Text: Ephe. 4:17-24
Another sin that God’s people easily fall into is disobedience. This appears to be the greatest sin anybody can commit. It is the sin which our first parents committed and allowed curse and death to enter into the world (Rom. 5:12). We want to go through this study carefully because, we believe, God’s Word is the only instrument to perfect the saints (Jn. 15:3; 17:17; Eph. 5:26).
We must recognize that Adam and Eve were saints of the first creation. When Mother Eve stretched her hand to take of the forbidden Fruit of Knowledge, she, at the same time, decided not to submit to the will of God. Her eating the fruit did not come out of subjection but out of her own will. She not only violated God’s order but disobeyed Adam as well. To disobey God’s representative authority means to disobey God. Disobedience is a sign of rebellion. So, when we are dealing with disobedience we are dealing with rebellion at the same time. Eve made her decision upon seeing that the fruit was good and pleasant to the eyes.
In listening to his wife, Adam sinned against God’s direct will. He too was disobedient to God’s authority. This was also rebellion. A decision that is prompted by our self interest will always end up as rebellion. Adam was judged because in listening to his wife he went contrary to God’s directive.
Gen 3:17 KJV: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life…”
On the other hand, our Lord Jesus made obedience to God His number one priority.
Heb 10:5-9 GNB: For this reason, when Christ was about to come into the world, he said to God: “You do not want sacrifices and offerings, but you have prepared a body for me. 6You are not pleased with animals burned whole on the altar or with sacrifices to take away sins. 7Then I said, ‘Here I am, to do your will, O God, just as it is written of me in the book of the Law.’ ” 8First he said, “You neither want nor are you pleased with sacrifices and offerings or with animals burned on the altar and the sacrifices to take away sins.” He said this even though all these sacrifices are offered according to the Law. 9Then he said, “Here I am, O God, to do your will.” So God does away with all the old sacrifices and puts the sacrifice of Christ in their place.
Jn. 5:19 GNB: So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the truth: the Son can do nothing on his own; he does only what he sees his Father doing. What the Father does, the Son also does.
Jn. 5:30 KJV: I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
Jn. 4:34 GNB: “My food,” Jesus said to them, “is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do.
Jn. 8:28-29 GNB: So he said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am’; then you will know that I do nothing on my own authority, but I say only what the Father has instructed me to say. 29And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.”
As believers in Christ, our decision should not be based on the knowledge of good and evil but on a sense of obedience to God. We must not allow the effect of the Fruit of Knowledge to persist in our system more so after our redemption. We must not decide on what is good or bad without reference to the Word and Will of God.
Many sincere believers do not realise that any form of disobedience is also a form of rebellion. Before Adam and Eve ate the Fruit of Knowledge, their good or bad was determined solely by God. After eating the fruit, man had in himself the sense of right and wrong. This poses a serious problem to man in trying to obey God and in trying to discern His will. Most of man’s decisions on good or bad do not come from God but from self interest. Redemption seeks to restore us to the place where we will now find our right and wrong (good and bad) in God.
Man’s conflict with Satan is the direct result of his attributing authority to God. You have no contention with the flesh, with the world and with Satan apart from your attempt to obey God. Like Jesus, we face Gethsemane experience each time we seek the way of obedience.
The greatest demand of God on man is not for him to bear the cross, to serve, make offerings or deny himself; but the greatest demand is for man to obey. There is no holiness without obedience! No work for God is acceptable if it is done under the rebellious principle of Satan. It is only by working under obedience to authority that we can work in accordance with the will of God. This principle is clearly explained in Numbers 30:1-16. A woman under the authority of her father or husband does not have a total licence to do or not to do something for God if the father or the husband does not approve of it. If any woman thinks she has zeal and insists on doing otherwise, she is using satanic principle of rebellion to ‘serve’ God; and God will not accept her service. A woman who thinks she has liberty but refuses to be under order is in rebellion.
In Matt. 7:21-23 we find our Lord reprimanding those who prophesy and cast out demons and do mighty things in His name. Why are they disapproved? They are disapproved because they make self their starting point; they do things in the name of the Lord but at the same time they fail to do His will. The Lord labelled them evildoers instead of His labourers. We are not to find work to do; rather we are to be sent to work by God. When we understand this we shall truly experience the reality of the kingdom of the heavens.
A believer may be tempted, out of zeal, to be rebellious against governmental apparatus especially if it makes obnoxious decree. Let us see God’s design and then look at how the apostles of Christ responded to such situation.
Rom 13:1-7 GNB: Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered; and anyone who does so will bring judgment on himself. For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil. For this reason you must obey the authorities—not just because of God’s punishment, but also as a matter of conscience. That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay them your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honour for them all.
Here, rulers are said to be ministers of God. This revelation came when Nero the tyrant was emperor of the Roman Empire. Three times in the book of Jeremiah, God called Nebuchadnezzar His servant (25:9; 27:6; 43:10).
Titus 3:1-2: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.
Act 4:18-20 KJV: And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Note that the answer they gave did not carry with it any sense of rebellion. They could have said: “What do you mean? We shall continue to preach and teach; and you can do your worst.” In trying to do the work of God, a child of God who understands authority must never allow rebellion to be part of his approach.
Jude 1:8-10 BBE: In the same way these dreamers make the flesh unclean, having no respect for authorities, and say evil of rulers. Now when Michael, one of the chief angels, was fighting against the Evil One for the body of Moses, fearing to make use of violent words against him, he only said, May the Lord be your judge. But these men say evil about such things as they have no knowledge of; and the things of which they have natural knowledge, like beasts without reason, are the cause of their destruction.
Note the way Angel Michael approached Satan when contending with him on the body of Moses; he did not use violent words against him because he understood authority.
Anyone who says, “If he can, I can too” is in a state of rebellion. This is the situation with King Saul in 1Samuel 13:1-14. One would have thought that the pressure that led him to do what he did was a good excuse; but violating God’s authority is a grievous offence. Let us look at verses 13-14: “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” That disobedience of King Saul was not just a simple matter, it was one borne out of rebellion–“If he can, I can too”.
In the case of Nadab and Abihu, the two priests under Aaron in Leviticus 10:1-3, they both were condemned to death because they violated authority. God is not only careful to see that there is fire; He is also keen to notice the nature of the fire. Rebellion changes the nature of a fire. That which was not ordered by God or by Aaron was strange fire. What God looks for is not the matter of sacrifice but the question of maintaining authority.
Let us consider Genesis 9:20-27:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Failure of delegated authority tests obedience. God put the whole family under Noah’s authority. One day, Noah became drunk in his vineyard and uncovered himself. Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. Noah should not have been drunk. But even then, Ham failed to see the dignity of authority. When Ham saw his father’s improper conduct he did not have the slightest sense of shame and sorrow, nor did he try to cover his father’s fault. This reveals that he had a rebellious spirit. He went out instead and told his two brothers, pointing out to them his father’s ugliness and so adding to himself the sin of reviling. Observe, though, how Shem and Japheth managed the situation. They entered the tent backwards–thus avoiding seeing their father’s nakedness–and covered their father with the upper garment which they had laid on their shoulders.
The failure of Noah became a test to Shem, Ham and Japheth. It revealed who was obedient and who was rebellious. Noah’s fall revealed Ham’s rebellion. When Noah cursed Ham in his son, Canaan, he sentenced him to servitude under authority for generations to come. Serving God inside rebellion is a dangerous venture!
Another example to look at is the reviling of Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12:1-9. Maybe they have a point. Miriam could reprimand his younger brother Moses on the basis of family relationship; but when she dabbled into the work of God, she was instantly judged. Aaron and Miriam said, “Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.” (12:2)
Disobedience may be more of attitude than real action as our Lord expresses in Mark 7:6-13. In whatever form, it is an act of rebellion.