The indissoluble connection between faith and obedience is only too often overlooked or rationalized away.

We rightly emphasize “faith,” for without it man cannot be saved; without it no man can please God.

But the faith which saves, the faith which pleases God, is an obedient faith. “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven”—this contains a warning all need to ponder.

The Bible stresses man’s faith unto salvation. The watchword of the Reformation was, “The just shall live by his faith.” But all of this recognizes that the expression of faith by the lips must be coupled with obedience to the divine command.

We have known individuals who stoutly affirmed their belief in the Bible “from cover to cover,” but whose “faith” was belied by the lives they lived.

Samuel challenged Saul with these words: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams.” This is a principle we find reiterated again in the Scriptures, that profession of faith must be associated with obedience of mind and will.

Abraham is cited as the father of the faithful, and he was. But Abraham demonstrated with his faith an obedience at which we can but marvel.

Commanded to leave his homeland and people, Abraham exercised a blind obedience which inspires and humbles us today. We only too often demand of God that we see the ending before we obey. But the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:8b) tells us that when Abraham was commanded to leave his home in Haran, “he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”

Was this blind faith? Perhaps it may be so interpreted, but most important, it was obedient faith. He trusted the One who gave the call, confident that He would not lead him astray.

This same Abraham was later confronted with a greater crisis. God had given him a son in his old age. The covenant promises were wrapped up in the boy, and the father’s love for this lad was overwhelming.

But one day God told him to take the boy and go to a distant mountain, there to offer him as a sacrifice. “Take your son, your only son, whom you love”—with every word there was a deeper thrust into Abraham’s heart. Surely in circumstances such as this he would have been justified in temporizing, in asking questions, in offering an alternative.

None of this took place. We are told that Abraham obeyed without question, leaving early the next morning on his sad pilgrimage. But coupled with his forthright obedience there was also a sublime faith. “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering,” he told the questioning boy.

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Nevertheless, how sorely was that faith tested and how marvelous the will to obey. The altar was prepared, the son bound, the knife raised. As far as God was concerned, Abraham did offer up his son, and because of that faith, coupled with unswerving obedience, God renewed his covenant promises—“because you have obeyed my voice.”

Sin came into the world because of disobedience and continues today, causing world chaos and our own personal predicaments.

God has commanded us to love one another, but we disobey him. He has commanded us as individual Christians, and the Church as such, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, but this is a secondary interest, not a consuming one, with most of us.

At the personal level we Christians often live in disobedience to God’s specific demands on us. We rationalize his commands and equivocate in our reactions to them so that with our lips we draw near but in our hearts we are far from him.

There are times when God does demand of us blind obedience, when our faith should impel us to courses of action the end result of which we cannot foresee; but where there is faith combined with obedience there is also rich blessing.

The entire question of obedience is closely coupled with our prayer lives. Only too often we pray for guidance with the mental reservation that if we like the prospects we will go ahead. What a travesty on true faith! We cannot fool God. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He knows those reservations and often refuses to hear because we are actually putting him to a test of our own devising.

Never forget, the prayer of faith includes a willingness to obey, and this is not always easy. It is a lesson hard to learn but one we must not evade.

Even our Lord, we are told, divested himself of his inherent rights as the Son and “learned … obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).

Paul tells us that the judgment of God will fall on those who “obey not the gospel of our Lord” (2 Thess. 1:8).

Where disobedience to law prevails, a nation falls into chaos. Where obedience to parents is not required, juvenile delinquency is one result.

If earthly rulers and parents have the right to require submission to authority, how much more does God have the right to require obedience!

This in no way detracts from the reality of God’s love; it merely demonstrates the orderliness of his rule. If there is disobedience, disorder results inevitably.

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God does not exact obedience as a tyrant; he calls for it as an evidence of the reality of our faith. On the one hand, this is his rightful due; on the other, it is a demonstration for all to see that our faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, RSV).

When our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thy hand,” the reaction was one of faith, and of obedience. When he said to the paralytic, “Take up your bed and go home,” there was this same demand for faith coupled with obedience.

Why should anyone question man’s obligation to obey God’s holy and just commands? But this is not the problem of the average Christian. Our problem is the desire to see the end from the beginning. We believe God, his truth, his Word. But only too often obedience is held in reserve until we think we can see farther down the road. And in this reservation and delay there is neither spiritual blessing nor actual fulfillment.

To put it in the simplest terms possible: faith, to be valid, must be associated with obedience to God’s revealed will. This does not mean obedience in all of its perfection, for on this side of eternity no man either has a perfect faith or exercises perfect obedience. But unquestionably God expects of us a faith which believes and an obedience which complies without question.

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