Obeying God’s Commands

Question from a Site Viewer
I’d like to start with the thief. Jesus had not died and arose yet. He had not completed what He had come to do. The thief was still under the Old Law until Jesus had completed his death, burial, and resurrection.

Read this:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
Hebrews 9:15-17

The thief was not the first one to have been forgiven by Jesus of his sins before the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Read Matthew 9:6.

Besides all that, there is not one verse in the scriptures that say whether or not the thief was baptized. We simply do not know.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.
Acts 17:30,31

Repenting is changing to live for God . . . doing the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21-23). We must obey Him for HE is the author of salvation unto all those that obey (Hebrews 5:9). The thief was not under the new covenant. He could indeed be saved before Jesus died without obeying the gospel, but now, as God says, He doesn’t overlook what He once did. He expects us all to obey Him. We show our love by obeying His commandments (John 14:15).

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your thoughts. I am not completely sure what matter you are addressing. Certainly, we all believe that people in all ages, before and after the cross, were saved by faith. Hebrews 11 makes this abundantly clear, as do many other passages. And the passage in Acts 17:30 is an address to a Gentile audience who did not have the law; but certainly for those who knew the law God required them to obey him before the cross as much as he does after the cross. Any cursory review of the Old Testament would demonstrate this point. The thief on the cross was most likely knowledgeable of the law and subject to the command of God to keep the law. So, I am not sure of the distinction being made.

Certainly, we are not antinomian in our position. We do not reject the commands or laws of God. However, we believe with Christ and the apostles that our salvation is by faith and not by keeping the law. We also believe that our sanctification is not accomplished by our keeping the law. Paul argues most strenuously in Galatians that having begun by faith a return to law is a doom to spiritual life. Paul argues in Romans 7 that we have died to the law that we may live for Christ. Paul argues in 1 Timothy 1 that the law is not made for the righteous ones, but for the unrighteous. The law provides good sideboards to keep us from being deceived that we are walking with Christ when we are not. But the law is not a good way to live. The Spirit life is the way we are taught to live. Struggling to keep the law will keep us in the end of Romans 7. Walking in the Spirit will keep us in Romans 8.

We believe that keeping the commandments of Christ is important. Perhaps where we may differ (although I am not certain because I am not sure what your view is) is how it is that we can keep the commandments. It is our understanding that focusing on God’s commands will almost guarantee that we will fail to keep them. It is also our understanding that focusing on Christ and the walk in the Spirit will guarantee that we will keep them. As Scripture says, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:4). The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of trying to live the Christian life by keeping law is the long list of Galatians 5:19-21. Paul is never saying in Galatians that the believers there were seeking to do the things listed in Galatians 5:19-21, but he warns them that if they seek to live the Christian life by keeping the law, Galatians 5:19-21 is where they will end. Thus, Paul strongly urges that they not seek to be made perfect by struggling in the flesh to keep the law (Galatians 3:3-5). He goes so far to say to the believers at Galatia that if they attempt to be justified now in their walk by the law, they have fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4). Again, he is not talking to nonbelievers, but to those who are already justified with respect to salvation. They had already received the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-2). Paul tells us in Colossians 2:6 that we should walk in Christ in the same way that we received Him; that is by faith. He tells us not to subject ourselves to regulations (Colossians 2:20-23), but rather to set our minds on heavenly things – on Christ.

Certainly, having a desire to obey Christ’s commandments is a good thing. But those who seek to obey will soon find that they lack the staying power of obedience. We get tired and we will snap at people. We read books, watch movies, see TV, think thoughts, and do things that are not pleasing. And we try harder and we fall farther. And we begin to wonder where there is any victory.

It is at that point that Christ steps in and says that there is a better way. He came to take our burden and give us freedom. He wants a relationship and asks us simply to abide in Him through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. We exchange law keeping for Spirit walk. We begin to learn to walk by the Spirit, to live in the Spirit, and seek Christ in all our ways. And strangely, when we focus on Christ and loving Him, keeping His commands comes most naturally to life.

I trust this makes some sense. This may be where you already are in your understanding of Scripture. Or it may be that you disagree with this view. I am not sure from your note.

But I pray that the Lord Jesus will enrich your life with Himself and that you will know the peace and joy that comes from having the Spirit of God being your companion, the Comforter to you sent from a loving Father and Son.

a fellow servant,

tim

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