What Is Obedience?
The act of obedience consists in acknowledging and submitting to what is written in the Bible.
The importance of this question is seen in the volume of Bible information concerning the subject of obedience. It becomes even clearer when one considers the fact that not one single person will be saved who is not obedient. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
It is apparent from the Lord’s statement above that a man or woman’s good deeds, whether these are charitable acts or works done to improve the living conditions of humanity, are not evidence that individual will make it to heaven. The eternal destiny of everyone – either one ends up being with God or away from Him in the life to come, rather depends on how obedient to God they have been on earth (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
The essence of obedience is the willingness to submit to authority. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “obedience” as “Compliance with command, prohibition, or known law and rule of duty prescribed, the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority.” So, to obey God is to comply to His laws, that is to act in accordance with what He has said in the scripture, which is found in the Bible. Simply stated, this act consists in acknowledging and submitting to the authority of what is written is the holy Bible.
Jesus established the authority of scripture when He quoted from it to ward off the devil’s attempts to tempt Him. Satan tried to get the Son of God to act contrary to God’s will. Three times, he asked Him to go against God. Three times, Jesus batted away his offer and cited from the Old Testament. You can read all three accounts in Matthew 4:1-11. But here is one example. The devil said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (v. 9). To that request Jesus replied, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). Note that Jesus prefaced each of His replies to the devil’s temptations with these words, “It is written.” Furthermore, His response was positively stated. Jesus didn’t have to enumerate all the “things” men should not worship. He simply declared that God is the audience of worship, and by doing that He excluded any other single reality humans may want to reverence. The principle here is that we are not to abide by what the Word of God does not say, we ought to go by what it does stipulate.
Many have argued, for example, that the New Testament does not prohibit the use of instruments of music in worship to God. Actually, it does. That’s because God’s command in this respect is specific. Colossians 3:16 specifies the sort of musicality that is to be produced in worship service. It’s that which comes from singing. This verse says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The Holy Spirit confirmed this teaching in Ephesians 5:19. Writing under His direction, Paul instructed Christians to speak “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”. When children of God are obedient, they refrain from speculating on what cannot be read on the pages of the Bible.
It also must be admitted that obedience is not merely doing the will of God. It is possible for people to do the very thing that God commands, because of outward consideration, without having their heart involved in it. Some may become members of a local church because they feel good being part of a group. For others, attendance to church worship service may be motivated by the sense of moral security they enjoy from being in the assembly. There’s still another category of people who believe that embracing the Christian life would solve all their problems.
But, for obedience to be a proper one, it must spring from a God-given motive, not self-interest. Therefore, whether man knows the design of divine edicts or not, he ought to carry them out for God’s good pleasure. Jesus was an example of One who was always concerned with pleasing God. He said, “I do always those things that please him [God]” (John 8:29).
Despite being not ignorant that the cross would be a traumatic and agonising experience for Him, Jesus was willing to do God’s will. When He faced that great adversity, the Hebrew writer informs us, He offered up “prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him [God] that was able to save him from death” (Hebrews 5:9). But He was willing to obey God. In the garden of Gethsemane, He cried, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Paul explains in Philippians 2:6 that Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Because of Christ’s sacrificial act, He “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). Obedience to God is obedience to Christ and His gospel.
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