Obedience Is Not Optional

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
–Ephesians 2:10

If you were to ask a group of Southern Baptist laymen what their favorite verse in the Bible is, I bet it would be Ephesians 2:8-9: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is through God’s grace alone, not grace plus works.

But we become purveyors of bad grace when we say that good works do not matter to God at all. In the very next verse, Paul said, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works.

You see, we get this idea that grace is essential but obedience to God is optional. Yet the Bible never separates grace from works, faith from obedience. For example:

  • “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
  • “The word of God kept on spreading . . . and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
  • “[Jesus] became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).

Does that mean obedience is a requirement for faith? Do I have to obey God before He forgives me? Maybe this illustration will help: Imagine I invite you over to my house this summer to show you the beautiful apple tree in my backyard. Right away, you notice the tree is brown, and there is not an apple to be seen. You say, “Pastor, I am afraid your apple tree is dead. There are no apples on it.” So I run inside and grab some apples I purchased from the supermarket, and I tie them onto the dead branches of the tree. “Now it is alive, right?”

Trying to get into heaven by doing good things is like tying apples onto a dead tree. Doing good things does not produce spiritual life–but it is the proof of life. People who are spiritually alive will produce fruit as proof of their faith. That is what Jesus said in Matthew 3:8, 10: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. . . . The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Where there is genuine faith, there will be genuine fruit. Where there is no fruit, there is no faith. Good grace understands that obedience is not optional; it is essential.

***

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good-Grace Spirituality” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2020.

Martin Luther, “The Ninety-Five Theses,” in The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings, trans. William R. Russell (New York: Penguin, 2017), 3.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org

 

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