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I've read a ton about obedience in the bible and I realize that we have a responsibility to obey Jesus Christ. As it says in 2 Timothy 2:19 "God's foundation stands firm, sealed with his inscription. Anybody that professes the name of Christ must repent of their wickedness"

There's really no way around this. However, when I begin to speak about our responsibility to obey Jesus people begin to tell me that I am trying to follow the law or work for my salvation.

I know that neither of these will earn my way into God's grace, however, I still understand that I have a responsibility.

Where do you draw the line? What do we have to obey and what do we not have to obey?

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There's also "26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works." ~James 2:26 –  El'endia Starman Aug 23 '11 at 19:45
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@El'endia: If a body doesn't breathe, it's a sign of death. Likewise for faith. That means that, like a living body will automatically (you cannot suffocate yourself by holding your breath) breathe, faith will beget works. It's not a requirement, it's an effect. Very important distinction. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 29 '11 at 13:14
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8 Answers 8

up vote 22 down vote accepted

It's easy to get tripped up trying to figure out what you should or shouldn't do, but I find the below very helpful in getting right to the heart of the matter and really the heart of God.

Matthew 22:37-40

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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+1 because it's the core of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and everything... it's 42, if you will ;-) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 29 '11 at 13:15
    
@Jürgen: Haha 42! I've never heard that used in a Christian context, but I like it. –  styfle Sep 7 '11 at 4:42
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@sty You could also, a little more serious, say that God is 42... he is the answer to life, the universe, to... everything. :D –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 8 '11 at 0:21
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Yes - but which of them is a matter of debate

Since I already did a lot of work to answer To what extent does the Law of Moses still apply? I'm going to adapt that answer here, too. Similarly, I'll list and briefly describe some of the more common views along with sources.

Catholic

The Catholic Church teaches that the Law of Moses (the Old Law) is a preparation for the Gospel, and as such no longer binding. The New Law (the Law of Gospel) is a perfection of it, given through faith in Christ.

The Law of the Gospel, which applies to Christians, is presented in the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but also in the moral catechesis of the apostolic teachings, such as Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Colossians 3-4, Ephesians 4-5, etc.

God's Law has always remained the same, and has always been available as the natural moral law (e.g. through conscience), but only Jesus could express it perfectly.

Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second edition. Paragraphs 577-582 and 1950-1986. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm

Reformed

The reformed teaching is that the law was given in three parts:

  • The moral law, which God gave first to Adam, and later to Moses on Sinai (the Ten Commandments).
  • Ceremonial laws, given to the people of Israel, prefiguring Christ.
  • Judicial laws, given to the State of Israel.

The moral law is eternal, binding Adam, the first man, as well as any Christian today. Ceremonial laws were abolished in the New Testament. Judicial laws only concerned the State of Israel.

As noted, the moral law was delivered to Moses as the Ten Commandments. Thus the Ten Commandments apply to Christians today as such. Of other laws in the OT, the moral component applies. Moral laws given in the New Testament are also part of the eternal moral law, and meant for Christians of today.

Source: Westminster Confession, chapter XIX. http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XIX.html

Theonomy

Theonomy literally means "God's law". It is the notion that God's law is eternal and universally binding. That is, the entire Bible applies to Christians today. Every law God has given us is meant to be obeyed.

This doesn't mean that salvation comes by keeping the law, as theonomy is often misrepresented. Salvation is granted "solely by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ".

Psalm 119:97-98 (KJV) is a good verse to show what theonomy is about:

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

Source: Duncan, T.M. Theonomy: What it is; what it is not. http://www.ipc.faithweb.com/documents/THEONOMY.htm

Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism makes a distinction between Israel and the Christian church in God's plan. Its major objective is to be able to interpret the Bible consistently literally.

Dispensationalists recognize seven dispensations in the Bible:

  1. Innocence (Genesis 1:1–3:7)
  2. Conscience (Genesis 3:8–8:22)
  3. Human government (Genesis 9:1–11:32)
  4. Promise (Genesis 12:1–Exodus 19:25)
  5. Law (Exodus 20:1–Acts 2:4)
  6. Grace (Acts 2:4–Revelation 20:3)
  7. The millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6)

The different dispensations are different ways that God has related to people. Salvation has always been through faith.

As today's Christians are living during the dispensation of grace, or during the New Covenant, the old laws or the Old Covenant do not bind them. Because God and His will do not change, the moral law of the New Covenant hasn't notably changed from the Old Covenant.

The Old Testament thus is not for Christians. Laws expressed in the epistles are part of the dispensation of grace, and thus apply to Christians. Laws stated by Jesus are not, and thus are not really meant for Christians but for Jews. (Though I expect there to be a small minority of dispensationalists saying otherwise.)

Source: What is dispensationalism and is it biblical? http://www.gotquestions.org/dispensationalism.html (I'd like to find a better/more original source)

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+1 great explanation of different viewpoints –  Bob Black Sep 4 '11 at 2:09
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What does it mean to "have to" obey God's laws?

I "have to" show up to work, or I will lose my job. I "have to" grow old (I have no choice in the matter).

The binding of God's laws to Christians falls into neither of these categories. It is neither the case the disobedience negates salvation nor that we are unable to sin.

That said, the law is sometimes said to have several "uses" (in different formulations, depending on your background). One formulation has the following:

  1. Civil, for the restrain of sin among Christians and non-Christians alike.
  2. Pedagogical, pointing out our sin and bringing us to Christ's grace.
  3. Normative, showing us how to live our lives.

All of these uses apply to Christians; the law keeps order, shows us Christ's mercy, and guides us to live Christian lives in a God-honoring way.

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Paul made the role of the Law of Moses clear in his epistle to the Galatians:

19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

From this, we see that the Law was the "schoolmaster" given to bring us unto Christ. In fact, the Law was given to show us how foolish it is to try and merit or otherwise deserve God's love and salvation. It's impossible. By inspecting ourselves in the light of the Law, we see that we are sinners and that we come short of the glory of God, however hard we try. We cannot be righteous by our own efforts. And so the Law brings us to Christ, the only solution to our sin.

Christianity is in this regard unique. In all religions, men thrive to be righteous by their own power and efforts in order to please God. By accomplishing the Law and dying for us, Jesus freed us from it, so we are not to try and deserve God's love and salvation, but accept his mercy and grace as a free gift, unrelated to all our efforts.

The Law being what drives us to Christ, we are not required to follow it anymore, since through the Holy Spirit, the Law is now written in our hearts, fulfilling the promise of Jeremiah 31:33:

33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

In fact, Paul warned the Galatians against coming back unto the Law after having received the Spirit, and called them foolish for doing so (Galatians 3 again):

1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Now as El'endia pointed out, James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead:

26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

which expresses that a living faith will bear fruit, seens through good works, but does not mean we ought to make efforts to follow the Law of Moses, as pointed by Paul in Galatians.

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+10 if I could. :D –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 29 '11 at 13:23
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In studying Scripture , we must be careful to avoid making category errors, assigning properties and attributes to a situation meant to be assigned to a different situation. In 1 John, it says those born of the Spirit cannot sin. But if we do sin, if we confess our sin, Christ is faithful and will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Obviously the writer is talking about different situations, different uses of the word sin.

What Law (Torah) does

There was no moral law in the Garden, so where there is no law, no transgression takes place. You could say Adam could commit murder and still not be guilty (a parallel seen in the situation of minors in modern society, who commit adult crimes: they have immunity). The only act capable of incurring death, separation from God was choosing to judge good and evil, be autonomous, like God, but a huge task, something they were not equipped for. Still huge, BTW.

After the Fall, Adam was placed in a world where moral law existed and was enforced. Now there is no immunity. Even when men do not commit Adam's sin, choosing autonomy, they still suffer death, separation from God. TRANSGRESSION has appeared.

The Law was given because of this transgression which leads to separation from God. Those who believed God requires moral rectitude (even without Torah, such as the righteous Gentiles) were given protective custody, (the pedagogos was the trusted family servant who ensured safety till shelter was reached, till Christ came). There was no separation from God for those who observed the law, but there was also no provision for eternal life. Moral living, meeting the requirements of the Law, Torah, provides protection from separation from God, both to Jew and Gentile alike, with or without the Torah. Torah was given because of the appearance of law, post Fall, which brings transgression into play.

Eternal living was only possible when Jesus came, who provided it, in addition to immunity.

Eternal life is the Garden life. Immunity from moral law, of which Torah is a subset (in moral law, even looking at a woman lustfully is sin, and divorce is not allowed. It's a superior law, the bar of which has been raised, as seen in the Sermon on the Mount).

You are not under the jurisdiction of the moral law, compliance is not required, it's penalties blunted. You were once enslaved to it , not as in addicted, but rather coming under its whip. You can now commit adultery or do drugs with impunity , but that would lead to slavery, addiction. You would then come under God's wrath, explained as the termination of your opportunity to successfully serve God, and to thus receive eternal life in the world to come.

Why not instead be a slave to Christ, who has provided immunity, empowerment through the Holy Spirit leading to putting to death the sins of the body through the Spirit leading to the privilege of participating in Christ's ministry, the ability to offer a perfected sacrifice.

The law to be obeyed then is the Royal Law, the Law of Liberty and Love, the law of doing the works God has given you to do, to confirm the Gospel you share.

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Do you have some textual justification for this interpretation, particularly regarding the assertion that there was no moral law before the fall? I would have assumed that any rule/requirement placed on any human would count as moral law (even if it differed from rules placed on other people later). –  mojo Dec 17 '13 at 6:06
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Paul laid it out clearly the moral sins that lead to death. They are based on old testament commands. They are our fence lines on the road to life eternal. Love is in the center of the road.

Riding the ditch is bumpy and dangerous.

Paul also added, Romans 7, You know by the law....a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives , but, then says, In Romans 7:4, the wife (figuratively) dies. "Ye are become dead to the law that ye should be married to another." Christ died to free us from ..... Laws which are not sins unto death.

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"Paul laid it out clearly the moral sins that lead to death." Where? –  David Crookes Jan 7 at 12:59
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Your salvation is a result of your belief in Jesus Christ. What others may say or think is irrelevant. We do not have to guess what law we are to keep; the immutable ten commandments. Three times in the book of Revelation they are spoken of.

Revelation 12;17

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 14;12

Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus

Revelation 22;14

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

In our own strength,we cannot keep the commandments, no more than Paul could keep the law. But ; Romans 9;37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Because we are saved, the Holy Spirit works through us for God's purpose.

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Q: Do we have to obey the laws of the bible? If so, what laws?

Religious groups require obedience to some biblical laws if you want to continue as a member of that Church. These vary from Religion to religion. In order to join the early church a new "gentile" convert had to agree to abide by the Seven laws of Noah, even if he could not accept Judaism's "laws."

The Seven Laws of Noah were recognized by the United States Congress in the preamble to the 1991 bill that established Education Day in honor of the birthday of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Chabad movement: Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws. [from wikipedia.]

Any "gentile" who lived these laws of Noah, was considered by the Hebrews to be equal to a High Priest in righteousness.

God does not demand that we obey any "laws," we are asked to love God above all else. The laws are rules given to "children" who do not yet have "the laws written on their hearts;" do not yet recognize "The Christ within them." Until that time they need a teacher who will explain what it means to love God. When you become mature in the Faith, and love God with all your heart, body, mind and soul, and have become "perfect" as Paul has said, you no longer need the teacher, as Paul has said.

You always have a choice whether to follow the rules or not. The rules are "natural laws," which if you try to break them have a consequence of their own. As Steven R. Covey said ( I have met him) in "The seven habits of highly effective people," "When you pick up one end ot the stick, the other comes with it."

The greatest gift that God gave to Adam was that of choice. Whether you are willing to follow natural laws is your choice. A happy life ensues if you follow those that pertain to your life.

At the final judgement, Christ is going to ask you whether you have given water, food and clothes to His brethren. And whether you visited His Brethren when they were sick, or in prison (spiritual.) He is not going to ask you what Religion you follow or which laws you broke.

An Anglican scholar.

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-1; This doesn't answer the question. –  Ryan Frame Jun 22 '13 at 1:03
    
Ah, I see. I made a mental leap here. I will have another go at it. –  Waeshael Jun 23 '13 at 13:32
    
And so you know, you can add links to your posts by using the [link text](link address) combination; for example, Seven Laws of Noah becomes Seven Laws of Noah. This makes it easier to show (and check) references. –  Ryan Frame Jun 23 '13 at 16:18
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protected by El'endia Starman Apr 3 '13 at 7:01

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