Monday, September 15, 2014

Disciples will obey

This post is part of a series on what disciples of Jesus will look like.

2 This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. 3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands.  1 John 5:2-3a

I have been reading through 1 John recently, and I have been truly surprised at how pervasive this message is in John's letter:

If you know God, you will obey God.
If you don't obey God, then you don't know God.

Take at look at these verses:

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

3 This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn't keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:3-6

The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. 1 John 3:24

There are similar statements in 1 John 2:17, 2:24, 3:6, 3:17, and 5:18.

For some, the idea that obedience is so closely connected to our salvation can be uncomfortable. Salvation by grace through faith alone is a treasured, and biblical, doctrine. However, so many people memorize Ephesians 2:8-9 and completely ignore Ephesians 2:10. No, we are not saved by good works, but we are saved in order to do good works. Even more, one of the primary reasons why John wrote this letter is so that his readers could know they were in fact saved (1 John 5:13), and over and over again, he says that the evidence that you know God is that you obey Him. James goes so far as to say that we are "justified by works and not by faith alone" and that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:24,26). This is the culmination of an argument against those who "say" that they have faith but have no evidence of that in what they do (James 2:14). True, saving faith will demonstrate itself through obedience and good works.

For others, the very idea that we have to "obey" God is itself uncomfortable, perhaps even offensive. As an adult, I love my parents, but I don't "obey" them. That's no longer the nature of our relationship. However, I will always be a child needing to obey my Father in heaven. Moreover, when you confess Jesus as your Lord, your kurios in Greek, that means that you are His slave, His doulos in Greek. There is a lot of controversy around translating doulos as "slave". Most translations do not do that; they use the word "servant", or "bond-servant". It's one of the primary reasons why I use the HCSB; they translate doulos as slave. One of the reasons why others do not has to do with the historical baggage associated with the word in the minds of the modern reader. But Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, which is one of the most respected works on the meaning of each word in the Greek New Testament, says this of doulos:

“There is no need to trace the history of this word, there is no need to discuss the meaning of this word, it has never meant anything in any usage but slave.”

As slaves of our Lord and Master, we are not free to just do whatever we want. We are subject to a will other than our own, that of our Lord Jesus. His commands are not burdensome, but they are not optional either. If you want to read more on this topic of the relationship between kurios and doulos, I recommend John MacArthur's book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ.

As I wrote in a recent article on the teen ministry site Fervr.net, God takes obedience seriously. There is no foundation in Scripture for thinking you can have a belief in God that does not change who you are and what you do and then expecting that belief to save you. Romans 10:9 is absolutely true. All you have to do is confess Jesus as your Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved. But in that confession, you permanently and irrevocably pledge that your will, your life, your hopes and your dreams are no longer your own but are now subject to the will of your Lord and Master Jesus Christ. We do not work and obey in order to obtain our salvation, but true disciples do work and obey as a result of our salvation.

Disciples will obey, and those who claim to follow Christ and yet make a practice of regularly disobeying Him are deceiving themselves.

You are My friends if you do what I command you. John 15:14