What Constitutes Obedience?

Richard Thetford

A passage of scripture comes to mind when I hear the word "obedience" and that is from 1 Samuel 15:22 which says: "And Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, {And} to heed than the fat of rams". We all need to understand that to obey the voice of the Lord is our first obligation. The truth is what guides us unto salvation and all men should obey the truth of God (Gal 3:1-5; 1 Pet 1:22). We can learn from the scriptures that no man was saved by obedience to anything other than God's word. King Saul obeyed the voice of the people and that led to his downfall (1 Sam 15:21). Adam obeyed the voice of Satan (Gen 3:1-6). Saul of Tarsus obeyed the voice of his conscience (Acts 26:9). Only when one obeys the commandments of God is one able to be saved.

So how do we obey the truth? Before answering this question, let us first see how we disobey it. We disobey the truth by refusing to do anything at all (John 5:40). We disobey the truth by adding anything to it that God has not commanded or allowed. The Proverb writer says: "Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar." (See also Rev 22:18; 2 John 9) Besides adding to God's word we disobey Him by taking away that which He has instructed us to do (Rev 22:19; Deut 4:2). The only way that we can obey the truth is by doing the exact thing that God commands for us to do. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matt 7:21-23). Some may think they are doing God's will because it "feels right", or "it is a good work" but that does make it right!

This point is driven home by the example of Moses when he struck the rock when he was not commanded to do so (Exod 20:7-12). It seemed such a small thing when Uzza touched the Ark to stabilize it, yet it caused his death (1 Chron 13:9-10). If we offend in one point we are guilty of all "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one {point,} he has become guilty of all" (Jam 2:10). Let us strive to do ONLY those things which ARE AUTHORIZED by God!