“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22).
It is proper to present ourselves living sacrifices to God (Rom. 12:1). There is real joy to the child of God when the sacrifice is made for the good of others. The Saviour experienced real joy as He went about doing good for others. There is a time to obey God that is better than to substitute sacrifice.
When God calls upon us to obey, we should be willing to do His divine will, as He instructs us to do, with the assurance that our service is acceptable to Him. Peter says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22 ASV). God’s will must be supreme and there should be a burning desire to reflect the will of God in an obedient life. All who do God’s will have the promise of abiding forever. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17).
According to the Bible, God has required obedience to His law in every dispensation. “What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deut. 12:32 ASV). God also called upon Israel to obey Him through the prophet Isaiah. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword…” (Isa. 1:18-20).
In order to “eat of the good of the land,” Israel had to be “willing and obedient.” There are many other examples from the Old Testament stressing the lesson of obedience. The example of Saul in First Samuel 15 illustrates the solemn fact that it is safe to promptly do what God commands. This is better than sacrifice.
Turning to the New Testament, we find Christ living a life of implicit obedience to His Father’s will. “Though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Paul says, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8 ASV). Now our perfect Saviour offers salvation only to those who obey Him. “And having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9 ASV). Christ says, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21 ASV). Man’s duty is made perfectly plain in the Bible, and there is no excuse for disobedience because of inability to understand our Father’s will. Let us give proper heed to the teaching of Christ.
Why God Requires Obedience
Obedience is a test of faith. Justification is by faith. “Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1 ASV). In every age, God has blessed men on the condition of their faith. God has ever commanded acts of obedience that serve as tests of faith. Such things as God commands must be obeyed, if for no other reason than that He has commanded them. In this, prompt obedience from the heart becomes a test of faith. In every recorded case where God blessed a man on the condition of that man’s faith, his faith found expression in an overt act.
Take, for instance, the case of Abel. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts…” (Heb. 11:4 ASV). Abel obeyed in faith. God tested his faith in the offering commanded. Consider also the example of Abraham. “By faith Abraham, being tried, offered up Isaac: yea, he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son” (Heb. 11:17 ASV). The offering of Isaac was an acid test of Abraham’s faith in God. The “father of the faithful” did not let opinion or human reason stand in the way of obedience. It was “the obedience of faith” in the case of Abraham that brought the divine blessing to him. God tested Abraham’s faith through this act of obedience.
One is to believe in the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. These are the basic facts of the gospel. Faith in these basic facts is tested in the command to be baptized. (Read Romans 6:1-5). Why be baptized? To claim the blessing of faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, one must obey the command to be baptized. Baptism is a test of faith. This is why God requires obedience in order to be saved.
Obedience is a test of love. We have every assurance in the Bible that God has ever loved our race. God manifested His great and exceeding love to man through the gift of His Son. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God calls upon man to prove his love for Him by obeying His commandments. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ASV). “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3 ASV). “Love” is a great word by which we are saved and it is connected with keeping God’s commandments. Obedience is a divine test of our love.
Obedience is a test of friendship. One of the great words of the Bible is friend. Solomon says, “A friend loveth at all times” and Abraham was called “the friend of God.” We are saved by divine friendship. There is no substitute for this great word and obedience is a test of our friendship with God.
Jesus says, “Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you” (John 15:14). We cannot claim to be friends with Jesus while refusing to do the things He commands. Doing the commandments, we have this blessing. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,” when we lovingly obey His will.