Friday, November 15, 2013


We Obey Because We Love

The importance of obedience has been dismissed by those who believe in salvation by faith only as taught by Augustine and Calvin. If salvation is by faith only, then how does baptism fit the picture of the gospel? And how does the demonstrated love of Jesus on the cross call us to submission to the will of God? And should love motivate us to please Him in our lives?

Clearly, having a Priest sprinkle some water on a baby does not fit the picture of obedient faith. The idea of salvation by ritual works practiced by an unauthorized priesthood within a divergent system was rightfully rejected by the reformers and restorers. 

However, believer immersion in water has never been in conflict with salvation by grace through faith. Salvation is for all who are faithful in Jesus Christ. Our relationship of faith in Jesus, being members of His body, comes by a process called new birth. Yes, we must be born again to enter the kingdom. We must be born of water and the Spirit. We cannot see the Spirit, but we can see the burial in water. And because we have witnessed the love of God, we want to please Him.

Apostle Paul clearly shows the role of immersion in water while coming to Christ for salvation. Baptism is a burial with Christ that shows death to sin. Sinners are baptized, not saints. A believing sinner is immersed in water, and raised a saint, because of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is not complicated.
Rom 6:1-10--1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.   NASU

Romans chapter 10 has been a favorite passage used in justifying the idea of calling upon the Lord for salvation by praying the sinner's prayer. Verse 13 is the favorite verse. People should read the rest of the passage and keep things in the proper context. Much damage has been done to scripture by taking statements out of context and making them a pretext for sophist arguments abut faith only. Paul had already explained in chapter 6 the significance of baptism. We call upon God for salvation by heeding (obeying) the gospel.  Seeing the death, burial, and resurrection in the gospel, seeing both the love and power of God, calls us to submit to Him.

Rom 10:6-17--6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART,"WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or "WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." 8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart" -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"

16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?"

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

As Paul has already written in the first chapter of Romans about the relationship of the message of the gospel and salvation. 

Rom 1:15-17--15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." NASU

The Holy Spirit came upon Peter and the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, and they preached the gospel. The gospel includes a message that must be heeded (obeyed) in order for faith to be realized in faithfulness. Faith is more than mental consent, more than praying a prayer recommended by well meaning men. Faith includes obeying the message of God. When we love God, we desire to keep His commandments. 

Acts 2:22-41-- "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know -- 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 "But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
29 "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. 32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
34 "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified."
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 

38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself."
40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. NASU

Yes, those that heard, believed, and heeded the gospel were immersed, confessing their faith that Jesus is the Son of God. Their sins were forgiven, and they were added to the number of God's called out people. And they were united in love of God and love of each other.

God expects obedience from His family. Since I live nearby four of our grandchildren, and both of their parents work, we are often blessed to supervise the activities of the clan we love. I often find myself in situations where my instructions are being ignored, and declare that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. If still ignored, I have ways of demonstrating my responsibility as loving overseer. 

Maybe the grandchildren mean well by their disobedience, as they have their own plans, and are intent upon doing things their own way. But there can be no exercise of authority without the demonstration of power, and love makes the demonstration more effective. So after I have switched their bare legs with a keen switch, I give them a hug. Seeing and feeling the demonstration of authority, exercised with love,  encourages obedience. 

King Saul, like the faith only teachers, seemed to have good intentions. He wanted to offer sacrifices for the people, and show mercy to King Agag. But God had commanded death for King Agag.  Samuel obeyed. But Saul lost his relationship with God, and later died a tragic death, along with his son. Yes, obedience is important. It becomes a measurement of our love.

1Sa 15:20  And Saul said to Samuel, "I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 15:21  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal." 

15:22  And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 15:23  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." 

Work out you own salvation with fear and trembling does not fit the vocabulary of easy believism. If salvation if given by God to some people He selected without regard to their actions, then what is the importance of obedience? But God chose for salvation from the beginning those who are faithful in His Son Jesus. Obedience is part of faithfulness, and being faithful in Jesus is salvation. And those who are faithful in Jesus are to love each other.

Jesus promised, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life."

Psalms 103
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on his faithful followers.
14 For he knows what we are made of;
he realizes we are made of clay.
15 A person’s life is like grass.
Like a flower in the field it flourishes,
16 but when the hot wind blows by, it disappears,
and one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew.
17 But the Lord continually shows loyal love to his faithful followers, and is faithful to their descendants,
18 to those who keep his covenant,
who are careful to obey his commands.
19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven;
his kingdom extends over everything.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels of his,
you powerful warriors who carry out his decrees
and obey his orders!
21 Praise the Lord, all you warriors of his,
you servants of his who carry out his desires!
22 Praise the Lord, all that he has made,
in all the regions of his kingdom!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!  
New English Translation

Yes, we must be faithful in Jesus to have the hope of salvation. Obedience matters. It is what it is. Obedience is a demonstration of love. 

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