Monday, April 30, 2007

Obedience: Its place In Holy Scripture.

In undertaking the study of a Bible word, or of a truth of the Christian life, it is a great
help to take a survey of the place it takes in Scripture. As we see where, and how often,
and in what connections it is found, its relative importance may be apprehended as well
as its bearing on the whole of revelation. Let me try in this first chapter to prepare the
way for the study of what obedience is, by showing you where to go in God's Word to
find the mind of God concerning it.

We begin with Paradise. In Gen. 2:16, we read: 'And the Lord God commanded the man,
saying.' And later (3:11), 'Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that
thou shouldest not eat?'
Note how obedience to the command is the one virtue of Paradise, the one condition of
man's abiding there, the one thing his Creator asks of him. Nothing is said of faith, or
humility, or love: obedience includes all. As supreme as is the claim and authority of God
is the demand for obedience as the one thing that is to

In the life of man, to obey is the one thing needful.
Turn now from the beginning to the close of the Bible. In its last chapter you read (Rev.
22:14), 'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have a right to the
tree of life.' Or, if we accept the Revised Version, which gives another reading, we have
the same thought in chapters 12 and 14, where we read of the seed of the woman (12:17),
'which keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus'; and of the
patience of the saints (14:12), 'Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and
the faith of Jesus.'
From beginning to end, from Paradise lost to Paradise regained, the law is unchangeableit
is only obedience that gives access to the tree of life and the favor of God.
And if you ask how the change was effected out of the disobedience at the beginning that
closed the way to the tree of life, to the obedience at the end that again gained entrance to
it, turn to
between the beginning and the end-the cross of Christ. Read a passage like Rom. 5:19,
'Through the obedience of the One shall the many be made righteous'; or Phil. 2:8, 'He
became obedient unto death, therefore God hath highly exalted Him'; or Heb. 5:8, 9, 'He
learned obedience and became the Author of salvation to them that obey Him,' and you
see how the whole redemption of Christ consists in restoring obedience to its place. The
beauty of His salvation consists in this, that He brings us back to the life of obedience,
through which alone the creature can give the Creator the glory due to Him, or receive
the glory of which his Creator desires to make him partaker.
Paradise, Calvary, Heaven, all proclaim with one voice:
'Child of God! the first and the last thing thy God asks of thee is simple, universal,
unchanging obedience.'

Here let us specially notice how, with any new beginning in the history of God's
kingdom, obedience always comes into special prominence.
1. Take Noah, the new father of the human race, and you will find four times written
(Gen. 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16),
'According to all that God commanded Noah, so did he.'
It is the man who does what God commands, to whom God can entrust His work, whom
God can use to be a savior of men.
2. Think of Abraham, the father of the chosen race. 'By faith Abraham obeyed' (Heb.
When he had been forty years in this school of faith-obedience, God came to perfect his
faith, and to crown it with His fullest blessing. Nothing could fit him for this but a
crowning act of obedience. When he had bound his son on the altar, God came and said
(Gen. 22:12, 18),
'By Myself have I sworn, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply
thee; and in thy seed shall all nations be blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice.'
And to Isaac He spake (26:3, 5), 'I will perform the oath whic h I sware to Abraham,
because that Abraham obeyed my voice.'
Oh, when shall we learn how unspeakably pleasing obedience is in God's sight, and how
unspeakable is the reward He bestows upon it! The way to be a blessing to the world is to
be men of obedience; known by God and the world by this
- a will utterly given up to God's will. Let all who profess to walk in Abraham's footsteps
walk thus.
3. Go on to Moses. At Sinai, God gave him the message to the people (Ex. 19:4), 'If you
will obey My voice indeed, ye shall be a peculiar treasure to Me above all people.'
In the very nature of things it cannot be otherwise. God's holy will is His glory and
perfection; it is only by an entrance into His will, by obedience, that it is possible to be
His people.
4. Take the building of the sanctuary in which God was to dwell. In the last three chapters
of Exodus you have the expression nineteen times, 'According to all the Lord
commanded Moses, so did he,' And then, 'The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.'
Just so again in Lev. 8 and 9, you have, with reference to the consecration of the priests
and the tabernacle, the same expression twelve times. And then, 'The glory of the Lord
appeared before all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord, and consumed the
Words cannot make it plainer, that it is amid what the obedience of His people has
wrought that God delights to dwell, that it is the obedient He crowns with His favor and
5. After the forty years wandering in the wilderness, and its terrible revelation of the fruit
of disobedience, there was again a new beginning when the people were about to enter
Canaan. Read Deuteronomy, with all Moses spoke in sight of the land, and you will find
there is no book of the Bible which uses the word 'obey' so frequently, or speaks so much
of the blessing obedience will assuredly bring. The whole is summed up in the words
'I set before you a blessing if ye obey, a curse in ye will not obey.'
Yes, 'A BLESSING IF YE OBEY'! that is the key-note of the blessed life. Canaan, just
like Paradise and Heaven, can be the place of blessing as it is the place of obedience.
Would God we might take it in! Do beware only of praying only for a blessing. Let us
care for the obedience, God will care for the blessing. Let my one thought as a Christian
be, how I can obey and please my God perfectly.
6. The next new beginning we have is in the appointment of kings in Israel. In the story
of Saul we have the most solemn warning as to the need of exact and entire obedience in
a man whom God is to trust as ruler of His people. Samuel had commanded Saul (1 Sam.
10:8) to wait seven days for him to come and sacrifice, and to show him what to do.
When Samuel delayed (13:8-14) Saul took it upon himself to sacrifice.
When Samuel came he said: 'Thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God,
which He commanded thee; thy kingdom shall not continue, because thou hast not kept
that which the Lord commanded thee.'
God will not honor the man who is not obedient.
Saul has a second opportunity given him of showing what is in his heart. He is sent to
execute God's judgment against Amelek. He obeys. He gathers an army of two hundred
thousand men, undertakes the journey into the wilderness, and destroys Amelek. But
while God had commanded him 'utterly to destroy all; and not to spare,' he spared the
best of the cattle and Agag.
God speaks to Samuel, 'It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he hath not
performed My commandment.'
When Samuel comes, Saul twice over says, 'I have performed the commandment of the
Lord;' 'I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.'
And so he had, as many would think, But his obedience had not been entire. God claims
exact, full obedience. God had said, 'Utterly destroy all! spare not!' This he had not done.
He had spared the best sheep for a sacrifice unto the Lord. And Samuel said.
'To obey is better than any sacrifice. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the
Lord hath rejected thee.'
Sad type of so much obedience, which in part performs God's commandment, and yet is
not the obedience God asks! God says of all sin and all disobedience: 'Utterly destroy all!
spare not!' May God reveal to us whether we are indeed going all lengths with Him,
seeking utterly to destroy all and spare nothing that is not in perfect harmony with His
will. It is only a whole-hearted obedience, down to the minutest details, that can satisfy
God. Let nothing less satisfy you; lest while we say, 'I have obeyed,' God says, 'Thou hast
rejected the word of the Lord.'
7. Just one word more from the Old Testament. Next to Deuteronomy Jeremiah is the
book most full of the word 'obey,' though alas! mostly in connection with the complaint
that the people had not obeyed. God sums up all His dealings with he fathers in the one
'I spake not with them concerning sacrifices, but this thing I commanded them, OBEY
Would God that we could learn that all that God speaks of sacrifices, even of the sacrifice
of His beloved Son, is subordinate to the one thing-to have His creature restored to full
obedience. Into all the inconceivable meaning of the word, 'I WILL BE YOUR GOD,'
there is no gateway but this, 'OBEY MY VOICE.'

1. Here we think at once of our blessed Lord, and the prominence He gives to obedience
as the one thing for which He was come into the world. He who entered it with His 'Lo, I
come to do Thy will, O God,' ever confessed to men, 'I seek not My own will, but the will
of Him that sent Me.'
Of all He did and of all He suffered, even to the death, He said, 'This commandment have
I received of My Father.'
If we turn to His teaching, we find everywhere, that the obedience He rendered is what
He claims from everyo ne who would be His disciple.
During His whole ministry, from beginning to end, obedience is
In the Sermon on the Mount He began with it: No one could enter the kingdom, 'but he
that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.' And in the farewell discourse, how
wonderfully He reveals the spiritual character of true obedience as it is born of love and
inspired by it, and as it also opens the way into the love of God. Do take into your heart
the wonderful words, (John 14:15, 16, 21, 23), 'If ye love Me, ye will keep my
commandments. And the Father will send forth the Spirit. He hath My commandments
and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he shall be loved of My Father, and I will
love him, and will manifest Myself unto him. If a man love Me, he will keep My words:
and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with
No words could express more simply or more powerfully the inconceivably glorious
place Christ gives to obedience, with its twofold possibility, (1) as only possible to a
loving heart, (2) as making possible all that God has to give of His Holy Spirit, of His
wonderful love, of His indwelling in Christ Jesus. I know of no passage in Scripture that
gives a higher revelation of the spiritual life, or the power of loving obedience as its one
condition. Let us pray God very earnestly that by His Holy Spirit its light may transfigure
our daily obedience with its heavenly glory.
See how all this is confirmed in the next chapter. How well we know the parable of the
vine! How often and how earnestly we have asked how to be able to abide continually in
Christ We have thought of more study of the Word, more faith, more prayer, more
communion with God, and we have overlooked the simple truth that Jesus teaches so
clearly, 'If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love,' with its divine
sanction, 'Even as I kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.'
For Him as for us, the only way under heaven to abide in divine love is to keep the
commandments. Do let me ask, have you known it, have you heard it preached, have you
believed it and proved it true in your experience: obedience on earth is the key to a place
in God's love in heaven? Unless there be some correspondence between God's wholehearted
love in heaven, and our whole-hearted, loving obedience on earth, Christ cannot
manifest Himself to us, God cannot abide in us, we cannot abide in His love.

2. If we go on from our Lord Jesus to His apostles, we find in the Acts two words of
Peter's which show how our Lord's teaching had entered into him. In the one, 'God hath
given His Holy Spirit to them that obey Him,' -he proves how he knew what had been the
preparation for Pentecost, the surrender to Christ. In the other, 'We must obey God rather
than man' -we have the man-ward side: obedience is to be unto death; nothing on earth
dare or can hinder it in the man who has given himself to God.

3. In Paul's Epistle to the Romans, we have, in the opening and closing verses the
expression, 'the obedience of faith among all nations' (1:5; 16:26), as that for which he
was made an apostle. He speaks of what God had wrought 'to make the Gentiles
obedient.' He teaches that, as the obedience of Christ makes us righteous, we become the
servants of obedience unto righteousness. As disobedience in Adam and in us was the
one thing that wrought death, so obedience, in Christ and in us, is the one thing that the
gospel makes known as the way of restoration to God and His favor.
4. We all know how James warns us not to be hearers of the Word only but doers, and
expounds how Abraham was justified, and his faith perfected, by his works.
5. In Peter's First Epistle we have only to look at the first chapter, to see the place
obedience has in his system. In ver. 2 be speaks to the 'Elect, in sanctification of the
Spirit, unto obedience and blood-sprinkling of Jesus Christ,' and so points us to obedience
as the eternal purpose of the Father, as the great object of the work of the Spirit, and a
chief part of the salvation of Christ. In ver. 13 he writes, 'As children of obedience,' born
of it, marked by it, subject to it, 'be ye holy in all manner of conversation.' Obedience is
In ver. 22 we read, 'Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth,' -
the whole acceptance of the truth of God was not merely a matter of intellectual assent or
strong emotion: it was a subjection of the life to the dominion of the truth of God: the
Christian life was in the first place obedience.
6. Of John we know how strong his statements are. 'He that saith, I know Him, and
keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar.' Obedience is
'Let us love in deed and truth; hereby we shall assure our hearts before Him. And
whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do the
things that are pleasing in His sight.' Obedience is the secret of good conscience, and of
the confidence that God heareth us. 'This is the love of God, that we keep His
Commandments.' The obedience that keeps His commandments: this is the garment in
which the hidden, invisible love reveals itself, and whereby it is known.
Such is the place obedience has in Holy Scripture, in the mind of God, in the hearts of
His servants. We may well ask, Does it take that place in my heart and life? Have we
indeed given obedience that supreme place of authority over us that God means it to
have, as the inspiration of every action, and of every approach to Him? If we yield
ourselves to the searching of God's Spirit, we may find that we never gave it its true
proportion in our scheme of life, and that this lack is the cause of all our failure in prayer
and in work. We may see that the deeper blessings of God's grace, and the full enjoyment
of God's love and nearness, have been beyond our reach, simply because obedience was
never made what God would have it be-the starting-point and the goal of our Christian
Let this, our first study, waken in us an earnest desire to know God's will fully
concerning this truth. Let us unite in praying that the Holy Spirit may show us how
defective the Christian's life is, where obedience does not rule all; how that life can be
exchanged for one of full surrender to absolute obedience; and how sure it is that God in
Christ will enable us to live it out.

Andrew Murray
(from the book " the school of obedience")

No comments: