I’d like to put in a good word for one of the words that can get you branded as a cult: “obedience.” In our local newspaper, a fellow Christian (an evangelical minister, I think) once published a letter to the editor that “proved” Mormons were a non-Christian cult. He said all it took to prove our non-Christian status own Third Article of Faith:
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Mormons by their own profession believe in “obedience” to the Gospel and think they have to obey laws and commandments, whereas Christians, in contrast, are saved by grace. No obedience needed. End of story.
One wonders how that writer would react if he ever stumbled upon these words from Matthew 19:
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
1 7And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Sounds dangerously close to some kind of obedience – a theme that is found abundantly in both the Old and New Testaments. Indeed, a unifying theme in both testaments is the need for man to follow and obey God in a true covenant relationship, a theme that has been sadly lost in much of modern Christianity, as discussed in the earlier post on covenants below.
As one of many related passages on this basic theme, here is one I came across today in Isaiah 50:
10 Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.
11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.
This is the part that is really hard for many modern folks to accept, the idea that there could be authorized servants of God like apostles and prophets, and that listening to and obeying them could somehow be a good thing. It was no easier in the days of Moses, Isaiah, Peter, or Paul. It’s easy to see the warts and just the human being. It’s easy to wonder how there could be anything special about a local farmboy or even a carpenter’s son (who was far more than any prophet, of course). It’s easy to think that miracles and revelations are all from the past, from a time that no longer applies. It takes faith to realize that there might be more than meets the eye in the Church and in the Book of Mormon, for example.
This is meant to be just a quick, almost random thought from Isaiah 50. I’m not really interested in rehashing the whole false dichotomy of grace versus obedience. But I would like your thoughts in Isaiah 50 and what it means for us today.