By Paige Hunt
One of the questions that many people have when confronted with the Gospel of grace is ‘how does obedience fit into this new covenant?’ or ‘how will you stop people from being apathetic and irresponsible, if it’s all about God’s grace?’ – It can be a scary and daunting thing to trust in God over and above our own efforts. This is why some subscribe to the Old Covenant way of thinking, the belief that the substance and root of faith is obedience. However, the Gospel of grace declares to us that the substance and root of faith is God’s grace, God’s obedience, God’s favor, and God’s unconditional, irrevocable love towards us.
The Scriptures declare to us repeatedly that we do not need to live with a long religious to-do list in front of our noses anymore, because in Christ, God has, will, and does take care of the details. In the New Covenant, obedience is a fruit of right believing, and not the root of faith – it is no longer about the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil, it is about the finished work of Jesus Christ, and our perfect, eternal union with him. Take 1 Peter 5:7 for example:
“casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” (AMP)
This Scripture presents to us a covenant where God takes care of all of the details. Our job is to sink into his detailed, watchful care of us, trusting him with the essence, details, and fruits of our Salvation. After all, it takes no faith to follow rules and regulations, or to subscribe to outward forms of religious obedience such as reading the Bible, but it DOES take faith to trust that God cares for us, that God is a personal God of love, and that his grace is sufficient for us in all areas of life – in areas of strength, and particularly areas of weakness (See 2 Corinthians 12:9).
So let’s look at the topic of obedience today, and how this fits specifically into the Gospel of grace. In the book of John, Jesus declared, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15, KJV) This trips a lot of people up, as it sounds like a demand. However, we must look at the Bible as a whole. Although we are often much more able to imagine God as a deity of demand and requirement, Jesus in his perfect sacrifice revealed to us that God is not as was pictured in the Old Testament – in the Old Testament we saw fragments of the Father’s true nature, yet Christ came to reveal God as the God of grace and love, eradicating the impartial image of God as a Being of wrath, demand, and legalistic pleasure (see Matthew 11:27-30). God is the God of supply. He is the Benefactor, and we are his thankful beneficiaries as we partake of the many blessings and riches of Christ’s finished work, and enjoy our union with his resurrection.
‘As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.’ – John 15:9-10, KJV
Let’s take another look at Jesus’ words about obedience. Here in John 15, Jesus clarifies that obedience is an overflow of receiving and abiding in God’s love. Jesus’ first words are: ‘As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love’. (KJV) In other words, we are able to cosy up in the Father’s unconditional, practical, detailed, lavish affections. As we do, we will effortlessly keep his commandments. Obedience is not a stoic demand; rather, it is all about recognising and partaking of our union with God through Jesus Christ, enjoying God’s limitless love and unconditional grace!
It is also interesting to note, as we allow the Bible to interpret the Bible, that God’s commandments are NOT the 10 Commandments depicted in the Old Testament. Without going into detail about this now, Jesus has completely shut down our obsession with being obedient to the Ten Commandments by declaring in John 6:29 that: ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.’ (KJV) In other words, obeying God’s commandments, and doing the ‘work of God’, is all about resting and trusting in Jesus Christ and his finished work. It flows effortlessly from seeing and depending on his love and unmerited favour. Galatians 5:6 articulates this well:
‘For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.’ (KJV)
I hope you are beginning to grasp by now that obedience under the New Covenant is all about embracing grace. Every gift, blessing, and manifestation of our righteous, holy nature in the New Covenant comes through receiving, and not through achieving. Obedience is a gift of grace, springing forth from a revelation of how much the Father loves us. Obedience is received, not achieved, so, even our achievements are received by, in, and through the finished work of Christ! Our lives are composed of grace through our Union with the Godhead.
Many other Scriptures declare these same truths, such as:
- ‘We love him, because he first loved us.’– 1 John 4:19, KJV
- ‘For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:’ – 2 Corinthians 5:14, KJV
- ‘”I tell you, her sins–and they are many–have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.’ – Luke 7:47, NLT
- ‘Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin’ – Romans 6:6, KJV
Obedience in the New Covenant is a fruit of receiving the love of God, and abiding in the revelation of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We were co-crucified and co-resurrected with him! (see Galatians 6:14).
One of the most powerful verses concerning the love of Christ is Ephesians 3:17-19:
‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.’ – Ephesians 3:17-19, KJV
It is not the degree to which you love God which determines the level of victory and power that you experience, or the level of obedience that you manifest. Rather, as you rest in how much God loves you, Scripture declares that you will be filled with all the manifest fullness of God. You do not have to depend on your own resources, on your love ‘for’ Christ, when God wants you to simply know and receive the love ‘of’ Christ. This is such good news!
[Look out for Part 2 next week. Subscribe to make sure you never miss a post]