Is Exact Obedience Necessary?

Elementary Principles that Every Child and Young Person Needs to Know

Among Christians today, a frequently debated question is, Do we really have to obey God exactly? Some people say that it is impossible to obey God exactly and completely, so we should just try to be as good as we can. Others think that we do not even need to try, since God will save us just the way we are. What is the Bible’s answer to this important question? There are several Bible stories that we will examine to help us discover that answer.

In the Garden of Eden, Eve did not think that it was really very important that she obey God exactly, so she ate a piece of fruit that God said not to eat. As a result of this seemingly small deviation from God’s command the floodgates of misery, woe, sickness, suffering, death, strife and war were opened up for all of their descendents.

Cain was another person that did not think it was important to obey God exactly. He thought that he could choose the part of God’s command he wanted to follow, and so when God instructed them to bring a lamb as a sacrifice, he brought a sacrifice, but instead of a lamb, he brought the fruit of his own hands to offer to God. What response did he receive from God? “And the Lord respected Able and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So God said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is at the door.” Genesis 4:3,4. Cain was worshipping the Lord. He was even bringing an offering to the Lord, but he did not follow the divine instructions. His obedience was not exact.

A Rebellious People

This failure of the human race, since the time of Adam, to recognize that God means what He says is also seen in the story of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. When God worked a miracle every day to provide manna for their food, He gave them special instructions about it’s preparation and use. In Exodus 16:19, 20 we read, “And Moses said, ‘Let no one leave any of it [the manna] till the morning.’ ” Did they follow these simple instructions? “Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.” They refused to listen to God’s counsel through Moses. They did not think it was important to obey exactly.

When they disobeyed God, they saw the results. And it would seem logical that they would have learned to obey God when He gave them instruction, but when He told them to gather a double portion for the Sabbath day, and not go out on the Sabbath to gather food, they again tested God. “Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place in the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:25–30.

Human beings seem to have a hard time learning that God means what He says even though God’s requirements are few. There are only Ten Commandments in the whole moral Law. There is not an encyclopedia, or books and books of laws. His Law is simple enough for a child to understand, but God is particular as to whether or not His word is obeyed.

It is important to obey God exactly. In fact, your eternal destiny is determined by whether you obey God exactly or not. Exact obedience does not earn salvation, but the gift of salvation is not given to those who are rebellious against God and are not particular to obey Him.

A Disobedient Prophet

The story of the prophet sent to rebuke king Jeroboam and to prophesy what was going to happen to him because of his idolatry adds to our understanding of the seriousness of this point. After the prophet gave His message, the king was so angry that he ordered his seizure. As he pointed his finger toward the prophet, his whole hand withered up and he could not move it—his hand was paralyzed. In terror he plead with the prophet, “Oh, please, pray for me!” So the prophet prayed for him and the Lord worked a miracle and restored his arm to perfect function.

Here he had very plain evidence, in his own body, that the Lord had spoken to him through this prophet, and so he realized that it would only be wise to listen. So he said to this prophet, “Come home with me and eat with me.” But the prophet said, No! ” ‘If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, “You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.”‘ So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.

“Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, ‘Which way did he go?’ For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ So they saddled the donkey for him; and he rode on it, and went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak.

“Then he said to him, ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ Then he said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat bread’. And he said, ‘I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the Lord, “You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.” He said to him, ‘I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.”‘ [He was lying to him.] So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

“Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.”‘
“So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.

“Now when the prophet who had brought him back by the way heard it, he said, ‘It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.’ And he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ So they saddled it.

“Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey. And the prophet took up the corpse of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back. So the old prophet came to the city to mourn, and to bury him. Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, saying, ‘Alas, my brother.'” 1 Kings 13:8–30.

When Its Not Safe to Listen to an Angels’ Message

The problem for this prophet was that he listened to another prophet who lied to him, claiming to have a message from an angel. Do you realize that when God speaks, even if an angel should tell you to do something different, you are going to lose your soul if you disobey the Lord?

The apostle Paul makes this clear. “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you that what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8. When God speaks, you will lose your soul if you listen to anybody else and disobey—even if it is an angel.

We need to learn this lesson today, for many people are going to eternal destruction who could be saved if they understood that whether you obey or disobey makes the difference between whether you will have eternal life or eternal death.

Notice what Moses said to the Children of Israel about this very point. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgements, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendents may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:15–20.

New Covenant Obedience

Moses said, “I am setting before you life and death determined by your obedience.” However, some will say, “But, I am living in the new covenant today.” Do you realize that the requirements of the new covenant are even more strict than the requirements of the old covenant? (Read the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7.)

In the new covenant, Jesus said it is not enough to keep the law of God on the outside, you have to keep it from your heart. Jesus declared the necessity of obedience in John 5:28, 29: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Jesus links the type of life that you live to your eternal destiny. Obedience or disobedience determines your eternal destiny.

The apostle Paul repeats the same warning as he speaks concerning God, “who will render to each one according to his deeds, eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to every one who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For an many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers or the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; . . .)” Romans 2:6–13.

Another New Testament writer speaks to the same subject: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:8–12.

It is clear that James is talking about the moral law, the Ten Commandments. Breaking one of these commandments makes you guilty of breaking them all. Obedience or disobedience will determine the eternal destiny of men and women, boys and girls.

The Bible predicts that obedience will distinguish God’s true people from His professed followers in the last days, when Jesus predicted that “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12. God’s last day people are described in Revelation 12:17. “And the dragon was enraged with the woman [the symbol of a church], and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring [the last of God’s people], who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

God’s people in the last days will be commandment keepers. Again in Revelation 14:12 we read: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” God’s people are here contrasted with the disobedient, those who receive the mark of the beast. (See Revelation 14:9–11.)

The last chapter of the Bible says again, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14. The next verse describes those who do not obey God’s commandments. Three times in the last three chapters of Revelation God contrasts the obedient with the disobedient, so we will not make a mistake. Eternal destiny is determined by whether you obey God exactly.

But today there is a worldwide deception concerning the law of God. Some people think that you cannot keep it. Others think that you do not need to keep it. But the worst deception of all is when people think that they can change or adjust the requirements of God’s law, and that then they are keeping it when actually they are breaking it. (This is especially true when people claim to be keeping God’s law while they are breaking the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment mentioned in Exodus 20:8–11.)
Through Jesus, God’s mercy has been manifested to men, but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character and not one jot or tittle of it can be set aside to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law. He sacrificed Himself in Christ to redeem man from the curse of the law.

The law requires righteousness, a righteous life, and a perfect character. But this, man does not have and so he can not give it. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law, but Christ came down to earth as a man, lived a holy life and developed a perfect character. These He offers to give to man as a free gift, if man will receive it.

More than this, Christ imbues a man with the attributes of God’s own character so that He can develop, within this human being, the attributes of the divine character, that the principles of the Law might be fulfilled in the life of the Christian. (Romans 8.) By His life and death, Christ proved that God’s justice did not destroy His mercy as the devil’s deception claims. He showed that sin could be forgiven and that the law is righteous and can be perfectly obeyed. The law was not abrogated, which would immortalize sin and place the whole world under Satan’s control.

Because the law could not be changed, Jesus died on the cross and established the law. However, Christ’s death on the cross is the very act which the devil claims destroyed the law. He has lead men to believe that the moral law, the Ten Commandments, were “nailed to the cross,” when in fact Christ came to do just the opposite.

Since the beginning of the great controversy, Satan has claimed that the law, spoken by God’s own voice, is faulty and that some specification can been set aside. The last great deception that Satan will bring upon the world will be on this same point. Bible prophecy foretells that in the last days Satan will assail one of God’s commandments, and lead men to keep a man-made law instead of God’s law.
Will the devil need to make you break the whole law? No, he knows that those who keep the whole law but offend in one point are guilty of all. (James 2:10.) He knows that if you consent deliberately to break one precept, that brings you under his control. So, the devil will work on the minds of men so that they will set up their laws to counterwork the Law of God and seek to compel the consciences of others to enforce their man-made laws.

This warfare against God’s law will continue until the end of time. Every man is going to be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. Every single human being is going to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will only be two classes. Every character will be fully developed, every person will demonstrate whether he will keep all the law of God. What will your decision be?

Justification by Faith

Numerous errors are being circulated today, among God’s people, regarding justification by faith, sanctification and other salvation doctrines. As a result, many are being misled and captivated by gross errors, most of which have originated in the churches of the world which we know as Babylon. Concerning justification, the servant of the Lord has told us, “The enemy of man and God is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken.” The Review and Herald, September 3, 1889. Is it any wonder then that Satan has infiltrated God’s true church with some of his ministers whom he has inspired to preach a false justification by faith?

Recently I found these alarming inspired passages concerning righteousness by faith. “There is not one in one hundred who understands for himself the Bible truth on this subject that is so necessary to our present and eternal welfare.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 360. “Our churches are dying for the want of teaching on the subject of righteousness by faith in Christ.” This Day With God, 93.

These very disturbing facts have led me to prepare this series. First let us note that, strange as it may seem, the teaching and preaching of error to our people can, at times, result in a great blessing. How could this be possible? Let us take courage from the following counsel from the Lord. “Every time that error is advanced, it will work for good to those who sincerely love God; for when the truth is shadowed by error, those whom the Lord has made His sentinels will make the truth sharper and clearer. They will search the Scriptures for evidence of their faith. The advancement of error is the call for God’s servants to arouse, and place the truth in bold relief.” The Signs of the Times, January 6, 1898. This we shall endeavor to do.

The Basis of Justification by Faith

The Scriptures introduce the basis or the foundation upon which justification by faith rests by explaining what Christ wants to do for us. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17. “For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” John 6:33.

That which Christ has provided for us and wants to do for us is the basis or foundation of justification by faith. In the Bible, both Adam and Christ represent the human race. Therefore, what occurred with Adam and Christ has to do, in a spiritual sense, with everyone born into this world. For example, when Adam, the representative of our race, was tempted to rebel against God and in doing so, sinned, he brought death upon himself and all his descendents. When Christ became our representative by coming to earth in human flesh, He likewise was tempted by the devil to sin. But He did not rebel as Adam had done; He obeyed God. And because of His victory over Satan, He was able and willing to die for our sins so that the sentence of death could be reversed to eternal life—if we accept the gift.

Thus, the result of Adam’s sin was that all have likewise sinned and received the death penalty. But, praise God, the Son of God chose to take the place of Adam as head and representative of the human race and by His death on the cross, He paid the penalty of our death sentence, providing an offer of redemption to all who will believe in Him as we read in John 3:16, 17: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Throughout the entire word of God this basis for justification by faith is confirmed. For example, in Romans 5:12, 17–19 we read: “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men in condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.”

The Spirit of Prophecy, which is always in harmony with the Bible, likewise teaches that Jesus, in order to save us, took the place of Adam as our representative. “Jesus humbled Himself, clothing His divinity with humanity, in order that He might stand as the head and representative of the human family.” The Signs of the Times, January 16, 1896.

The Conditions

Now let us consider the conditions upon which justification by faith and sanctification are possible for individuals. You may be asking, are there really conditions for a man to be justified? Is not justification a free gift? In 1893, Ellen White wrote to A.T. Jones from New Zealand. Jones, of course, was one of the two men who had presented the truth of righteousness by faith in 1888. However, by 1893, he had begun to proclaim that there are no conditions for justification. The Lord showed his mistake to Ellen White in a vision. The following sentence is from the letter she wrote to him to deliver God’s message. “There are conditions to our receiving justification and sanctification, and the righteousness of Christ.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 377. Meeting the conditions does not mean that we make a payment for our salvation. Man’s works, either before or after justification, are valueless in themselves. They cannot purchase salvation. Salvation is a free gift to those who meet the conditions.

Adam chose to believe the lie of Satan. By sinning he accepted the conditions for believing the lie of Satan that he would become as the gods. He ignored God’s truth, that the wages of sin is death. But when we choose to believe what Christ says, this process is reversed. We reject Satan and accept the following conditions laid down by Christ in order that we might escape death and receive eternal life:

  1. We accept by faith Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on Calvary’s cross for us.
  2. We surrender completely, repent and confess our sins to God.
  3. We believe that God forgives our individual sins.
  4. We personally experience the gift of justification by being born again.
  5. We abide in Christ through a continual, loving relationship of trust and obedience.

Condition One – Accept and Believe

Condition one requires that we believe and personally accept Christ’s sacrifice. It is important that we realize that there is much more in the term “believe” than many have supposed. In fact, all five of the listed conditions are embodied in the words, “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Belief entails more than a mere verbal or emotional assent. To understand the real depth of what belief means, we must first understand what took place as a result of Christ’s death on the cross.

In Romans 6:23 we read, “The wages of sin is death.” Is Paul here speaking about the first or the second death? God’s word gives us the answer in Revelation 20:6. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.” And why does the second death have no power? Because Jesus died the second death for those who believe in Him and accept Him as their Substitute. Praise God!

Condition Two – Surrender

The process of surrender involves repentance, confession and death to self and sin. In Acts 2:38, Paul enjoined upon us the necessity of repentance. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Now notice the importance that Ellen White gives to this condition. “Repent, repent, repent, was the message rung out by John the Baptist in the wilderness. Christ’s message to the people was, ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise
perish,’ (Luke 13:5) and the apostles were commanded to preach everywhere that men should repent.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 19.

Can we repent in our own strength? We certainly cannot. Through His servant, the Lord says, “Who is desirous of becoming truly repentant? What must he do? —He must come to Jesus just as he is, without delay. He must believe that the word of Christ is true, and believing the promise, ask, that he may receive. When sincere men desire to pray, they will not pray in vain. The Lord will fulfill His word, and will give the Holy Spirit to lead to repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., Book 1, 393.

How important are these conditions? God’s prophet wrote: “Those who have not humbled their souls before God in acknowledging their guilt, have not yet fulfilled the first condition of acceptance. If we have not experienced that repentance which is not to be repented of, and have not with true humiliation of soul and brokenness of spirit confessed our sins, abhorring our iniquity, we have never truly sought for the forgiveness of sin; and if we have never sought, we have never found the peace of God. The only reason why we do not have remission of sins that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts and comply with the conditions of the word of truth.” Steps to Christ, 37, 38.

Condition Three – Believe that God Forgives

We must believe that God forgives our sins and before God can forgive our sins, we must take certain steps. “Man must be emptied of self before he can be, in the fullest sense, a believer in Jesus.” The Desire of Ages, 280. This is very important: for Jesus says to the unforgiven, “I never knew you.”

“You have not exercised genuine repentance toward God for the transgression of His holy law, and you cannot have genuine faith in Me, for it was My mission to exalt God’s law.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 239. “To believe in Jesus is to take Him as our Redeemer and our Pattern.” Historical Sketches, 188. After we have met these specified conditions so that we can truly believe in Christ, then we can believe that “the moment we ask for forgiveness in contrition and sincerity, God forgives. Oh, what a glorious truth! Preach it, pray it, sing it.” The Signs of the Times, September 4, 1893.

Condition Four – Experience the New Birth

Christ told Nicodemus that before a man can see the kingdom of God, he must be born again. When God forgives a man, He provides him with a new heart, a new birth. In Ezekiel 36:26 we read, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

Many do not realize that justification by faith includes the new birth, which involves gaining a new mind. However, inspiration clearly reveals this truth. “To be pardoned in the way that Christ pardons, is not only to be forgiven, but to be renewed in the spirit of our mind.” The Review and Herald, August 19, 1890.

The renewing of the mind takes place when we come to the Lord, just as David did after he had sinned with Bathsheba. Consider his prayer in Psalms 51, 2, 7, 10. “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Ellen White wrote this in commenting upon David’s experience: “But forgiveness has a broader meaning than many suppose.…God’s forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. [I like that!] It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart. David had the true conception of forgiveness when he prayed, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’” Mount of Blessings, 114.

As Water to the Thirsty

Are you beginning to get a clearer picture of justification by faith? Ellen White wrote that when the doctrine of righteousness by faith is presented in all its purity it is “as water comes to the thirsty traveler.” In my younger days, I often hiked in the desert. I well remember once when I was completely out of water and desperate. I suddenly discovered a very small stream trickling into the sand. It was coming from a far off mountain, but still contained enough water to quench my thirst. How thankful to God I was for finding the water.

When we discover the marvelous truth of justification by faith, we, too, will exclaim with Ellen White, “The sweetest melody that comes from God through human lips—justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ.” Testimonies, vol.6, 426.

At justification heavenly peace floods the soul. Paul tells us in Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What a glorious truth, that when we are justified, we stand faultless before God because we are clothed in the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness.

“As the penitent sinner, contrite before God, discerns Christ’s atonement in his behalf, and accepts this atonement as his only hope in this life and the future life, his sins are pardoned. This is justification by faith.…[For] pardon and justification are one and the same thing. Through faith, the believer passes from the position of a rebel, a child of sin and Satan, to the position of a loyal subject of Christ Jesus, not because of an inherent goodness, but because Christ receives him as His child by adoption. . . . Thus man, pardoned and clothed with the beautiful garments of Christ’s righteousness, stands faultless before God.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1070.

The more we understand about righteousness by faith, the more glorious it becomes. But remember that, “Without the transforming process which can come alone through divine power, the original propensities to sin are left in the heart in all their strength, to forge new chains, to impose a slavery that can never be broken by human power. But men can never enter heaven with their old tastes, inclinations, idols, ideas, and theories.” The Review and Herald, August 19, 1890.

But praise the Lord, through justification by faith the image of Christ is stamped upon the mind, heart and soul making it possible for man to have the mind of Christ as did the apostle Paul. Are you asking, But how can a man be holy? In Christ’s Object Lessons, 163, we find this amazing statement: “As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God Himself is ‘the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Romans 3:26.”

The reception of a new heart and the righteousness of Christ is what makes a man holy. Can you imagine, of a born again man, it is said that holiness “finds that it has nothing more to require?” Ibid., 163. But do not forget, a man will not feel or say that he is holy. Yet this is the way God looks upon him, because of Christ whose righteousness is accounted to him.

“When the sinner is converted he receives the Holy Spirit, that makes him a child of God, and fits him for the society of the redeemed and the angelic host. He is made a joint heir with Christ.” The Southern Work, 12. “The grace of Christ purifies while it pardons, and fits man for a holy heaven.” That I May Know Him, 336.

It is Christ’s indwelling righteousness that both justifies and fits men for heaven. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. When justification is completed, sanctification has just begun, for Jesus begins to live out His life within man, imparting His righteousness, making him fit and still more fit for heaven as he develops a character according to the pattern Christ Jesus.

The experience of the apostle Paul is to be our daily experience. He wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Christ’s Righteousness Instead of Man’s Sinfulness

What wonderful news! In forgiving our past disobedience the obedience of Christ is placed to the account of the repentant sinner. “The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, [and] treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loved His Son.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 367.

God loves us as He loved His Son. How incomprehensible! But, beloved, it is true. Oh, what a salvation! The true Christian does not work to be saved. He works the works of Christ because he is saved. Such an experience fills the heart with unspeakable joy and peace. He is having a true and living relationship with his Savior, an experience that makes it possible for him to achieve victory over every temptation and sin.

Condition Five – Continual Obedience

It is through obedience that we maintain our sanctified state, and also, we have learned, continual obedience is the only way we can retain our justified state as well. In Selected Messages, Book 1, 366, we read: “While God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins, or neglecting known duties. God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, loving faith that works by love and purifies the soul.”

Now for one more grand truth. Did you know that as long as we maintain our justification and our sanctification that eternal life has already begun for us here and now? “It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of life eternal.” The Desire of Ages, 388.

This truth is further confirmed by the prophet John. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God: and that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:11–13.

No wonder Paul exclaimed in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18. “Rejoice evermore.…In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” No wonder Ellen White proclaims, “Preach it, pray it, sing it.”

Lawrence Nelson retired after thirteen years as General Conference Associate Youth Director, and is now speaker of Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry.

Bible Study Guides – “I Will Be Their God”

April 28, 2001 – May 4, 2001


“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” Deuteronomy 5:29.

STUDY HELP: Patriarchs and Prophets, 370–373.


“We are called to be holy, and we should carefully avoid giving the impression that it is of little consequence whether or not we retain the peculiar features of our faith. Upon us rests the solemn obligation of taking a more decided stand for truth and righteousness than we have taken in the past. The line of demarcation between those who keep the commandments of God and those who do not is to be revealed with unmistakable clearness. We are conscientiously to honor God, diligently using every means of keeping in covenant relation with Him, that we may receive His blessings—the blessings so essential for the people who are to be so severely tried. To give the impression that our faith, our religion, is not a dominating power in our lives is greatly to dishonor God. Thus we turn from His commandments, which are our life, denying that He is our God and that we are His people.” Counsels on Health, 238, 239.

“I Will Not Leave Thee”

  1. How was the covenant made with Abraham renewed with Isaac? Genesis 26:24.

NOTE: “The promises made to Abraham and confirmed to his son were held by Isaac and Rebekah as the great object of their desires and hopes. With these promises Esau and Jacob were familiar. They were taught to regard the birthright as a matter of great importance, for it included not only an inheritance of worldly wealth but spiritual pre-eminence. He who received it was to be the priest of his family, and in the line of his posterity the Redeemer of the world would come. On the other hand, there were obligations resting upon the possessor of the birthright. He who should inherit its blessings must devote his life to the service of God. Like Abraham, he must be obedient to the divine requirements. In marriage, in his family relations, in public life, he must consult the will of God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 177, 178.

  1. How did God confirm the covenant with Jacob? Genesis 28:11–15. Compare Genesis 28:1–4.

NOTE: “Threatened with death by the wrath of Esau, Jacob went out from his father’s home a fugitive; but he carried with him the father’s blessing; Isaac had renewed to him the covenant promise, and had bidden him, as its inheritor, to seek a wife of his mother’s family in Mesopotamia. . . . Wearied with his journey, the wanderer lay down upon the ground, with a stone for his pillow. As he slept he beheld a ladder, bright and shining, whose base rested upon the earth, while the top reached to heaven. Upon this ladder angels were ascending and descending; above it was the Lord of glory, and from the heavens His voice was heard: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac.’ The land whereon he lay as an exile and fugitive was promised to him and to his posterity, with the assurance, ‘In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ This promise had been given to Abraham and to Isaac, and now it was renewed to Jacob. Then in special regard to his present loneliness and distress, the words of comfort and encouragement were spoken: ‘Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.’” Patriarchs and Prophets, 183, 184.

  1. What truth was the Lord revealing to Jacob through His dream? John 1:51. Read verses 43–51.

NOTE: “In this vision the plan of redemption was presented to Jacob, not fully, but in such parts as were essential to him at that time. The mystic ladder revealed to him in his dream was the same to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nathanael. Said He, ‘Ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.’ John 1:51. Up to the time of man’s rebellion against the government of God, there had been free communion between God and man. But the sin of Adam and Eve separated earth from heaven, so that man could not have communion with his Maker. Yet the world was not left in solitary hopelessness. The ladder represents Jesus, the appointed medium of communication. Had He not with His own merits bridged the gulf that sin had made, the ministering angels could have held no communion with fallen man. Christ connects man in his weakness and helplessness with the source of infinite power. All this was revealed to Jacob in his dream. Although his mind at once grasped a part of the revelation, its great and mysterious truths were the study of his lifetime, and unfolded to his understanding more and more.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 184.

“I Will Pass Over You”

  1. What was the climax of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt? Exodus 11:4–6.

NOTE: ‘”Moses and Aaron related to Pharaoh the nature and effect of each plague which should follow his refusal to let Israel go. Every time he saw these plagues come exactly as he was told they would come; yet he would not yield. First, he would only grant them permission to sacrifice to God in the land of Egypt; then, after Egypt had suffered by God’s wrath, he granted that the men alone should go. After Egypt had been nearly destroyed by the plague of the locusts, then he granted that their children and their wives might go also; but would not let their cattle go. Moses then told the king that the angel of God would slay their first-born. Every plague had come a little closer and more severe, and this was to be more dreadful than any before it. But the proud king was exceedingly angry, and humbled not himself. And when the Egyptians saw the great preparations being made among the Israelites for that dreadful night, they ridiculed the token of blood upon their door–posts.” The Story of Redemption, 118.

  1. In what way were the people of Israel to show that they trusted God’s power to deliver them? Exodus 12:21–23, 28.

NOTE: “The only safety for the Israelites was blood upon the doorposts. God said, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you’ (Exodus 12:13). All other devices for safety would be without avail. Nothing but the blood on the doorposts would bar the way that the angel of death should not enter. There is salvation for the sinner in the blood of Jesus Christ alone, which cleanseth us from all sin. The man with a cultivated intellect may have vast stores of knowledge, he may engage in theological speculations, he may be great and honored of men and be considered the repository of knowledge, but unless he has a saving knowledge of Christ crucified for him, and by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, he is lost. Christ ‘was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5). ‘Saved by the blood of Jesus Christ,’ will be our only hope for time and our song throughout eternity.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 172, 173.

“I Am the Lord Thy God”

  1. With what statement did God preface the Ten Commandments? Exodus 20:1, 2.

NOTE: “With a mighty arm and with wonderful manifestations of His power, God brought Israel out of Egypt. He made them His chosen people, and gave them His law. He said to them: ‘Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God. . . . Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations’ (Deuteronomy 7:6–9). To us also have been spoken the words, ‘Ye are a chosen nation.’ Our work is to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. How are we to do this? By showing to the world that we are a commandment-keeping people, walking in harmony with God’s law. By never losing sight of His goodness and love, and by making everything in our lives subordinate to the claims of His Word. Thus we shall be representatives of Christ, showing forth in our lives a transcript of His character.” The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, 129, 130.

“As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 333.

“Christ came to give moral power to man; to elevate, ennoble, and strengthen him. He came to prove the falsity of Satan’s charge that God had made a law which man could not keep. While possessing man’s nature, Christ kept the Ten Commandments. Thus He proved to the inhabitants of the unfallen worlds and to human beings that it is possible for man perfectly to obey the law. He vindicated God’s justice in demanding obedience to His law. Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of the divine nature, are enabled to follow His example of obedience to every divine precept.” Signs of the Times, May 14, 1902.

  1. What did God do to ensure that His people would not forget His law? Exodus 24:12; 32:15, 16. Compare Exodus 34:1, 4.

NOTE: “He did not even then trust His precepts to the memory of a people who were prone to forget His requirements, but wrote them upon tables of stone. He would remove from Israel all possibility of mingling heathen traditions with His holy precepts, or of confounding His requirements with human ordinances or customs. But He did not stop with giving them the precepts of the Decalogue. The people had shown themselves so easily led astray that He would leave no door of temptation unguarded. Moses was commanded to write, as God should bid him, judgments and laws giving minute instruction as to what was required. These directions relating to the duty of the people to God, to one another, and to the stranger were only the principles of the Ten Commandments amplified and given in a specific manner, that none need err. They were designed to guard the sacredness of the ten precepts engraved on the tables of stone.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 364.

“The First Covenant”

  1. By what promise did the people of Israel enter into a covenant with God? Exodus 19:8. Compare Exodus 24:3, 7; Deuteronomy 5:27; 26:17.

NOTE: “Another compact—called in Scripture the ‘old’ covenant—was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the ‘second,’ or ‘new,’ covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God—the ‘two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.’ Hebrews 6:18.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 371.

  1. What was defective in this covenant? Hebrews 8:6, 7.

NOTE: “God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: ‘If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’ Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.’ Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant, and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant.” Review and Herald, October 17, 1907.

“That It May Be Well With You”

  1. Was God’s law the problem with the old covenant? Deuteronomy 5:29. Compare Deuteronomy 5:33; 6:24, 25.

NOTE: “It [the covenant] had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant. The law of God was the basis of this covenant, which was simply an arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God’s law. If it were not possible for human beings under the Abrahamic covenant to keep the commandments of God, every soul of us is lost. The Abrahamic covenant is the covenant of grace. ‘By grace are ye saved’ (Ephesians 2:8). Disobedient children? No, obedient to all His commandments.” God’s Amazing Grace, 133.

  1. How does the new covenant ensure obedience to God’s Law? Hebrews 8:10. Compare Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:31–33.

NOTE: “Obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled, ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.’ Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship. Thus the Scripture says, ‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.’ ‘He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ 1 John 5:3; 2:4. Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience.” Steps to Christ, 60, 61.

  1. How does the Bible emphasize the relationship between obedience and love? Deuteronomy 7:9; Joshua 22:5; Nehemiah 1:5; Daniel 9:4; John 14:15, 21; Romans 13:8, 10; I John 5:2, 3.

NOTE: “It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God’s law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20.” Steps to Christ, 62, 63.

  1. What outward sign of covenant relationship has God chosen? Exodus 31:16; Isaiah 56:6.

NOTE: “The Sabbath is a sign of the relationship existing between God and His people—a sign that they are His obedient subjects, that they keep holy His law. The observance of the Sabbath is the means ordained by God of preserving a knowledge of Himself and of distinguishing between His loyal subjects and the transgressors of His law.” Counsels on Health, 358.

Bible Study Guides – Obedience

December 2 – 8, 2001

“Blessed Are They That Do His Commandments”

MEMORY VERSE: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3.

STUDY HELP: The Faith I Live By, 93, 291; Maranatha, 79.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: “The path of obedience is the only path that leads to Heaven.” Review and Herald, March 18, 1875.


“Obedience to the law of God is sanctification. There are many who have erroneous ideas in regard to this work in the soul, but Jesus prayed that His disciples might be sanctified through the truth, and added, ‘Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). Sanctification is not an instantaneous but a progressive work, as obedience is continuous. Just as long as Satan urges his temptations upon us, the battle for self-conquest will have to be fought over and over again; but by obedience, the truth will sanctify the soul. Those who are loyal to the truth will, through the merits of Christ, overcome all weakness of character that has led them to be molded by every varying circumstance of life.” Faith and Works, 85.

“That the Righteousness of the Law Might be Fulfilled in Us”

1 Is obedience possible for the unconverted? Romans 8:7.

NOTE: See The Desire of Ages, 172.

2 By what means has Christ made it possible for us to render obedience to God’s law? Romans 8:3, 4. Compare Romans 12:1, 2.

NOTE: “The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ.” Ibid., 762.

“His Servants Ye are to Whom Ye Obey”

3 What does our obedience reveal about us? Romans 6:16. Compare Romans 2:8, Matthew 15:9.

NOTE: “Let none deceive themselves with the belief that God will pardon and bless them while they are trampling upon one of His requirements. The willful commission of a known sin silences the witnessing voice of the Spirit, and separates the soul from God. Whatever may be the ecstasies of religious feeling, Jesus cannot abide in the heart that disregards the divine law. God will honor those only who honor Him.” Lift Him Up, 144.

“If we indulge anger, lust, covetousness, hatred, selfishness, or any other sin, we become servants of sin. ‘No man can serve two masters.’ If we serve sin, we cannot serve Christ. The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; but the Spirit striveth against the flesh, keeping up a constant warfare. Here is where Christ’s help is needed. Human weakness becomes united to divine strength, and faith exclaims, ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!’” Messages to Young People, 114.

4 To whom will the Holy Spirit be given? Acts 5:32.

NOTE: “Christ declares that those who do His words are like a man who built his house upon a rock. This house the tempest and flood could not sweep away. Those who do not do Christ’s words are like the man who built his house upon the sand. Storm and tempest beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. It was an entire wreck. The result of professing to keep the law of God, yet walking contrary to the principles of that law, is seen in the wrecked house. Those who make a profession while failing to obey cannot stand the storm of temptation. One act of disobedience weakens the power to see the sinfulness of the second act. One little disregard of a ‘Thus saith the Lord’ is sufficient to stop the promised blessing of the Holy Spirit. By disobedience the light once so precious becomes obscure.” The Review and Herald, February 7, 1957.

5 Is eternal life available to those who are not obedient? Matthew 19:16–19.

NOTE: “Here are the conditions upon which every soul will be elected to eternal life. Your obedience to God’s commandments will prove your right to an inheritance with the saints in light. God has elected a certain excellence of character; and every one who, through the grace of Christ, shall reach the standard of His requirement, will have an abundant entrance into the kingdom of glory. All who would reach this standard of character, will have to employ the means that God has provided to this end. If you would inherit the rest that remaineth for the children of God, you must become a co-laborer with God. You are elected to wear the yoke of Christ,—to bear His burden, to lift His cross. You are to be diligent ‘to make your calling and election sure.’ [2 Peter 1:10.] Search the Scriptures, and you will see that not a son or a daughter of Adam is elected to be saved in disobedience to God’s law. The world makes void the law of God; but Christians are chosen to sanctification through obedience to the truth.” Christian Education, 118.

“Let this Mind be in You”

6 Who is our example in obedience? Philippians 2:5–12. Compare Hebrews 5:8, 9.

NOTE: “The life of Christ was a perfect fulfillment of every precept of the law. He said, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments.’ John 15:10. His life is our example of obedience and service. God alone can renew the heart. ‘It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’ But we are bidden, ‘Work out your own salvation.’ Philippians 2:13, 12. To the obedient child of God, the commandments are a delight.” The Faith I Live By, 89. See also The Acts of the Apostles, 505

7 What example of obedience did Paul reveal? Acts 25:8.

NOTE: See The Acts of the Apostles, 314, 315.

“The Doers of the Law Shall be Justified”

8 What is to be the extent of our obedience? Romans 2:13; 15:18; 2 Corinthians 10:5. Compare James 2:10–12.

NOTE: See Christ’s Object Lessons, 311, 312.

9 How is obedience possible? Hebrews 11:8. Compare Romans 16:26. See also Romans 3:31.

NOTE: “John did not teach that salvation was to be earned by obedience; but that obedience was the fruit of faith and love. ‘Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins,’ he said, ‘and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.’
1 John 3:5, 6. If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in the heart, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God. The sanctified heart is in harmony with the precepts of God’s law. There are many who, though striving to obey God’s commandments, have little peace or joy. This lack in their experience is the result of a failure to exercise faith. They walk as it were in a salt land, a parched wilderness. They claim little, when they might claim much; for there is no limit to the promises of God. Such ones do not correctly represent the sanctification that comes through obedience to the truth. The Lord would have all His sons and daughters happy, peaceful, and obedient. Through the exercise of faith the believer comes into possession of these blessings. Through faith, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.” The Acts of the Apostles, 563, 564.

“Them that Love Him and Keep His Commandments”

10 What principle must be the basis of our obedience? Joshua 22:5; 2 John 6; Romans 13:10.

NOTE: “There are those who profess holiness, who declare that they are wholly the Lord’s, who claim a right to the promises of God, while refusing to render obedience to His commandments. These transgressors of the law claim everything that is promised to the children of God; but this is presumption on their part, for John tells us that true love for God will be revealed in obedience to all His commandments. It is not enough to believe the theory of truth, to make a profession of faith in Christ, to believe that Jesus is no impostor, and that the religion of the Bible is no cunningly devised fable. ‘He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments,’ John wrote, ‘is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.’ ‘He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him.’ 1 John 2:4, 5; 3:24.” Ibid., 562, 563.

11 How does the Bible show that obedience identifies God’s true people? 1 John 2:3, 4; 3:24; Revelation 12:17; 14:12.

NOTE: “‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.’ Again Christ repeated the condition of union with Him. This promise is made to every sincere Christian. Our Saviour speaks so plainly that no one need fail to understand that true love will always produce obedience. The religion of Jesus Christ is love. Obedience is the sign of true love. Christ and the Father are one, and those who in truth receive Christ, will love God as the great centre of their adoration, and will also love one another.” Bible Echo, June 17, 1901.

12 What sign especially has God chosen to identify His people? Ezekiel 20:12.

NOTE: “In the twelfth chapter of Revelation is represented the great conflict between the obedient and the disobedient. The sign of obedience is the observance of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath is a test to this generation. In obeying the fourth commandment in spirit and truth, men will obey all the precepts of the Decalogue. To fulfill this commandment one must love God supremely, and exercise love toward all the creatures that He has made.” The Faith I Live By, 291.

“As Obedient Children”

13 What are we told about the fate of those who chose to be disobedient to God? 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8; Matthew 5:18.

NOTE: “Angels, pure and holy, obey His word; and shall we be deceived and deluded into the service of Satan? Shall we refuse obedience to His requirements? Shall it not be said of us individually, ‘But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.’ Here the divine blessing is pronounced upon the obedient. Now see the denunciation against the disobedient: ‘The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the Judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.’ Psalm 1.” Youth’s Instructor, October 20, 1886.

14 What is promised to the obedient? Revelation 22:14.

By Gordon Anderson

Bible Study Guides – The Test of Discipleship

February 3- 9, 2002

MEMORY VERSE: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3.

STUDY HELP: Steps to Christ, 57–65.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: True obedience is a service of love.

INTRODUCTION: “True faith, which relies wholly upon Christ, will be manifested by obedience to all the requirements of God. From Adam’s day to the present time the great controversy has been concerning obedience to God’s law.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 73.

The Rebirth Experience—How?

1 Jesus declared that men would experience a spiritual rebirth as a result of responding to what heavenly agent? John 3:5.

NOTE: “The office of the Holy Spirit is distinctly specified in the words of Christ: ‘When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.’ John 16:8. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin. If the sinner responds to the quickening influence of the Spirit, he will be brought to repentance and aroused to the importance of obeying the divine requirements.” Acts of the Apostles, 52.

“The heart must be open to the Spirit’s influence, or God’s blessing cannot be received.” Steps to Christ, 95.

2 With what is the work of the Holy Spirit always in harmony? 1 Peter 1:22, 23.

NOTE: “Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself.” The Desire of Ages, 671.

“The Author of this spiritual life is unseen, and the exact method by which that life is imparted and sustained, it is beyond the power of human philosophy to explain. Yet the operations of the Spirit are always in harmony with the written word.” Acts of the Apostles, 284.

3 Where did Jesus say true sanctification would always begin? Matthew 23:25, 26.

NOTE: “The outward gloss may be put on, and men may be as were the Pharisees whom Jesus describes as ‘whited sepulchres’ full of corruption and dead men’s bones.” Ellen G. White Comments, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 951.

4 Concerning true sanctification, who only can produce a work on the inside? Phillipians 2:13.

NOTE: “The Lord does not propose to perform for us either the willing or the doing. This is our proper work. As soon as we earnestly enter upon the work, God’s grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. Our souls are to be aroused to cooperate. The Holy Spirit works the human agent, to work out our own salvation. This is the practical lesson the Holy Spirit is striving to teach us. ‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.’” Testimonies to Ministers, 240.

“God has given us the power of choice; it is ours to exercise. We cannot change our hearts, we cannot control our thoughts, our impulses, our affections. We cannot make ourselves pure, fit for God’s service. But we can choose to serve God, we can give Him our will; then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ.” The Ministry of Healing, 176.

Two Errors of Thought

5 On what was the Pharisee relying as evidence of his relationship with God? Luke 18:9–12.

NOTE: “There are two errors against which the children of God—particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace—especially need to guard. The first, already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy.” Steps to Christ, 59, 60.

6 What does God say to those professed Christians who say, “Believe, only believe”? James 2:14, 20.

NOTE: “They [God’s professed people] profess faith, but it is not a living faith because it is not sustained by works. Faith without works is dead, being alone. Those who profess great faith, yet have not works, will not be saved by their faith. Satan believes the truth and trembles, yet this kind of faith possesses no virtue. Many who have made a high profession of faith are deficient in good works. If they should show their faith by their works they could exert a powerful influence on the side of truth.” Testimonies,
vol. 2, 657, 658. See also Steps to Christ, 60.

Jesus—the Way

7 Through what means has Jesus made a way for us to stand before God justified? Romans 3:24–26.

NOTE: “We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.” Steps to Christ, 62. See also Sons and Daughters of God, 240.

8 What does God promise to give all those who choose to believe and receive Christ as their personal Saviour? John 1:12.

NOTE: “He opens a way whereby the sinner can be reinstated in God’s favor. Christ bears the penalty of man’s past transgressions, and by imparting to man His righteousness, makes it possible for man to keep God’s holy law.” Ellen G. White Comments, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1092.

“‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to be-come the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’
John 1:12. This power is not in the human agent. It is the power of God. When a soul receives Christ, he receives power to live the life of Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 314.

Obedience—the True Sign

9 What has Jesus said His true disciples will do? John 14:15.

NOTE: “Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” Steps to Christ, 60.

“Christ came to the world with the accumulated love of eternity. Sweeping away the exactions which had encumbered the law of God, He showed that the law is a law of love, an expression of the Divine Goodness. He showed that in obedience to its principles is involved the happiness of mankind, and with it the stability, the very foundation and framework, of human society.” Education, 76.

10 What is the only evidence we can offer the world “that we know” Christ? 1 John 2:3.

NOTE: “Obedience is the test of discipleship. It is the keeping of the commandments that proves the sincerity of our professions of love. When the doctrine we accept kills sin in the heart, purifies the soul from defilement, bears fruit unto holiness, we may know that it is the truth of God. When benevolence, kindness, tenderheartedness, sympathy, are manifest in our lives; when the joy of right doing is in our hearts; when we exalt Christ, and not self, we may know that our faith is of the right order. ‘Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.’
1 John 2:3.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 146, 147.

Eden Restored

11 What will God’s people be doing just prior to Jesus’ Second Coming? Revelation 14:12.

NOTE: “Christ does not lessen the claims of the law. In unmistakable language He presents obedience to it as the condition of eternal life—the same condition that was required of Adam before his fall. The Lord expects no less of the soul now than He expected of man in Paradise, perfect obedience, unblemished righteousness. The requirement under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement made in Eden—harmony with God’s law, which is holy, just, and good.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 391.

“The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been,—just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents,—perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness.” Steps to Christ, 62.

12 Who will have a right to the tree of life and be able to enter the city of God? Revelation 22:14.

NOTE: “Obedience through Jesus Christ gives to man perfection of character and a right to that tree of life. The conditions of again partaking of the fruit of the tree are plainly stated in the testimony of Jesus Christ to John: ‘Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and many enter in through the gates into the city.’” Ellen G. White Comments, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1086.

“I then beheld the beauty and loveliness of Jesus. His robe was whiter than the whitest white. No language can describe His glory and exalted loveliness. All, all who keep the commandments of God, will enter in through the gates into the city and have right to the tree of life and ever be in the presence of the lovely Jesus, whose countenance shines brighter than the sun at noonday.” Early Writings, 51.

By Craig Meeker

Bible Study Guides – Heart Obedience

September 15–21, 2002

MEMORY VERSE: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5.

SUGGESTED READING: Patriarchs and Prophets, 627–636.

INTRODUCTION: “Satan represents God’s law of love as a law of selfishness. He declares that it is impossible for us to obey its precepts. The fall of our first parents, with all the woe that has resulted, he charges upon the Creator, leading men to look upon God as the author of sin, and suffering, and death. Jesus was to unveil this deception. As one of us He was to give an example of obedience. For this He took upon Himself our nature, and passed through our experiences. ‘In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren.’ Hebrews 2:17. If we had to bear anything which Jesus did not endure, then upon this point Satan would represent the power of God as insufficient for us. Therefore Jesus was ‘in all points tempted like as we are.’ Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God. He says, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.’ Psalm 40:8. As He went about doing good, and healing all who were afflicted by Satan, He made plain to men the character of God’s law and the nature of His service. His life testifies that it is possible for us also to obey the law of God.” The Desire of Ages, 24.

1 How important is obedience? Romans 6:16–18.

NOTE: “Obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled, ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.’ Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” Steps to Christ, 60.

2 What kind of an example did Christ set for His followers? Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 2:21–23.

NOTE: “In the precepts of His holy law, God has given a perfect rule of life; and He has declared that until the close of time this law, unchanged in a single jot or tittle, is to maintain its claim upon human beings. Christ came to magnify the law and make it honorable. He showed that it is based upon the broad foundation of love to God and love to man, and that obedience to its precepts comprises the whole duty of man. In His own life He gave an example of obedience to the law of God. In the Sermon on the Mount He showed how its requirements extend beyond the outward acts and take cognizance of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Acts of Apostles, 505.

3 What was the basic reason for Saul’s disobedience? 1 Samuel 15:23, 24. Compare John 12:42, 43.

NOTE: “Saul, after he had disobeyed the requirement of God to destroy the Amalekites, met Samuel, and said, ‘Blessed be thou of the Lord; I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’ And Samuel said, ‘What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ The answer was the same that we have heard in similar cases,—an excuse, a falsehood: ‘The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God.’ Saul did not say my or our but thy God. Many who profess to be serving God are in the same position as Saul,—covering over ambitious projects, pride, or display, with a garment of pretended righteousness. The Lord’s cause is made a cloak to hide the deformity of injustice, but it makes the sin of tenfold greater enormity.” Pamphlet 028, 14.

4 Why do men take the liberty to do evil? Ecclesiastes 8:11.

NOTE: “The power of Satan, his arts and machinations,—who can know them? Those who, in defiance of all the warnings and entreaties of God’s Word, venture to indulge in sin are sleeping on the very brink of eternal ruin. Because God bears long with transgressors, of His law, because He sends them warnings and entreaties, because punishment does not immediately follow their evil deeds, they abuse His mercy and forbearance, and blindly rush on in a course of crime. When assailed by temptation, many have not moral strength to say, as did Joseph, ‘How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ They do not give a decided refusal to the first invitation to transgress the law of God, and soon unlawful indulgence becomes habitual, and they are ready to deny that it is a sin.” Signs of The Times, July 1, 1903.

5 Why was Moses not permitted to enter Canaan? Numbers 20:7–12.

NOTE: “‘The Lord was wroth with me for your sakes,” said Moses. The eyes of all Israel were upon Moses, and his sin cast a reflection upon God, who had chosen him as the leader of His people. The transgression was known to the whole congregation; and had it been passed by lightly, the impression would have been given that unbelief and impatience under great provocation might be excused in those in responsible positions. But when it was declared that because of that one sin Moses and Aaron were not to enter Canaan, the people knew that God is no respecter of persons, and that He will surely punish the transgressor.

“The history of Israel was to be placed on record for the instruction and warning of coming generations. Men of all future time must see the God of heaven as an impartial ruler, in no case justifying sin. But few realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Men flatter themselves that God is too good to punish the transgressor. But in the light of Bible history it is evident that God’s goodness and His love engage Him to deal with sin as an evil fatal to the peace and happiness of the universe.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 420.

6 Why did God destroy Nadab and Abihu? Leviticus 10:1, 2.

NOTE: “Both tobacco and liquor break down nerve force, and dull the finer perceptions, so that the slaves to these habits cannot discern between sacred and common things. An example of the demoralizing effect of intoxicants is seen in the case of Nadab and Abihu. They ventured to partake of wine before they entered the tabernacle to perform the duties of their sacred office, and the result was, they could not distinguish between common fire and that which was consecrated to the holy service. For this breach of trust they were slain. Some will say, ‘If they were intoxicated, and could not discern the difference between these fires, why should they be punished?’ When they placed the cup to their lips, they made themselves responsible for all their deeds committed while under its influence.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 18, 19.

7 What was the result of Uzzah’s failure to honor the sacredness of the ark? 1 Chronicles 13:9, 10.

NOTE: “The fate of Uzzah was a divine judgment upon the violation of a most explicit command. Through Moses the Lord had given special instruction concerning the transportation of the ark. None but the priests, the descendants of Aaron, were to touch it, or even to look upon it uncovered. . . .” Conflict and Courage, 176.

8 What is the importance of obedience in contrast to forms and ceremonies? Psalm 40:6; 1 Samuel 15:22, 23, first half.

NOTE: “The gospel of good news was not to be interpreted as allowing men to live in continued rebellion against God by transgressing His just and holy law. Why cannot those who claim to understand the Scriptures, see that God’s requirement under grace is just the same He made in Eden,—perfect obedience to his law. In the Judgment, God will ask those who profess to be Christians, Why did you claim to believe in My Son, and continue to transgress my law? Who required this at your hands—to trample upon my rules of righteousness? ‘Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.’ The gospel of the New Testament is not the Old Testament standard lowered to meet the sinner and save him in his sins. God requires of all his subjects obedience, entire obedience to all his commandments. He demands now as ever perfect righteousness as the only title to heaven.” Review and Herald, September 21, 1886.

9 How important is it to hear the voice of God? Isaiah 30:21; Matthew 11:15; John 10:27.

NOTE: “All who are under the training of God need the quiet hour for communion with their own hearts, with nature, and with God. In them is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and they need to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Psalm 46:10. This is the effectual preparation for all labor for God. Amidst the hurrying throng, and the strain of life’s intense activities, he who is thus refreshed will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. He will receive a new endowment of both physical and mental strength. His life will breathe out a fragrance, and will reveal a divine power that will reach men’s hearts.” The Ministry of Healing, 58.

10 How is true obedience to be demonstrated? Psalm 40:8.

NOTE: “The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love—service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 34.

11 How are we to regard the law of God? Psalm 119:97; Romans 7:22. Compare Hebrews 8:10.

NOTE: “In the precepts of His holy law, God has given a perfect rule of life; and He has declared that until the close of time this law, unchanged in a single jot or tittle, is to maintain its claim upon human beings. Christ came to magnify the law and make it honorable. He showed that it is based upon the broad foundation of love to God and love to man, and that obedience to its precepts comprises the whole duty of man. In His own life He gave an example of obedience to the law of God. In the Sermon on the Mount He showed how its requirements extend beyond the outward acts and take cognizance of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Acts of the Apostles, 505.

12 What promises are given to the obedient? Isaiah 1:19; Revelation 22:14.

NOTE: “We cannot overestimate the value of simple faith and unquestioning obedience. It is by following in the path of obedience in simple faith that the character obtains perfection (MS 5a, 1895).” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1137.

“The redeemed saints, who have loved God and kept His commandments here, will enter in through the gates of the city, and have right to the tree of life. They will eat freely of it as our first parents did before their fall. The leaves of that immortal widespread tree will be for the healing of the nations. All their woes will then be gone. Sickness, sorrow, and death they will never again feel, for the leaves of the tree of life have healed them. Jesus will then see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied, when the redeemed, who have been subject to sorrow, toil, and afflictions, who have groaned beneath the curse, are gathered up around that tree of life to eat of its immortal fruit, that our first parents forfeited all right to, by breaking God’s commands. There will be no danger of their ever losing right to the tree of life again, for he that tempted our first parents to sin will be destroyed by the second death.” My Life Today, 355.

Heart Obedience

Have you ever known someone who is always questioning things? Surely we have all been around an inquisitive youngster whose every other word, it seems, is “Why?” Asking questions is how we learn.

Perhaps you have wondered what makes a Christian a Christian or contemplated about the experience into which the true gospel would lead you. Perhaps you have pondered sanctification and what comprises it, or mused about the experience you must have that will allow God to redeem you. Have you wanted to know what makes God’s people on this earth distinct and separate from the world?

An Alternative to Sin

Interestingly, each of these queries are answered with the same three-word phrase: Obedience to God.

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19. That statement tells us that there is an alternative to sin. It also tells us what sin is—it is disobedience. God is going to redeem us through obedience, by the experience of obedience. Do you notice it says, “So by the obedience of one . . . .” Who was that One? Jesus! Jesus’ obedience was perfect. Jesus’ obedience took Him to the cross, where He paid the penalty for our disobedience!

God Prepared the Way

Could we say that righteousness is obedience? Yes, and we are not taking anything away from it. God has made a way through His Son, Jesus Christ, to make us obedient to His will, to His law.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. So, God said, I am going to make you righteous, obedient to My law. It is a wonderful thing that God has given us an alternative to disobedience. That alternative is obedience. God says, “I am going to make you righteous through My Son, through His sacrifice for you. I want to bring you back into harmony with My will, My law; I want you to be an obedient child.”

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Romans 6:16. That text tells us that obedience is our choice. Another thing that text reveals is that everybody in this wide world of ours is obeying someone.

Learning Obedience

As we look at these statements, inspired by God through the apostle Paul, we are looking at how encompassing is obedience to the plan of salvation. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8. This text tells us that Jesus himself, coming into this world as a human being, learned obedience.

We just saw in Romans 6 that we learn obedience by first choosing it. So Jesus chose to obey, and He learned it through the things which He suffered. Sometimes, when we obey God, we may suffer, but if we continue to choose to obey God, we are going to grow up in that suffering; we are going to truly learn what it means to obey God.

Now notice, “And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Verse 9. Do you see how encompassing the word and the action of obedience is in regard to the plan of redemption? You cannot get around it. It is there. Obedience is the issue of salvation.

Our Saviour was obedient, and He says that He is able to save every one who will obey Him. Now if we hear of a gospel that eliminates obedience from the plan of salvation, do you think that that is the true gospel? No, and we have not even looked at the whole of the subject yet.

Making a Choice

God clarifies even more fully what obedience means and what the end will be to those who choose not to obey. “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.” Romans 2:8, 9. This is not an arbitrary decree on the part of God, because we are making the choice. God is just confirming our decision and saying, this is where your decision is leading you; do you want to continue in that direction?

We are told in Galatians 6 that God will not be mocked. What a man soweth, that is what he is going to reap. And that is all we are seeing here in Romans 2. Do you see how God reiterates things to us in various ways? I was told early on in my life that a good teacher is a teacher who always reiterates.

There is a difference between redundancy and repetition. God is not redundant, but He is repetitious. Repetition is telling us over and over again what is necessary for us to know. Being redundant is telling us over and over again that which is not necessary. God is very repetitious with us, because He loves us.

Notice what the people are who choose not to obey: “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth . . . .” Verse 8. The truth is what God wants us to obey.

Rejecting Truth Rejects Jesus

The truth goes far beyond mere doctrine. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . .” John 14:6. Did you know that all truth that we read about in God’s word has its origin in a Person? Every truth.

Every truth has its origin in Jesus! All the light we have comes from Him. Should we respond with warmer hearts? Oh, yes! He wants us to obey not merely the letter of the doctrine, He wants us to obey Him. He is able to give eternal life to all those who obey Him. (See Hebrews 5:9.)

Even though it is truth, if we try to obey it to the letter, not sensing it has come from Jesus, we will never obey in the manner in which God wants us to obey.

True obedience is where the true gospel leads us—into an experience in order that God can save us some day. Out there in the universe where there are innumerable worlds that have never fallen into sin—they obey God. It is interesting to learn, as we study Scripture, that everything which God created obeys Him, except man.

Even the demons and unclean spirits obey God. (See Mark 1:23–26.) Inanimate nature obeys Him; the wind and the sea obey Him. (See Mark 4:37, 39.) The angels in heaven obey Him. (See Testimonies, vol. 2, 271.) So if you and I are planning to go to heaven, where everybody is in obedience to God because they love Him for the kind of God that He is, then we are going to have to have that kind of experience. “All true obedience comes from the heart. [Where you see the word “true,” you can always know that there is a counterfeit.] It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience.” The Desire of Ages, 668.

Did you notice that obedience is linked up with knowing God? That is why, if we obey Him, we obey all the truth as it is in Him, as He gives it to us. But we are going to have true obedience only if we are motivated by a knowledge of Him, not just merely a knowledge of doctrine. A popular message from pulpits today is one of a relationship gospel. There is a lot of truth in that, because if we know God, we are going to love Him, and when we love Him, we are going to obey Him and keep all of His commandments. It is going to be our highest delight to please Him, and part of that pleasing Him is obeying.


Hebrews 11 is known as the faith chapter. You may wonder why this is not called the obedience chapter, but faith precedes all true obedience.

Notice verse 4: “By faith Abel offered . . . .” Verse 7: “By faith Noah . . . prepared an ark . . . .” Verse 8: “By faith Abraham . . . obeyed . . . .” Verse 28: “Through faith he [Moses] kept the passover . . . .” Verse 30: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down . . . .” What followed faith in every instance? Obedience! Genuine obedience will always be preceded by genuine faith.

Is Justification Enough?

We hear a lot today in Christianity about justification by faith. There are those who believe that justification in and of itself is enough. That is the theology that accepts that Calvary is sufficient. When we take that concept, we negate the work in the sanctuary by Jesus after He left this earth and went back to heaven.

Is Calvary enough? Is justification enough? Is it enough just to be forgiven? No, we already read in Romans 5:19 that God has made a way through the death of His Son, through His obedience, to make us a righteous or obedient people. That deals with sanctification. Peter says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience . . . .” 1 Peter 1:2.

God wants to justify us through the obedience of His Son and His sacrifice in our behalf for our past, and now He wants to bestow upon us His Spirit by which He will sanctify us unto obedience. So the whole plan of redemption focuses on bringing us back into an attitude of complete obedience to God’s will. If we are hearing any other gospel, and sad to say, many are, it is not the true gospel.


God, by His Spirit, sanctifies us, and that sanctification is unto obedience. The messenger of God tells us that obedience, true sanctification, maintains our justification experience for us: “As the sinner looks to the law, his guilt is made plain to him, and pressed home to his conscience, and he is condemned. His only comfort and hope is found in looking to the cross of Calvary. As he ventures upon the promises, taking God at His word, relief and peace come to his soul. He cries, ‘Lord, Thou hast promised to save all who come unto Thee in the name of Thy Son. I am a lost, helpless, hopeless soul. Lord, save, or I perish.’ His faith lays hold on Christ, and he is justified before God.

“But while God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins, or neglecting known duties. God requires the entire surrender of the heart, before justification can take place; and in order for man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 366.

Grace is the Way

God says, through the apostle Paul, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9. We have said this before—our total salvation comes by way of God. Every step we make in progress is from Him as we choose to respond.

Do you see that it is by grace only that we are saved? We are not saved by what we do for ourselves. It is by allowing God’s grace to work in us through His Spirit unto sanctification (see 1 Peter 1:2), unto obedience, that we are saved.

Grace is the only way that we can be brought back into harmony with God. God is trying to tell us what He wants to do for us. Paul says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works . . . .” Ephesians 2:10. Good works is just another way of saying obedience. The end of grace is obedience.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” Romans 6:1, 2. You do not continue to disobey because you have grace. Notice verse 17: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.”

That is a “from the heart” experience. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under [condemned by] the law, but under grace.” Verse 14. If we are receiving the grace of God, then we have been pardoned—forgiven. That is why we are not under the condemnation of the law. “What then? shall we sin [continue to disobey], because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Verse 15.

Means to the End

Put that thought [that we can be saved in our sins] far from you, Paul says, yet that thought is the theology of the day! What the theologians are preaching in the churches of Christianity today is a twisting and a perversion of Scripture. When preachers say, “Justification is all;” when they say, “Calvary is enough;” when they say, “Just to be forgiven is sufficient;” when they say, “Grace is all there is,” they are wrong. Grace is not the end. It is the means to the end, which is obedience.

The New Covenant is not new; it is the original covenant. Abraham and Moses were saved in the same manner as we are saved—by grace, through faith, unto obedience.

But God gives a wonderful promise, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” Hebrews 8:10. If you and I are going to be the people of God, His law will be in our minds and in our hearts. Who puts it there? God does. Who chooses to have Him put it there? You and I do.

Jesus gives another wonderful promise to the Laodicean church (us) in Revelation 3:21: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

The question is, What did Jesus overcome? He overcame the temptation to sin! He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15. What is sin? It is the transgression of God’s law, or disobedience.

If Jesus was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin, what does that tell us? He never disobeyed! Then how did He overcome sin? By obedience. “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book [it is] written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart.” Psalm 40:7, 8. God’s law was in His heart and He continually chose to obey His Father. This is the experience He wants us to have, the experience of overcoming sin by being obedient to God’s Word.

Obedience Brings Victory

Jesus says, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10. Keeping the commandments will give us victory over sin. Obedience is the means by which God gives us victory over sin. He writes His law upon our hearts and we are brought into harmony with His law by our choice.

“Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. . . . Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John 3:6, 9. The experience that Jesus had in regard to obedience to His Father’s will, His law, is the experience that He has called us to have. Any experience other than that will not allow us to some day be a part of His kingdom. That is the only experience that will give us victory over sin.

“Christ came to this world and lived the law of God, that man might have perfect mastery over the natural inclinations which corrupt the soul. . . . Obedience to God is liberty from the thralldom of sin, deliverance from human passion and impulse.” The Ministry of Healing, 130, 131.

“When one surrenders to Christ, the mind is brought under the control of the law; but it is the royal law, which proclaims liberty to every captive,” if we choose to obey it. Ibid., 131.

It is very obvious that obedience is not an optional experience in the Christian life. It is required. If we are going to be brought back into harmony with God’s will, we must be obedient.

Two Forms of Obedience

There are two forms of obedience between which all professed Christians can choose. There are only two, so it is not a hard decision. We know that if there is a true obedience, there is also a counterfeit or false obedience. It appears to be genuine, but it does not lead to heaven.

In an encounter Jesus had with a young man, both forms of obedience are shown. One is inferred; the other is directly brought to view. “And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matthew 19:16.

This young man was sincere and earnest, but these qualities were not enough to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded: “Why callest thou me good? [There is] none good but one, [that is,] God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Verse 17.

Obedience! That is what Jesus told him. The young man wanted to know for certain which commandments Jesus meant. So Jesus made it very clear to him, as He always does for anyone who is sincere. He repeated to him what we recognize as the last six of the ten commandments. (See verses 18, 19.) Jesus said, “If you keep these commandments, you shall have life eternal.”

But the young man responded: “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” Verse 20. Did he have obedience? Yes, he had a form of obedience. However, he was not satisfied with the obedience that he was offering to God, because he was not gaining complete victory in his life. Complete victory over sin comes by way of true, perfect obedience to God.

The next verse tells us what constitutes true obedience: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.” “Follow me” means to obey. Jesus got right to the heart of the issue. He pointed out to this young man that true obedience is heart obedience; it is spiritual obedience. Physical obedience is necessary, but God’s law goes beyond physical obedience—it goes right to the heart, and the heart of the issue with this rich, young man was selfishness—covetousness.

Jesus presented him the opportunity of true obedience. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Verse 22. He was a sorrowful Christian when he left Jesus, because he chose to retain a form of obedience that would not lead to complete victory over sin. He chose compromising obedience.

Head or Heart Obedience

Where are we in our personal experience with God in regard to obedience? Do we have merely a head obedience like that rich, young man, or do we have the heart obedience that Jesus had?

True obedience does not compromise. Jesus did not compromise a bit with this young man. He did not tell him to go and give 80 percent of what he had to the poor. It was all! He did not say, “Come and follow Me one day a week.” He said, “Sell all that you have, and come follow Me all the time.”

Do you know what the joy of Jesus is? It is overcoming. He overcame the temptation to sin through complete obedience to His Father’s law. Heart obedience is what we need. True obedience will always express God’s love in our life to others.

Paul said, in Romans 13:10, “Love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” We could say it this way: Love is the fulfilling of all true obedience to God. If we are someday going to reach our final destination—heaven—obedience is necessary. No matter what any man may say, obedience is not an option!

Ask the Pastor – Can you please explain the last two verses of John 14?


Can you please explain the last two verses of John 14?


John 14 was the last effort Jesus put forth to explain to His disciples what was going to take place to finalize the plan of salvation. These last two verses unfold the deep commitment of Jesus and express the surety of victory over the devil who had brought so much woe, misery, and death to God’s creation.

The context of these verses centers in the promise of the Holy Spirit, who would be sent by the Father to teach them right and those things they did not understand and to instruct them continually in what was essential for their salvation and victory. (Verses 25, 26.)

In addition to the promise of the Holy Spirit, Jesus also promised them peace—a peace which would far surpass anything that the world was capable of giving. (Verses 27, 28.) The two promises Jesus had just spoken to them, of the Holy Spirit and of peace, are followed by a command of not being troubled or being afraid. If we somehow could just grasp these truths, then obeying this command would be a very simple matter.

Jesus then repeats to them what He had already told them earlier in the chapter about going away. The reason for this was to establish the truth of His word prophetically. Once the prophetic word has been established in the heart, the mind is set on fire to tell others what is true.

Coming now to the last two verses, Jesus says that He is not going to speak much longer with them, because the prince of this world is coming. Here Jesus is saying that He has already given them all the information necessary to make it through to the end. Nothing more, essentially, can be added at this point. The devil is on his way to bring the final test. What the important question now is, Have they learned the lessons that He has taught them? Jesus has learned and is able to go through, because He has been obedient to His Father.

His obedience has come because He loves His Father. This is the only place in Scripture where Jesus declares His love for the Father. The Father has stated in other texts that He loves the Son, but this is the only one where Jesus says this. Love produces obedience to the Father. If there is no love, there will be no will to do the Father’s wishes. Jesus is saying that He has done exactly what the Father has asked of Him, because He loves the Father.

This is an important aspect that many people do not learn. They may say that they love God or that they love their parents, but they do not do what is asked of them. As a result, they are always falling into trouble, which the devil brings, and have no defense, because they are not obedient to God or to their parents. This text spells out for us just how important it is to learn obedience, first to our parents’ wishes and then to God’s wishes, as we grow and mature in life. If we fail in this, then our whole life will end up in chaos. We may think everything is okay, but if we are not obedient to the Father, we will suffer loss. That is the point Jesus is making as He closes this section of Scripture.

Pastor Mike Baugher is a retired minister of the gospel. If you have a question you would like Pastor Mike to answer, e-mail it to:, or mail it to: LandMarks, Steps to Life, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.

God is at the Helm, Brethren

He who gave being to the world has not lost His power of sovereignty. He still presides over the world. It is His prerogative to speak out His purposes. By His Son, the Mediator between God and man, these purposes are executed, and the Holy Spirit gives them effect. The awful confusion in the world has been brought about because the way of the Lord has not been followed, because man has set up his human judgment against the law of Him who created the world. Men have undertaken to please and glorify themselves, to set themselves above truth and above God.

Daniel writes: “I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth forever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:7–10).

This world is a theater. The actors, the inhabitants of the world, are preparing to act their part in the last great drama. God is lost sight of. There is no unity of purpose, except as parties of men confederate to gain their ends. God is looking on. His purposes in regard to his rebellious subjects will be fulfilled. The world has not been given into the hands of men, though God is permitting the elements of confusion and disorder to bear sway for a season. A power from beneath is working to bring about the last great scenes in the drama—Satan coming as Christ, and working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in those who are binding themselves together in secret societies. Those who are yielding to the passion for confederation are working out the plans of the enemy. The cause will be followed by the effect.

Transgression has almost reached its limit. Confusion fills the world, and a great terror is soon to come upon human beings. And the end is very near. We who know the truth should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise.

God permits men to work out the purposes He would have saved them from had they kept His commandments. When in the face of light and evidence, they refuse to obey, they must reap the harvest of the seed they have sown. “Many shall be purified, and made white and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand” (Daniel 12:10). The wicked have chosen Satan as their leader. Under his control the wonderful faculties of the mind are used to construct agencies of destruction. God has given the human mind great power, power to show that the Creator has endowed man with ability to do a great work against the enemy of all righteousness, power to show what victories may be gained in the conflict against evil. To those who fulfill God’s purpose, for them will be spoken the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21). The human machinery has been used to do a work that is a blessing to humanity; and God is glorified.

But when those to whom God has entrusted capabilities give themselves into the hands of the enemy, they become a power to destroy. When men do not make God first and last and best in everything, when they do not give themselves to Him for the carrying out of His purposes, Satan comes in, and uses in his service the minds that, if given to God, could achieve great good. Under his direction, they do an evil work with great and masterly power. God designed them to work on a high plane of action, to enter into His mind, and thus to acquire an education that would enable them to work the works of righteousness. But they know nothing of this education. They are helpless. Their powers do not guide them aright; for they are under the enemy’s control.

The way to holiness and heaven is found in the path of obedience. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Bible Training School, February 1, 1903

Good News for Legalists

I have a friend, a senior citizen now, who is still getting people out of bed early in the morning and late at night to study the Bible. Whenever she hears anyone putting down legalism, she gets upset. She says, “I am a legalist. I am glad to be a legalist.”

Legalist Defined

Her definition of legalism, however, is that a legalist is one who believes in the Law of God. In that case, then, every Christian ought to be a legalist!

But the usual definition of a legalist is a little different from that. When most people hear the word legalist, they think of it as meaning one who is trying to work his way to heaven by keeping the law. They would say that a legalist is one who depends on his good deeds to earn his salvation, and one who thinks that being good is what makes a person a Christian. If there is anything that the apostle Paul is against in his writings, it is the idea that the law can ever be used as a method of salvation. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:20, 27, 28.

Let us go one step further and define legalist: A legalist is a person who is hoping for salvation apart from faith in Christ. He does not have daily personal devotions or daily prayer, and does not study his Bible regularly. He depends upon his own works, and he is sufficient to measure the goodness of those works.

Everyone in this world has suffered from the disease of legalism to one degree or another. Every day we experience it, and even though we might have a theory of faith alone in Jesus Christ, it is only the daily acceptance of the grace of God that can in practice keep us above the life of the legalist.

Black or Scarlet

This can get a little tricky, because there are two different kinds of legalists. There is the black legalist and the scarlet legalist! We might call them the rigid legalists and the liberal legalists.

By the black legalist, I mean the one who has the black suit, black tie, black shoes, black socks, and a long face! He finds his security in the standards of the church that he upholds, and he judges everyone else who falls short of his achievements. By the way, from his viewpoint, practically everyone else does fall short! He is the Pharisee, and his outward performance is well controlled.

The scarlet legalist is described in Revelation—the woman who is clothed in scarlet and adorned with jewels. (Revelation 17:4.) This type of legalist is reacting against the old-guard form of legalism. This person wears jewelry and makeup, is not particular in regard to attending church, and takes real pride in the fact that she is no longer legalistic.

But both kinds of legalists are deceived. They are as legalistic as ever, but just afflicted with different forms of the same disease. The liberal legalist is as much a legalist as the rigid one, for both know nothing of the personal relationship with Jesus. Both of them are trusting to their own ways instead of trusting in Jesus, who alone has the power to give salvation.

Good News and Bad News

Let’s read the good news and bad news for legalists, beginning with Romans 9:30–32, first part: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because [they did] not [seek it] by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.”

This was the problem of the religious world back then—people trying to save themselves by their own works in keeping the law. And, the passage continues, “For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ ” Verses 32, last part, 33. Who is the stumbling stone? It is Jesus.

Continuing with chapter 10:1–4: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

There is bad news for legalists in this passage, because they will never attain to righteousness by working on it, no matter how hard they work. But there is also good news for legalists, because they do not have to keep wearing themselves out with fruitless effort.

It is the legalist who has been working the hardest on trying to gain salvation, and the words of Jesus’ friendly invitation, “Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), can be the best news the legalist has ever heard, when their meaning finally becomes clear. It is good news to hear and accept that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.

Overcoming Without Becoming A Legalist

In spite of the fact that we can never attain to righteousness by our good deeds and our obedience, the fact remains that the subject of obedience and victory is still important in the Christian life. Even the legalist recognizes that the subject of overcoming must be handled somehow. The scarlet legalist concludes that victory is not needed, maybe not even possible. But the theory does not even hold up to logic and reason, much less to Scripture. For even the most liberal legalist, who has lowered the standard in place of improving performance, will agree that there are limits.

Let us say that you are having problems with church standards, and you scrap them. That may appear to work out, if the standard with which you are having a problem is attending movies. But what if your problem is that you are a murderer, a child abuser, or you cannot stop robbing banks? How low can the standard go? The liberal legalist may be able to meet the liberal standard today, but what about the more liberal legalist who would like to see a more liberal standard? Suppose you were to find that you could not even join the liberal legalists, because your willpower was so weak that you could not even force yourself to meet the lowest standard of performance. What then?

On the other hand, for too long the rigid, traditional legalist has met all evidence of weakness on the part of others as simply an evidence of lack of sincerity. They look scornfully at the struggling sinner and say, “If you really wanted to, you could overcome. If you would really try, you could make it.” And the one who has failed has not only the guilt of defeat but the additional burden of being considered insincere and hypocritical as well.

There has to be good news for both types of legalists. There has to be a third option, and there is! It is the option of a relationship with Jesus. To all of the legalists of His day—to the liberals who wanted the standard lowered, as well as to the traditionalists who wanted the standard even more rigid—Jesus came and offered Himself. Jesus was the end of the law for righteousness then, and He is the end of the law for righteousness today, for those who trust in Him.

But being legalists naturally, we find it hard to understand how righteousness works. We accept the theory that works is not where it is. We admit that it is good news. And then we try to figure out how it actually works in practical life.

The Blue Letter

A young minister’s wife, a brilliant woman who had studied Greek and Hebrew and who was a theologian in her own right, once expressed the dilemma to me in a letter. She was trying to grasp the practical side of the good news for legalists. It was written on blue paper, so I have come to call it “The Blue Letter.”

“Help! I have some questions I thought were answered a couple of years ago; they are so elementary that I hesitate to ask them. Please overlook the baby Christian ideas and tell me what you have discovered, since you have been on the route longer than I have. This business of the will: How far do we take it? In giving our will to God, is that all we have to do?

“To clarify, here is an example, and that is all it is; it is not the problem, just an example, but the principles might apply. How does one go about fighting his appetite? Does he just tell God he cannot control it, ask Him to control it for him, give Him his will, and then let God make him not want to eat?

“In the meantime, when he is hungry, should he take diet pills to help God out? Stay busy all day to keep from food? Run out of the kitchen so he will not be tempted? Or just say, ‘Okay, God; You do whatever You want with my will, including controlling my appetite. I cannot, so the rest is up to You’? Do you claim the promises that God will and do in you, according to His good pleasure, and then sit back and eat while you are waiting for God to change your will and actions?

“When God gets me to the place where I do not want to eat because I know it is against God’s will and I do not want to hurt Him, but I still want to eat because it tastes good, should I go ahead and eat while I wait for God to take away the desire? Or should I exercise my willpower and try not to eat? What is this relationship between will and willpower? When I ask God to wash away my sins and give me a new heart, am I to believe He does this because He has promised? Then do I just wait for Him to do it all, no matter how long it takes—the don’t-sweat-it-just-surrender philosophy? Does God take away the food or the appetite? Will He answer prayer for other things while the appetite indulgence continues?

“I have read a lot of answers and promises, in the Bible and other places. I have experienced the solution to many problems, but this time I am baffled. Maybe I am impatient or looking for an easy way out, but I think I am being honest with God and with myself. How literal are these instructions? I am anxious for your reply because the hang-up hangs on!”

An Answer, Please

Soon after I received “The Blue Letter,” I took it with me to a ministers’ meeting and began to ask around for some answers from my colleagues. One person said, “She does not have enough faith.”

Another said, “She is impatient. She should give God more time.”

Someone else said, “I think she really has a problem!”

And I responded to them all, “Thanks a lot!”

Another person said, “God will sometimes give us a thorn in the flesh to keep us humble.”

And someone else said, “No one is perfect.”

Yet another said, “I would need more detail before I could give an answer.” On and on the answers came.

The question of obedience, overcoming, and victory is by no means that clear in our minds, and the nearer we come to the closing scenes, to the time of the judgment, the more anxious we become.

There are people everywhere who know about the eschatology [a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world], and they cannot miss the evidence that things are just about over. They say, “If I am supposed to be perfect and be one of these overcomers by such and such a time, then I am going to have to do better than I am doing now.” This is precisely why some have made a major shift in their theology in recent times. They know, according to their present and past performance, that they are not going to make it, so they shift their theology to meet their experience.

In so doing, perhaps they are missing one of the greatest avenues that God has in mind to enable them to be overcomers—that of coming to the end of their own resources. It is because they thought that they were doing pretty well, and because they figured they had plenty of time, and because they have thought that they could become overcomers if they tried a little harder and a little longer, that they have waited so long to surrender, to submit themselves to God, to give up on the hope that they could ever succeed in their own strength. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Matthew 9:12. Is it possible that one of the major reasons why they are not yet whole is that they have not yet admitted to being sick and so have not come to the Great Physician for healing?

I knew a woman one time who could not stop smoking. She could not understand her own problem. She had experienced a marvelous deliverance from alcohol and from some of her other problems, but her problem with smoking persisted. After my family and I had moved on to another town, one day I received a phone call from this woman. She was dying of lung cancer and was calling from the hospital where she was awaiting surgery. She asked me to pray with her, and then she said, “By the way, I have quit smoking.”

I asked, “How did that happen?”

And she replied, “I had to!”

As I questioned her further, she told me two things. First, she had never thought that smoking was that big a deal. She could see giving up the drinking. She could see the adverse effect it had on her behavior when she was drunk. But smoking? No biggie. What was so bad about smoking? And, second, she had always thought that she could stop smoking anytime she wanted. Sure, the drinking had been something she could not control. She had been compelled to give up on that and allow God to give her the victory. But when it came to smoking, she had thought she could handle that herself. She thought willpower was enough.

When the smoke began to rise for her personally, when she developed the lung cancer, she was brought face-to-face with two facts. One, smoking was a biggie. It was deadly. And, two, she had found that she was as helpless to control her desire for cigarettes as she had been to control her desire for alcohol. But she had continued her relationship with the Lord Jesus, and once she recognized and admitted her desperate situation and her need of God’s power, she was enabled to receive the gift of victory over her smoking as well.

Surrendering Means Giving Up

No one ever surrendered to the other side while he still thought he could win the war. Surrender comes only after all hope of winning is gone. The reason why we have not surrendered in the first place, or not stayed surrendered in the second place, is that our legalistic natures keep rising to the top, and we keep hoping that perhaps if we fight a little harder or a little longer, we can win by ourselves.

Have you ever come to the end of your rope on a particular problem, turned it over to God, and experienced victory that comes as a gift from Him? And, then, have you ever stayed in the position for a period of time, only to have the devil come and tempt you this way? “You are doing great on overcoming that sin. Now that you have broken the habit of sinning and are in practice with the overcoming bit, you can handle it yourself.” And as soon as you try, you fall again. Have you seen it happen? And so we fluctuate back and forth between surrender to God and trying to manage things on our own.

What will finally happen is that we will run out of time. For those who are absolutely locked in on the relationship with Christ but who have run out of time in learning how to be overcomers, there is only one alternative left. It is the alternative God has been trying to bring us to all along—it is to give up, completely, forever. When we finally realize the deadly results of the sin problem we have been trying to handle on our own and, at the same time, how helpless we are to handle sin on our own, we will give up on even attempting to overcome in our own strength. Once we have given up—finally, completely, totally—we will learn what Paul learned when he said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 11 Corinthians 12:10, last part.

The Bottom Line

In all of the discussion, dialogue, and debate in the church today, there is one common thread. It is often disguised, but the basic issue is whether obedience comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ or by our own hard work. Let me explain why this is the bottom line.

If my obedience is something that I work on myself, then my end product will be filthy rags. (See Isaiah 64:6.) Even if I go so far as to say, “Well, God is going to have to help me,” as long as I rely on myself to do any part of it, my end product is going to be, to any extent I am involved, filthy rags. Any kind of righteousness, obedience, victory, or overcoming that I am in any way trying to produce is going to be imperfect. I have no other option. If that is true, then it would be impossible for me to keep God’s commandments.

But the remnant people spoken of in Revelation 12:17 are those who do keep God’s commandments. It is the overcomers whose names are retained in the book of life during the time of the judgment, so there must be a way of obeying God and keeping His commandments that has escaped some of us. We need to understand something. What is it? It is that obedience comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ. This means that we must come into a relationship of absolute dependence upon Him. This relationship allows Him to do what He has always wanted to do—live his life in us. Then He wills and does according to His good pleasure, and whatever Jesus does is real obedience through and through. So the person who believes that obedience comes through faith alone, through dependence upon Jesus to bring the power, also believes that it is possible for Jesus to obey God’s commandments within the depending person.

For a long time the church has held two incompatible beliefs. One is that we can keep God’s commandments, that we can overcome. Some have even dealt with things like perfection. The other is that while we do need God’s help, we are supposed to work hard on our own obedience. Those two are incompatible.

At least those who modify their theology are consistent in that area. They say, “Yes, you are supposed to work hard on your own obedience and do the best you can, but you cannot obey; you cannot overcome; you cannot keep God’s commandments.” At least they are consistent, for the two go together.

The time will come when we will have to either modify our theology and reject the possibility of overcoming, or we will have to find out what obedience by faith alone in Jesus Christ is all about.

Obedience By Faith Alone

Obedience can come by faith alone; the Bible says so! “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17. The righteous are those who have accepted justification by faith. Living the Christian life is understood to be part of sanctification. So Paul is saying that those who have been justified by faith are to be sanctified by faith as well. This in no way does away with works. To the contrary, only the one who lives by faith alone is able to do the works.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “without Me you can do nothing.” But Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So the conclusion is that we must get with Him, through communication, through relationship, through time spent with Jesus day by day. And that is the very thing that three-fourths of Christianity is not doing. This lack of relationship is the reason we get panicky when we see that the end is right upon us. We have forgotten that the entire basis of the Christian life is the fellowship and relationship with Jesus day by day. We spend our time and effort trying to be good. But we forget that the Christian is one who knows Jesus personally.

The only alternative to legalism is a relationship with Jesus. It is good news to the one who has been working on his behavior, trying to do his duty, trying to do what is right, trying to learn that there is a much higher motivation available. That motivation is the power of love. As we learn to know Jesus, we will learn to love Him. Love for Him will change our desires, our motives, and our hearts. The obedience that seemed to be either an unpleasant duty or a total impossibility now becomes the most natural thing in the world, for we become changed into His image by beholding Him. (11 Corinthians 3:18.) Duty becomes a delight and sacrifices a pleasure, and the news that Jesus’ coming is right upon us becomes good news, terrific news even for legalists!

Domingo Nunez is Director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He may be contacted by telephone at: 316-788-5559.