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The Deeper Level of Christian Obedience

Q: What commands in the Bible does the Christian have to obey and which commands, such as circumcision in the Old Testament, no longer apply?

A: A closer look at this subject uncovers deeper insights into the nature of our relationship with God. Before we get to the specifics of which commands apply to Christians today, it will be helpful to explore a few underlying concepts.

The Bible describes an occasion where a Jewish “expert in the law” asked Jesus, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is to love your neighbor. Jesus went on to say that all the other commandments are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40). Taking it one step further, the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving your neighbor are based on God’s love for us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16) “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

God’s love for us is the foundation of our obedience to Him. God doesn’t want us to obey Him out of fear, but rather He wants us to obey Him out of thankfulness for the gift of salvation He has given us. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ’Abba, Father.’" (Romans 8:15) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)


The moment we trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, He sends the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us. The inner reality of the Holy Spirit takes obedience to a new level. Not only does the Holy Spirit empower us to obey God (Romans 8:13), but He also enables us to rest in the security of our salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee” of our salvation. In fact, the English word “guarantee” is used only three times in the entire Bible (in the New King James Version), and every time it refers to the Holy Spirit being the guarantee of our salvation! (Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:5). Resting in God’s faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13, Philippians 1:6) is critical because not until we receive new bodies in heaven will we be able to obey God perfectly. “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:5)

Through the reality of the Holy Spirit obedience is transformed from a heartless routine to an expression of love for God. The inner reality of the Holy Spirit transforms our relationship with God from an impersonal, distant relationship to a personal, intimate relationship where everything we do in life involves our relationship with Him – where we see God involved in everything we do through the eyes of faith. The Bible refers to this as “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6) and being “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18, Romans 8:14). This type of obedience is a dynamic reality that can’t be reduced to a list of do’s and don’ts. The specific commands of the moral law (i.e. do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not be drunk...) are simply a skeleton of the deeper reality of being led by the Spirit. It is the deeper reality that pleases God. The Bible speaks of this in various ways... “for whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23) “It is impossible to please God without faith.” (Hebrews 11:6)

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