To obey is to follow or conform your life to the instructions of a particular standard. Since God’s word is the perfect standard of truth (John 17:17), Christians will be giving themselves to obey His law. To fail be obedient to God’s law is to sin (1 John 3:4) – and the wages of sin is spiritual death (Romans 6:23).
Jesus, The Perfect Example Of Obedience
Christians are disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26). To be a disciple of Christ is to be both a student and an imitator of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the standard for how we must conduct our lives. Certainly, we learn many things from Jesus and how He lived. However, I want us to specifically focus on Jesus’ perfect example of obedience.
(1) Philippians 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1), did not have to come to this earth, suffer, and die. However, this passage teaches that even though Jesus was God, He did not cling to such to the point that He refused to come to the earth. Instead, Jesus humbled Himself to be obedient to the Father’s eternal plan for saving mankind. Then, realize that Jesus did not just humble Himself and obey the Father to the point of coming to this earth – but even to the point of dying on the cross.
(2) Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Between the time of Jesus obeying the Father’s will to come to this earth and the time He was obedient to die on the cross, Jesus demonstrated His perfect obedience on many occasions. This passage teaches that Jesus was tempted in all the same ways we are tempted, yet He did not sin. Every time Jesus said “no” to a temptation to fulfill His own fleshly desires rather than listen to God was a time Jesus obeyed the Father! Matthew 4:1-11 provides three examples of His perfect obedience.
Obedience Is Necessary For Salvation
If you desire to be saved eternally from your sins, you must be obedient to God! James 2:14-26 demonstrates that “faith only” is not sufficient for justification and salvation (see verse 24). Instead, God requires works of obedience in order to please Him. Three times within this passage, God demonstrates that faith without works is dead. In addition, He tells us that the demons believe and tremble, yet the inference is that they will not be saved by their faith (verse 19).
Now, consider the following passages that all demonstrate the fact that obedience is necessary for salvation. Please read these passages and observe the need for obedience in each.
(1) Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus certainly indicates that it is not enough just to believe in and call Him “Lord.” In addition, Jesus says that it is not enough just to do some good things. Instead, Jesus said that it is necessary to do the will of His Heavenly Father.
(2) Hebrews 5:9. Does God require you to obey Him in order to be saved? This passage could not be any clearer. The Hebrew writer declares that Jesus Christ “became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Now, if Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation to everyone who obeys Him, what does that mean for everyone who does not obey Him?
(3) 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. This passage answers the previous question. Notice how there are two categories of people mentioned in this text. The first category contains those who are faithful to God, even in times of persecution (verse 7). They will be granted rest whenever Jesus Christ returns. However, the second category contains those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will experience the vengeance of God and will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” whenever Jesus returns.
(4) James 1:22-25. Is it enough just to know what God wants you to do and how He wants you to live your life? This passage clearly indicates that it is not. God says that we must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.” He says that if we live our lives only as hearers of God’s word, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are right with God when we really are not.
Things Necessary For Obedience
Obedience is clearly necessary for salvation. The passages we’ve just considered are a sample of the Bible’s teaching about such. However, if we are going to be truly obedient to God, there are some other things that will be required of us. Let’s consider them briefly.
(1) Faith. In order to truly obey God you must believe Him. Hebrews 11 demonstrates this to be true on several occasions. As the Hebrew writer identifies many different examples of faith in this chapter, he clearly connects their faith with their works of obedience. For instance, Noah built the ark because he completely trusted in God. Abraham offered Isaac on the altar because he completely trusted in God. Moses chose to suffer with God’s people rather than experience the temporary pleasures offered in Egypt because he completely trusted in God. So it goes throughout the chapter.
(2) Humility. Earlier (from Philippians 2:5-8) we saw the humility of Jesus Christ. He did not have to come to this earth. However, He chose to humble Himself, come to earth, and willingly give His life on the cross. But, notice that passage began by saying, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (verse 5). We will simply never be obedient to the Father’s will unless we first empty ourselves! We must make the determination that doing the will of God is more important than fulfilling our own desires.
(3) Self-denial. In addition to humility, we must actually be diligent to deny ourselves of the things we desire in order to be obedient to God. Jesus demonstrated this in Matthew 4:1-11. He was (as we saw in Hebrews 4:15) tempted in all the same ways we are tempted, but, He was willing to deny His own desires in order to do the will of God.
(4) Steadfastness. Being obedient to God will not always be easy. There will be times of trial, temptation, and persecution for the one who is a Christian. Therefore, God says that we must “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Are you being obedient to God? God’s word will judge you on the Last Day (John 12:48; Revelation 20:11-15). Therefore, you need to search the Scriptures carefully and make diligent application of them because there is no acceptable time you can choose not to obey the laws of God (see James 2:10).