On the day of Pentecost, after hearing Peter testify of Jesus Christ, about 3000 people were baptized into the New Testament church. Luke recorded in the book of Acts that these new Christians continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking bread, and in prayers, indicating they were trying to be obedient to the commandments of God. Let us take a detailed look at the principle of obedience.
Love Requires Obedience
Jesus is very concerned about the quality of our lives. He wants us to do more than just believe in him. He wants us to live his commandments, thus becoming more like him. Jesus expressed his desire for this as he taught his disciples to love him.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. (John 14:15,21,23-24)
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:10,14)
From the Apostle John, we have a definition of love.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. (2 John 6)
These verses help us realize that in the scriptures, love of Christ is tied very closely to obedience to him. In the context of the Gospel, therefore, scriptures that talk about love also imply obedience to Christ. For example, consider the following teaching from Jesus about the greatest commandments.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 22:36-39)
Thus, in the context of the scriptures the greatest commandment is to love God by keeping his commandments.
This principle of love through obedience was taught by Jesus in his great Sermon on the Mount. He taught that not everyone who believed in him and confessed him would enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who kept the commandments of God would enter the kingdom.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
That verse is significant: but he that doeth the will of my Father. After all, people can accept Jesus as the Christ and even do many wonderful works, as Jesus went on to explain in verses 22 and 23, but the Savior will not accept them.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23)
Obedience Leads to Behavior Change
It is important to the Savior is that we change our lives through repentance and living the commandments of God. The commandments are our recipe for happy lives. Our obedience, however, does not save us nor remove our sins; Christ’s blood does that. In providing the Atonement, Jesus requires that we obey his commandments before he will allow his blood to cleanse our souls. Of course, we can not perfectly keep all of God’s commandments. If we try to be “super Mormons”, we will drive ourselves into depression. As Nephi explained, we do the best we can day by day and then allow the Savior’s atonement to cover what we can not do.
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23, emphasis added)
During some days, our “best” is a lot, while at other times it is not much. This is normal. Our spiritual life is full of “ups” and “downs”. The important thing is that our spirituality is on an upwards trend, that over time, the “ups” occur more often and last longer, while the “downs” diminish. In all cases, we must plead for the atonement of Jesus Christ to enter our lives such that we form partnerships with the Savior and go forward hand in hand with him.
We Follow Christ Through Obedience
Through faith, we accept Christ as our Savior and look to him for salvation. Through obedience to his commandments, we follow him, conforming our lives to his standards of conduct. We follow him, not just with our mouths but with our lives. Jesus taught that if we loved him we would keep his commandments. He not only taught this, but he set the example for us by being obedient to God. Nephi explained it this way.
And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father? (2 Nephi 31:6-7,10)
King Benjamin taught his people they had made covenants with God to always obey him, and through keeping their covenants they would be called by the name of Christ, that is they were Christians.
And under this head [Christ] ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. (Mosiah 5:8-9)
King Benjamin labored with his hands to provide for his sustenance so he would not be a burden on the people. He taught his people they should serve one another and should serve God through obedience to the commandments.
And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne–and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. (Mosiah 2:14,17-19,22)
King Benjamin’s powerful discourse so moved the people that they desired to obey all of God’s commandments.
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God. (Mosiah 5:2-5, emphasis added)
King Benjamin’s people wanted to obey God because they were converted to Christ. All people who are converted must repent and change their lives to be like the Savior.
The prophet Alma taught the principle of obedience in a beautiful way. Although his discourse is long, it contains much to help us in our lives.
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!
Yea, even wo unto all ye workers of iniquity; repent, repent, for the Lord God hath spoken it!
Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;
Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire–
For behold, the time is at hand that whosoever bringeth forth not good fruit, or whosoever doeth not the works of righteousness, the same have cause to wail and mourn.
O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.
And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.
For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.
Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.
And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should hear me, for I speak in the energy of my soul; for behold, I have spoken unto you plainly that ye cannot error, or have spoken according to the commandments of God. (Alma 5:26-43)