If you want to know the whole story about the obedience of faith, from the start, this is the article for you! You can study this article or you can have us read it to you!
What is obedience? Obedience is simply doing what someone says to do. I think most believers could agree on that definition. So, obedience to God would be, simply, doing what God tells you to do—and doing no more and no less, right?
The only problem is, today, people do not know what God has said. What do I mean? I mean in order to obey God you need to know what He has required you to do. Most people have a warped view of what God has required them to do. Many times, it’s not so much that we don’t want to obey God. I believe many people genuinely want to do what God wants them to do. The problem is, in the church today, we are taught so many different things that God wants us to do.
We talk about loving our neighbor and we call that obeying God. We talk about being godly parents and we call that obeying God. We talk about forgiving others, giving to others, and doing ‘good’ to others and we call that obeying God. You might say in your mind, “Well, all those things ARE ways to obey God.” But why do you say that? Why do we think that those actions are how we obey God? I’ll tell you, the only reason why we believe that those things are ways to obey God is because we are ignorant of what God has required. Today, in the body of Christ, the vast majority of people do not know God’s laws, His commandments, and His statutes.
We think that as long as we’re doing something that is godly, we are obeying God. But obeying God would mean doing what God says—no more, no less. SO, if we want to obey God, we are going to have to stop hearing what people are telling us and start hearing what God has told us. If we keep following man’s opinion, then we are just following men. But it’s only when you hear what God commands and you, do it, that you are truly obeying God. So, let’s find out the answer to this question – “What has God said?”
When Christians think about God’s commandments, it’s funny, we normally think about the Ten Commandments. And it’s true that God gave those commandments to Israel. The Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb). I’m not saying that those commandments were not from God or essential for its time. But all through the Old Testament, God prophesied of a new covenant; the covenant we are in today through Jesus.
But let me ask you, how can we say that we are in a new covenant while still following the laws of the old? Believers today literally say that they are in a new covenant, but they still say that God’s commandments today are the ones that Moses gave in the old covenant. How can this be? We live in the new, but we follow the old? This shows that we really don’t understand the covenant that we are in. In this new covenant, we have a new high priest who lives forever, we have new and better promises, and we have a new law! What? A new law? Yes. That’s clear from scripture.
Hebrews 7:12 (NKJV) For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
In this new covenant, there is a law, there is a commandment. This law is not like the law that God made with the people at Mount Sinai. This is a new law. This is not like the first. This is the second law.
Moses himself prophesied of this new covenant law, this second law. God spoke it to Moses and Moses knew it. In fact, God spoke this second law secretly to Moses right after the Ten Commandments (the first law) were given. Let’s go back to that day at Mount Sinai, when the people were first given the Ten Commandments.
That day at Mount Sinai, Exodus records how Moses gave the people the old covenant law, the Ten Commandments. But did you know that when the people heard this law, they were afraid? They were terrified when they heard the commandments and they stood afar off. They saw the mountain burning with fire and they heard the voice of God speaking all the demands of the law. The people became so afraid that they said, “let God not speak with us lest we die!” (Exodus 20:18-19)
When the people spoke these words, terrified of the Ten Commandments, God took Moses aside privately. God had a private meeting with Moses at Mount Sinai. This meeting was never revealed to the people until FORTY YEARS later in the book of Deuteronomy. This is what the Lord told Moses privately when the people could not stand to hear the Ten Commandments, believing they would die:
Deuteronomy 5:28 (NKJV) “Then the LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me [that they would die if they kept hearing the voice of God], and the LORD said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.
Wait a second, God gives the Ten Commandments to the people, the people are terrified, and they stand far off saying “Let God not speak with us anymore lest we die!” And God replies to Moses in a private meeting “They are right in all that they have spoken.”
Do you understand God’s intention with this law from Mount Sinai? The law of works was not given to be kept! The law was given to show that it cannot be kept – not at all. So, when the people are terrified at the sound of those words, when they stood far off and said, “Let God not speak with us!” God said, “They are right in all they’ve spoken.” That was the reaction God wanted them to have concerning the works of the law.
But wait, it gets better. That’s not all that God told Moses when He pulled him aside privately. Because the people were afraid of the law of works (the Ten Commandments), God told Moses of another law that He would give – a second law, not like that law of works. God told Moses to have everyone go to their tents. And this is what God said privately to Moses:
Deuteronomy 5:30-31 (NKJV) (30) Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” (31) But as for you [Moses], stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’
God had just given the Ten Commandments, yet when the people were afraid of it, God says “They are right to be afraid! Now Moses, you stay back, and I will give you the laws and commandments that they should keep.” God was about to tell Moses another law that the people would be able to keep. So, Moses stayed back, and God gave Moses this second law, this new covenant law which had never been spoken of before. And here is that law:
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NKJV) (4) “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.(6) “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
I know that you have heard this commandment quoted plenty of times before. But I guarantee that many of us do not understand it. This law is actually the new covenant law that God spoke to Moses. This commandment that God gave to Moses, this second law, is in fact what the Bible calls “the law of faith.” God told Moses that this was the law that He wanted the people to keep and said, “You shall love the Lord with your heart.” This is speaking about faith in Jesus – a law that you do in your heart. And this is the new covenant law that God was speaking to Moses about privately at Mount Sinai.
Loving The Lord With Your Heart
Many preachers have quoted “Love the Lord with all your heart” and they think that it means “Just love the Lord with all you’ve got” or something like that. But no, that’s not even close to what it means! When God speaks about loving Him with your HEART and with your SOUL, He is speaking about faith! Yes, that is what God is talking about.
Loving the Lord with your HEART is faith in Jesus! When God gave the people the Ten Commandments and they asked to not hear the voice anymore, God pulled Moses aside and said “The people are right to say this. They can’t bear this law, or they’ll die. So, Moses, in accordance with what these people have said, I’m going to give a new law. “Moses, this is my new law – faith in Jesus” (love the Lord with your HEART).
You may be saying in your mind “I don’t think that’s what God meant when He said, ‘Love the Lord with your heart.’ That’s a stretch to think that He was talking about faith in Jesus.” But that is exactly what God meant.
Do you remember that when a man asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was? Jesus only said two. And what were they? Jesus said:
1) Love the Lord with all your heart. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
Well, John quotes these commandments of Jesus, but look at how he quotes them:
1 John 3:23 (NKJV) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
Did John misquote Jesus? Jesus said:
1) Love the Lord with all your heart. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself.
John quotes Jesus as saying:
1) Believe on the name of Jesus 2) Love one another
So, either John is misquoting Jesus, or the church has horribly misinterpreted what “loving the Lord with all your heart” is. Let me say it plainly. John defines “loving the lord with all your heart” as believing on the name of Jesus. Yes, loving the Lord with all your HEART, is faith in Jesus.
This should make sense. God is just saying, “This is how I want to be loved, not with your actions and not with your works, but with your heart and with your soul” (which are just parts your mind). God is saying “Love me by believing who Jesus is.”
This may be totally new to you but let me sum up this up – obeying God is nothing more than believing on who Jesus is. That is the only way for any person to obey God. God has required nothing more than that.
Deuteronomy (Second Law)
God gave a law of works at Mount Sinai, but it was too much for the people to bear (and God knew that). And for this reason, God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai about a new law that He would soon give. Moses revealed this law, forty years later, in the plains of Moab, in the book of Deuteronomy. No wonder, the book of Deuteronomy literally means “Second Law.” Deuteronomy is the book in which Moses reveals the new covenant law, the second law (loving the Lord with your heart).
Paul even quotes the book of Deuteronomy and says:
Romans 10:8 (NKJV) But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” [a quote from Deuteronomy] (that is, the word of faith which we preach) …
Paul called the second law of Deuteronomy “the word of faith” that he preached!
(For those that have heard that Deuteronomy means “second law” because it is merely a rehearsal of the first law from Sinai, see Deuteronomy 29:1).
Obedience Of Faith
We have a new covenant law! And in this new covenant there is no work required! It is not a law of works. It is a law of faith. It is performed entirely in your heart and your mind, not with your life. God is only asking all men, Jew and Gentile, to believe what Jesus has done for them through the work at the cross! This is obedience to God!
Knowing this, it should not surprise you to read through the book of Romans (ASV especially) and hear Paul talk a lot about obedience. He calls it “obedience of faith!”
Romans 1:5 (ASV) …we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name’s sake…
Romans 16:25-26 (ASV) …the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith…
God’s new covenant law is to believe on Jesus. You cannot obey God with your works, you cannot obey God with your actions, you cannot obey God by living right. And why not? Because this is not a law of works, it is a law of faith.
Romans 3:27 (NKJV) By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
If you were under a law of works, then sure, your obedience would be to work. But under a law of faith, you cannot possibly obey God with your lifestyle or with your actions. God won’t regard it as obedience. I’m sorry to say, but most Christians are doing things that they think is obedience to God. But they’ve been misinformed about what God has required.
We think we’re being obedient to God by loving our neighbor, bettering our behavior or living our life for God. Now I’m by no means speaking against these things as if they were wrong in and of themselves. But when God commands a law of faith, how can we think we are obeying God while we are trying to live right for Him? When you ask your child to clean his room and he combs his hair, do you call that obedience? Obedience is not doing what seems right in our eyes or in the eyes of the current preachers of the day. Obedience is doing what is right in God’s eyes (Deuteronomy 6:18). God has made it clear that He has not commanded us a law of works. Therefore, no work done by us, even with the best of intentions can be called obedience. Only faith in Jesus and His finished work can be called obedience, because that is the only thing that God has required of a man. And who are we to add to the law of God?
Deuteronomy [Second law] 4:2 (NKJV) You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
But you say “There a lot of actions and deeds that the Bible commands us! Faith in Jesus is how it all starts, but how can you say that faith in Jesus is the only obedience?” I will agree that there are a lot of good deeds that the Bible talks about. I’ll even go a step further and say that good deeds are good and profitable and necessary for the church (Titus 3:8). But I will correct you in this – there is not one good deed that is law from God to the believer. All good deeds are not done by the believer, but FOR the believer, as fruits of the Holy Spirit. Our obedience on the other hand is one thing -believing on the one that God sent. That’s it. But don’t believe me. I am not God. Believe His word:
John 6:28-29 (NKJV) (28) Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (29) Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
People wanted to know from Jesus how to work the WORKS [plural] of God, as if there were many. Most Christians think the same thing. But Jesus replied with a blunt, bold, retort saying “This is the WORK [singular] of God – that you believe the One that God sent! Faith in Jesus is not one of first things do, and then you must “live it out.” No, there are not many works of God. There is one work of God.
Believing on Jesus is the only thing that the new covenant believer can call “obedience to God.” You can’t live holy and say, “I’m just being obedient to God.” You can’t witness to someone and say, “I’m just being obedient to God.” I am not speaking against living holy or witnessing, but that is not your obedience! The Holy Spirit works those things out through us by Himself and we obey by hearing Him, by believing Him!
Obedience happens in your heart (which is just a part of your mind). Your works could be a mess at the moment, but before you ever see change in your works, you can be obedient to God! Because obedience to God happens 100% in your heart, in your mind. And it does bear excellent virtuous fruit in your life, but the obedience lies in your heart as you receive the Gospel!
Romans 6:17 (ASV) But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered…
How do you obey the teaching of the Gospel? You do so in your heart. Obedience happens in your heart as you hear the Gospel!
The First And The Great Commandment
With all of this said, it’s no wonder that when Jesus was asked what the greatest, most important commandment was, Jesus didn’t speak one of the Ten Commandments. He spoke the commandment of Deuteronomy (second law) – to love the Lord your God with all your heart (to believe on Him)! This is the great commandment! No other commandment in the Bible is called the great commandment, except this one.
But here’s a good question. What about the second commandment Jesus gave? Because Jesus spoke of two commandments.
Matthew 22:37-39 (NKJV) (37) Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, Jesus spoke of believing on Him (loving the Lord with your heart), but then He said to love your neighbor also. I thought we were to only believe on Jesus. Does this mean that there is more than just faith in Jesus? No, God’s only new covenant law is faith in Jesus. Period. But when you put faith in Jesus it produces a love for your neighbor!
1 Timothy 1:5 (MKJV) But the end [the result] of the commandment is love… [also 1 Peter 1:22].
Did you notice how Jesus puts an order to the commandments that He spoke of? He calls “loving the Lord with your heart” the first and great commandment. And that is our New Covenant law. But then He refers to “loving your neighbor” as what comessecond! It’s important that Jesus put them in this order. And why? Because when you put faith in Jesus (love the Lord with your heart), the second one (love for your neighbor) comes by the Holy Spirit! The first commandment produces the second one! Paul quotes Jesus’ commandments like this:
Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love [compare with 1 Corinthians 7:19].
Faith produces the love! When you put faith in Jesus, love comes out from you by the Holy Spirit!
Colossians 1:4, 8 (NKJV) (4) …we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints… (8) who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
Jesus gave two commandments not because there are two things to do! Which is why He gave them an order. Do the first and the first commandment only, and the second one, a genuine love for your neighbor, will result! Faith works out love!
And by the way, Romans 13:10 says that love is the fulfillment of every good action that the old law required! So, you could say this “When you believe on Jesus, the Holy Spirit will produce every good thing that is necessary!” But what is our obedience? Believe on the one that God sent. Hear Him.
There is so much more that could be explained, but these notes would go on for many more pages. Once you’ve learned these things, you’ll see it everywhere in the Bible. You’ll see the terms obedience and lawlessness in a totally new light. You’ll scan through Kings and Chronicles and see that the kings who did right in God’s sight were the ones that served Him with their heart! You’ll notice how the phrase “faith and love” is used so commonly in the New Testament and now you’ll know why. God is not looking for an action. He is the action. God wants a heart wholly and completely set on His Son Jesus. This is obedience.
Q: Jesus said to love Him with our heart, soul, and mind. I understand that He was speaking about believing on Him, but what is my heart? What is my soul? And how do they differ from my mind?
A: To be honest, there is much to say and also much to speculate as to the difference between “heart, mind, and soul” but one thing to be sure of is, they are all different aspects of your mentality.
The word “heart” can be used in different ways in the Bible, but it refers to the inside of something. You could be speaking about how Jesus went to the “heart” of the earth (Matthew 12:40) or you could be speaking about your heart, as in your inside, your mind, your inner man (Ephesians 3:16-17). And that is the context in which we are using the word heart—to speak of your mind, your mentality. The way it’s used in Luke 9:
Luke 9:47 (NKJV) And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart…
The word “soul” is mostly used in the world today in reference to your spirit (i.e. a departed soul). And although the word “soul” does sometimes refer to someone’s spirit in the Bible (Acts 2:27), the word “soul,” in the context that we are using it, refers to someone’s mentality (as in Thessalonians 5:3 or Hebrew 4:12).
There would be much more we could explain to properly define these things (heart, soul, mind), but it is sufficient to say that these three things are all speaking of your mentality – your thinking.
Q: Why do some places in the Bible say to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (as in Mark 12:30, Deuteronomy 6:4-5)?
A: The strength that God is speaking of in Deuteronomy (and then quoted by Jesus) is strength of your heart. It means to do it with vehemence, with all the force of your heart! And you know this is speaking about strength of your heart, because after God gives this new commandment He clarifies:
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NKJV) (4) “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (6) “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”
God commands “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” but then right after He says the word “strength” He clarifies and tells us that this command is performed completely in your heart (And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.)
This is the same strength that God commanded Joshua in Joshua 1:7-9. Compare these two passages:
Deuteronomy 5:32, 6:5 (NKJV) “Therefore, you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (Skipping to 6:5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Joshua 1:7 (NKJV) Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left…
So you see the Lord telling Joshua to be “strong” in keeping the law that God had given Moses.