Christian Obedience

Eric Costa |

Obedience Is Relational
This may seem obvious, but obedience requires two
parties: the one obeying, and the one obeyed. The
Christian obeys God. Christian obedience is not some sort
of purity detached from relationship to God. We do not
pursue a self-contained morality, as if virtue in itself
meant something. “Getting better” at obedience (a.k.a.
sanctification) is becoming submissive to God. Either we
are righteous for God’s sake, or righteous for the sake of
self (self-righteous, which is to say unrighteous).
Obedience Is Covenantal
The Christian obeys God for reasons stipulated by God.
The Ten Commandments are prefaced with these words:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land
of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” [Exodus 20:1-17]. This
creates the atmosphere in which obedience takes place.
The Christian obeys God because God has shown favor to
him—not so that God will show favor to him. In Jesus
Christ, the Lord of the Covenant sacrificed himself to save
his people from their sin and to redeem them for
righteousness [Ephesians 2:8-10]. This is the ultimate
motivator to Christian obedience.
Obedience Is Glad-Hearted
Good works drawn from a reluctant heart do not
constitute God-honoring obedience. In fact, this is lipservice,
performed for some reason other than a joyful
response to grace—which is the same as disobedience in
God’s eyes [Matthew 15:3-9]. Only the heart made healthy
and glad with salvation can be truly obedient. “The good
person out of the good treasure of his heart produces
good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces
evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth
speaks” [Luke 6:45]. If you truly love your Savior God, then
he cannot ask too much of your allegiance.
Obedience Is Legal
le•gal: adj. of, based on, or concerned with the law.
Christian obedience takes the form of law-keeping.
What’s that you say? Obedience has more to do with love
than with law? What are the greatest precepts of the Law
of God? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and
with all your strength… [and] you shall love your neighbor
as yourself” [Mark 12:28-31]. That’s right, love is a
commandment, the fulfillment of the Law [Romans 13:10]. If
you’re a Christian, you do what God tells you to do
[Romans 8:3-4], which he has told you by way of the moral
Law [Exodus 20:1-17].
Obedience Is Supernatural
Only Christians can obey God rightly [Romans 8:7-8].
Therefore, the merest potential for obedience comes from
outside nature, since just being a Christian is
supernatural [John 3:1-8]. Not only that, but we obey the
will of God by being filled with the Spirit [Ephesians 5:15-21],
by walking in the Spirit [Galatians 5:16-25]. How, then, could
the origin or empowerment of our obedience be anything
but supernatural—unless you would reduce the Holy
Spirit of God to the level of nature?
Obedience Is Necessary
For the Christian to obey God is normal. It is no
extraordinary thing to do what your Lord commands [Luke
17:7-10]—even to deny yourself, take up your cross, and
follow Jesus… daily [Luke 9:23]. But obedience is more than
to-be-expected: it is inevitable. Someone who is saved by
grace through living faith [James 2:20, 26] in Jesus Christ
will certainly obey God. In fact, disobedience points to the
absence of true and saving faith [1 John 2:3-4]. So, although
obedience is not a prerequisite for salvation, it is a
necessary fruit of salvation.
Obedience Is Beautiful
True Christian obedience is haunting, jolting the minds of
our opponents [Titus 2:7-8]. It is compelling, winning
worshipers to our God [Matthew 5:14-16]. We convey
godliness through our good works [1 Timothy 2:8-10],
pleasing the One who calls us to holiness [1 Thessalonians
4:1-8]. The Word of God is more desirable than gold, and
sweeter than honey [Psalm 19:7-10]. This Word produces
obedience in the lives of God’s people by their faith [2
Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 3:2-3]. Surely that fruit is beautiful.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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