Vol.XVII No.III Pg.5
May 1980

The Soul Of Obedience

Robert F. Turner

Remember the old story about the man who was going on a journey, and asked his son to lay out the farm according to his instructions? Corn was to be planted in this field, beans in that, the garden here, a shed built there. The boy put the corn where his father wanted it, and the beans where the father said. But he changed places for the shed and garden. When his father returned and objected to his son's disobedience, the boy argued he had done half of what his father ordered; but the father said, "No, you did nothing in obedience. It is obvious that you only put the corn and beans where you did, because you thought they should go there."

We might well ask ourselves the question, "WHY do we live as we do? Is it out of respect for God and His laws, or are we simply following a pattern of mores that we approve, and which represents no higher authority than our own traditions. The motive for obedience is an aspect of law that has been somewhat ignored.

In Paul's arguments on law versus faith (Romans and Galatians) he certainly does not rule out law. He says faith establishes law (Rom. 3:31); and he says the law is "holy, just and good" (7:12). Its weakness was by virtue of its subjects, men (8:3); but even then, it served to bring them unto Christ — aware of their need for mercy and forgiveness (Gal. 3:24).

One can not accept the existence of God and ignore the expression of His will; and acknowledging the relation of creature to Creator imposes an obligation to submit to His hand (Rom. 1:20-21; 9:20-21). There is a close correlation between keeping the commands of God and abiding in God, and He in us (Jn. 14:23; 1 Jn. 2:3-6).

Christ is the "author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:9); and saving faith is an obedient faith (Jas. 2:24) "which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). The principle here is not that of law meritoriously obeyed (which would demand perfection) but because obedience from the heart demonstrates our attitude toward Him who made and gave the law. How else could the breaking of one law make a man "guilty of all"? James explains, "He that said, Do not commit adultery said also, Do not kill" (Jas. 2:10-12; 4:10-11). To select from all God said those parts we approve and are willing to obey, assumes a position above that of God. It is to imagine ourselves judges OF the law, hence OF God, instead of realizing we are subject to and are judged BY the law, hence BY God. Without the proper attitude toward God, no obedience (?) is acceptable to Him.

Some have suggested these Bible approved motives for obedience: fear of punishment, appreciation of our position as clay to Potter, and varying degrees of love for God. Paul says "the love of Christ (our recognition of His love for us) constrains us" (2 Cor. 5:14). However you list them, they start with faith "that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). Perhaps we are failing to elicit more obedience to God because we do not work hard enough at preparing the soil, or stirring proper motives.