A Willing People, 31. 12–18

We shall study this passage from the point of view of the truth of obedience. Several times we read, “Ye shall keep the sabbath”, vv. 13, 14, 16. This phrase immediately brings before us the thought of obedience, reminding us that God will have a willing people, a people who are willing to obey His command. We consider five points.

The Pattern of Obedience

When we think of the pattern of obedience, our minds immediately go to Philippians 2 where the Lord Jesus is brought before us as the Perfect Pattern. There we see the Lord Jesus stepping down from a height that we cannot measure into this scene, and taking upon Himself the form of a bondservant. The passage continues, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, v. 8. It is not that the Lord became obedient to death as if death were a master; rather, the extent of His obedience is in view. His obedience extended right through life, up to and. including death, even the death of the cross. Death itself was an act of obedience. We remember His words, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me”. John 4. 34, and “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me”, 6. 38. So then, the Perfect Pattern of obedience is the Lord Himself. Every step that He took was a step of obedience to His Father’s will; every action was done out of obedience to His God and for the glory of God; every word that He uttered was a word that was in keeping with the will of God.

The Principle of Obedience

The principle of obedience runs right through the Scriptures. The word “obey” is first mentioned in relation to Abraham, Gen. 22. 18, who was blessed because he obeyed. Israel is called upon in Exodus 19. 5 to obey, and we find that obedience brought them blessing but disobedience brought judgment, Deut. 28. In days of revival, that principle was seen in operation. When we speak of revival we use the word in a scriptural sense - it always refers to the people of God. Days of revival were always characterized by obedience to the Word of God. This is clearly seen in Ezra’s day, in Josiah’s day, and in Hezekiah’s day, and if there is to be revival among the people of God today, then we must return to the Book and be characterized by obedience. Surely the principle of obedience is emphasized in 1 Samuel 15. 22, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams’’. We must not pass over this verse lightly We can sacrifice all that we have for the work of God, but if we are not obeying the Word of God, it means nothing. What God looks for, and demands, from His people is obedience.

This principle is brought out again in Acts 5. 29, when Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men”. We cannot over-emphasize the necessity of obedience to God. In 1 Peter 1. 14 the apostle wrote, “as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance”. Our former lusts were in keeping with our self-will, as indicated in Ephesians 2. 2 where we are described before we were saved as “children of disobedience,” characterized by rebellion against God Now that we have been saved, the principle of our lives should be obedience. Obedience should be seen in every step that we take in our lives. Obedience in all things is what God requires, indeed demands, 2 Cor 2. 9.

We are living in a very difficult day, a day when there is departure from the things of God. There are many today, who, although they profess to belong to Christ, are not prepared to obey the Word of God. Many and varied are the excuses, for excuses they are, to justify disobedience. Rebellion characterizes the world at large, but the solemn thing is that rebellion is beginning to enter many assemblies. Rebellion in the world, where sin abounds, is to be expected, but when we see it in the local assembly it is dreadful. Rebellion is of Satan, for obedience characterized Christ. In Titus 2. 14, the Lord Jesus Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (lawlessness)”. The work of Christ on the cross was to deliver us from lawlessness, and that the principle of obedience might be displayed in our lives now.

The Power Enabling Obedience

In Philippians 2. 12, 13 we read, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you”. It is God working in the people of God that enables them to be obedient Later the apostle wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”, 4. 13. The power that enables is the power of God. for we could never be obedient in our own strength. We point out that the salvation in Philippians 2. 12 is that of the assembly. The assembly at Philippi was exposed to division through lack of harmony, and thus it was in danger of becoming shipwrecked as to its testimony for God This was what Satan was out to do, but the apostle appeals to the saints to work out their own salvation; through obeying the ministry that he was unfolding to them the assembly would be saved from division and shipwreck. As we think of our responsibility to obey the Word of God. we rejoice that God gives us the necessary power to obey.

The Purpose of Obedience

In Romans 6 obedience is emphasized. There are two reasons in this chapter for obedience: the development of character and a sanctified life. In verses 1-7 there is truth of Identification; in verses 8-11 Calculation; in verses 12-14 Exhortation; and in verses 15-23 Manifestation. The apostle first states that the believer is identified with Christ, and then he goes on to show what this involves. It means that sin no longer has dominion or claim upon a believer; therefore he is not to allow sin to reign as a despot or sovereign in his life. Sin reigns in the world, but for the believer the power of sin has been broken, and so sin has no claim upon him. It is true that some of the people of God act as if sin is still the sovereign master in their lives, but this should never be the case. “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin”, v. 11.

In verse 17 we read, “ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you”. The word translated “form” has the idea of “a mould” and the whole phrase can be rendered “that mould into which, or whereunto, ye were delivered”. We thus see that the obedience mentioned is initial. The believers are likened unto molten metal, and the truth likened to a mould. The truth of God not only delivers from the bondage of sin, but also moulds the character. We have been handed over to the truth of God in order that our characters should be moulded for God. It is necessary, therefore, for us to obey the truth to which we have been handed over, in order that the purpose of God might be accomplished in our lives. If we are not characterized by obedience, then character is not being developed. Maybe the kind of Gospel preaching today in some places is the reason for so much chaff, and maybe the kind of ministry delivered is the reason for so much worldliness and departure. Remember, in Romans 6. 17 it is not the doctrine which is committed to us, but rather we are committed to the doctrine. Our characters will never be developed as God desires them to be, unless we obey the truth. The first reason, therefore, for obedience is that character might be developed.

In Romans 6. 19 we read, “yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” In verse 16 obedience is seen as a master to whom we yield ourselves, but now in verse 19 the master is righteousness. The purpose of yielding our members to righteousness is unto holiness - sanctification. Here we suggest that this is practical, a life lived in separation to God. We, as the people of God, should be demonstrating in our lives that we have been set apart to and for God. The second reason for obedience is to produce a life of practical sanctification which is in keeping with our standing in Christ.

The Prospect of Obedience

From Hebrews 11. 8, “By faith Abraham, when he called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed”, we see that the result of obeying what God had said was, for Abraham, an inheritance to be received Very often obedience brings heartache and persecution now; however, there is always joy in obeying the Word of God. The prospect of obedience is not just the joy that we have now, but the reward at the judgment seat of Christ. In our lives and service we are not to be governed by the world’s standard, but by the clear teaching of the Word of God. We need to be long-sighted, living in the light of eternity. Surely, if we live in the light of eternity, we will be characterized by obedience, which secures is a full reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

The kind of people in the midst of whom God will dwell will be a willing people - a people characterized by obedience, willing to carry out what He has unfolded in His Word.

Conclusion of series


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