Talk of Obedience Rattles Cages!

Ever go to a dental office to have a tooth filled and have a Bill Cosby flashback? His dentist routine is a classic! Rolled into the humor of attempting to speak with drool running out of your mouth around that sucking hose, while attempting to speak to some guy who asks you questions when he has his hands in your mouth, there is that line about not using a sharp metal object. Hygienists often discover that cavity by using a sharp metal object. They keep probing until they strike “Eureka!” by getting you to yell louder than any other patient that week. These paid professionals are probing for pain (do not do this at home since you are not a paid professional, at least not in this field—well maybe one or two of you are).

Those of us who seek to instigate movements seem to “strike a nerve” by our discussions of obedience-based discipleship. Some yelp with pain the very first time they hear it. Usually they, or a loved one, have been abused by a tyrant who practiced spiritual abuse. Others writhe with discomfort allowing their non-verbal clues to communicate that they have only recently been extricated from legalism by the “jaws of life” called grace. And then there is a third group I will call the “grace police” (GPs).

“O-B-E-Y” is clearly a four-letter word to these GPs. Their spiritual calling is to sniff out any hint of works righteousness. In their passion to accomplish said calling, they doubt the language of obedience can be used in any sense other than to talk of merit. Regardless of how many times you affirm that you are teaching an obedience that is “from” grace, not “for” grace, they will have none of it. They are quite sure you are setting a “Trojan Horse” trap. They must protect the non-thinking church from wolves-in-sheep clothing who would dare to believe that faith can be strengthened, deepened and expanded by doing what God says. These folks have obviously missed any discussion of prevenient grace (

Alas, their aversion to any sense of obedience-based discipleship is far-reaching. They not only reject that not-yet-believers can do anything prior to the moment of faith when they clearly grasp who Jesus is and accept that he died in their stead, they reject that talk of obedience has any place anywhere in discussions of discipleship.


  1. I was just noticing how commentaries on Revelation 19:7-8 glow when noting the the Bride of Christ is granted (given) to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and pure, but then are suddenly at a loss to explain how the fine linen is “the righteous deeds of the saints” instead of the righteous deeds of Christ. What? Would they prefer that she not keep herself pure? that she show up with nothing?


    1. When expositors feel compelled to move away from the normal meaning of words it should be a warning sign that they are bringing their view from another place into this text. One of the things I love about Discovery Bible Studies is the focus on hearing what the passage before us actually says, rather than importing meaning from other passages (let alone other interpreters) into our first hearing. As we all know, passages will not contradict one another and sometimes their meanings will nuance one another, but we must begin by hearing each one for what it actually says. Thanks for commenting, David!


  2. Reblogged this on Soul Friend and commented:
    The topic of “obedience” in evangelical circles sends shivers up our spines. We rightly quote Ephesians 2:8 -9 “For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast” every time some one mentions the word “obey” too much. Fears of legalism start to creep into our consciousness. But Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”, i.e. obedience. John King has an interesting post on the subject you may wish to consider… I enjoyed reading it!


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