It’s almost an article of faith in anti-Mormon literature that the LDS Articles of Faith rule us out as Christians. After all, they call for that most unchristian, unbiblical attribute, a dirty word in some religious lexicons: obedience. I’m always puzzled over the instant rejection, though, since I think that virtually every time “obedience” (or forms thereof) is used in the Bible, it’s a clean word, almost always in the context of urging us to obey God and keep His commandments.
Obedience is part of how we follow Jesus and most fully access, not earn, the grace Christ offers us through the conditions of the covenant of mercy His Atonement provides. But today, lingo like “keep the commandments” (search here) and “obey” (search here) is the stuff of non-Christian cults in the new-fangled post-biblical framework that self-styled cult-bashers call “historic Christianity.” Yes, of course you’ve heard me discuss this before, citing things like the oft-neglected words of Christ on the topic (as in “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” in Matt. 19:17). But today I want to offer a further perspective from Peter regarding the purpose of obedience and the role that it plays in God’s work with us.
Why obedience? And why endure in obedience unto the end? This makes the most sense when we realize that God is interested not just in declaring us to be saved, but in shaping us and nurturing us to more fully become His sons and daughters, beings who, as Peter describes in 2 Peter 1:4-10, eventually put on the “divine nature” as they pursue step after step in the progression of faith that eventually leads to having one’s “calling and election made sure.”
In the opening lines of his first book (1 Peter), Peter provides information about obedience and endurance that help set the tone for much of his writings. 1 Peter 1 is what I’d like to emphasize today. Read it with the issue of grace, obedience, and enduring to the end in mind. Excerpts follow with my emphasis added:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls….
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear….
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Peter calls for us to be faithful and obedient, enduring to the end, even through difficult trials of our faith, in our hope for salvation. Why? Not just because will be judged by our works (of course, the works don’t save us and it’s Christ who gives us strength to follow Him and obey), but more importantly, I think, because of who God wants us to become. He want us not just to say and believe, but to become. Become what? Holy. Holy like God. That is the ultimate journey, and it requires the steady growth and transformations that come, through God’s power, when we endure trials of faith, when we choose to repent and obey Him, when we keep the commandments with faithful obedience. This is the journey that brings us to the destination God has in store. This why why Peter writes, “ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth.” Obedience refines and purifies and helps us become more like our Father in Heaven. It’s not a dirty word after all. It’s a holy word. Wish more folks would recognize that basic biblical truth and not fall for all those new-fangled philosophies.