Obeying God's Commandments

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InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
I've realized what I find to be a fault in my thinking concerning obedience to God's commandments. It has been my practice for a long time not to obey in one thing if I find myself unable to obey in all things. For example, that I'm commanded to love my neighbours by carrying their burdens, I've almost always neglected the duty if I've been conscious of being unloving, ignoring or hateful toward them; thus, not being able to obey God's law perfectly.

Now, I've tried to support this kind of response by appealing to the fact that if I'm obeying imperfectly, then I'm disobeying, so I'm better off not obeying at all. However, with this logic, one could never obey anything in this life, because even if you are consciously loving God, you are still imperfect in your love. However, to be sure, carrying the burdens of your neighbours is true obedience to God's commandment, regardless if it is done out of love. You are truly obeying in one commandment, while in another you are not.

Another way I've tried to support my view is by appealing to the destructive effects of imperfect obedience (especially emphasizing teaching and preaching here) without paying attention to the positive effects of that true obedience which still is there. Any true obedience to God's law has sanctifying effects to the truly regenerate Christian and may also water the ground for the unbeliever. I think the commandment to read and search the Scriptures is the clearest evidence of this. Sure, reading the Bible without consciously loving God is not as beneficial as reading the Bible while communing with God in prayer, but there still remains certain necessary means to the Christian's sanctification and the unbeliever's regeneration and justification. It's the same with prayer; we should pray always, not only when we love God according to our conscience.

Lastly, and most importantly, we should obey because we are commanded. If this results in disobeying, the obeying is still to be done.

In short, the point I'm making is that imperfect obedience doesn't warrant neglecting obedience altogether.

Thoughts?
 

Jash Comstock

Puritan Board Freshman
We are imperfect creatures. Knowing the brokeness of our hearts, God still commands us to love and obey him. What must be made of that? Sure, we must accept our imperfection, but allowing it to affect our obedience gives that imperfection a double victory over us.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
We are imperfect creatures. Knowing the brokeness of our hearts, God still commands us to love and obey him. What must be made of that? Sure, we must accept our imperfection, but allowing it to affect our obedience gives that imperfection a double victory over us.

Indeed. That is my worry.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Samuel, I think there are at least three things to suggest that would tend to confirm your new line of thinking.

One is from WCF 16.7. Even in the case of the unregenerate, the neglect of good works is more sinful and displeasing than their performance, though of course everything not done from faith is sin. A single sin is less sinful than a double sin (not acting from faith, and omitting good works). So it is always better to do right than to leave it undone, even if it is not done perfectly.

The second is that in the case of believers, those whose persons are accepted by Christ, what is good in their works is also accepted, WCF 16.6. That something is not entirely perfect on your part is not a reason not to offer it to God - he knows how to accept what is good in it, and graciously does so. God forgives our omissions and imperfections, but our imperfectly good works are genuinely accepted, not only pardoned. So it is always better to do right, even if it is not done perfectly. It is on this basis also that God rewards the good works of believers.

The third is that you will never get better at doing good if you don't practice. It is true that our works will never do more to commend us to God in the matter of justification than will our sins. But it is also true that it is desirable to be fruitful in every good work (Colossians 1:9,10), and that certainly means getting started. A baby just beginning to learn how to walk is not expected to run a marathon, but is expected to try again. The alternative is to say, "If I can't obey perfectly, I won't obey at all." But under the Gospel God accepts a sincere obedience in the place of perfect obedience. But what is there to be accepted if there is no obedience at all?

Article 24 of the Belgic Confession might be of some encouragement:

We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works, which God has commanded in his Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by his grace: howbeit they are of no account towards our justification. For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them, (for what can they merit?) nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Let us therefore attend to what is written: when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Consider Malachi 3:17. A loving father takes his son to work with him because he delights in the progress of his son, not because he seeks to exact hard labour from him.
 
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