Within our fellowship we have historically (and rightly, I believe) emphasized the role obedience plays in our relationship with God. “Faith only” is a farce-always has been and always will be. God does not ascribe much value to merely believing he exists. Hell’s demons do that much. (James 2:19). In fact, the Bible says that only a fool would claim, “there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1).

That said, however, I think that we need to constantly check the real motivation behind our obedience. Does the Bible teach that our obedience is the means by which we obtain a right relationship with God? In other words, does human obedience produce human redemption? I don’t think so.

The truth is that throughout the Bible (i.e., “from Genesis to the maps”) obedience always follows redemption. Even as God was giving his people the Ten Commandments he made it clear that he had already redeemed them from slavery. (Exodus 20:2). All of God’s actions toward his creation, including the giving of laws and then demanding that they be obeyed, have to do with the reclamation of creation. However, God initiates and secures that reclamation. Once redemption is secured, God invites his creatures to reenter a peaceful, stable, healthy, and prosperous relationship with him. That peaceful relationship can only be enjoyed by those who obey God and who understand the role that their obedience plays in the relationship.

God gives us the reason for human obedience: fullness of life based upon relationship with him. The concern of religion is never to “lay down the law,” nor is it to convey the idea that we obey “merely because God says so.” We obey because we have been persuaded that to obey God is eminently reasonable; any right-thinking person could hardly do otherwise, especially after having caught the profound implications of God’s redemption. To obey God is to trust God, to trust God is to love God, and to love God is to value relationship with him (rather than a set of rules, rituals, or habits).

Obedience is critical. Without it we can have no relationship with God. By it we nurture and express relationship in abundant living. However, we must never be so arrogant that we believe that our obedience produces our redemption. God’s goodness produces our reclamation; our obedience is merely a reasonable response.