Meanderings of a Minister

Is Partial Obedience Really Obedience?
March 29, 2012, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of the tragic story of King Saul.  On one occasion, Saul had been given instructions to go to war against the Amalekites and to wipe them out and put all of them to the sword as God’s punishment for opposing the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt in the Exodus.  In what was just another sad episode that showed Saul’s lack of character and integrity, he greets Samuel after a great battle, and even greater victory.  As Samuel approaches, Saul greets him with these words, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”

Here is where the situation gets tragic because just behind Saul are the flocks and herds the people have spared at Saul’s instruction.  Also present is Agag, the king of the Amalekites that was supposed to have been killed, but was not.  Saul greeted Samuel with a greeting that says, “I have done what God told me to do.”  But he clearly had not.  He had done SOME of what God had told him to do, but not all.

Saul’s behavior begs a question.  How much obedience does it take to be able to claim you have obeyed God?  The answer should be obvious on paper, but is often difficult to live out in flesh and blood.  The answer is any disobedience is disobedience.  Saul had mustered all of Israel for war, gone to battle and killed a lot of people.  He had burned down towns and villages to execute God’s judgment.  He had traveled many miles and gotten muddy and bloody in battle, but he had not fully obeyed God and it cost him the kingdom.

You might be thinking, “Okay.  But how does that apply to me?  After all, the Bible is quite plain that salvation is by grace, through faith and not of works.  Why should I worry about this concept of obedience or complete obedience?”  I am glad you asked.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is how we love God:  we obey His commands and they are not burdensome.”  What does that mean?  It means that loving God is obeying God.  If you are in Christ, you have been forgiven of your sin, accepted by God, included in His family and are assured a home in Heaven.  That sounds like a pretty good deal.  So, what does God ask in return?  Everything.

God deserves, demands and desires our entire lives.  He gave it to us and He deserves to have us use it for His glory.  He has saved as and, as our Lord, demands that we love Him enough to obey Him and love others.  He saved us for relationship with Him and desires that we maintain the fellowship of that relationship.  He desires to walk with us in the garden and not have us hide in the bushes because we are ashamed of our disobedience or partial obedience.  He did not halfway save us, so why would we think we can halfway serve Him?

So, during the last throes of this Lenten season, or in the week before we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, whichever is part of your tradition, we would do well to spend some extra time with God asking Him if there is any area of our lives that we have not been completely obedient, repent, set our face towards obedience and pour ourselves into His word and His word into us so that we might seek to make our obedience complete, so that we can truly celebrate the relationship Easter made possible.


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