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Who says so?

January 2001 | by Tony Hutter

Resistance and confrontation are the catchwords of our time. For example, in the home, authority is often unknown. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:2 says that one of the signs of the last days is that men will be ‘disobedient to parents’.

The same anti-authority stance is seen in schools today, where teachers have little power to enforce discipline on disruptive or violent children. It is apparent that all society, to a greater or lesser extent, is permeated with a rebellious attitude towards authority.

Sinful human nature

It is not that all has been ‘peace and light’ until A. D. 2001. Things may be worse externally today but no society has ever been free from antagonism towards rightful authority. It is clear that obedience to God’s law has been unpopular ever since the fall into sin.

Sinful human nature is set against God’s will. Rebellion against God’s law is part and parcel of human make-up. Paul wrote: ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be’ (Romans 8:7).

All through history, from that fateful day in the Garden of Eden until now, men have refused to submit to God’s revealed will. They have rebelled against his laws, they have resisted his authority, they have said: ‘We will not have this God to reign over us!’

They ask derisively, ‘Why should I obey?’ The question needs an answer – why, indeed, should we obey God?

Our creator

First of all we ought to obey God because he is our creator and we are his creatures. The Bible goes right back to the very beginning of things. On Adam’s first day God said to him, ‘From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat’ (Genesis 2:16-17). This is described by the inspired historian as a ‘command’ of God.

How did Adam, newly created, respond to this command from his Maker? It is impossible to conceive that sinless Adam turned round and said: ‘What right have you to tell me what to do? I refuse point blank to accept your authority over me!’

Rather, before man fell into sin, he recognised his privilege and responsibility to serve and obey God; he knew that he was accountable to the one who made him.

That same fundamental conviction was surely present in Adam even after he sinned. God called him to explain what had taken place (Genesis 3:9-11) and Adam did not dispute God’s right to require this explanation from him.

Certainly, he tried to find an excuse for his disobedience, and engaged in the well-known art of blame-shifting. He tried to place the blame on Eve, and even on God himself for giving Eve to him. But he could not deny his own accountability.

Thousands of years later, the situation remains the same. Time has not changed man’s relationship to God. Men and women, boys and girls, are still responsible to Almighty God, and ought to render obedience to his laws. Deep down they still know this.

God knows

God also knows how life should be lived. His Word, the Bible, is (among other things) the Maker’s instruction manual. The Bible is needed in order to discover God’s will and design for human life.

The humble person accepts that he does not know best. That was the lesson that Eve failed to learn when tempted by Satan. She thought life would be much more interesting and dynamic if she ate of the forbidden fruit; then her eyes would be opened, and she would be like God himself!

She thought that obedience would cramp her lifestyle, restrict her potential and frustrate her longings. She believed she knew better than God how life should be lived. How tragically wrong she was!

We should obey God because he knows best. The designer knows the design better than anyone else, and in his Word there are instructions and commands covering all areas of life. Life in the home, the world and the church are all included. We have to set pride aside, and humbly submit our wills to the Lord.

The way to blessing

Then again, conformity to God’s revealed will is the way to blessing. Who is the truly happy man? That man who does God’s will, rendering obedience to the Lord. The psalmist said: ‘Oh, how I love your law!’ (Psalm 119:97), and again: ‘Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart (Psalm 119:111).

Does that sound like the complaint of a frustrated, disgruntled man? Has the need to obey God made the psalmist resentful and bitter? By no means!

The truly obedient man is positively happy about doing God’s will. He has discovered that this is the way of blessing, of experiencing peace and joy. The one who obeys the gospel command to repent of his sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will know the smile of the Father’s love, and enjoy the peace of a quietened and cleansed conscience.

Salvation not earned

Let us make no mistake here – law-keeping and duty can never earn salvation. The apostle Paul was at great pains to make that quite plain. No amount of conformity to God’s law in us can actually atone for our past sins or put us in a right relationship with God.

Salvation is solely by God’s grace, not by our law-keeping. ‘For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending his own Son’ (Romans 8:3). Christ lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we deserved. Only because of him can we be forgiven and have his perfect righteousness imputed to us by God.

Nevertheless, having saved his people by his grace, God honours the obedience that he enables them to fulfil. He gives the desire and ability to obey, and then graciously declares: ‘Those who honour me I will honour’ (1 Samuel 2:30). Thus God pours down his rich spiritual blessings on those who do his will, even though they do it only through his enabling grace.

Not for a moment does that indicate that any man deserves any reward. Jesus says to his disciples: ‘When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say “we are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do”‘ (Luke 17:10).

For God’s glory

There is one other reason why all should obey him, a reason of paramount importance. It is because obedience brings glory to God. ‘Why did God make you and all things?’ asks A Catechism for Boys and Girls. The scriptural answer given is, ‘For his own glory’. This was God’s grand and overarching purpose in creating all things – that he might be honoured, glorified and praised by his created universe.

All things conspire to render glory to him. In our lives, day by day; in the seemingly little things as well as the big things; we should have this as our great and joyful objective, to bring glory to God.

It is God who, through his precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ, creates, sustains and redeems chosen sinners. He does so to ‘the praise of the glory of his grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).