(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:
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:
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:
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:
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? 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: 
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:
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:
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.
BE LIKE CHRIST (AN IMITATOR OF CHRIST)
And finally, we read in Scripture that we are to be “perfect”:
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 “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:
And so imitating Christ (as best we can) is perfection for us, and this comes from being obedient:
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 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). 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
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
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