OBEDIENCE COMES FROM FAITH
Scripture speaks of an obedience that proceeds from faith. Paul wrote to the Romans about this obedience. "Through Him and for His name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Rom 1:5, NIV).
This should not surprise us. Great men of God have always obeyed because they believed. It is said of our father Abraham, "By faith Abraham . . . obeyed . . . " (Heb 11:8). The acceptable sacrifice of Abel was offered "by faith" (Heb 11:4). Noah's faith compelled him to build the ark when he was warned of the impending flood (Heb 11:7). Faith is a stronger and more consistent motivation for obedience than fear.
All people obey something--either truth or unrighteousness. They respond and conform to one or the either. There is no neutral ground. Thus it is written, "but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation" (Rom 2:8). The Word of God, which is written truth, is to be obeyed! Failure to do this constitutes foolishness (Gal 3:1). Wherever a professed believer is found that is not obeying the truth, there has been hindrance--Satanic hindrance (Gal 5:7). There is no hope for people that remain in that condition. As it is written, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Pet 4:17, NASB).
What does it mean to "obey the truth," or "the Gospel," or "the Word" (Rom 2:8; 2 Thess 1:8; 2 Thess 3:14; 1 Pet 3:1)? Is it merely fulfilling an outlined procedure? following a prescribed pattern? Indeed, it is not! Remember, acceptable obedience proceeds from faith. It is the result of being convinced of the truth and applicability of the message.
The act of baptism provides an excellent example of this point. Being baptized does involve obedience. Peter "commanded" the household of Cornelius to be baptized Acts 10:48). That command was "obeyed" when the people to whom it was addressed were baptized. This was not, however, merely fulfilling a technical requirement, although it was that. The whole person is involved in obedience. The Spirit, referring to our baptism, put it this way. "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" (Rom 6:17, KJV). The "form of doctrine" (the form of teaching, NIV) is baptism. The "doctrine," or "teaching," was the death, burial and resurrection of Christ--the Gospel. In baptism, that doctrine is placed into a form, or container of truth. We "die" with Christ, are "buried" with Him, and "raised" with Him--in our baptism (Rom 6:3-10).
These are very real transactions, unseen by the eye, but experienced in the inner man. They cannot be fulfilled ritualistically, or in an external manner alone. The heart is required to validate baptism. Thus Paul says the people "obeyed from the heart the form . ." No obedience that excludes the heart is valid! The involvement of the heart is what makes obedience acceptable.
Obedience That Is Thorough
Obedience is also to be thorough. The Lord does not provide men the option of choosing areas in which they will obey, to the neglect of others. Thus, we read of being "obedient in everything" (2 Cor 2:9). If this appears too difficult, we are assured of Divine resources that are adequate to the task. We have been supplied with spiritual weaponry that enables us to effectively "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). That is a remarkable consideration! Our obedience to the Word of the Lord is to be so thorough that we can be known as "obedient children" (1 Pet 1:14). That is the obedience that eventuates in being "holy" (1 Pet 1:14). Elsewhere it is called the "obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Rom 6:16).