The Beauty of Willful Obedience
“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; NASB
This passage, in which the apostle John quotes John the Baptist, is worded in an interesting way. In saying, “He who believes…has eternal life, but he who does not obey” has the wrath of God on him, there is a distinct correlation between believing and obeying. The King James translation does not distinguish between “believe” and “obey” (KJV reads “does not believe”). Several other very reliable translations (NASB, ESV, NLT, AMP) do. They are two different words in the Greek. Believe is pisteuōn, while obey is apeithōn. To me, this shows the writer’s intent was for them to be different, but very similar. That being said, I believe it would bless us to examine the passage as it is shown above from the NASB.
The passage it assumes that those who believe will obey the Son, which results in eternal life. We can find this idea in many forms throughout the New Testament. For instance, 1 John 2:3 states, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” This is not an expectation of perfection, however. In the preceding verses, the Holy Spirit makes it clear through John that if we do sin, we have an Advocate who is Jesus Christ. He is the one who has paid for our sins, past, present, and future. We do not stop sinning after salvation, but God stops counting our sins against us because Jesus has already satisfied God’s wrath toward them.
Christians should consider obedience to be a privilege, not a chore. The Holy Spirit will convict a believer when their thoughts or desires are outside of God’s will. It is our job to react properly to the convictions when they come. We can choose to obey what we know deep down is right, or we can allow our own desires to override the Spirit’s voice. It takes time to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s convictions, but prayer and intent will bring positive and rewarding results.
An unbeliever will not obey the Son. Unfortunately, there are many who think they are Christians and do not obey the Son. You cannot be a true Christian and continue to go against God’s Word knowingly and repeatedly. This concept is foreign to many churchgoers in today’s society. Scripture tells us, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother (1 Jn 3:10). If Christ is in you, it will be uncomfortable to defy His Word. More importantly, you will not want to defy His Word.
Living a life of willful obedience to God’s Word is the most rewarding and satisfying endeavor anyone could pursue. For those who believe, this is not a chore or a battle. First John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” It is a beautiful existence. To be sure, life has its challenges. We will all experience hardship, some more than others. The difference between those who believe and those who do not obey is that believers know how the story ends and believe it with all their hearts. It ends with a new beginning of eternal life for those who believe in Christ our Lord. Amen!
Have a great week and God bless!