Obedience from Faith

Table of Contents

9. Obedience from Faith

  • Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Everyone likes to say we have freedom in Jesus Christ, but they fail to realize that even though we are free, we are, as 1 Peter says, servants of God called to live a life of obedience. Today, if you try to live a life of obedience and call others to do the same, people will accuse you of being under the law. So, let’s take a quick look at some simple definitions of what it means to be under the law, or be under liberalism, and compare that to the true life Jesus calls us to have. A man is under law when he attempts to earn God’s love and mercy. A man is under the sin of liberalism when he takes liberty in the name of God’s grace to ignore or disobey God. However, a man has life when his life is rich in obedience by the power of faith. So, let’s take a look at that power in Romans 1:16.

  • I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of every- one who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17)

By faith we receive the new life and begin to live a new life in every way. “Just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” It is something we need to begin to do and God begins to work through us.

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (Romans 1:18)

By their actions they demonstrate they have not participated in the righteousness of God. Go back through the book of Romans yourself in order to get all the richness of it out. Right now, we’ll hop through all of this.

  • Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1–4)

Verse five tells us the gospel that Paul preached. Verses one-four lay a foundation. Paul said we need to preach Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. We preach this by the power of the Holy Spirit. We preach something that is based upon the law, the prophets, and Scripture. We preach something that comes directly from God. Verse five gives Paul’s message.

  • Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. (Romans 1:5)

It is first of all a message of obedience, but it’s how a man obeys that makes a determination whether he’s under law, liberalism, or life. The man who says he doesn’t need to be obedient, or looks at a command in Scripture and says that it doesn’t apply to him or anybody else is traveling through a wide gate on a wide road. He’s under liberty and thinks does not have to obey anything in Jesus Christ. Yet the true message, the true gospel, is in verse five, “to obedience that comes from faith.” Instead, that man should teach and declare that you are to be obedient in Jesus Christ. There is a way to obey that leads to life and a way to obey that ends in death. I could lay out law in terms of legalism, rules, and principles, the one, two, three points, or I can preach a message that says by faith you can be obedient in these things and teach people the difference between legalism and life. One is life and one is death, but the central thing I want you to see right now is that our message is one of obedience. A man who refuses to obey is in sin. Faith is not the absence of obedience; it is the presence of full obedience. True faith in God and Jesus Christ means a life will be full of rich obedience in Jesus Christ, and everything else is a lie.

  • What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? (Romans 4:1)

Abraham, by his life and relationship with God, discovered this whole business about legalism, faith, and obedience.

  • If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:2–3)

Most people today think this means simply that God came to Abraham and said, “I will do these things in your life.” Abraham said, “Okay, I trust and believe You will do that,” and then Abraham didn’t do anything beyond that. They think if Abraham set out to be obedient in those things, somehow, he would have fallen under legalism or some type of real harsh rule that he had to carry. Such a shallow understanding exists because men don’t want to give up their sin.

  • Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. (Romans 4:4)

In other words, a man sees the requirements of the law and says, “I will attempt to obey everything in this law.” He thinks he’s obedient in all these things, so when he dies and stands before God, he says, “God, I earned the wages You will give me because I did all of these things in the law. Pay me what is due me.” The problem is no man can be perfectly obedient, so God owes no man anything. Let me put this in human terms so we can understand about faith and obedience. Basically, God gives us our wages ahead of time. God says, “Here are the requirements of obedience and what it means to walk righteous before me. Now here are the wages. I will give you the Holy Spirit, the gift of life, and the grace to be able to do it.” So, God has a storehouse of power that He will give to each one of us if we approach Him by faith so we can be obedient to Him. It’s not really wages, but gifts. I put this in the kind of language Paul used—receiving our wages—but really, it becomes a gift at that point.

It is often said that Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded. People somehow think that is so bad and terrible. It appears that way because there’s really no reason for failure. There’s no reason for a man to be wounded and not get up and walk and live before God because God gives the power and grace. He has the ability to heal every man and make Him strong. God has the power to make every man obedient, to walk before Him, and be holy if that man will humble himself and come with faith. No Christian should ever become so wounded that he fails and misses the mark of heaven. It’s really just a matter of trust, faith, and surrender before the living God.

  • However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

I come before God and say, “God, I trust You to give me the Holy Spirit so I might be obedient.” I trust God to give me His righteousness in order to be obedient before Him and fellowship with Him. I trust God not only to forgive me, that’s certainly one part of grace, but I’m also trusting God to give me the obedience to walk before Him and obey Him in everything He would command and ask. Again, we look at the life of Abraham and what he discovered in this matter.

  • Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised or before? It was not after but before. (Romans 4:9–10)

It wasn’t as if Abraham didn’t undergo the rite of circumcision or that he wasn’t obedient, but he believed God’s grace—God’s covenant with him. He believed he had fellowship with God. He believed what God told him, so God gave him the covenant of circumcision and he was obedient to that. The way most people live their life today is that God comes to them with His covenant, with forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and they really think they don’t have to do anything—or maybe one or two little simple things to prove to themselves and other people—and that somehow they are in a right relationship with God. However, when you look at Abraham’s life, he lived by faith from beginning to end, just as we read in Romans. Everything he did was completely growing in obedience to God no matter what God asked him to do.

  • And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. (Romans 4:11)

It’s still all by faith. God acted in his life and Abraham responded to God’s commandment to be obedient and undergo circumcision by the grace of God—not by law or regulations, or saying, “Okay God, I’ve been circumcised, now You have to accept me.” But rather it was simply; “You gave me forgiveness and a relationship with You. You gave me this sign, this approval, and told me to become circumcised. So, I was obedient in that. Now we are in a living relationship and it continues to grow from one step to another.” But to hear people talk about it today, they come to Jesus Christ, they accept Him by faith, and literally do nothing.

  • And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:12)

God is simply saying whether you are circumcised or uncircumcised, whether you are under the law or not under the law, whether you are a Gentile or a Jew, it all comes together by faith—if we will pursue God by faith. What needs to be taught in the church today is how to be obedient by faith. Men are taught either not to be obedient today— liberalism—or they are taught to be obedient by rules and regulations. We need to be taught and live an obedience that comes by faith and flows by faith and continues to live in us by faith.

  • And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:12)

This wasn’t a one-time deal where Abraham received faith and a relationship with God, and it stopped right there. What does it say about the life of Abraham? It was a walk that continued his whole life.

  • And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:12)

In other words, from beginning to end it was by faith. Long before circumcision, long before it was said that it was credited to Abraham as righteousness, he had faith. Hadn’t Abraham already been walking with God in faith? It is, again, one more step where we go from strength to strength, we go from one obedience to the next obedience, all by faith, moving ever closer, conforming to Jesus Christ, someday to be with God forever.

  • It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. (Romans 4:13)

Everything Abraham did was by faith, yet he still obeyed. Suppose God came to Abraham and said “Abraham, look. We’re in this relationship and I will bless you and all these things will be yours. I will be in your life and fulfill My promises.” Suppose Abraham responded, “Okay God, I believe and trust you,” and then did not fulfill the circumcision. Suppose he just sat down in his tent and said, “I’m just trusting God to work all of these things.” Suppose he had chosen to be disobedient to what God told him to do in terms of circumcision. Would he have been a man of faith? Would he still have salvation? Would he have still kept his relationship with God? The answer is “No.” The minute Abraham would have decided he did not want to be obedient to God, he would have begun to sever their relationship. His faith would have died, and he would not have continued in the kind of faith that God had in mind. What I just said would be considered heresy in many churches. To say that Abraham could have lost his relationship with God or lost his salvation because he did not continue on in obedience would be considered heresy—something false—something to run somebody out of the church with. People who say such things do not have true faith. They are literally saying a person can believe Jesus Christ died for them yet continue to sin and somehow go to heaven just because he believes in God. In Genesis 17:22 we see the Father of faith and we see what true faith is. That’s why we want to look at Abraham to find out what kind of faith we need to have and preach.

  • When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. (Genesis 17:22)

God comes to us and speaks to us as a covenant. He comes to speak to us as the grace and mercy that is offered in Jesus Christ. God comes to us and asks, “Do you believe in Me? I will work this kind of righteousness and give you forgiveness. All these things in Christ Jesus are yours.” Then He backs off a little bit to see what man will do. How will he respond? Will he come back like one of the lepers and throw himself at the feet of Jesus? Will he be like Zaccheus who gives half of his things to the poor? What will his faith really do? Will it be a faith that is simple, self-centered, and just sits down to enjoy forgiveness but does nothing for the living God? God backed up from Abraham to see what would happen. Again, verse twenty-two.

  • When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. (Genesis 17:22)

Verse twenty-three tells us what a man of faith does. It says, “On that very day.” He didn’t wait until a week later. By the way, God didn’t command Abraham saying, “Today, you need to be circumcised.” God didn’t spell it out in terms of principles, rules, and regulations everything that needed to be done step by step, did He? He came to Abraham and said, “This is my relationship with you. This is the covenant I have with you. As a sign, as a testimony, we will do this circumcision.” Then He backed up to see what Abraham would do. God didn’t tell him, “Go out today and do this to prove we’re in a relationship.” He didn’t lay down a law because it’s not that kind of relationship God is looking for.

  • On that very day Abraham… (Genesis 17:23)

So, he fulfilled the part God told him and he did it that very day. He had a heart of obedience. He heard the voice of the Lord and responded.

  • Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised… (Genesis 17:24)

No matter how old or weak he was! I don’t know about you, but if I was ninety-nine years old and I had just had a visitation from the living God, I might have sat down in my easy chair to contemplate what had just happened. But he was ninety-nine years old and didn’t give any excuses like “I’m too old,” “I’ll have somebody else do it,” or “I don’t know if I want to undergo all of this.” No, it says that very day he was circumcised.

  • …and his son Ishmael was thirteen… (Genesis 17:25)

Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day. If God takes the time to repeat something twice to us, if He says the same thing in verse twenty-three as He says in verse twenty-five, then God is trying to speak to those who have true faith in Jesus Christ. Meaning that when somebody by faith comes to Jesus Christ and they accept His forgiveness, and when they see a commandment in Scripture, their attitude should be “I will obey this very day.” Not out of rules or regulations, not because they would earn something, but because they are in a loving relationship with the living God. So, the very same day, every Christian should come to the word of God asking, “How can I be obedient to this today? Because I have a covenant relationship, a living relationship with God, I know that He will give me the grace to obey. I know He will give me the power to live His word. I will seek to trust and believe that He will work as I set out to embrace Him and be obedient.” That is true faith in Jesus Christ.

  • And every male in Abraham’s household… (Genesis 17:27)

Quite a busy day of obedience! Not just a contemplative type of faith, not a faith that says, “Oh, I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Now I can sit down, relax, and have a good time today.” When God drew closer to Abraham and spoke to him about this relationship, there was more action in that day than there might have been the day before because faith was expressing itself. Faith was alive and very real. James quoted the same passage Paul quoted, but it seems like people run to the book of Romans to justify a wide gate Christianity that doesn’t call a man to do anything. James made the obvious point that true faith is one of deeds, action, and obedience.

  • But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:18)

I love James’ attitude. He was firm and solid in saying, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” James talked about what was real, what was doctrinally sound. Why do people whine about us being legalistic? I want them to tell me how to be obedient to the commandment. They always want to say that it doesn’t apply this way today. They want to excuse themselves from it. But if a man thinks I’m being obedient to a scripture in a wrong way, then let him show me the right way. If he thinks I’m obeying Scripture because I’m a legalist, then show me how to be obedient to it in the Spirit. But don’t talk to me about disobedience because that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to obey everything written in Scripture and I want to do it by faith. So, if I do it in a wrong way, by legalism, then show me the correct way. Let me look at your life and I will follow that example.

  • You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? (James 2:19–20)

Who did James point to in order to prove this whole doctrine? He pointed to Abraham.

  • Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (James 2:21)

Here is another situation, where Abraham proved his faith by what he did when God spoke to him. In the same way, a man who says he has faith in Jesus Christ but excuses himself from being obedient to Scripture is not proving anything except that he doesn’t belong to Jesus Christ and that he doesn’t have true faith.

  • …Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness… (James 2:23)

Paul said the same thing in Romans.

  • …he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23)

No one can be called God’s friend simply by a faith that does not obey—that’s God’s enemy. If you want to be a friend of God and receive God’s hand of grace, mercy, power, and righteousness, then be obedient. Verse twenty-four is very clear—you can’t get more solid than this.

  • …not by faith alone. (James 2: 24)

“Not by faith alone.” Let’s put this in human terms for a moment because that is exactly what Paul had to do to explain it. This really shouldn’t be all that complicated, but men make it so complicated. How complicated is it to say that if you love the living God, you will be obedient to Him? By the time they are through whining and complaining about being legalistic, they haven’t obeyed anything at all. Paul said he put this in human terms to explain it on a non-spiritual level so people could understand it.

  • What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:15)

People agree with this passage and they often quote it, but their lives show they don’t really believe it. They don’t even have faith in what he said because they aren’t any more obedient than anybody else.

  • Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves… (Romans 6:16)

Again, he’s talking in human terms.

  • …you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

So, we are either slaves to obedience or we are slaves to sin. Either way we are slaves and we have to obey something. Every man obeys something. One thing or the other; he is either obedient to the righteous requirements of God or he’s obedient to his sinful nature and what he wants to do. There’s no middle ground.

  • But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. (Romans 6:17)

You see, that is part of the whole problem. The preaching of today doesn’t require a man to obey anything. Even the way people come to Jesus Christ is “Sign the back of your Bible,” “Raise your hand,” or “Ask Jesus in your heart.” That’s about it. Oh, you know, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and a few basic things like that. But what does it say in verse seventeen that they wholeheartedly obeyed? They received the faith like Abraham so that when God explained the righteous requirements of fellowship with Him, they moved by faith into obeying everything God set down.

  • You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18)

  • Paul said in verse nineteen that he speaks in human terms, and that we all are literally slaves. Here are all the requirements of the Old Testament. Here are all the requirements of the New Testament and we are slaves to obedience in all of those things. We do that by faith which springs to life, by law and legalism that leads to death, or we become so liberal that we ignore all the requirements of God. In either case, two-thirds go to hell.
    I put this in human terms… (Romans 6:19)

He shouldn’t even have to talk this way. It’s not a question of slavery. It’s not like I see a commandment in the New Testament and say, “Oh man, now I’ve got to do this because I’m enslaved to all of this.” Obedience should be a thing of joy. Abraham didn’t complain, “Oh man, now I’ve got to get circumcised. I’m ninety-nine years old. I’ve got to circumcise my whole family. All of this just so I can go to heaven.” In that case, it’s nothing more than salvation by works. Putting it in human terms, reducing it down to a contract or to issues of slavery, when that is not the point at all.

  • I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. (Romans 6:19)

Paul basically said, “I have to explain this in such a baby fashion because you can’t just seem to grasp the concept that true faith obeys the living God and shares a loving, joyful relationship with Him.”

  • Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:19)

In other words, when we were in the world, we kept discovering new ways to sin and we were always looking for new ways to be impure in everything we did. We were enslaved to the sins that were our life. But when we come to Jesus Christ in true faith, when He forgives us and washes us clean, then we lay ourselves before Him and say, “Show me things I can be obedient in.” Ever increasing things that are pure. Ever increasing things that are holy.

  • When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (Romans 6:20)

In other words, the only person who is free from the righteous requirements of Scripture is someone who is still in his sin and wickedness. When you are slaves to sin, you are free from the control of righteousness. Those who look at the commandments, call them legalistic, and say they are free from having to live them, are still controlled and enslaved by their sin. It might be self-righteousness, it might be impurity, but they are still enslaved.

  • What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God… (Romans 6:21–22)

Again, I’m repeating it over and over again, but he reduced this down to human terms because they couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of true faith. He used a gross example. We should be appalled and say, “I’m not a slave, this is life! This is freedom! This is something joyful! To be obedient to God and pure in what I do and not to have a secret motive anywhere; that’s life and joy!”

  • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)

The last two parts are left out of liberal gospels; holiness and the result of eternal life. Most Christians think they just ask Jesus Christ into their hearts and they already have eternal life, they’re already in heaven. They do not walk in faith or let the Holy Spirit lead them step by step because they have already achieved everything they want from Jesus Christ, which is simply to go to heaven and that’s it. They are self-centered in their love of God. They want to get something from Him, but they don’t want to give anything to Him. The benefit you reap leads to holiness. In other words, I have become freed from my sin, forgiven by God and then, like Abraham, He leads me in steps of faithfulness and righteousness. As I grow closer and closer to God, what do I reap in the end? What is the result? Eternal life.

  • …you wholeheartedly obeyed… (Romans 6:17)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
That’s quoted everywhere. But not verse twenty-two. That’s why we see so few people, if any, working out their salvation with fear and trembling. When was the last time you talked to anybody who was afraid about their salvation in Christ Jesus? In fact, if you go around saying, “I’m afraid for my salvation. I’m working on my salvation. I sure hope I reap eternal life.” They will look at you as if you’re under legalism and bondage. They will say, “You don’t know the freedom, the joy, and the life that is in Jesus Christ.” That’s a demonic kind of faith. They believe that God exists, that there is a hell and a heaven, but exhibit no obedience or proof of true faith before the living God.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! (Romans 6:1–2)
I don’t know why men keep walking around this over and over again. Should we continue in our sin or should we continue ignoring Scripture? Should we take half of the New Testament, cut it out, and say it doesn’t apply? Paul said:

  • …by no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us that were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:2–3)

I mention that part because in most of these circles, baptism is considered a salvation by works issue. They have a wrong understanding of true faith in Jesus Christ. They think it’s just signing a contract or asking Jesus in their heart, but that’s about it. They don’t have to do anything else at all and they are free to continue on in their sin. Yet when Paul wrote about true faith in Jesus Christ, being crucified to sin, and being put to death in terms of our sinful nature, he pointed to baptism and to faith and actions working hand in hand together. From first to last, it is all by faith.

  • Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20)

He pointed out the obvious again. If you take all of the requirements of the law and try to live them out, you won’t be able to do it and you will not be declared righteous by trying to obey all of the things of the law. But that doesn’t mean that obedience has been done away with, yet that’s literally what they preach. Regarding this whole issue of legalism, they might as well stand up at the pulpit and say, “You don’t have to obey anything. When Jesus died on the cross, one of the things He delivered us from is obedience.”

By the way if you look up the definition of righteousness it not only means forgiveness but also obedience in Christ Jesus. If you see me being obedient in anything in Christ Jesus, I received that by faith. If I can hear the voice of the Lord and be obedient in terms of what God is working, I received that by faith. If you see me being able to perform anything that God asks me to do, whether preaching, teaching, or serving or whatever it might be, it is by faith that I received that obedience in my life. I do not have a false faith, a lying faith that lives a life of disobedience, but one that says, “I’m trusting God to forgive me anyway.” Who would want to go to a doctor like that where you go into the doctor’s office and he says, “You’re ill and sick. I forgive you for getting sick, but I can’t do anything to make you well.”?

  • But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gen- tiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:21–31)

I read all of that really to get to verse thirty-one, in order to make the obvious point that Paul said it’s not like God did away with the law. God upholds the law through us and fulfills it in us. He will make us more pure than the law demands. The next time a man tells you you’re “legalistic,” you need to tell him, “No, I’ve far surpassed that. I’m way past legalism, I can tell you that much.”

  • Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets… (Matthew 5:17)

That’s how these people preach this false faith. They claim that everything has been done away with. You need not be even concerned about it.

  • Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17–19)

Now if this pertains to the old Law, how much more to the New Testament? How many things do you point out to other people that we need to be obedient in? Do you ask how they are being obedient? They’ll say, “Oh, that’s legalism. You’re trying to earn salvation.” If the old Law won’t miss one single stroke or dotting of the “i,” how much more the New Testament?

  • …but whoever practices… (Matthew 5:19)

In other words, whoever is obedient. Remember Jesus Christ is talking. Mercy and grace is speaking. Love Himself declares what that covenant relationship with God means. He who “practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” When I stand before the living God and all my enemies turn and say, “He’s a legalist. He taught everybody to be obedient.” I might be called great in the kingdom of heaven. They would compliment me.

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

Take the whole law and look squarely at what it demands. You have to surpass every- thing that is written in that law if you want to go to heaven. Now come and tell me that God doesn’t demand obedience, or that faith doesn’t speak of being obedient to the living God. Jesus gives us an example of what He meant in verse twenty-one.

  • You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21)

It’s an obvious statement. It’s what the law declares. In verse twenty-two Jesus says you have to go beyond the law. You have to go way past being a legalist.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:22)

  • The old law says, “Do not murder,” but Jesus Christ, whom we put our faith in, says that we are not permitted to be angry with our brother in our flesh. To do so is to make ourselves accountable to the judgment of hell.
    Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But any-one who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22)

In other words, one is a legal requirement. If I slander somebody, by calling him an empty- headed jerk, he might be able to sue me for slander. I’m answerable to the Sanhedrin, to the local Pharisees or Sadducees. But Jesus Christ says, “Look, this is way beyond even those requirements. I’m going past the legal requirements of standing before a judge for something slanderous in nature. I’m saying that if you turn to any man and say, ‘You’re just a fool,’ you’re in danger of the fires of hell.” When Paul said that by no means is the law abolished, you’d better believe he meant it. That’s what true faith is. We have to far surpass the righteousness of the law.

  • Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. (Matthew 5:23–25)

I can’t tell you the number of people over the years that have something against me, or they think I’ve got something against them and their response is always, “I’ll let God sort it out when we stand before Him.” They think they will get off easier standing before the living God.

  • Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:25–26)

Once a man is in hell, he’ll never be able to pay up. Jesus Christ says that anyone in the body of Jesus Christ who is angry with his brother better be reconciled with that brother. He didn’t say to just go and offer forgiveness and say, “Sorry I did that.” You must be reconciled.

We are going through Romans because it is the book all these wide road people use who like to call us legalists and who try to excuse other people for being disobedient. So, let’s go to the book of Romans and see what Paul said. Let us stop allowing these people to take one or two little scriptures out of context and use it for their own selfish interests.

  • You, therefore, have no excuse… (Romans 2:1)

He doesn’t sound like a man who has a liberal attitude!

  • …you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Romans 2:1–3)

The answer of most churches today would be “Yep, because I’m covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. I have faith in the living God. So, yeah, I do the same things that they do, but we’re all sinners and none of us are perfect. Why should I reconcile with my brother? Why should I insist things are done right? Why should I be righteous? No one is perfect. So, yeah, I can escape judgment. I can say these things because nobody is totally perfect.”

  • Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Toward action, repentance, and obedience. It all comes from faith, but it is full of obedience. Look at verse five. Remember Paul wrote to Christians. He wasn’t talking to the local Hindus.

  • Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath… (Romans 2:4–5)

You see they didn’t really have faith. These people say they believe in Jesus Christ and act so concerned about legalism, but don’t really believe what God has to say, otherwise verse five would motivate them to do something. It would motivate them to be obedient. Read it again.

  • But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

He wrote to Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. And he used the word “you.”

  • God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Romans 2:6)

God will give to each person according to what he believes? No, according to what he has done. We are to be obedient unto action and, according to how much I am obedient with that faith, I will be rewarded.
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:7)

Oh, they whine and complain that this is salvation by works. “You’re saying in order to have eternal life I have to seek good and glory? I have to be persistent? I have to pursue immortality?” We say “Yes,” and they call that salvation by works. But that is exactly what Paul said.

  • But for those who are self-seeking… (Romans 2:8)

He wrote to those who would like to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, thinking that excuses them from being obedient to what Scripture says. “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth…” For those who look at commandments, anywhere in Scripture, and say “We don’t have to do that” or “We’re excused from that.” For those who reject the truth and follow self, there will be wrath and anger.

No man can reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then reject the truth without consequences.

  • There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil… (Romans 2:9)

What did Paul say over and over again? He spoke about action, and what they did with their lives. It’s what James said, “Show me your faith, and I’ll show you my faith by what I do, not by talk. I’ll show you my life.”

  • …but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 2:10)

It comes down to action. It comes down to faith moving in obedience. If Abraham would have said, “Thank You for this relationship. Thank You for Your mercy. I really believe and trust You’ll save me and let me come into heaven. That feels really good. I’ll sit down in my tent. Circumcision is not really a big issue. That would be salvation by works. I would be earning a relationship. Right, God?” he would have perished in his sin. This following scripture is quoted often also.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man… (Romans 8:1–3)

Paul simply stated that the law cannot make anyone righteous. The law came with all of its demands and requirements. Man tried to be obedient to those laws and it only proved that man did not have the capacity, the strength, or the power to do what the law commanded. So, something else had to come along. That’s what it means to be born again. To receive a nature that can be obedient. To receive a nature that has the grace that comes from heaven in order to enable a man to be obedient to God. Titus 2:11 tells exactly what the grace of God is. Sure, part of the definition is that it is a grace that forgives us, but the other half of the definition is that grace enables me to be obedient to God. I may not like everything He calls me to do and it may crucify more of my flesh, but the power exists if I willingly accept it. That’s the big question each man has to answer. If they excuse themselves saying, “I can’t do it” or “I don’t know how to do it”—what they really mean to say is, “I don’t want to do it.”

  • For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age… (Titus 2:11–12)
    Even a casual reading of this speaks of obedience.

  • …while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:13–14)

Whenever you present something to somebody that they need to obey and they call you a legalist, you need to ask, “Why don’t you walk by grace? Why do you refuse the grace of God?” Then take them to Titus where it says those who are touched by the grace of God are eager to discover what they can obey in Jesus Christ. They love to open up the Bible to discover one more new thing they can obey. Just several months ago, the Lord brought to us by grace from Scripture that when an elderly man walks into the room, we should stand up. We found that to be a treasure—at least those who are younger found it a real joy to obey.

  • These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. (Titus 2:15)

This is the grace of God. This is true faith. It comes down to obedience.

  • Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2:15)

Let people whine and complain that this is legalism and I will tell them they are missing the grace of God. Come and show me how to be obedient, but don’t tell me nothing applies. I want to know how it all applies today and how I can live it by faith. I love Paul’s attitude here in Romans.

  • What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteous- ness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. (Romans 9:30–32)

Paul said the fault wasn’t with the law, but with the people who sought to pursue it as if it were a law. They didn’t come to God in terms of faith, so God was not able to work within them the requirements of the law.

  • They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:32)

Only in Jesus Christ is this made clear.

  • As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33)

We will never be put to shame because God will work within us the obedience necessary to surpass the law. The difference is how a man obeys. They took the law and discounted faith, and then sought to fulfill that law. By the way, most people do that with the gospel of Jesus Christ. They use the word “faith” because they know that’s what Scripture says to do. However, most sermons, books, and discussions about how to be obedient to Jesus Christ just lay out principles. You might as well set up five laws. As a matter of fact, you can find books with titles like, “Ten Laws to Happiness.” Funny how when it’s positive things people like to hear, then it’s not legalism. It’s only the negative things they don’t want to obey that are legalistic.

We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:14–15)
He pointed us back to the Israelites out in the desert where they were disobedient. Paul, in the book of Romans, never excused obedience. He never said, “We don’t have to do those things.”

  • Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? (Hebrews 3:16–17)

If the issue is this heavy legalism, then why did he point us back to the law for an example of what not to do? Because Paul knew that those who are under faith have the power to be obedient if they will truly come before God.
And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? (Hebrews 3:18)
I want you to circle that word “disobeyed” if you haven’t already got it highlighted, because look at verse nineteen and see how the two go hand in hand. See how God sneaks in these two scriptures the whole concept of faith and obedience working together.

  • So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)

In verse eighteen they couldn’t enter because they disobeyed and in verse nineteen it says they could not enter because of unbelief. They are one in the same. A man who truly does not believe God will not be obedient and will not have the power to obey.

  • Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. (Hebrew 4:1)

It is never a question of obedience that makes one a legalist. It’s how a man obeys that makes him a legalist or not. The man who makes excuses and says we shouldn’t be obedient is just a rebel. We should be asking and looking to see who is obedient. Who seeks God? In fact, give me a legalist. I can teach him about the Spirit, so there’s some hope. However, the one who is liberal and doesn’t really care and excuses himself can’t ever be convinced he should do anything for God.

  • For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… (Romans 14:17)

The emphasis today is always on peace and joy, but not righteousness. Even when they happen to discuss obedience it’s so wide, so easy, and so broad that anybody could obey. Even the world could come up to that standard.

  • …because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:18)

The kingdom of God is, first of all about righteousness, and then peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It’s all by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, but it doesn’t remove obedience. In fact, it has obedience in it. That’s the freedom and the joy that God gives me the power to obey.

  • I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way… (Romans 16:17)

Watch out for those people who come in shouting “Legalism!” but give you no alternative. If a man shouts “Legalism!” then you say, “Give me the alternative and give it to me now because I want to be obedient today by faith.”

  • I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. (Romans 16:17)

We’ve just read through Romans and what it means to come to the grace of God. What did Paul say to do in verse seventeen? He said to keep away from them. You can’t fellowship with people who are in the wide gate or who are the true legalists.

Chapter Links

  1. Glorify God at Work
  2. Holy Spirit and His Voice
  3. God is Good
  4. The Most Important Sermon
  5. Do You Want to Be Made Well?
  6. Let Your Lifeboat Go
  7. Missed Chances
  8. Crossing the Jordan
  9. Obedience from Faith
  10. Mercy


The Consider Podcast attempts to express opinions through God’s holiness. Nothing concerning justice or injustice should be taken as legal advice or a call to action. There is no political agenda. There is no individual moral life advice. Indeed, each person is solely responsible before God and man for their actions or inactions. The Consider Podcast is narrowly focused on one thing, and only one thing – the need for all to surrender to a life of repentance according to the whole gospel.

The Consider Podcast
Examining today’s wisdom, folly and madness with the whole gospel.

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