Obedience Leads to Life
“The Eternal your God you shall follow, him you shall revere, his commands you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him shall you worship, and to him shall you be loyal.”—Deut. 13:4, Mo.
1. What is the requirement of Jehovah for one to gain everlasting life?
JEHOVAH the Creator is the source of all life. He gives it to whom he pleases and takes it away from those not worthy. No creatures on earth can claim possession of life, for they have it only as long as they exist, though some do have it by promise. All sane persons want to live on forever, and always since man’s disobedience brought the penalty of death the question has been asked similar to the one put to the Lord Jesus Christ by a man well versed in Jewish law: “By doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” In answering Jesus questioned him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read?” In answer he said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,” and, “your neighbor as yourself.” He said to him: “You answered correctly; ‘keep on doing this and you will get life.’” (Luke 10:25-28, NW) Here then is stated concisely and correctly the command of Jehovah, and those obedient to it will obtain life and live forever. Do we really desire everlasting life? How much would we give to secure it? Are we prepared to obey God’s commandments to the full so as to inherit it? No creature will get it unless he pleases God and receives His approval. It is also true that no one will be approved unless he is obedient.
2. Define obedience, give examples and Scripture proof.
2 We may ask, Just what does obedience mean, and what is involved in our obedience? It actually means a compliance with commands, a readiness to perform that which is required or directed by authority, a dutifulness. Obedience is a divine requirement and includes a joyful, willing submission to do the will of God. Since the beginning of creation Jehovah God has always required and rewarded complete obedience. When he created the righteous world he performed it through spirit agencies under the direction of Christ Jesus in his prehuman state. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him.” (Col. 1:15, 16, NW) Also carrying out Jehovah’s will were angels numbering “ten thousand times ten thousand”. (Dan. 7:10) Yet with all these marvelous creatures there was perfect harmony at the beginning. God does not have to force obedience, but his commands are immediately obeyed. “For he spake and it was, he commanded, and it stood forth.” (Ps. 33:9, Ro) This is borne out by the record from the beginning: “God said, Light be. And light was.” (Gen. 1:3, Ro) On this the first morning of creation God’s commands were completely obeyed, and so the record of obedience to his expressed purpose continues one creative day after another. Jehovah requires something done. He commands, someone hears and readily and willingly obeys. Co-operation in the works of God is revealed by the statement: “Let us make man.” (Gen. 1:26) This is not an example of a speaker speaking of himself in the plural, addressing his words to himself as if a plurality of persons, for such plurality is not shown in the scriptures where God is speaking of himself. But Jehovah does communicate to his Son and the other spirit creatures of what he purposes to do, so giving them an interest in the matter. This means Jesus Christ, as the Logos, and the millions of angelic creatures were co-operating together in complete harmony and perfect joyful obedience in working the works of God. All these services were completed on time and this loving obedience brought great pleasure to Jehovah. “Bless the LORD, ye his angels, mighty in strength, that execute his word, hearkening unto the voice of his word.”—Ps. 103:20, Le.
3. (a) How did God state his commands to the first man and theocratic nation at their beginning? (b) Explain some of the beneficial results from obedience.
3 At the beginning of man’s existence God commanded obedience from him. “Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17, AS) During Adam’s short period of obedience he had a clear and clean conscience; he was neither afraid nor ashamed. Obedience meant peace, protection, happiness, harmony with God, and life. When he was driven out of Eden for disobedience then obedience was seen in the cherubim who guarded the way to the tree of life, so man could not reach it. (Gen. 3:24) Also, at the time Jehovah first created a nation he was very specific in his requirement for obedience. “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God, which I command you this day; and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God.” (Deut. 11:26-28, AS) Obedience also brings blessings and friendship with God. “And Jehovah said, Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do? For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken.” (Jas. 2:23; Gen. 18:17, 19, AS) Obedience also brings salvation, for at the time of the flood Noah, his family and pairs of living creatures were commanded by Jehovah what to do. The commands were obeyed, and salvation came as a result. Then Jehovah proves his people by obedience. “It is the Eternal your God testing you, to see whether you really love the Eternal your God with all your mind and all your heart. The Eternal your God you shall follow, him you shall revere, his commands you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him shall you worship, and to him shall you be loyal.” (Deut. 13:3, 4, Mo) Those who are to be Jehovah’s people must be obedient. “This day thou art become the people of Jehovah thy God. Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of Jehovah thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes.” He promises to regather the scattered ones if obedience is manifested: “And thou . . . shalt return unto Jehovah thy God, and shalt obey his voice . . . then Jehovah thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither Jehovah thy God hath scattered thee.” (Deut. 27:9, 10; 30:1-10, AS) This same De chapter 30 also promises to bring back the prisoners and dispersed to the land of promise, and that he will put curses on the enemies. These foregoing scriptures clearly show that obedience brings harmony and friendship with Jehovah, peace, salvation, testing for approval, release from oppression, and punishment upon the enemies of his own people. If then Jehovah God would do all those things for natural Israel, he will do greater things for spiritual Israel by reason of their full obedience to his commands.
OBEDIENCE FROM THE HEART
4. Describe Abraham’s obedience with Isaac, and the resultant blessing to him and to others.
4 Jehovah knows whether we are giving true obedience or not, and often he proves us to see if we are sincere. One of the most outstanding examples of this recorded in Scripture is that of Abraham. “God did prove Abraham; . . . And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” And Abraham showed his willing obedience, for he “rose early in the morning, and saddled his ass” and then on the third day he saw the place God had told him. When asked by Isaac where the lamb was for the burnt offering, Abraham replied: “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.” Willingly, without complaint or question, Abraham carried out Jehovah’s commands. He knew that it was Jehovah who had given the son and Jehovah could take him away. So Abraham took the knife to slay his only and very dearly beloved son, who lay bound on the altar. But before the blow fell, the voice of the angel of Jehovah called out to him, surely like the sweetest music he had ever heard: “Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” How little Abraham knew that the “eyes” of Jehovah had been watching him all the time, to see whether Abraham would be obedient to the end, and only when the blow was about to be struck did he intervene. Jehovah then declared: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Hence Abraham’s obedience produced, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, this promise which is broad and generous enough to take in the whole world.—Gen. 22:1-18, AS.
5. Offer Scriptural statements to reveal the complete obedience of God’s Son and what it means to his followers.
5 Then the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ is set for the guidance of all his followers who would obtain favor and life from Jehovah. It is written: “He emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:7, 8, NW) “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34, NW) “I seek not my own will but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30, NW) “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39, NW) Jesus was always obedient even before he suffered, but the proof that it was so must be shown in deed. He became a model of obedience to be rendered by all who follow. Suffer he did, though he was the beloved of God. Who, then, shall be free of suffering for righteousness’ sake, and who will complain while suffering? Our heavenly Father is pleased with a joyful, willing and ready compliance with his will. “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered, and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Heb. 5:8, 9, NW) No one is excepted. Hence it is of utmost importance that we be obedient or we shall never gain life.
6. (a) Jehovah gave what command to King Saul, and how did he carry it out? (b) What great lesson is taught by Saul’s conduct and Jehovah’s Word through Samuel?
6 The Lord Jesus was obedient from the heart. But examples are provided in Scripture of those who did not obey from the heart, and one of the most outstanding is the first appointed and recognized king of Israel, Saul. His experience demonstrates clearly that there may be outward obedience that is not a true indication of the heart’s sincerity and compliance with God’s will. Jehovah judges the real motive that inspires one to action. King Saul was commanded: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (1 Sam. 15:3, 19, AS) He did not carry out in completeness the command. In questioning him after the battle, Samuel said: “Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of Jehovah?” Saul excused himself that he had saved the king, Agag, probably to display him and then kill him, and then partly blamed the people. “But the troops took some of the sheep and oxen, the best of what had been doomed to destruction, for a sacrifice to the Eternal your God.” (1 Sam. 15:21, Mo) This was a paltry excuse, for it was self-evident Saul had not carried out the commands received. and to say the reason for not doing it was to offer sacrifice to Jehovah was not pleasing. So Samuel said: “Does the Eternal delight in burnt-offering and sacrifice as he does in obedience to his word? Obedience is better far than sacrifice, to heed him better than fat flesh of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22, Mo) Saul’s heart was not right and he was not obedient even though there was plenty of outward show. We cannot deceive Jehovah. Men judge far too often by external appearances. This fact is so well portrayed when Samuel went to the home of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, to anoint one of the sons to be king in Saul’s place. Samuel exclaimed, “Surely Jehovah’s anointed is before him,” when he looked upon Eliab. “But Jehovah said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart.”—1 Sam. 16:6, 7, AS.
7. What kind of obedience was really required, and how is Jesus Christ an example in this regard?
7 The nation of Israel walked in the same way as King Saul. It was obedience from the heart God required. Israel showed no disposition to attend to his counsel, and God well knew it. They never learned that Jehovah always laid greater stress upon sincere and willing obedience than on external observances. Paul, writing on the same matter to the Hebrews, says, “Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘“You did not desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt-offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.”’” (Heb. 10:5-7, NW) Here with singular beauty is expressed the heart condition of Christ Jesus and the great truth that all outward observances are valueless without obedience and the servant’s full concurrence in the will of God. Christ Jesus surrendered himself completely to the doing of God’s will. From henceforth all his mind, heart, soul and strength would be devoted to the accomplishment of Jehovah’s will. From this time forward he would claim no rights, for he was wholly dedicated to God’s holy service. Everything he had, all human hopes and ambitions, were all placed on God’s altar to be used in the precious ministry, and he gave them with gratitude of heart.
8. What are some of God’s commands for us today, and why must we obey?
8 Even as he always performed Jehovah’s command, we must do the same. The Scriptures bring to our attention the commands which in this time of the end we must obey in order to have his approval. If we disregard them we shall meet with his displeasure. For example, we are commanded to “declare good news to the poor, . . . to preach a release to the captives”; to “sing [praise] unto Jehovah”; to ‘bring good tidings, publish peace and salvation’; to ‘preach this good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth’; to ‘make a path for the returning exiles, bank up a causeway, clear out the stones; signal to the nations’; to “warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, . . . [lest he] die in his iniquity”; and to say “to them that are bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves”. (Luke 4:18, 19; Matt. 24:14, NW; Isa. 12:5, 6; 52:7; 62:10; Ezek. 2:3-5; 33:7-9; Isa. 49:9, AS) These are just a few of the many commands Jehovah God and Christ Jesus have laid upon the faithful ones. We cannot disobey. Faithful performance is mandatory. The Most High voices the instructions through the King Christ Jesus, and he, the greater-than-Moses, will see God’s will is done. The word from the throne of Jehovah in the heavens sounds to all God’s people today: ‘Hear ye him!’ Peter emphasized this by saying: “In fact, Moses said: ‘Jehovah God will produce for you from among your brothers a prophet like me. You must listen to him according to all the things he speaks to you. Indeed, any soul that does not listen to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people.’”—Acts 3:22, 23, NW.
JOYFUL AND WILLING OBEDIENCE
9. With whom is Jehovah pleased, and what question should we ask ourselves?
9 Those who obey Jehovah’s command with a joyful and willing spirit and who do not complain are the ones who please him. Such a person keeps his ears open to Jehovah’s commands and watches for opportunities of service. “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes look unto Jehovah our God.” (Ps. 123:2, AS) Such responsive hearts are delightful. Earthly parents find a great deal of pleasure in prompt and cheerful obedience, for it is rightly accepted as the measure of the child’s love. Their enforced obedience is not an expression of love. Strict disciplinary penalties for misconduct compel soldiers in armies to be obedient to their superiors, whether they like it or not. Servants have to be obedient to their masters, or some form of punishment results. Jehovah has endowed his human creatures with freedom to obey or disobey that thereby he may prove them, and rewards will depend upon joyful obedience. Each one, therefore, should ask himself the question, Am I joyfully and willingly obeying Jehovah’s commands?
10. Should one examine himself? How? Offer examples and show what should result.
10 Let us also remember that to perform this world-wide preaching service much equipment is necessary. For instance, literature and all forms of advertising are used, which means printing presses and other machinery to produce them. An organization created to operate in all parts of the world supervises and directs the Lord’s work now performed by hundreds of thousands of Christian people who have escaped this doomed evil system of things, and who now form one great unified congregation. So some are invited to share in such work as attending to tables, cleaning floors, windows, clothes, or operating machines, packing literature for shipment to other parts of the field, general maintenance, or on Kingdom farms. This is all necessary because these faithful slaves of the Lord have to be fed, housed, clothed, prepared for other duties and made responsible for the services which have to be performed in the field. Sometimes a person’s usefulness might be hindered by his own attitude toward the Lord’s work entrusted to him. He may have allowed his assignment to become commonplace, like any other job a person might obtain in the world. By losing sight of the grand privilege he has of demonstrating his love for Jehovah by willing, joyful service, he may be inclined to murmur and complain, or begin to think no one else works as hard or has as little time to himself. Perhaps it would be well for such a person to examine himself. Why should he be feeling sorry for himself? Did he not dedicate all he had to Jehovah? Is he not glad that his life is filled then with privileges of service to Jehovah? After sober consideration, he will be grateful that he has much to do. Is it not better that way than having too little? Of course it is! Let more come, for all we want to do is to serve Jehovah and not let discomforts or personal inconveniences interfere. Then and only then can we say Yes to the question, Am I joyfully obeying Jehovah’s commands?
11. When given more services, how should we view them? and how do we express ourselves to Jehovah for them?
11 It may be you are ministering as one of the servants in a congregation and you have been given added privileges of service on behalf of Jehovah’s people. How do you view them? Do you call them “added burdens”? And are you being weighed down with those “burdens”? Perhaps you think, “If only some of the other servants would do more, then my ‘burden’ would be easier,” and you do feel that you have so much to do, do you not? The others seem to leave everything for you to do, and you are beginning to feel it is not right. You should not have so much, while others apparently have so little. Why not first ask yourself, What are these “burdens”? Are they not the very precious privileges of Kingdom service that are entrusted to your care in this grand and glorious ministry? Actually is it not true that really in your heart you value these services given to you through the administration of the “faithful and discreet slave”, and that you truly want to render joyful and willing obedience? When you consider your privileges in the proper light, then they are not really “burdens”, but privileges, and Jehovah is proving us by how we accept and perform them. If this is your understanding, then how can you do anything else than thank the Lord for all he gives you to do, and render willing, joyful obedience with gratitude?
12. Why is it necessary to get a clear perspective concerning domestic trials?
12 Perhaps you are not rendering willing, joyful obedience in service because of domestic problems. It may be that your marriage mate does not see eye to eye with you in the truth, and much disagreement is being manifested. Possibly it has gone beyond this stage and in the home you are experiencing opposition, jealousy because of your devotion to the truth, vulgar threats, obscene language, talk of breaking up the home, even brutality mentally and physically. You may have concluded that it is just impossible to render joyful and willing obedience to Jehovah in view of these things. However, it is possible, and even more than that, it is absolutely necessary, that those who are enduring such hardship and trial get a clear perspective of their position. Otherwise they will not be able to serve Jehovah properly.
13. How is it possible to suffer in behalf of Christ in one’s home?
13 True it is that you cannot be happy with the conduct of those hurting you. Neither can you be joyful about the actual hurt you receive. But why is it? Can there be any possible reason for such experiences? Let us get behind the immediate present troubles and try to ascertain the reason, and what will be the result. Suppose you were to receive this harsh, cruel persecution from someone of the world while you were actually engaging in the preaching service. What would be your reaction? Without a doubt you would determine that these were the persecutions the Lord Jesus said you would have, and you would feel grateful that you had been counted worthy to bear these reproaches, “because to you the privilege was given in behalf of Christ, not only to put your faith in him, but also to suffer in his behalf.”—Phil. 1:29, NW.
14. To be obedient why is it so important to have Scriptural Christian grounds for our actions?
14 If then this unwarranted persecution comes to you, it is necessary to have a clear, balanced mind directed by the Lord’s spirit; otherwise some impetuous or foolish action might be deeply regretted because it was not according to the expressed will of Jehovah for his children. A spiritually immature person might conclude that persecution need not be borne from one’s marriage mate, and that would be justification for getting out of the situation. Such persons would profit if they reconsidered the matter, and tried to get the Christian viewpoint. (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10-13) There may be some justifiable reason for separation, such as divorce for adultery, or the one not in the truth deserting the one who is. What course should then be followed? The Lord Jesus said, “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you . . . for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.” (Matt. 5:10-12, NW) It is not a question of who it is that treats you in this way, whether in the home or out in the world, but rather why they do it, and how you treat them and the persecution.
15. How do we learn obedience by suffering? Why is it necessary?
15 If Jehovah God is proving you, how could you be fully tested unless you remained in the experience and learned obedience by suffering in the same way as our Great Teacher and Master? The Scriptural rule is that when we are persecuted we may not persecute in return. Whoever hurts us may not be hurt by us in retaliation. When evil, lying words are said against us we may not give back in the same coin. Why not? Because the proper mental attitude in such circumstances is thus described by Paul: “When being persecuted, we bear up; when being defamed, we entreat.” Furthermore, Peter counseled, “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go to reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go to threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” Paul also said: “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing.”—1 Cor. 4:12, 13; 1 Pet. 2:21-23; Rom. 12:14, NW.
16. What was the course Jesus Christ took when suffering? and what assurance is given to us?
16 There cannot be any doubt as to the purport of these scriptures and the course of conduct that should be followed. Then if we ‘continue to love our enemies and to pray for those persecuting us; that we may prove ourselves sons of our Father’, how can we complain and pour out our troubles to the nearest listening ear? Had you not thought of bearing the trial yourself? Did you ever read of Christ Jesus complaining to his closest companions about the trials his Father had permitted to come upon him? Or did he display displeasure and annoyance against the will of God? No, never did he do so! And why not? Because he “kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously”. It must therefore be recognized by all Jehovah’s people that our service calls for patient endurance, and patience means cheerful constancy. At times the trials you have will seem too hard to bear; but be confident, for it will not be so if you will obediently go on and keep committing yourself to the one who judges righteously. Paul knew what it meant and he comforted his brothers with these precious words: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13, NW) Mark clearly that Paul does not say that a way will be provided for you to get out of your trials, but rather to endure. Do not, therefore, run away from these experiences, or try to jump them. Rather have patience to endure.
17. If trials are properly endured, what is produced, and what have James, Peter and Paul to teach concerning them?
17 Those belonging to this evil system of things cannot understand this attitude, for to them it is a weak one. They would say, “Fight it out!” or “Get out of the situation!” No, the world will never comprehend what you are really doing, but you know. You appreciate how it proves you and that were it not for your love for Jehovah and Christ Jesus and his people you would not have these persecutions, and it is this realization that brings to you sweet comfort, happy rest and quiet assurance. The Lord Jesus expressed God’s promises that ‘they will inherit the earth’, ‘they will see God,’ ‘be called the sons of God and great will be the reward.’ But testing and proving must come first and discipline has to be endured. Paul says, “Consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls. But you have entirely forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.’”—Heb. 12:3, 5, 6, NW; see also Hebrews 12:11; 1 Peter 1:6, 7, and James 1:2-4.
18. How are these trials and sufferings related to obedience and life? and how is Jesus a model?
18 Then what will we do when meeting with the many trials today, in the face of such Scriptural admonition? Dare we complain? Must we try to run away from these problems and persecutions, or go to our brothers and keep on telling them what a hard lot we have? Surely not. Remember the word through Peter: “Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, while you cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6, 7, NW) Everyone must have that deep conscious satisfaction that the will of Jehovah is being done, and that there is complete submission to God’s will in the heart. There may be times when because of your trials tears will be in your eyes, but deep down in your heart you are grateful and even in the suffering you would not ask for it to be different. Be willing and joyful in your complete obedience to Jehovah’s purposes. When the Lord Jesus was suffering so cruelly before Herod and the Romans he would not have a smile on his face, because he was being hurt, but he knew he was drinking the cup his Father purposed for him to drink, and so “as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth”. (Isa. 53:7, AS) No murmuring, no complaints, obedient even to death, and obedience led to life. He is our model.