Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

lesson of disobedience


The traditionalists within Christianity constantly emphasize the Bible's call to obedience to God's commandments as a necessary part of attaining God's acceptance (so called salvation). When I look at the Bible story what I note is the fact that Old Testament Israel tried over and over to please God by means of obedience and in every case they failed. And, lo and behold, despite these failures, God stilled loved them and worked through them to complete His divine purpose for mankind. So what is the real lesson from the Bible stories about attempting a right relationship with God by obedience? There are two lessons, really. The first is that obedience to achieve righteousness is a lost cause. It never happened under the Old Covenant and there is no reason to believe it ever would under a new one. The second lesson is even more important- God continues to love and honor His promises even when men do not obey. His promised result is not thwarted by man's disobedience.

Another argument that we continuously hear from these same traditionalists is a reference to the New Testament passages which suggest that men at that time were still under an obligation to obey, to perform or to do in order to achieve right standing before God. Unregarded in these assertions is the fact that Jesus and His Apostles were Jews who lived under the Old Testament Law with all its emphasis on obedience. Jesus was quite blunt in His proclamation that He dealt only with the Jews. In a few cases Jesus responded directly to Gentile's appeal, but clearly He was the Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews, not a Gentile one.  Even after the cross and during the evangelization efforts of the church, many Jewish believers still adhered to that Law (see Acts 21:24-25) with its insistence on righteousness by obedience. It is obvious from the book of Acts that the Apostles, each one a Jew, understood the Great Commission as a call to reach Jews only. Emphatically, Paul tells us that this mandate was fulfilled in his day (Romans 16:26; Colossians 1:6, 23). Yet, the institutional church of our day continues to justify its existence by claiming the Great Commission as its God ordained mission. Clearly, the early church evangelism effort was aimed primarily, if not exclusively at Jews. The Gospel in Paul's day went to the entire Jewish world, not to Australia and North America.

Paul was directly selected to carry the Gospel to Gentiles, but this was years after Christ commissioned the Apostles and even then it look a metaphorical bolt of lightening to convince Peter and Paul, both, that Gentiles were a part of God's plan. The Gentiles were ultimately included in God's purpose, but that obviously does not mean that the world which Paul said was evangelized completely in the first century involved everyone on the globe, Jew and Gentile alike.

To recognize the temporary, special nature of 1st Century church in completing God's redemptive plan, as suggested by all that I have noted above, eliminates the insistence on following the prescriptions of the New Testament writers today. God was still working out redemption throughout the writing of the New Testament books. What was taught and enjoined then is not generally or automatically applicable today.

If we simply note the summation teachings of Jesus, when He taught the supreme commandment and declared that our relationship with God is reflected in our relationship with our fellowmen, all of them, then we begin to appreciate the real difference between what Jesus achieved and what Moses represented as the lawgiver.  Nobody can really convince me that after Jesus it is any easier to please God by obedience than before. All the frustration and fear of Old Testament Israel exist in full force within the present day Orthodox church.

The real problem is the church's denial that God has accomplished His purpose in Christ. Instead, they insist, contrary to what the Bible teaches, that God's purpose has a yet future element which involves total destruction of His creation. That insistence makes a complete mockery of the Bible and the very notion that Jesus is the Savior of the entire world.