Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 14, 1949

Subtleties Of Disobedience

Murray Wilson, Shamrock, Texas

There are many varieties of disobedience. Where one man may openly rebel against God and point-blank refuse to obey a direct commandment, another may be less obvious in his disobedience and seek to circumvent God's will by a subtle substitution of his own desires. Whatever the disobedience, whether a refusal to obey a command, a violation of specific prohibition, or the substitution of man's will for God's, the punishment is the same and is certain.

Adding To God's Requirements

There is still another type of disobedience which is practiced by multitudes. That is the adding to God's will. The Lord said, "Whatsoever things I command you, observe to do it. Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it". (Deut. 12:32) That is plain language. We can all understand it. The simplicity of God's law is such that even the smallest addition of man's would mar it and pervert it. It cannot be improved upon.

John warns, "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them; God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book". (Rev. 22:18, 19) He also says, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son". (II John 9)

Advocates of instrumental music in the worship have sought in vain for some New Testament precept or example of such a practice. They are very clearly within the bounds of those who are "adding to" the word of God in that practice. The penalty, they have neither the Father nor the Son. We are quite aware that they are religious people; many of them, untaught, are sincere, and doubtless do much good. But, even so, in the final judgment they shall be judged by the words of Christ—not by the standards of men. Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity". (Matt. 7:21-23)

Omitting A Part

Equally guilty with those who add to God's requirements are all those who omit or leave out a part of what he commands. The perfect type of this disobedience is found in King Saul. God had instructed him to fight the Amalekites, and had specifically told him to destroy their city, and to "utterly destroy" all the people together with their herds and flocks. Saul obeyed the command of the Lord up to a certain point. But Agag, King of the Amalekites, he saved alive; also he preserved some of the best of the flocks and herds. Returning from the battle, he was met by Samuel, the prophet of God. Samuel asked him concerning the cattle and the sheep. Saul replied, "the people took the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things... to sacrifice unto the Lord God in Gilgal".

To this plea of not being responsible himself, Samuel answered Saul in stern and uncompromising severity, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices; and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king."

The Plan Of Salvation

In the matter of forgiveness and salvation from past sins, some people are making precisely the mistake made by Saul. They are obeying a part of God's law; but are ignoring and disregarding the full requirements. For example, many are risking their eternal salvation on the fact of faith. They believe they shall be saved by faith alone. They know that God requires faith; they say that they have faith. And, so far as they are concerned, that is the sum total of obedience to God.

But the same Jesus who taught the necessity of faith, taught also the absolute necessity of repentance. He said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish". (Luke 13:3) The same Jesus who taught faith and repentance, taught also baptism for the remission of sins. He said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved". (Mark 16:16) And through Peter the Holy Spirit taught, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins". (Acts 2:38)

It is also true that the same Lord who taught faith, repentance, and baptism, requires that those who thus obey him shall continue "faithful unto death". He said, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved", and "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life". There remains then a full life of obedience for the man who has believed, repented, and been baptized into Christ. He must continue to serve God faithfully as long as he lives upon the earth. Any failure to do this will put him in the same category as King Saul, one who obeyed partially but not fully the word of the Lord.

Let every reader examine his own heart to see whether he has been deceived by the subtleties of the devil. He may be in disobedience to God without recognizing that such is the case. For the varieties of disobedience are many; the subtleties of the tempter are legion. Whether it be by a rebellious spirit, a compromising attitude, a negligent heart, or by some other device, Satan will lead us astray if he can. The faithful, obedient follower of Christ, being always on his guard, will not be deceived.