Gracious Obedience

Grace and God's Law - Life, Hope & TruthIf you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

(John 14:15)

The Scripture teaches that it is by God’s grace (unmerited favor) that we are saved. By grace, we are forgiven and regenerated, and by grace we persevere through life. Apart from God’s grace, we would remain under His condemnation. Our entire lives, therefore, are lived in a state of grace.

This devotional is about two of the primary implications of our salvation by grace. First, the blessing of God’s favor implies that our redemption, due to our fallen natures, required His grace. Grace was essential for our deliverance from sin. In our natural state, we were helpless.

The second implication of our salvation by grace is that it is a “deliberate” work of God. By “deliberate,” I mean that God wills to extend His grace to us. We do not earn God’s mercy. Our redemption is a specific expression of God’s love for each and every Christian. Salvation is both personal and purposeful.

Consider these two verses:

Romans 3:23 . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus . . .

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Notice that in the first example, Paul says that we have been justified by faith. Our initial entrance into the redeemed family of God, in which our condemnation is lifted, is a matter of grace—an unmerited and undeserved saving act of God.

In the second verse, Paul teaches that our life as those saved by God is also a matter of God’s continuing grace. The law of God ceases to be our accuser because our Savior has met its demands for us. Throughout our lives, we exist in a state of grace. Our initial regeneration and our continuance in the faith are due to the grace of God. We see, therefore, that the entire Christian experience is begun in grace and maintained in grace.

In discussions about the place of the law of God in the life of believers, some hold to a doctrinal error that has, at times, greatly troubled the Church. I am referring to those who believe that the Christian experience is nothing but grace; that is, we simply live in the state of grace without obligations of any kind. Traditionally, the Church has taught that while the law of God no longer serves to condemn us, it remains relevant as a standard for holy living.

Those who hold the false view I just mentioned believe that any talk of obligation following our regeneration is a denial of the gospel. This is, to say the least, a completely unbiblical notion.

The Bible frequently speaks of our calling to obey God’s Word as a duty. We seek to know and do God’s holy will as a means of showing our love for Him in response to what He has given us. And we strive to follow the Word as a means of furthering our sanctification. Those who teach the error to which I referred are “antinomian” (anti law), which means that they maintain that the law of God (which encompasses His commandments, His statutes, His Word, etc.) has no use whatsoever in the life of the Christian.

Just one example will show the invalid nature of this view:

1 John 2:4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

In this one passage, John repudiates the idea that there is no obligation remaining for the one who is born again. In fact, the apostle teaches just the opposite. Saving knowledge of Christ is evidenced by obedience to God’s commandments. To claim to be redeemed while rejecting the idea that God’s Word is a required standard for living, makes one a liar.

John states that our love for God is perfected (meaning it is rightly expressed) when we keep the Word of God. Obedience is not an irrelevant concept; it is a vital element in the continuing work of the gospel in our lives.

The balance between God’s grace and our obedience is reached when we understand that we are saved by grace and continue living in a state of grace, and that our obedience is evidence of our regeneration. Obedience is not the cause of our regeneration, it is the result of our regeneration. Our efforts to keep the Word of God, though necessarily flawed in this life, are accepted and sanctified by God in Christ. Obedience, as stated previously, is commanded by God and serves as our humble and loving response to His amazing grace.

Historically speaking, this role of God’s Word is known as “the third use” of the law. First, the law of God condemns sin; second, the law of God restrains wickedness; and third, for believers, the law of God is the standard by which we live.

Therefore, continue to rejoice with all thankfulness for the grace that has saved you and enables you to please God through submission. Conformity to the holy Word of God is how we show our gratitude to Him for providing a Savior in whom we have eternal life. In the hands of the Holy Spirit, the written will of God provides correction and guidance so that our lives truly glorify Him. Remember the exhortation of our Redeemer: If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”