Sometimes in our zeal to stress the Gospel message that we are saved by grace, we neglect Jesus’ call to obey His teaching. I think the reason this happens is because we are committed to making sure people know they are saved by grace through faith and not by what they do or don’t do. In his letters the Apostle Paul is uncompromising in his teaching that salvation is not by works but by faith. Two of his strongest statements are in Romans 3:21-31 and Galatians 3:1-14 if you would like to review them.
To believe and teach that salvation is by grace through faith, however, does not mean that obedience is unimportant or optional. No one is saved by “works of law” or obedience. Faith, repentance, and baptism are not works we do to earn, win, or deserve God’s forgiveness and acceptance. Yet in His teaching Jesus is clear that He wants and expects His followers to obey Him.
A window is opened for our understanding of the place of obedience in Jesus’ farewell instructions to the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20. After affirming that He has the authority to do so, Jesus instructs them to go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey everything He had commanded them. Wouldn’t it be an interesting study to go through the Gospels to note and study everything Jesus commanded His followers?
While we come to Christ for salvation by God’s grace through faith, we give ourselves to obeying Him because we have been accepted and forgiven. He tells us to teach those who become His disciples to obey the things He has commanded. Obedience to Jesus does not earn salvation, but flows from it. We are not saved because we obey Jesus, we obey Jesus because we are saved.
In addition to His farewell instructions, Jesus also underscored the importance of obedience during His ministry. One of my favorites is in His closing parable of two builders at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-27. Both a wise as well as a foolish builder built houses: one on the rock and one on the sand. When the rain, streams, and winds came the house built on the rock stood while the one built on the sand fell. The difference between the two builders? Both heard Jesus’ words, but only the wise man put them into practice.
Another of my favorite examples of Jesus stressing the importance of obedience is in John 13 when He washed His disciples’ feet. During the evening meal Jesus removed His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waist, and washed their feet. When He finished he put His clothes back on and returned to His place. He told them that He was their Lord and Teacher and that He had set an example for them to follow because no servant is greater than his master. What gets my attention is verse 17 when He told them: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Don’t miss the point that obeying Jesus blesses our lives.
Jesus’ strongest statement about obedience is in John 14:15: “If you love me, keep my commands.” So simple, and at the same time equally profound. Nothing is more important than loving Jesus. That’s why even though we often let Him down, because we love Him, and with His help, we make the effort to obey Him. We obey Him not to earn His love and forgiveness, but because we know He loves us and we love Him.
I’m interested in what you think about this subject. Feel free to leave a reply below or email me at bobmmink.com, and share this post on Social Media.
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So easy to read but hard to remember sometimes. Thanks for the reminder Bob!! I pray I can put this into practice more often!!
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I remember as a child that when my dad told me to do something, I did it out of grudging obedience, sometimes grumbling to myself. As I got older, I began to understand him and wanted to please Him by obeying, because I knew he had my welfare at heart. I think of obedience to the Lord in this way.
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