Shortly after becoming a Christian, I preached my first sermon on a Sunday night at the Palm Springs Community Church. I didn’t know better, so decided to basically preach from a song I had been singing from day one of attending this church. Here are the lyrics for those of you who have never heard it.
It was written in 1887 by John H. Sammis.
“Trust and Obey”
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
The song is communicating a simple truth: that joy and ongoing growth as a Christian is a combination of trusting and obeying.
Why am I bringing this up?
A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend who mentioned “Sonship Theology.”
He sent me an article dealing with the subject and, as I read, I began to connect the dots in my head and understand that some Reformed thinkers have bought into “Sonship Theology” and taken the position that any effort to grow as a Christian by emphasizing “obedience” is not biblical and makes light of the gospel.
Obedience has fallen into ill repute, along with the long-standing practice of spiritual disciplines…assuming it flies in the face of the “gospel” and is adding to the work of Jesus on the cross.
Following are some excerpts from a critique on “Sonship Theology” and here is the link to the source document:
And here is the church’s website where the article appeared:
Sonship appears to emphasize that sanctification is only by faith – in other words, it operates the same way as justification: works are not involved at all. Sonship writings try to deny this; but, by many accounts, this is the practical outworking of their teaching.
Sonship holds that sanctification “just happens to you” and requires no participation (they wouldn’t say this on paper but it is taught). They rely on Galatians but take teachings that were clearly about justification and (mis)apply them to sanctification.
Sonship roots sanctification in adoption and justification, and tends to basically state that sanctification is repeated justification.
Issues: these are all true, but partial; sanctification is not simply remembering our justification over and over again. The NT has imperatives in addition to indicatives.
I want to stir the pot on this one, and would like to encourage each one reading this to share a comment at the bottom of this post.
Our churches today are full of immature Christians who don’t serve, don’t give, are not in community and are not on mission with the gospel where they work, live and play.
One of the reasons may be (I say “may” because I am not 100% sure but simply have my suspicions) because grace is overly-emphasized, almost to the exclusion of appropriate works and obedience (which is addressed in Ephesians 2:8-10 and 2 Peter 1:5—just to mention two.)
Additionally, some would say that obedience or disobedience doesn’t really change the way God views you or relates to you because it’s all grace with no effort on your part. You don’t add anything to the equation.
Let me close this by asking you to look at John 14:21 and seriously think about what this verse is saying regarding the role obedience plays in your ability to experience God’s love and having Him be real to you.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (ESV)
Here is John 14:21 in the NLT
“Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them, and I will love them. And I will reveal myself to each one of them.”
Obedience (as you depend on Jesus and are led by and empowered by the Holy Spirit) brings great blessing. Willful and prolonged disobedience will bring great havoc to your soul and life. This is the clear message of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
If you are a Christian leader, allow me to encourage you to make God-dependent obedience a core part of the ongoing teaching and discipling emphasis. As a Christian, don’t fall into the trap of confusing salvation and sanctification and assume that all talk of obedience and discipline flies in the face of the gospel…it doesn’t!