Obedience Is Necessary

Obedience is the very best way
To show that you believe.
Doing exactly what the Lord commands,
Doing it joyfully.
Action is the key – do it immediately
Joy you will receive.”

These are lyrics to a Bible song that my girls listen to in the mornings on the way to school. I love this song. It is full of powerful truths for our lives. This song holds out a biblical promise: Obeying the Lord happily and immediately will yield true and everlasting joy. 

Yet, I hear many professing Christians bristle at obedience. It seems many have been taught because we are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:9-10), obedience is not necessary. The line of reasoning goes something like this: the old covenant was mediated by the Law of Moses, which demanded obedience to rules, but the new covenant is mediated by grace, which demands faith. This line of thought has caused professing Christians to say something like, “Obedience equals legalism” or “God does not demand obedience.” 

This is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the old and new covenants. Obedience is not an outdated or transcended relic of the old covenant. In fact, the problem with the old covenant is not that it emphasized obedience, but that it lacked the power to enable obedience. Moses looked to a future day when God would circumcise the hearts of his people and enable them to obey God.

“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today” (Deuteronomy. 30:6-8).

Moses looked to a day when God would supernaturally change the hearts of his people to love him. Notice the connection between loving God and obeying God. What is the evidence that they love God? They will obey God’s voice. 

Ezekiel spoke of that same day. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). 

The grace of the new covenant enables obedience from the heart, which is exactly what God desires (1 Samuel 15:22). Anyone who desires to do away with obedience is at odds with Jesus. 

Jesus connects faith with obedience:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). 

Jesus connects love with obedience (just as Moses did in Dt. 30:6-8):
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (obedience), and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24).

Jesus connects relationship with obedience:
“You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14).

If we have faith in Jesus, we will obey him.
If we love Jesus, we will obey him.
If we have a relationship with Jesus, we will obey him. 

In Romans 1:5 and 16:26 Paul uses the phrase “the obedience of faith” to paint a picture of faith as a soil, rich and full of nutrients; producing a tree of obedience that bears much fruit. Obedience to rules apart from faith is not pleasing to God, for “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). However, without obedience, faith proves itself to be dead (James 2:17). 

God is not legalistic, nor is he licentious. He is holy and gracious. He delights in giving us the power to obey him. He delights in changing our hearts so that we desire to please him and do what he commands. 

So, pray in accordance with God’s desire for you. If you are a born-again believer, pray for grace to obey. If you are not born-again, cry out to Jesus. Confess your faith in him as Lord and Savior, and surrender your life to him for the obedience of faith. 

Joy you will receive.