Let’s Talk about the Obedience of the Believer

Traducción por Haroldo Camacho

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It is impossible to ignore the value that obedience has for the Christian’s own life and for the glory of God. He desires obedience from His children; and that those who love Him will value the quality of life that redemption has obtained for them. The disposition of their spirit will incline towards obedience, although they will lack the will power to do that which God has engendered in their hearts. As Scripture says: For it is God who works in you both to will and to do. You will know a Christian for his desire to honor his Lord; and you will find this same believer in anguish, even disillusioned with himself, because he is not able to put into practice the perfect will of his Creator that revelation has told him what he should do.

The obedience of which I want to talk to you about is not that which presumes to have some virtue before the eyes of men. Rather it is that which has a certain quality or perfection that is able to pass the scrutiny of the infinitely holy and perfect divine law; that which needs no expiation, that which needs no forgiveness; in essence, it is an obedience which does not depend on Christ being pleasing to the Heavenly Father. Those who wish to talk about the virtue of their obedience should be willing to confess that they have no need of Christ for their justification.

Types of Righteousness

When we talk of obedience we must mark a difference between the obedience of fallen man and the obedience of the perfect man. To pretend that both are the same is like claiming that a blind man can see. Since the corruption of sin still remains in the Christian, this affects the quality of obedience he can render and thus, he also is found within the category of the imperfect man. Only two persons: Adam and Christ have offered an absolutely perfect obedience, all others can only obey imperfectly. To assure the Christian that he can perform works of such a kind that his actions will correspond to the perfection required, is to deny the reality that the fallen nature still persists within him. Such assurance would mean that his acts would be perfect and without need of expiation.

The obedience which God requires for the justification of man is not the same that He tolerates from them that He justifies by His grace alone. Our works are much like the food we eat. On the outside they seem beautiful and appetizing, but if we examine them with a microscope we will see that they have plentiful bacteria and harmful organisms for our body. If we didn’t overlook this, we would not consume any food at all. It is the same with the works of obedience produced by the Christian. God in His patience has to pass over the sins that He sees in the obedience of the justified; He is able to do that thanks to the expiation offered by the Savior which covers the imperfection of His saints.

The Righteousness that God Requires is Similar to Christ’s

The righteousness that the eternal Judge demands for justification should be a true work of obedience, similar to that which Christ offered for His own justification. The rule that all men should use to determine if his obedience has the capacity to justify him is the same that God employs: the works of Christ, since His works are the only ones that reveal what it truly means to obey; what heaven expects should be done when it demands the fulfillment of the law.

God justified Christ by virtue and merit of His works, because His obedience was the maximum and perfect work of righteousness. And we know that such is the quality of obedience that God expects from man because He has been the only one from among the sons of Adam that resurrected from the dead in reward for His own righteousness. The Father did not accept His obedience on the basis of someone else’s merits, but by virtue of His own merits. In consequence, whenever it is confessed that the merits of another are what makes acceptable the obedience of man, to wit, those of Christ, it is a confession which recognizes the imperfection of one’s own works. One confession cannot be offered  without confessing the other. In other words, it cannot be confessed that we are saved by the merits of Christ and at the same time claim that our works have a place in our forgiveness.

There have existed people of great moral rectitude, excellence of character, such an example was Moses; but none of them was able to see the face of God and live. But the obedience that justifies, fearlessly looks into the face of God; Christ is that righteousness. You may perhaps boast that you are a just person, pretend that you are obedient, glory in the moral rectitude of your life, but if you cannot affirm with all conviction that with these you will see the face of God and live, what good is to you? What are you boasting about if in the end it’s not going to get you anywhere? I prefer to confess my imperfection, and even glory in it, as long as I can receive the perfect righteousness of Christ that will allow me to see the face of the eternal Judge.

The problem with Christianity today is that it uses the imperfect obedience of the believer as the basis of assuring him of salvation. And when he wakes up to the reality of his own imperfection he sees himself naked and lost; horrified by the prospect of his condemnation. Let us admonish the believer to live to the glory of his Savior, let us motivate him to adorn the gospel with works of righteousness, but let us make it clear that such righteousness in no way grants him assurance, and that it is an insult to the divine righteousness, an offense that will be severely judged in anyone who pretends to be justified by means of his own obedience.

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