From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible has a lot to say about obedience. In the story of the Ten Commandments, we see how important the concept of obedience is to God. Deuteronomy 11:26–28 sums it up like this: "Obey and you will be blessed. Disobey and you will be cursed."
In the New Testament, we learn through the example of Jesus Christ that believers are called to a life of obedience.
What is the Biblical Definition of Obedience?
The general concept of obedience both in the Old and New Testament relates to hearing or hearkening to a higher authority. One of the Greek terms for obedience conveys the idea of positioning oneself under someone by submitting to their authority and command. Another Greek word for obey in the New Testament means "to trust."
According to Holman's Illustrated Bible Dictionary a succinct definition of biblical obedience is "to hear God's Word and act accordingly."
Eerdman's Bible Dictionary says, "True 'hearing,' or obedience, involves the physical hearing that inspires the hearer, and a belief or trust that in turn motivates the hearer to act in accordance with the speaker's desires."
So, biblical obedience means, simply, to hear, trust, submit and surrender to God and obey his Word.
Jesus Calls Us to Obedience
In Jesus Christ we find the perfect model of obedience. As his disciples, we follow Christ's example as well as his commands. Our motivation for obedience is love:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (ESV)
Obedience is an Act of Worship
While the Bible places strong emphasis on obedience, it's important to remember that believers are not justified (made righteous) by our obedience. Salvation is a free gift of God, and we can do nothing to merit it.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (NLT)
God Rewards Obedience
Over and over again we read in the Bible that God blesses and rewards obedience:
"And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me." (NLT)
Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. (NLT)
Jesus replied, "But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice." (NLT)
But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (NLT)
Obedience to God Proves Our Love
1 John 5:2–3
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (ESV)
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. (ESV)
Obedience to God Demonstrates Our Faith
1 John 2:3–6
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, "I know God," but doesn't obey God's commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (NLT)
Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice
1 Samuel 15:22–23
But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." (NLT)
Disobedience Leads to Sin and Death
For as by the one man's [Adam's] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's [Christ's] obedience the many will be made righteous. (ESV)
1 Corinthians 15:22
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (ESV)
Through Obedience We Experience the Blessings of Holy Living
Only Jesus Christ is perfect, therefore, only he could walk in sinless obedience. But as we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us from within, we grow in holiness.
Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should! I will obey your decrees. Please don't give up on me! (NLT)
This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sands along the seashore—too many to count! There would have been no need for your destruction, or for cutting off your family name." (NLT)
2 Corinthians 7:1
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. (NLT)
The verse above says, "Let us work toward complete holiness." So, we don't learn obedience overnight; it's a lifelong process that we pursue by making it a daily goal.
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