[Note: this is a continuing part of a series reproducing a sermon. An explanation can be found here.]
In grappling with the place of obedience in the Christian life, the first thing to understand is that
I. Obedience is a part of the Christian life, but does not define the Christian life.
Living as a disciple of Jesus is something that has many layers, not one. The Christian life is not just ‘doing good’. A Christian is someone who sees himself as a part of God’s story, the story of sin and fall and redemption, who is trusting in Jesus’ work as that which brings him into a renewed and reconciled relationship with God.
And this passage reminds us that our hope is rooted in Jesus, and is lived out through anticipation of his return and through an intimate relationship with God. And this relationship with God is lived out through prayer, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, through love, and through obedience. This is all a part of this chapter. Clearly, obedience is a part of the Christian life, but does not define the Christian life. And both of these propositions we need to hold onto.
A. Obedience is a part of the Christian life.
When Paul says that we are ‘under grace, not under law’ he is not saying that there is no law to which the Christian life should conform. By grace Christ saves us and by grace he changes us, and his commandments are integral to both of those actions.
We see this in John’s writings as well. Grace is central in John as we see Jesus giving his life out of love for his unworthy friends. And it is grace as well by which Jesus reveals his care for those for whom he would die by giving them direction in how they might live.
And so he says
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (15)
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. (20)
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word (23)
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words (24)
Commandments and grace go together in our relationship with Jesus just as they did in Jesus’ relationship with his Father. The love between the first and second member of the Trinity is nothing we can adequately fathom, but that gracious relationship was in no way hindered by an expectation of obedience.
Jesus says, “And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (24) Jesus, deeply loved by the Father, did not act on his own, but did whatever the Father told him. In fact, he acts in this way because he loves the Father.
“I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (31)
A deep, free, grace filled love relationship is not somehow sullied or nullified by commandments and obedience.
Obedience is a part of the Christian life – as obedience was a part of the life of Jesus, joyfully performed as a response of love.