From the cradle, we have our first taste of obedience. As time goes on, we learn it in a greater degree. At first we learn to obey our parents, then possibly other members of the family, school officials, civil authorities and somewhere along the line we realize the need to obey God to have our sins remitted. From that point, trying to please Him in this life as a Christian requires that we live in obedience. In turn, we are aware that by faithfully complying with His will enables us to have the hope of obtaining the crown of life (Rev. 2:20).
OBEDIENCE IS ONE OF THE THINGS GOD HAS REQUIRED IN EVERY AGE
Three things stand out in every dispensation of God’s dealing with the human race. These three separate those pleasing to God from all others. The three are faith, that recognizes the existence of God, obedience which requires recognition of God’s authority and, sacrifice allowing for God’s justice and mercy. Space will allow only a sampling in each dispensation of time. This sampling I hope will suffice to reveal this common thread running through all.
1. From the patriarchal (or promise) dispensation, I select as an example the man Abraham who is spoken of as the “friend of God.” We are told, “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.”(Heb. 11:8). Faith and obedience are named specifically in regard to Abraham. In verse 17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and when he had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” The sacrifice Abraham was commanded to offer on the occasion involved placing his son on the altar. What a sacrifice that was! Other tests came to Abraham, this one the inspiration thought sufficient to show the faith and obedience of Abraham. Present were faith, obedience and sacrifice.
2. The Mosaic (or Law) dispensation. As to faith in that dispensation, the Hebrew writer among other things said, “And what shall I more say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.” (Heb. 11:32-33). That obedience was necessary, Moses declared, “Behold, I set before you this day 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 after other gods, which ye have not known.” (Deut. 11:26-28). The practice of offering sacrifices is well established throughout that age. Inspiration reminds us, “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Heb. 10:3-4). The principle given by God to men was the same in the Mosaic age or the time of the Law as was apparent in the Patriarchal dispensation. Faith, obedience and sacrifice were necessary.
3. The Christian (or Gospel) dispensation. To show this appeal is made to the book of Hebrews as that writer shows the superiority of Christ and His Gospel to the previous systems. Yet, the same principles remain. As to the necessity of faith, he wrote, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6). Faith cannot be cast aside in the Gospel age. When we reason about the necessity of obedience, the example of the Son of God must be considered. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:8-9). The Gospel is established upon the greatest sacrifice of all. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:13-14). Note: lest one should argue that we have had a sacrifice, but, sacrifice is no longer necessary, I point you to Romans 12:1, where we are commanded to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. So, when Paul told the Galatians “I am crucified with Christ,” it enabled him to say, “I die daily.” (Gal. 2:20, I Cor. 15:31). The principles of faith, obedience and sacrifice hold true now.
All should understand the obvious here: while these principles are the same in each age, the manifestation of obedience is different. For instance, the Patriarch Noah was commanded to prepare an ark for his salvation, yet, if we spend our life constructing such a vessel it would not save us. People in the time of the Law were to keep the Sabbath. Failure to keep it (in some circumstances, at least), meant death. Keeping the Sabbath does not avail Christians; obedience as far as a day is concerned consists in assembling on the first day of the week for worship.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO DO SOMETHING GOD COMMANDS WITHOUT OBEYING HIM
Obedience consists in doing what God said because he commanded it. A former friend of mine believed that it is wrong for a person to imbibe beverage alcohol because of the ill effect it has on the human body and society at large. He cited the damage it does to the brain, liver and nervous system. Then he talked of drunken drivers, broken homes, neglected children and retarded friendships because of it. He was not a religious man, therefore did not try to prove its wretchedness by God’s word. His refraining from drinking and his efforts to convince others to abstain WAS NOT OBEDIENCE TO GOD. Furthermore, Jesus commissioning the Apostles to preach the Gospel to all was for the intent that all would obey it. He said, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Obeying the Gospel grants salvation. I know people that claim they were saved, then some time (days, weeks, months and even years), later were baptized. Although the Lord commanded baptism, such immersion DOES NOT CONSTITUTE OBEDIENCE. We must do what God commands for the purpose he commands in order to be obedient. The purpose of being baptized is in order to be saved.
OBEDIENCE OFTEN MEANS THAT WE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MORAL AND POSITIVE LAW
Many fail to make this distinction to their own downfall and even destruction. Each of these have importance and are good in their place, but when we think we can comply with moral law to the neglect of positive law it spells disobedience to God.
Moral law is what is right within itself, has been and always will be right. It requires things to be done because they are right. Moral law requires that certain things must be done and others rejected, not because it has authority backing it, but because it is right in and of itself. It is right to tell the truth and wrong to lie because moral law requires it. It is the right thing to do.
Positive law has the force to make that, which is not right within itself, right. Positive law requires respect for authority and as such becomes the trial of our heart, of our faith. Positive law is obeyed because God and Christ have declared in scripture what men are to do. Compliance with positive law is obedience. Failing to comply is disobedience.
The oldest example of all, distinguishes moral and positive law. After the creation of man, Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden with the command, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” (Gen 2:15-16). Was there anything morally wrong in eating of the fruit of this specific tree? I don’t think so, as it would have been obvious that it was wrong in itself. What then made the eating of the tree wrong? It was positive law. God forbidding them to eat is the only thing that made it sinful. This law penetrated their heart and was a trial of their faith. Therefore, has it been from that time forward. Moral law is not the great test of the human race—positive law has been and is that test.
OBEYING THE GOSPEL
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”(Mk. 16:15-16). This is Mark’s account of Jesus sending the Apostles forth with the authority to preach His requirements of salvation. We would think that these requirements would have been readily received and compliance would have been a matter of course. However, that was not the case. Was that reaction surprising to the Lord? No, the prophet had predicted that very reaction. While multitudes on occasion happily received the truth there were others (many in time), that discarded the Gospel (the good news of Christ). “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” (Rom. 10:16). When the Gospel is neglected it is no disparagement to the commandments of the Lord, nor is it a reflection upon they who first preached it (or preach today). The passage makes it clear that the reason people will not obey the Gospel is because they do not believe. When people are counseled to “believe and be baptized,” there are multitudes of reasons given for not obeying in baptism. God knows the real reason—a lack of faith. When one believes the word of Christ, he will be baptized. In fact, I will go so far as to say that one who believes Christ will not be hindered by anyone from being baptized. The Gospel remains as it was then God’s power to effect salvation. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16). Failing to obey the Gospel has its consequence. No, God is not going to strike you down dead the moment you decide to reject the Gospel—that is not His way. He does, however, warn us that when Christ comes again then those have not obeyed the Gospel will be called into account. As Christ will come, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II THES. 1:8). The old brother was right when he said, “that verse makes me shake in my boots.” So it is, with all sin ridden men who have a desire for the remission of sins. Christ is the answer and His word—the Gospel has the power to save all of us.
GOSPEL TERMS OF OBEDIENCE
1. One cannot know what to do unless he has heard the Gospel Rom. 10:12-15
2. Upon hearing one must weigh the evidence and believe the Gospel Rom. 10:7
3. Considering the goodness of God presented in the Gospel brings repentance Rom 2:4
4. Believing in Christ cannot be hidden, therefore, a confession of Christ Acts 8:37
5. Submitting to baptism brings remission of sins and puts one into Christ Acts 2:38, Gal 3:27
Each of these is not right in itself and is not therefore a moral commandment. But, that does not lessen the necessity of each requirement, as each is a positive commandment of Christ to be obeyed if salvation is enjoyed.
If you wish to go fast—go alone.
If you wish to go far—go together
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 7:30 P.M.
Lord’s Day 10:30 A.M. (and) 3:00 P.M.
Preaching By: Brother William St. John of Paris, Texas