Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Faith and Obedience; Obedience and Faith

“The idea of a situation in which faith is possible is only a way of stating the facts of a case in which the following two propositions hold good and are equally true: only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.

"It is quite unbiblical to hold the first proposition without the second. We think we understand when we hear that obedience is possible only where there is faith. Does not obedience follow faith as good fruit grows on a good tree? First faith, then obedience. If by that we mean that it is faith which justifies, and not the act of obedience, all well and good, for that is the essential and unexceptionable presupposition of all that follows. If, however, we make a chronological distinction between faith and obedience, and make obedience subsequent to faith, we are divorcing the one from the other – and then we get the practical question, when must obedience begin?...From the point of view of justification it is necessary to separate them, but we must never lose sight of their essential unity. For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.” [The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer, page 69.]

Jesus says (John 14:23 – 24), “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…He who does not love Me does not keep My words.”

The Apostle John writes, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments,” (1 John 2:3). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith,” (1 John 5:3-4).

Belief that is not married to obedience is abstract and unconsummated; obedience is the child of faith as faith is the child of obedience. Put another way, when faith and obedience are married their offspring is a new person in Jesus Christ. The object of faith is Christ, the object of obedience is Christ – Christ and Christ alone must be the object, the center, the initiator and the consummator…He is the Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher.

Do we insist on obedience as we insist on faith? Or do we insist on faith while overlooking disobedience?  Why is it that we often look the other way when it comes to disobedience?

Preaching faith without obedience is disobedience to the Great Commission in which Jesus tells us to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey all that He has commanded. A church that does not emphasize obedience to Jesus Christ is a church that typically looks like the world, it is indistinguishable from its surroundings.

Jesus calls us to know the fellowship of His obedience to the Father. This obedience is not limited to individual obedience, that is, it is not something that is limited to me personally; it is also something that I can experience in concert with my brothers and sisters and with the saints who have gone before me. This communal obedience echoes the Lord’s Table and resounds with the music of Hebrews Chapters 11 and 12 – it is an obedience anchored both in time (present circumstances) and in eternity. It is an obedience that is rooted and grounded in Golgotha, that finds its power on Easter morning, its assurance at the right hand of God, and its present reality in the Holy Spirit and the living Word of God.

Obedience to Jesus Christ is an invitation to know Him and to know others. I can only know the sweet fellowship of obedient saints as obedience becomes a way of life to me – it is a fellowship rooted in the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ – only those who live in the Cross can know others who live in the Cross, for they recognize a life that is not their own, they recognize the life of Another. The New Testament teaches us that those who don’t know Jesus don’t know His disciples, and His disciples are not those who form an abstract belief, but those who have the marriage of faith and obedience animating their lives in Christ.

We may talk about what we believe, but do we talk about how we live? Church websites may have a page describing beliefs (though these pages are becoming more and more simple and indefinite), but do they have a page describing how congregations live? Those who join churches are often asked to simply give assent to beliefs, they are not required to make a commitment to how they will live.

Have we lost the vision and joy of obedient fellowship with Jesus and others? Jesus calls us to obedience because He calls us to Himself. He calls us to obedience because He desires that we know Him and our Father and experience the power and intimacy of the Holy Spirit. Consider the place “obedience” has in Jesus’ Upper Room teaching which He gave the night He was betrayed – the Upper Room is an invitation into the Holy of Holies, and that invitation includes the way of obedience. Jesus was obedient to the Father, He calls us to that very same obedience…our obedience should be no less than His as He lives within us.

Will today be a day of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ?


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