Question: "What does the Bible say about obedience?"
Answer: The Bible has much to say about obedience. In fact, obedience is the essence of the Christian faith. Jesus Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). For Christians, the act of taking up our cross and following Him (Matthew 16:27) means obedience. The Bible makes it clear that we show our love for Jesus by obeying Him in all things: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Obedience is defined as “dutifully complying with the commands, orders, or instructions of one in authority.” Using this definition, we see the elements of biblical obedience. “Dutifully” means it is our obligation to obey God, just as Jesus fulfilled His duty to the Father by dying on the cross for our sin. “Commands, orders or instructions” speaks to the Scriptures in which God has clearly outlined His commandments and His will. “One in authority” is God Himself, whose authority is total and unequivocal. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded because it is our duty to do so.
Having said that, it is important to understand that it is the spirit of obedience, not the act of obedience, that is important. The Pharisees relentlessly pursued acts of obedience to the law and by doing so became self-righteous, believing that they deserved to go to heaven by what they had done. Heaven, to them, was a reward owed to them for their good deeds, but the Bible tells us that, to God, all our righteous works are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The obedience that was lacking in the Pharisees was brought to light by Jesus, who exposed their heart attitude. Their hypocrisy in obeying the “letter of the law,” but not the spirit of it, characterized their lives, and Jesus rebuked them sharply for it: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so you also appear righteous to men outwardly, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28).
Today, man is not called to obey the Law of Moses. That has been fulfilled in Christ. Man is to obey the “Law of Christ,” which is a law of love for one another (Galatians 6:2; John 13:34). Jesus Himself put it in perspective when He answered the question put to Him by Pharisees, “‘Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments’” (Matthew 22:36-40).
If we love God, we will obey Him, not always and not perfectly, but our desire is to obey Him and our lives give evidence of that desire. When we love God and obey Him, we naturally have love for one another. Obedience is commanded by God, not only because it glorifies Him when we obey, but because it is the best for us. Obedience brings joy, comfort and peace in a world where such things are hard to find, mainly due to disobedience and rejection of God and His Word.
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