalism). When Jesus said to keep His commandments, He was referring to His commands as given in the New Testament, not the “Ten Commandments” (and thereby also the entire Mosaic Law) given to the ancient Hebrews. This false teaching is shouted loudly today from several leading cults and “ism’s” masquerading as “Christian” churches. Following this false teaching puts you back under bondage to the entire Mosaic Law, which Christ nailed to the cross. Know that you are re-crucifying Christ again if you follow this false teaching! See the Beware the Wolves chapter.

FALSE TEACHING(S) YOU WILL ENCOUNTER:

  • Saying a “Sinner’s Prayer” Saves You
  • You Are Saved by Faith Alone/Only
  • Once Saved Always Saved
  • Being born again is the only required step one has to take for eternal life (i.e., obedience, works and perseverance are not required)
  • Sabbath Keeping/Legalism

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8

“I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” – John 14:30-31

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15:9-10

… “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. – Hebrews 5:8-9

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. – 1 John 5:2-3

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 8:31-32

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” – John 8:51

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God… – Romans 6:22

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” – John 14:23

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” – Matthew 16:24-27

“‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.’” – Revelation 3:15-18

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29

“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” – Genesis 26:4-5

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. – Romans 1:1-6

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Jesus] the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:19

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” – Luke 6:46-49

[1] Henry, Matthew. Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, London. 1706-1710/1721.

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