How do followers of Jesus interact with commands from God? This ought to be simple, but I think it becomes complicated by folks from time to time. So, let’s take a brief look at a couple principles that relate to believers and our responsibility toward the commands of God.
Romans 3:20 – For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
2 John 6 – And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
3 John 11 – Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
First, obedience to commandments does not save us. God’s word is clear that none of us can be saved by following any sort of law of God, as Paul tells us in Romans 3:20. This is because the perfect righteousness of God displayed in the law exposes our sin and need for a Savior from outside of ourselves. We have already sinned against God and earned his judgment. We are already guilty from the fall of man. We cannot make up for that with good behavior, even perfect behavior, from now on. No person will be saved by works. Thus, there is no Christian call to obey commands to be saved.
Second, as we see in 2 John 6, to love God is to walk in accord with his commandments. While obedience is not a part of our salvation, obedience to the commands of God is the clear fruit of loving God. Not to obey the word of God is not to love God. The one who loves obeys. Our obedience to the commands of God is not a fulfilling of legal requirements, as those requirements have already been fulfilled in Christ. But our obedience is the way that those who are changed by God display that change.
Third, disobedience is a sign of being lost. As we see in 3 John 11, “whoever does evil has not seen God.” This verse is not saying that a single mistake or fall means a person is lost. But a person who does evil, who lives in it, who refuses to obey the righteous commands of God, that person displays by his actions that he is not part of the family of God. Note that this is not a call to obedience to fulfill legal obligation that impacts one’s status before God. Instead, it is clear that a heart that is set on what opposes God and that does not desire to obey the commands of God for the love of God is a heart not changed by God.
We could draw a neat little circle with these three points. Obedience to the commands of God does not save you. Obedience to the commands of God is required to love God. Lack of love for God, which is displayed in a lack of obedience to God’s commands, shows that you are not saved. Thus, obedience is not required to earn salvation, but obedience is a necessary result of salvation.
With all that said, how do you feel about the commands of God? Do you delight to obey? When God tells you to meet regularly with the local church for worship, teaching, fellowship and the rest, do you love that command and obey it for God’s glory? When you hear God’s command not to lie, not to gossip, not to seek personal revenge, do you delight in obedience out of love? When you hear God’s command to love others as you love self, do you delight in his word? When you hear God forbid sexual immorality in all its forms, do you delight in purity as God defines purity for his honor? When you hear how God wants the family and the church to be structured, do you delight in doing what the culture opposes because you desire to honor the Lord who saved your soul? Do you delight in obedience to the commands of God, not to earn points, but as a display of love?