Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 14, 1957
NUMBER 44, PAGE 4-5b

Obedience To God -- What It Is Not; What It Is

Keith T. Thompson, Owen Sound, Ontario

The Bible contains some very definite commands relating to man and his obedience to divine authority. In fact, it teaches that salvation from sin in this world, and eternal happiness in the world to come depend upon man's obedience to God. In the Bible the word "obedience" is used most often in the sense of subjection to the will of God, that is, faithfully doing his commandments. Many things are done in the modern religious world under the guise of obedience, being admixtures of human wisdom and philosophy. There are many deviations and substitutions. Let us examine the subject to see just what obedience to God is — and particularly what it is not.

The Voice Of Satan

Hearing the voice of Satan, and obeying his will, certainly is not obedience to God. Eve made this mistake. (Read Genesis 3:4-8.) Neither is listening to the voice of the people synonymous with listening to the voice of God. King Saul made this mistake, and the prophet Samuel said to him, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellions is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry. (II Sam. 15.) A wicked falsehood has come down through the ages, expressed in the ancient proverb, "Vox populi, vox Del," that is, "the voice of the people is the voice of God." There is not a work of truth in the statement. The voice of the people built the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. The voice of the people crucified God's Son. The voice of the people is much more likely to be in error than to be according to truth.

The Conscience

Following one's conscience is not necessarily obeying God. Conscience is the creature of education, and serves as a judge rather than as a guide. There was a time when Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," yet he later declared, "Brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." (Acts 23:1.) Paul had verily thought he was serving God. In ignorance he had felt fully justified in his persecution of the Christians. His conscience approved what he was doing. The mother of Xerxes sacrificed one hundred slaves upon the altar every time her son won a victory. In this cruel activity she obeyed her conscience, but no sane person would affirm that she obeyed Almighty God.

One's Feelings

Following one's feelings is not necessarily obedience to God. For, "there is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Prov. 14:12.) Paul will again serve as an example. He said, "Verily, I thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." (Acts 26:9.) But he did wrong in following his feelings.

Jeremiah said, "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23.)

Obedience — What It Is

All of us are aware of the fact that the redeemed are but sinners, saved by grace. No man merits salvation on the strength of his own goodness alone. But there are certain conditions that must be met before we can become the recipients of divine grace. God says that obedience to the gospel stands between the sinner and salvation. "But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6:17, 18.)

Obedience in the New Testament means hearkening to the voice of truth. "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17.) "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren love one another from the heart fervently; having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth." (I Peter 1:22, 23.)

It must be remembered that Jesus is the spokesman to this age. God declared the authority of Christ to this age when he said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matt. 17:5.) We do not look to Moses or Elijah for the plan of salvation today, but to Jesus Christ and his Spirit-guided apostles.

Obedience involves faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6.) And Jesus himself declared, "except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24.) But the faith that saves must be coupled with obedience. Paul speaks of that faith as "faith working through love." (Gal. 5:6.)

On the first Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, it was by obedience to the inspired word that 3,000 guilty souls were saved from their sins. With faith in their hearts they cried out to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do ?" Peter responded directly, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Thus he bound repentance, along with faith and baptism, as a condition of pardon. When a penitent believer goes down into the waters of baptism, Paul describes what happens, "We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:1-4.)

Every blessing promised to man is predicated upon obedience to God. No responsible soul can be saved without obedience. Paul wrote, "Unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation." (Rom. 2:8.) On the other hand, God will richly bless all those who keep his commandments. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Rev. 22:14.)