Listen to this: “…a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). What a revival in the early church, touching even orthodox Jewish priests. It says that they became “obedient to the faith.” Faith is not meant to be known—it is meant to be obeyed. Inherent in the Gospel of grace is obedience—once you know it, you do it.
Not to do is not to know. Or as a friend of mine says, “We behave our beliefs.” Paul called it “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). For the apostles, to believe is to obey. They are siblings, and they always hang together. In fact, they are sometimes used interchangeably.
The children of Israel never made it out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. The writer of Hebrews identified their disobedience as unbelief. At the core of a failure to obey is a failure to believe.
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…” Either we put our trust in God and demonstrate it with an obedient heart or we trust in lesser gods (like ourselves or others or money) and we disobey.
“To whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief” (Heb. 4:18,19). He goes on to say that “we who have believed enter that rest” (4:3). Obedience demonstrates a believing heart. Disobedience detects a heart unwilling to trust.
Obedience is never presented as optional in the Scriptures. God does not suggest—He commands. Those who understand grace take His commands as invitations to trust the God who is at work within us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). He told the Thessalonians, “Faithful is He who called you, and He will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).
So it is more a matter of God doing it in me than me making it happen. But if it doesn’t happen, it’s my fault, not God’s. My part is to surrender to His ability and trust Him for the outcome as I step out in bold obedience. I will not be let off the hook if indifference or laziness keeps me from my God-appointed assignment, as the passive investor sadly demonstrates. (Matthew 25:26).
Jesus told His followers that making disciples was “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). If we asked Jesus whether obedience was optional or not, what would He say? As the brother of Jesus wrote, “Faith without works is dead.” Is dead faith saving faith? I doubt it. For John the Beloved, a disobedient Christian is an oxymoron.
Get over the crazy hurdle that talking about the commands of God or the necessity of obedience puts people under the law. We either read the Bible to be informed—or transformed. I’m choosing the latter. How about you?