The nature of obedience
As we defined last week, obedience is submission to authority. Is obedience an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which our spiritual maturity is accomplished?
Conversation about obedience seems especially appropriate as we enter the Lenten season. As believers, we have committed to the lordship and authority of Jesus Christ. How well are we doing? Lenten season presents a “space in time” in which we can answer that question. It is also a time to identify those things that keep us from our obedience to God.
Accounts of the apostles and other great propagators of the faith give evidence that obedience plays a major role in our faith walk.
Obedience is a constant theme in the writings of the Apostle Paul. He speaks of many relationships in which we are asked to offer our obedience. These includes obedience exercised within a family (Eph. 6:1; 1 Cor. 14:34,35), between a master and their servant (Eph. 6:5), or to civil government (Titus 1:1, 3:1).
In his letter to Christians living in the first century, the Apostle John teaches on identifying genuine faith in Christ. The test is linked to obedience.
“Now by this we know that we know Him if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1 John 2:3-5)
The great 17th century English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon had this to say about obedience:
- Love is the chief jewel in the bracelet of obedience.
- That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looketh at the heart, and if He seeth that we serve Him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering.
- You and I must be willing to do what God tells us, as God tells us, when God tells us, because God tells us, but only strong faith will be equal to such complete obedience.
Though these views come at varying times in biblical and church history, their message is still the same. Obedience is an expectation for all believers. It is not an option.
Jesus the Model of Obedience
The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ especially as He journeyed to the Cross. Jesus modeled obedience by His humility, in His faithfulness, and in His submission to God’s will.
Jesus humbled Himself as Deity by shedding His blood for our sins.
Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Phil. 2:5-8
Jesus’ faithfulness is seen in His unflinching commitment to the Cross.
“(Jesus) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Heb. 5:7-8
Jesus submitted to the will of God.
“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:18-19
Let us hear
The Greek word for obedience is hupakoe which means “attentive harkening, compliance or submission”. It usually refers to obedience to God’s will in a “special sense”—of willing subjection. Unlike the animals used in previous sacrifices, Christ came willingly to the Cross. He expressed His submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane as He repeated “not My will but Your will be done” (Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:32-36).
Acceptance of the Gospel requires acceptance of Christ as not only Savior but also as Lord of our lives. We no longer live for ourselves but for Him (Gal. 2:20; 1 Peter 4:2). Through obedience, we learn to have the “same mind of Christ”—obedience in our faithfulness, our humility, and our submission to God’s will.
While the world encourages defiance and applauds noncompliance, Christ offers a different model for living. Through Christ’s obedience two-thousand years earlier, He changed the “eternal outcome” to “all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). Once destined to an eternity in hell, we now are partakers of eternal life (John 3:16). That’s worth our love, our devotion, and our obedience.
Remember our opening question: “Is obedience an outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which our spiritual maturity is accomplished?” The answer is, “it’s both”!