Spring 2013: Obedience
Summary: Randy Skeete shows that true spiritual obedience—not merely mechanical compliance to the letter of the law—is a gift from God to those who fully surrender to Christ.
 
 

The Bible is, in general, a very simple book to understand. The basics of salvation are plainly laid out to anyone who reads with an open and honest mind. A God who is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and “who would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) cannot produce a book of salvation that is difficult to understand.

Complicating Christ’s Message

One of the distinguishing marks of the preaching of Jesus is the childlike simplicity of His message. Sterling examples are the parables of the sower (Matthew 13), the lost sheep (Luke 15), and very famously, the Prodigal son (Luke 15).

But our carnal minds love to make the simple complex and thus plunge us into error where no error previously existed. The Bible declares that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Even children are supposed to understand the Gospel. Ellen White writes this: It is God’s design that even the children and youth shall understand intelligently what God requires, that they may distinguish between righteousness and sin, between obedience and disobedience (Child Guidance, 80.3).

This would be impossible if God did not purposely make the essence of the Gospel very simple. But the very simplicity of His messages was a problem for the “high and mighty’” of His day.

Simple Obedience

I would suggest that no other Bible teaching is more plainly laid out than the need for strict obedience to God in all things. This teaching, understandable even to children, has been made so complex that many so-called believers no longer see its place in the grand plan of salvation.

Why are believers, and non-believers, so adamantly opposed to strict obedience to God, to the extent that they actually view obedience as hostile to salvation by faith?

The answer is as simple as the teaching of obedience itself. The deep roots of hatred for obedience are found in Jeremiah 13:23; 17:9, and preeminently in Romans 8:7-8.

All three texts declare that the state of a sinner is such that he cannot obey God. It is an impossibility. Paul explains the reason for this terrible condition: the carnal heart hates God because of His law. The King James Version of Romans 8:7 reads thus:

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Because of sin, the human nature became incapable of pleasing God, because it could no longer obey Him. The law became the problem, not because of any defect in the law, but because of a genetic defect in the human nature, caused by sin.

Rebellion Against the Law

Expressed differently, one may say that the problem for an unconverted person is the law of God—nothing else. The problem of the un-renewed mind is not God Himself, nor Christ. If God and Christ had no law, there would be no enmity in the sinner toward them.

At the risk of being painfully repetitious, it must be restated that the only reason why sinners hate God is that He has a law! Take away the law and the enmity would vanish immediately.

This problem of hatred for the law, hatred for obedience, did not originate with sinners on earth. It began in the original sinner himself—Satan. His problem was also the law of God. It remains his problem today, as Ellen White explains:

From the very beginning of the great controversy in heaven it has been Satan’s purpose to overthrow the law of God. It was to accomplish this that he entered upon his rebellion against the Creator, and though he was cast out of heaven, he has continued the same warfare upon the earth (The Great Controversy, 582.1).

The last nine words of this quotation are sobering: “...he has continued the same warfare upon the earth.” There is bold Biblical proof of this war in Revelation 12:17:

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

This verse requires some further explanation. The word “war” occurs twice in Revelation 12, in verses seven and seventeen. The war in heaven, mentioned in verse seven, is continued here on earth in verse seventeen.

Satan’s enemy in both wars is the same: the law of God. Two wars, one enemy! God’s one law, the Decalogue, is the object of Satan’s wrath on earth (Revelation 12:17), as it was in heaven (The Great Controversy, 582.1).

Sides in the War

Revelation has many women: the pure woman in Revelation 12:1-2, and the great whore and her many daughters in 17:4-5. While there are only two kinds of churches, pure and corrupt, there is a vast number of churches.

Of all these churches, the dragon—Satan—is only angry with one: the one that obeys God’s law. He has no real problem with those who disobey!

Sadly, most people, ignorantly or willfully, are numbered with the disobedient. Disobedience is natural for unconverted sinners because that’s their nature. Those who don’t know Christ yet cannot help but rebel against God. In order to act contrary to their nature, and obey God, they must be reborn as an entirely different species—go from flesh to spirit. In the flesh, we naturally rebel and disobey gladly, therefore displeasing God. In the spirit after conversion, we naturally obey, and so please God.

Faith in Action

Since obedience pleases God (John 8:29), and since we can please God only by faith (Hebrews 11:6), it becomes gloriously obvious that obedience and faith are inseparable. Obedience is faith in action.

The carnal mind cannot please God because it does not obey. If we reverse that statement we see that the spiritual mind pleases God because it obeys.

When God gives a command He desires one response: obedience from the heart—not discussion and argument and alternative suggestions. Why does God want obedience from the heart? Because the heart is where He writes His law when a person is born again (Hebrews 8:10). If God puts His law in the heart, what else would He want but obedience from the heart?

Obedience is the basis on which the redeemed will regain the right to the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:14), a right originally lost through disobedience (Genesis 3:17-24).

May God help you see that true spiritual obedience—not merely mechanical compliance to the letter of the law—is a gift from God to those who fully surrender to Christ.

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