Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1949

To Obey, Or Not To Obey?

Murray Wilson, Shamrock, Texas

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them. For if the word spoke through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard." (Heb. 2:1-3)

Here is a warning to us all. We should be diligent in obeying the things we have heard spoken by the word of God. Much is being said in these days about obedience, but we need to think also of the dangers of disobedience. It is not enough to obey God; we must also be careful not to disobey. Disobedience is neglect or refusal to obey. It is a violation or an omission of a command. It has several shapes or forms in which it may manifest itself.

Rebelling, Or Refusing To Obey

The irreligious balk at God's commands; the unbelieving fail to obey. Isaiah speaks concerning the children of Israel in this manner, "This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord". Thus Israel, by her refusal to obey the law, became disobedient.

When Jehovah led Israel through the wilderness and to the borders of Canaan, he commanded them to go up and take the land. But when they learned that there were giants there, they were afraid; their faith failed them, and they turned back into the wilderness. They rebelled at God's command; they refused to obey.

Doing What God Prohibits

When God had finished his perfect work in the creation of the world and its inhabitants, he told Adam and Eve that they might eat of every tree of the garden of Eden except one. They were prohibited from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

They remained faithful for a while. But when the tempter came, they did eat; and in so doing they violated a specific prohibition and commandment of the Lord. They were cast out of the garden, and brought a curse upon themselves and upon the whole human race.

God forbade Israel to worship other Gods. There was a specific commandment setting forth this prohibition; yet, in spite of God's word, Israel did worship idolatrous gods. Israel thus broke or violated God's law. She became disobedient.

Israel was commanded to keep holy the sabbath day. All work and activities of certain kinds were suspended (forbidden) for that day. In spite of this prohibition, however, there was one man who did work on the Sabbath (Numbers 15), and who was brought to Moses and Aaron for judgment. Moses took the matter to the Lord, and "the Lord said unto Moses, 'The man shall be surely put to death. All the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp'. And all the congregation brought him without the camp and stoned him with stones and he died, as the Lord commanded Moses." By doing that which God had forbidden, this man revealed himself as disobedient to God.

Substituting For God's Commands

Sometimes men read the truth from God's word, and then reason that something else will do just as well. They substitute their own will and desires for what God commanded. Let us suppose you have a brother who is ill and at the point of death. The physician gives you a prescription, and tells you this is the only thing that will save your brother's life. You rush to the druggist with your precious prescription; the druggist looks it over carefully, and says, "Now I don't have exactly what this prescription calls for, but I have other ingredients here which I believe will be just as good. I'll just substitute another prescription for the one you bring me." Would you be satisfied with such substitution? You know you would not, because it might mean the difference between life and death.

You immediately tell the druggist you will not accept the substitute. You will go rather to another drugstore, and have the prescription filled exactly as the doctor wrote it.

Many today are substituting their ways for the ways of God. For example, some man reads from the words of James, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only"; he doesn't exactly like the works in connection with salvation or justification, so substitutes this article from the Methodist Discipline, "Wherefore that man is justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort". And, believe it or not, millions are perfectly willing to accept the substitute!

Or again, man reads from Paul, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life". Then man reasons: It is just too much trouble to bury believers in water to baptize them; I believe it will do just as much good to have water sprinkled upon them. So, with a blithe disregard for what God says, he substitutes his own will and his own desires for an explicit and specific commandment. He offers sprinkling, or pouring, as substitutes for God's commandment. And thousands of people accept the substitute.

God's ways are higher than man's ways, even as the heavens are higher than the earth. How can any man be so unwise as to think he can improve on God's ways? How can any man think that his substitutions are acceptable in the sight of God? However wise man may grow in his understanding of the natural laws of this world, his wisdom can never approach that of God's; it is sheer folly for him to suppose that he can equal God in determining what is best for man's spiritual welfare. God has told us what is right; he has shown us the good way; he has revealed unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The truly humble man is willing to accept and follow the Lord's plan. He will not refuse to obey; he will not rebel; he will not go beyond the commandment, thus violating a specific prohibition; and he will not substitute his way for God's. Rather, from a true and sincere heart he will "become obedient" unto the doctrine.