Does God Command Obedience in the Bible?

Just as a boss would never say “Be on time someday,” so God demands perfection now. Perfection doesn’t mean to just try your best.

When the government says to pay taxes, it’s not optional. When a parent tells a child, “Clean your room,” it’s not merely a suggestion. How much more when God gives a command! He always means what he says.

God commands, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48). He doesn’t say become, but rather be. Just as a boss would never say “Be on time someday,” so God demands perfection now. Perfection doesn’t mean to just try your best. That actually undermines God’s commands. He defines it: “as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

If we take God’s commands seriously rather than mere suggestions, it will drive us to the realization that we can never meet his expectations. Rather than diminishing God’s laws, this holds them up in the highest regard. As God intends, we then have no choice but to fall on God’s mercy and trust in Christ’s obedience of the law for us.

See: What is the Purpose of God’s Law?

Motivation Matters

Jesus fulfilled the law in our place. This transforms the way we now see God’s law. Prior to trusting in Christ alone, we would naturally fear God’s laws because we fall far short. However, after trusting in Christ alone, the believer has a completely new view of God’s commands.

The Psalmist described it this way: “I delight in your law” (Psalm 119:70). Our view of the law is completely changed. Now, instead of obeying God out of duty or obligation, we now obey his commands because we want to, out of love. Love—not fear—is the motivation Jesus taught us: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Faith also transforms the way we view sin. The believer no longer despairs when they sin as if they have no hope. They trust in Christ’s obedience for them. Clinging to his forgiveness, they find new power and strength to live for him.

Doesn’t this just lead to a license to sin? Far from it! The believer, transformed by God’s grace, can’t imagine returning to sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein” (Romans 6:1–2).

An Often-Overlooked Command

God, at times, speaks of “obey” in different ways. Here, it is important to read the surrounding context to better understand the meaning. For example, when God speaks of obeying his law, he is describing obedience under his expectations for us.

Yet, there are some places in the Bible where God connects “obey” to the gospel. For example, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Here he compares not knowing God, namely not having a faith relationship with God, with not obeying the gospel. Peter contrasts those in a faith relationship, the house of God, with those “that obey not the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

The gospel is not a series of laws, but rather the good news that God, in his amazing love, sent Jesus to rescue us. How do you obey good news?

Jesus provides insights when he says, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). John echoed this: “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). Obeying the gospel is a serious call from God to believe solely in Jesus.

Take God’s Commands Seriously

Does God command obedience in the Bible? Absolutely! Rather than diminishing God’s commands by thinking we can somehow keep his laws, we trust in the obedience of Jesus who kept them perfectly for us. Now we obey God’s laws out of love.

It is also critically important to take God’s command seriously to obey the gospel, to believe. Those who overlook this command by trusting in their imperfect efforts will be judged as disobedient. Those who trust solely in Christ will be found obedient because, through faith, they are covered in his perfection.

Learn more here about how you can be found obedient in Christ here.


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