Obedience may be defined as heartily accepting another’s will and performing it. The opposite of obedience is disobedience. It is not merely non-obedience, but its direct opposite. Many by neglect or inaction fail to obey, but the disobedient do the very opposite of the thing charged. There are three elements of obedience: (1) a willing heart; (2) accepting another’s will; and (3) performing another’s will. Such willing assent to, and acceptance and performance of another’s will should go out to all humans who have a right to ask obedience, like parents, teachers, rulers and their representatives, guardians and employers. In relation to God, obedience should always have the three elements.
The Lord’s people have three enemies to their obedience – the devil, the world and the flesh. Let us resist all their efforts to make us disobedient, for all of us by information, observation and experience know that they have brought many of God’s people to disobedience.
There are three main uses of obedience: (1) its spirit enables subordinates to recognize their proper relations as subordinates to their superiors; (2) the spirit of obedience makes subordinates do toward their superiors what justice and love require them to do; and (3) the mutual relations of all concerned are thereby advanced and blessed. Each act of obedience to God uplifts our own characters, opens the way for advancing growth in grace, knowledge and fruitfulness in service, benefits by our example and encouragement those who observe these, and move God not only to be pleased with us, but also to add more abundant expressions of His favor.
Abuses of Obedience
God’s people should be on their guard against the following abuses of obedience:
(1.) Servility, which is a cringing servility to superiors. A proper appreciation of their dignity as sons of God and of their relations to their superiors will cure them of this misuse of obedience.
(2.) External obedience without the heart being into it. It should be hearty, willing and free, and it will be so when based on the genuine motives of faith, hope and love.
(3.) Giving it to persons to whom it does not belong. This is especially the case as to religious leaders. While religious leaders who really represent God are to be esteemed highly in love for their work’s sake (1 Thessalonians 5: 12, 13), God’s people are not to be priest-ridden. On the contrary, they should oppose and reject clericalism and clericalists.
(4.) Its partial exercise, which is rendering a little obedience, only when it suits his convenience. Whoever practices only a partial obedience is in reality not practicing obedience at all. He is merely obeying his selfish and worldly propensities.
(5.) Its neglect. Some merely neglect, and fail to cultivate obedience. As a result, they pass by opportunities to cultivate and practice it.
(6.) Its repudiation. There are different durations and degrees of repudiating obedience. Some recover themselves, but others make shipwreck of everything. It is for us to overcome in ourselves any of these six forms of its abuse; and if we are willing to do so, God through Christ will forgive us and graciously help us to a recovery from any of them in which we may be involved.
Bible Examples of Obedience
There are a number of Bible examples of obedience. Noah obeyed the Lord in building and entering the ark, despite the fact that it had never yet rained. Abraham obeyed the Lord in leaving Ur, not knowing where he was to go, and in offering Isaac, not knowing how the promises would be fulfilled. Moses obeyed the Lord unto doing everything necessary for Israel’s deliverance, when to all appearances it was a vain work. Obedience to God made David wise and Divinely pleasing. Despite several sins, David’s obedience to God secured to many of his descendants their thrones and Jerusalem’s safety for over four hundred years. Job was a shining example of obedience in prosperity and adversity. Daniel is another shining example of obedience in good and evil days. Jesus is the one example of perfect and perpetual obedience amid the hardest of trials. St. Paul, next to our Lord, gave us the finest Bible example of obedience. May we emulate the obedience of these fine examples (Hebrews 12: 1, 2), until we too shall become perfect in obedience.