1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17–18, NKJV)
Obedience to God springs from the heart. Otherwise, it is not obedience at all, only an empty shell of pretense, self-righteousness, and vain ritual (Matt. 6:1-18; Lk. 18:9-14; 6:46). Today’s passage explains we are set free from sin when we obey the gospel (“that form of doctrine”) from the heart. Unquestionably, obedience is essential for salvation from sin. Now, back to the heart and our obedience. Scripture teaches the heart is the source of obedience to God. Belief is the result of the word of God acting upon the heart, and without faith, obedience does not occur (Rom. 10:10, 16-17). Love is an action of the heart (will) that Scripture shows to be obedience, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jno. 5:4). Love itself is obedience to God. Without the heart, obedient love is impossible. The fear of God resides in the heart that keeps God’s commandments (Eccl. 12:13). Faith, love, and the fear of God spring from the heart as necessary traits of obedience. Do not try to separate your heart from your obedience. Every attempt to do so results in faithless, loveless, irreverent, and futile attempts to please God.
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36, NKJV)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36). Like the psalmist, let us pray for understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now, let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts “to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are, then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God with your whole heart.
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–3, NKJV)
This passage draws our attention to obeying the gospel and fellowship with the Spirit of God. 1) Obeying the truth of the gospel is wise. False teachers (who were binding the law of Moses on Gentiles for salvation) had charmed the Galatian Christians into foolish disobedience. Adding to the gospel continues to be foolish disobedience. 2) Gospel preaching of the crucifixion of Jesus leads to obeying His truth (Lk. 6:46). The gospel publicly displays the crucified Christ and persuades believers to obey His gospel to be saved. The Old Testament revealed the Abrahamic promise of blessing, and the law of Moses was added to identify and restrain sin, and bring souls to Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-19, 22-25). 3) We receive the Spirit by gospel obedience (Acts 2:37-38). We receive the Spirit’s blessings by hearing and obeying the faith (gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:13-14). Fellowship with the Spirit does not come by obeying the law of Moses, by Holy Spirit baptism and present-day miracles, or by subjective experiences. Do not be bewitched by false gospels that cast aside hearing and obeying the gospel for experiences. Hear, believe, and obey the gospel to receive the Spirit’s blessings.
47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:47–48, NKJV)
Many Bible teachers say believers “should not be baptized” for salvation. Others confidently forbid water baptism for salvation, but then teach it is necessary to obey Jesus. This doublespeak fails to see the biblical link between water baptism and salvation. Does it harmonize with the Scriptures to separate water baptism from salvation while also commanding it as a mark of loyalty to Christ? No, it does not. The Bible answer is clear; Obedience by believers is essential to being saved by Christ. Scripture says, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). Christ saves those who obey Him. Peter had just preached that “in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). To work righteousness is nothing less than to obey the gospel (Rom. 6:17-18). If it is proper to exclude (forbid) the command of baptism from salvation, then no amount of obedience bears on one’s salvation (including “Lordship baptism”). Yet, Scripture affirms that saving faith includes obeying the commands to confess one’s faith, to repent of sins, and to be baptized. These works of righteousness are obeyed by believers who want to be saved (Rom. 10:9; Acts 17:30; Acts 2:37-38). And, Jesus saves them (Heb. 5:9).
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98, NKJV)
It is self-evident from a casual reading of Psalm 119 that this psalmist had a deep relationship with the word of God. He magnifies and extols its virtues and benefits, its blessings and advantages, its supreme authority, and its unwavering reliability. Like the psalmist, we must love God by loving His law (Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46). At a time when many say “law” and “commandments” are hindrances to grace and liberty, respect for and obedience to the law and commandments of God is the very foundation of loving God and being favored by Him (Jno. 14:15; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:3-6). God’s law is on the mind of the person who loves Him – “all the day.” Let God’s word be your constant companion by reading it, learning it, and pondering it. Without knowing God’s law, we cannot keep it or be made wiser from it. The inspired word of God teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, completely furnishing us to do God’s work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word surpasses the vain wisdom of men, giving insight, discernment, and understanding to withstand sin’s temptations (1 Cor. 1:25). When, O when, will we so love God’s law and commandments that they are our constant meditation? When we do, we will love Jesus the way He says we must, by keeping His commands (John 14:15).
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15, NKJV)
What Jesus said in today’s passage is easily understood. “If” marks it as a conditional statement, with a result to follow when the condition is met. The condition is “love Me.” When we love Jesus the effect or result is that we keep His commandments. Obedience is the result of loving Jesus. Notably, “love” is a verb in this statement. Loving Jesus is active. Therefore, loving Jesus is not a feeling that warms us on the inside even as we are disobedient to His will in our actions. Simply put, Jesus said our love for Him is shown by our obedience to Him. If I am not obeying Jesus, then I am not loving Him the way He wants to be loved. To keep His commandments we must know them. Undoubtedly, that is why His apostles said to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). God has communicated His will to us through His Son Jesus, and the New Testament is that message (Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 14:37). We must listen to God’s word to believe and obey the commands of Jesus (Rom. 10:17). When we come to faith through God’s word, our faith compels us to love Jesus by keeping His commandments. Far from trying to earn God’s grace, obeying Christ from the heart is a full expression of loving submission to Jesus. We need faith that listens to the word of Jesus, and love that obeys Him. This is the obedience to Christ that saves us from sin in order to become a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Do you love Jesus? Then, keep His commandments.
“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,” (Acts 5:14, NKJV)
Believers were added to the Lord. What does it mean to be “added to the Lord?” Is belief in Jesus the only thing needed to be “added to the Lord?” First, being added to the Lord describes a new relationship one has with Christ. Acts 11:21 says “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” So, this shows believing is distinct from turning to the Lord. (The text goes on to say many others were added to the Lord, Acts 11:24). One can believe and not turn to the Lord. For instance, demons believe, but obviously they are not added to the Lord (Jas. 2:19). Many believed in Jesus but they loved the praise of men more that pleasing God, and so they did not confess faith in Jesus (Jno. 12:42-43). They were not added to the Lord. The person with an obedient faith who repents of sin, confesses faith and is baptized into Christ is added to Christ (Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:37-38, 40; Rom. 10:9-10). These are saved and added to the body of Christ, His church (Acts 2:47). To be added to the Lord is equivalent to being saved, to being “in Christ,” and to being added to the church. Have the faith to obey Jesus, and be added to the Lord.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36, NKJV)
It is unfortunate the King James translators in 1611 used “believeth not” in the second part of this sentence. The New King James version followed suit, using the more modern, “does not believe.” But, the word in the Greek manuscript is apeitheō, which means “disobey” (BDAG), as in Romans 2:8 where the KJV and NKJV translate it, “do not obey” the truth. When the word is thus translated, John 3:36 takes on a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV, see also, NASB). Obedience is necessary to have everlasting life. Since the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son “shall not see life,” we properly conclude that believing in the Son takes more than faith alone. Surely this why Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Believers obey Jesus. Those who reject Him are “disobedient (apeitheō) to the word” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Demons believe, but faith alone will not give them eternal life (Jas. 2:19-20). Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life precisely because they trust and obey Him. The disobedient shall not have life, but punishment (Matt. 25:46). Have the faith to obey Jesus, and you will see everlasting life.