“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14)
A fellow student I worked with while attending Bible college was deep into evangelism and enjoyed sharing Christ regularly and at any opportunity that presented itself. Oftentimes he was quick to share with me the experience he had in sharing Christ with someone on the streets. It could have been the night before or a couple of days prior. Now, I enjoy sharing Christ also and love to hear testimonies about how someone came to know Jesus. However, my friend seemed to think it was rewarding to sort of brag about having led someone to Christ. I can understand his desire to share his evangelistic moments.
I have often wondered how many people have actually progressed from accepting Christ to discipleship. There is a misconception that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as our Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord, as long as we want to!
I believe this misconception has sprung up naturally from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about Christian discipleship and obedience. It is found in nearly all full gospel literature.
I think the following is a fair statement of what I was taught in my early Christian experience and it certainly needs a lot of modifying and a great many qualifiers to save us from being in error:
“We are saved by accepting Christs as our Saviour;
We are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord;
We may do the first without doing the second!”
The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in scripture. Peter makes it plain that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.”
It is a tragedy that we hear, “Come to Jesus!” Then later we hear, “Take Jesus as Lord!” The fact that we hear this everywhere does not make it right. To urge men and women to believe in two Christs is bad teaching for no one can take either or one without the other. We’re not saved by believing in an office nor in a work.
I have heard well-meaning workers say, “Come and believe on the finished work.” That work is not going to save you. The Bible does not tell us to believe in an office or a work, but to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Person who has done that work and holds those offices.
Peter’s emphasis is on obedience among the scattered and persecuted Christians of his day.
The important thing to me here is that Peter speaks of his fellow Christians as “obedient children.” He did not command them to be obedient. On the contrary, he is assuming that they are believers, and therefore they are also obedient. So, as obedient children, they would do what is necessary.
I submit that obedience is taught throughout the entire Bible and that true obedience is one of the toughest requirements of the Christian life. Apart from obedience, there can be no salvation, for salvation without obedience is a self-contradictory impossibility.
If God had made us humans to be mere machines we would not have the power of self-determination. But since He made us in His own image and made us to be moral creatures, He has given us that power of self-determination.
We do not have the right of self-determination because God has given us only the power to choose evil. Seeing that God is a holy God and we are moral creatures having the power but not the right to choose evil, no man has any right to lie.
Oh, we have the power to lie but no man has the right to lie. We have the power to steal—I could go out and get myself a better coat than the one I own. I could slip out through a side door and get away with the coat. I have that power, but I do not have that right!
More to the point, we only have the right to be good—we never have the right to be bad because God is good. We only have the right to be holy; we never have the right to be unholy. If we are unholy we are using a right that is not ours. Adam and Eve had no moral right to eat of that tree of good and evil, but they took it and usurped the right that was not theirs.
So how can we insist and teach that our Lord Jesus Christ can be our Saviour without being our Lord? How can we continue to teach that we can be saved without any thought of obedience to our Sovereign Lord?
Suppose I were to slip into a hospital and tell the staff, I need a blood transfusion or perhaps an X-ray of my gall bladder. After they have ministered to me and given me their services, do I just slip out of the hospital again with a cheery “Goodbye”—as though I owe them nothing and it was kind of them to help me in my time of need?
Now, that may sound like a grotesque concept to you, but it does pretty well draw the picture of those who have been taught that they can use Jesus as a Saviour in their time of need without owning Him as Sovereign and Lord and without owing Him obedience and allegiance.
The Bible never in any way gives us such a concept of salvation. Nowhere are we ever led to believe that we can use Jesus as a Saviour and not own Him as our Lord. He is the Lord and as the Lord He saves us, because He has all the offices of Saviour and Christ and High Priest and Wisdom and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption! He is all of these things and all of these are embodied in Him as Christ the Lord.
My friend, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We don’t come to Him as one buying furniture for a house and declare, “I will take this table, but I don’t want that chair,” as though we are wanting one Christ over a different Christ.
Absolutely not! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ! To the world—a Christ who does not need our apologies, one Christ over another Christ, one Christ who will either be Lord of all or who will not be Lord at all!
Therefore, one who accepts Jesus as Saviour must also accept Him as Lord!