by Bryan Gibson
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Editor's note: We put this article in the authority category because when we take it upon ourselves to determine which of God's laws we are are going to respect, and which we are going to disregard, we make ourselves (and not God) the authority as to what is right and what is wrong.
When a sign says a speed limit is strictly enforced it means at least two things: 1) The authorities will be watching more closely; 2) They will punish any violations (even minor ones). It may also imply that if such a sign is not present, then it is all right to violate the law. That is a characteristic (right or wrong) of man-made rules and laws—they’re not all strictly enforced, and thus we need signs (or in some cases lawyers) to tell us which ones are and which ones are not going to be enforced. As Christians, we understand that we are required to obey the laws of our society (1 Peter 2:13; Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1) provided they do not violate God's laws. We must do our best in this regard, despite the fact that recently some major laws have been so totally disregarded at the highest levels of our government. We are responsible for our actions, not theirs.
This ambivalence stands in stark contrast to the laws of God. Every single command is strictly enforced, so we dare not take any of them lightly. Jesus said, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:19). We dare not think that it is acceptable to God to obey some commands (even the “weightier” ones) and leave “the others undone” (Matthew 23:23). Speaking in reference to Jesus, Peter said, “Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you” (Acts 3:22). To all His apostles, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). Epaphras prayed that his brethren would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
In Matthew 4:3-4 it says: "And the tempter came and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But he [Jesus] answered and said, 'It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.' " If the words are in the scriptures they are there for a reason. It is our responsibility to determine their meanings and to apply them according to the context in which they are given. It is not our right to judge God and determine which laws we will obey and which we will disregard.
Remember, “strictly enforced” means two things, so let us apply them to God’s law. First, does God watch us closely? Most certainly. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). All things are naked—even the inner workings of our minds and hearts. Jesus said, “I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23). No transgression or act of disobedience, ever escapes His attention.
And then the second aspect of strict enforcement -- punishment of the violators. Does God punish disobedience? What do the scriptures say? “But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth…indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish…” (Romans 2:8-9). “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:2-4).
So are we saying that our salvation is dependent on our perfect obedience? Not at all. None of us will be perfectly obedient to the law of Christ, the law that we’re all under today (1 Corinthians 9:21). We will have to seek forgiveness time and time again (1 John 1:8-2:2). But that does not mean that we can be casual about obedience. Every command of Christ is important, and every command is strictly enforced. If we treat them as such we will never have any problem repenting of sin and seeking forgiveness, and we will receive the reward He has promised to “those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Paul further issues the warning in 1st Cor. 14:37: "If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord."
We must obey the entire gospel: "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4;17). But, of course, we must never be so proud as to think that anything that we do earns or merits our salvation; it cannot; Eph. 2:8-9: "... for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, (it is) the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory." Meeting God's conditions for salvation and earning salvation by works are two completely different things. May we never confuse them.
What are the conditions of salvation given by Jesus?