“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. One cannot have true 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 the profession of faith, for a Christian is a servant of God. 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.

Additionally, since many of Christ’s commands involve taking action, if one is obedient to them, one cannot help but to also “bear fruit” (do “good works”) for the Lord – obedience and “good works” are therefore closely interrelated with each other, and this chapter is intimately tied to the next chapter on “bearing fruit” (the role of works). Both chapters 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 content across two chapters.

IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS

So, let us talk about obedience and what its true motivation is. A Christian’s true motive for obedience is love:

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

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. – 2 John 1:6

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. 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

“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

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

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

We should always look back on the cross and remember the love of God and His Christ Jesus, which They 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

We also see how Christ was obedient to the Father, and how it was through His obedience that we were saved:

“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

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

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

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

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

And above all, as Christ loved the Father and was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” we are 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 not do what Christ has commanded us to do? Can you claim to love Christ and then not do what He has asked (commanded) you to do? Such faith is “dead,” worthless; Christ even condemns just “lukewarm” faith – typically characterized by a lack of obedience. 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.

Note also that obedience is not something that is newly added in the New Testament. The need for obedience as a child of God has been there from the beginning. Remember that 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!

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” – Genesis 2:15-17

“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

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

You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess. – Deuteronomy 5:33

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 28:1

If you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. – Deuteronomy 30:10

GOD’S AUTHORITY

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 and for He “redeemed” (bought and paid for) us from slavery to sin and death (and Satan) with His blood. 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:

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

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 stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:49-50

BLESSED IS THAT SLAVE WHO THE MASTER FINDS DOING

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 ”denies himself” each day, one that “takes up the cross” of Christ and “follows Him” in obedience and action, one that “is willing to do His [God’s] will” (not our own), one that “seeks the things above” (not the things of this world) and one that “endures [perseveres] to the [very] end.” Foxhole faith is like foxhole prayers – it is fleeting in duration. It only appears for a moment, soon to vanish again into the darkness and nothingness once the immediate circumstances (usually danger) have 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. The Lord will sort out mere “idle” professors and pretenders of faith in hypocrisy (make believers) 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

In particular, note the word “many” in verses Matthew 7:21-27 above. Furthermore, realize that this scene will occur at the very gates of heaven itself on the great Day of Judgment. It is not just a “few” that will be turned away from entering heaven but “many” being seen for what they really are: mere professors (“hearers”) of the word but not “doers” of the word! Be not deceived. All the fake/false Christians will be revealed on that day. Finally, also know that God reveals Himself more fully to those who are in obedience to Him:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” – John 14:21

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 Jesus:

  • Love God, and
  • Love others as yourself

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 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 12:28-31

However, Christ’s commands go beyond those; a few are listed below:

  • “Forgive others” as you were forgiven,
  • “Do not judge” others,
  • “Do not commit adultery,”
  • “Let your light shine before others,”
  • “Love” and “pray for your enemies,”
  • “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,”
  • “Go into the all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,”
  • “Do this in remembrance of me” (the Lord’s Supper)

Therefore, to be obedient, you must learn and obey Jesus’ commands/instructions as given in the New Testament. I’m not going to list them all here, and in fact, it’s better if you study 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.

BE LIKE CHRIST (AN IMITATOR OF CHRIST)

And finally, we read in Scripture that we are to be “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 sins; however, that is simply yet another false teaching of man (see again 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 (or do) I act perfect now, 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” and “raised up” a “new creature [person]” 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 “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 via obedience to His commands) 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

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 day. Therefore, perfection for us in this world means to “abide in Me [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 our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which we do by studying and reading His Word; this is also described as “continuing in the faith.”  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). 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 “the rulers…the powers…the world forces of this darkness…[and] the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places to try to turn you back from following Christ; but we must “resist the devil [the tempter], and he will flee from you.”

So, in summary: 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. When “born again,” God gives you a “new heart” and a “new Spirit,” and He also gives you “the desires of your [new] heart” which actually makes you want to be “well pleasing” and obedient to your “Heavenly Father.” Even further, the “Spirit of Christ” “dwelling in” you gives you the ability and strength to be obedient; we could not be obedient by our own strength, might, or willpower. Amazing and Amen!

And we are called to be “perfect” – to be “imitators of Christ,” which we see by the example Christ Himself set for us comes through obedience. And since many of Christ’s commands involve taking action, obedience cannot happen without “good works” also happening. Therefore, the discussion of obedience continues in the next chapter on the role of works in the plan of salvation (i.e., “bearing 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 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 Jews. 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:

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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