Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 13, 1969
NUMBER 44, PAGE 3b,5b

The Spirit Of Obedience

Don McWho-Rter

In Numbers 14 we find an account of the conflicting reports brought back by the spies who had returned from Canaan...While the majority expressed the opinion that possession of the land was impossible there were two men who did not possess such a "grasshopper complex!" Verse 24 expresses God's pleasure with the attitude of Caleb in these words, "But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land where into he went; and his seed shall possess it." Joshua saw things differently because he had "the spirit of obedience."

There is a vast difference between going through a mechanical obedience to a prescribed formula and doing the same acts because possessed by "a spirit of obedience." In obedience to the gospel the things done must be done from the heart (Romans 6:16-18) or they are a mere mockery. In worship our actions must come from the heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; I Cor. 11; I Cor. 14:15; II Cor. 9:7; et. al.) or the same actions constitute vain worship.

How do you know that you possess the "spirit of obedience?" (1) You will do what God says whether anyone else does or not. A husband or wife who waits on their life's partner to join them in obedience before they will consent to obey God does not possess the proper spirit. It is doubtful that such obedience when rendered would be acceptable. Or perhaps one renders obedience to God's commands in order to please a partner, friend, or parent who is already a Christian. This, too, fails to meet the test of proper motive. The spirit of obedience desires to do whatever God demands in order to please God.

Sometimes it is from a different standpoint altogether that one reacts to God's commands. Occasionally you meet someone who is out of service as a Christian because someone else has sinned. He uses that as an excuse for his own neglect. Especially is this true when the sin committed by the other party is against the person under consideration.

Often people find it convenient to blame someone else for their own rebellion and to tender repentance on the condition "I will if he will." If the spirit of the older brother in the parable of Luke 15 was the same when the younger left as when he returned he could have felt justified in leaving and in asking that the brother bear a share of the blame for his wrong doing. Not so. "I have sinned," he confessed truthfully. The older boy was not implicated in the confession and as the story closes the prodigal is restored while the older son is alienated. Even when there are "two sides to every story" sin is never justifiable. It is still sin and if one possesses the spirit of obedience he will do what he ought to do whether anyone else does or not.

(2) You will do what God commands whether it meets with your likes and preferences or not. If you do only those things that please you, though they may be things God commands, even in those you are not obeying Him. Partial obedience is disobedience as is shown by the denunciation of Saul's actions in regard to the Amalekites in II Sam. 15.

Suppose a man goes to the doctor and as a result of examination receives three prescriptions which he dutifully takes to the druggist for filling. After taking the medications for several days he notes with pleasure that prescription number one is producing significant improvement and that number two certainly brings pleasant feelings but as for number three (which tastes terrible and seems to do nothing for him) he concludes it is worthless and quits taking it. Is he following the doctor's orders? No, even though he happens to be taking two prescriptions written by the doctor. The doctor wrote three prescriptions and the following of this orders would mean the taking of all three. In reality he is following his own preferences. The same is true of those individuals who are rendering partial obedience to God.

(3) You will do what God says whether it appears reasonable or not. And especially so when there is no apparent connection between the thing done and the end to be gained. Take, for example, the fall of Jericho. The strategy was not reasonable to a military man. Much more reasonable would have been plans for some great catapult or battering ram. But then the implement itself would have been praised. It was not a military problem but one of faith. It is God who is to be exalted, not some war implement.

Take the cleansing of Naaman in II Kings 5. The formula was not reasonable from a medical standpoint. But then it was not a medical problem but one of faith. God could have effected the cure with the "balm of Gilead." But the probable reaction would have been, "That's great salve!" It was God, not salve, that was to be exalted. And that is exactly how it turned out.

Baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) does not seem proper to a theologian. But it is not a matter of theology; it is a matter of faith. If you possess the spirit of obedience you will do what God says whether it seems reasonable or not.

(4) You will do more than the minimum. Jesus rebuked the Jews of his generation because they did only what by law they were demanded to do. He exhorted them to show the proper spirit by going the second mile. Too many are more concerned with "How much do I have to do?" than with "How much can I do?" It is the latter that exemplifies the spirit of obedience. In your attendance, giving, praying, studying, which spirit motivates you?

(5) You will have faith strong enough to overcome obstacles. And obstacles there will be. A faith that will not overcome is not a saving faith. The spirit of obedience characterizes the religion of conviction instead of convenience.

Do you possess the spirit of obedience?

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