All born-again Christians should take a vow of unreserved obedience, at some point and time, in their walk with Christ; indeed, the sooner the better.
However, saying the words, and meaning the words, in the entirety of their meanings, are two completely different things. As Christians use both the Old and New Testaments, which in general terms relate to the Old and New Covenants, two forms or types of obedience, typically confront Christians. They are: 1) the obedience to the Law – as prescribed in the Old Testament and under the Old Covenant; and 2) the obedience of the Gospel, as prescribed in the New Testament and under the New Covenant. Put simply, we can see that in the one book – The Holy Bible – there are two ways of serving God and two styles of religion and theology.
For Christians, Paul spoke at length about this subject in the Book of Romans saying in 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace.” He added further in 7:3 “…….she is free from the law…… “ establishing further that Christians are not under the Old Testament Law (v6) “…. so that we serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Why? “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!” (v8:5)
Here, Paul clarifies the dangers which Christians face in a vow of complete obedience – as they mistakenly understand this to be obedience to the Law, rather than the Gospel. In doing so, Christians end up following the oldness of the letter of the law, which leads to death, instead of the spirit of the Law – which leads to life. Romans 7:6 makes the position very clear for us when Paul says: “But now we having been set free from the Law, having died to that in which we were held, so that we serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Romans 8:2 further echoes this sentiment saying “ But the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” and as v5 adds later, that in Christ, we are not under the spirit of bondage.
One reason cited by many Christian observers for the feebleness and for the lack of vitality and passion in the Church today, is that so many Christians are seeking to make a life which is under the Law, rather than under Grace. This is not, and cannot be what Christian living is about, for the letter of the law brings death, but the spirit life – and Christ is all about life!
Let us have a look at a simple comparison of the Legal versus the Evangelical:
|The Law||The Gospel (Grace)|
|The Law demands from us.||Grace promises us.|
|The Law deals with what we should do – where we can or cannot.||Grace points us to what we cannot do.|
|The Law – in love and fear – motivates us to do our best. Success not guaranteed.||Grace does what we cannot do – both for us and in us.|
|The Law commands in stone or ink.||Grace comes to us in the person of a living, gracious God.|
|The Law promises life if we obey.||Grace gives life and provides the Holy Spirit with an assurance we can obey.|
|The Law comes naturally – for we think we can do it ourselves by our own effort.||Grace is hard to accept and we can easily slip back into the Law, and egotism, doing it ourselves.|
The promises of Grace are divine. There is no other way to envision it; Grace is divine. This is what makes it hard for earth-bound, fallen and broken creatures like us to accept it, let alone understand it, at even the most rudimentary level. How can we truly and fully understand Jesus taking on the sins of all mankind on a cross and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and doing everything for us – for we are simply unable to do it ourselves?
It is because it is so hard to understand; so few believe it. This is why so few dare take a vow of total and absolute obedience to the Living God, and having taken it, why so many fall away in backsliding and apostasy.
Gospel obedience is an important part of our Christian walk with God – indeed, it is the main part. The Gospel is The Good News – but it cannot be good news if one does not follow it, and instead lays aside this free gift of Grace and opts to work out one’s own salvation under the law, seeking to achieve the impossible. Obedience is the main part of the Gospel, the main part of The Good News, which says that grace, by the Holy Spirit will do everything in us which is necessary. We just need to believe, and let every undertaking and outcome thereafter be in obedience to God.
What makes obedience possible for a born-again Christian is not the flesh or the mind of the believer, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the blessed love of Jesus whose presence makes obedience not only possible, but certain.
Amen and Amen.