When one thinks about obedience, it is always in the context of ‘doing’. But is this Biblical? What if I told you there is a more powerful form of obedience in the Bible?
It is natural for us to quantify ones obedience according to how much they do, what their involved in, or how many ministries they serve in, etc. The difficult part about this mentality is that it is usually done under a ‘works’ mentality, that is ‘works’ that we do to try and obtain righteousness rather than freely receiving it through grace. We talked about this in the last blog: “Do You Live Under Grace or the Law? You May be Surprised. “
To under stand Biblical obedience, we will look to one of my favorite verses about Grace:
John 1:17 (NIV): For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Here we see the difference between the Law and grace. The law was given through Moses, a gift of less intimacy, so to speak. Whereas grace came through Christ who is in us; a much more personal gift. But what is interesting is the Greek word used for “came”. It is the Greek word, ginomai (γίνομαι), and means, “to come”, or “to come into existence”. The crazy thing is that ginomai (γίνομαι) is a Greek verb plural. Because it is plural, it makes grace and truth singular, or the same thing. This means that you cannot separate grace from truth, and vice versa. This means that grace is the truth and the truth is grace. This also means you can’t speak truth without speaking grace, and when you speak grace you speak the truth!
In order to speak the truth of the Word of God, you have to speak grace. When the Bible says that when you know the truth and it will set you free (John 8:32), it is speaking of grace.
Now, let us get to obedience:
Romans 1:5 (NIV): Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.
Romans 16:25-26 (NIV): Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, (26)but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
What does it mean to have obedience of faith? Simply put, faith is another word for belief. When you have faith, you believe. So Romans is really saying that obedience is believing. But a specific kind of believing…
Romans 4:5 (KJV): But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Right believing is believing the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ: That we, the ungodly, are made righteous through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ. We either believe we are justified freely by God’s grace, which is through faith, or we believe that we have to earn it, such as in Romans 4, which is known as the obligation principle. If we believe we have to earn our righteousness through what we do, then we also believe that God is obligated or indebted to us to credit us righteous such as in a worker who earns their wages. And this is the problem because it is not grace. The principles of “doing” and believing are polar opposites, like oil and water. You can’t mix the two.
Romans 10:4-5 (KJV): For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (5)For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
Galatians 3:10-12 (KJV): For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.(11)But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (12)And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
We we live under the principle of ‘doing’, when we live under the law we are cursed, as Galatians tells us, because the law cannot justify us in God’s sight. If we had the ability to obtain righteousness through our works or by ‘doing’, then Christ would not have needed to die on the cross. God knows that when we believe right(eous), we will live right(eous). And this is the hardest part of the Christian life because it is illogical to believe that God justifies the wicked (in which we qualify). We have no problem believing that our beliefs are powerful enough to bring us into eternity with Christ through believing in Him, but for some reason it is difficult to believe that they are powerful enough to produce right behaviors.
Many people get the context of James 1 confused when they say, “We must be doers of the Word.” They are thinking that this passage is speaking of “works”.
James 1:22-25 (NIV): Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (23)Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror (24)and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (25)But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1 is speaking about looking into the mirror of the Word of God and not forgetting what you look like. The “doing” is the not forgetting. The “doing” is believing that you are freely justified, made righteous through the perfect law of grace; the perfect law that sets you free (John 8:32)! James 2 also speaks of “faith without works is dead”. This is in the context of if you believe right, righteousness will be a natural fruit of your beliefs that manifest in behaviors. Right believing will lead to right living.
And sure, Jesus did indeed teach the law or the ‘doing’ principle, such as when He spoke to the rich young ruler in Mark 10. He told him to follow the law and to sell his possessions. But 2 things we needed to remember concerning this context. 1. Grace had not yet come. 2. Jesus needed to teach the law so that people would be deprived by it, revealing their need for a Savior. This is also why Jesus said, ” I have many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). Jesus was referring to grace which had not come yet, therefore could not be understood.
We have a hard time believing God has already justified us, so we continue to live under the law and try and obtain our righteousness through our works or by ‘doing’. This is why living under the law is a curse (Galatians 3:10). This is why when we try and will righteousness, when we try and conquer sin in our life by our own strength and ability, we fail.
When you believe right, there will be natural fruits of righteousness that you will produce. Believing right are the roots of the tree, and righteousness are the fruits. The greatest obedience to God’s Word, the obedience of faith, is believing that God justifies the wicked, making them righteous, and that includes you and I. When we truly believe what God has freely given us, the gift of grace, you just watch your Christ-like nature come to fruition. A cycle is created of right believing that allows us to enjoy God’s presence, fully receiving His love, which includes direction and purpose in life (Psalm 16:11) for us to follow.
The truth is grace, and grace, that you are freely justified, will set you free to do what God has purposed for your life.