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Obedience and The Glory of God

A discussion had started in a blog post from a week or so and I wanted to move the discussion here.

One objection to the idea of obedience as part of the salvation process is that obedience in some way takes the glory away from God.  It is argued that if man obeys God then salvation becomes man-centered and not God centered.  But is this true?

I do not think it has to be so.  The main reason being that God has required obedience from man as part of the salvation process, but yet Scripture still affirms that all the glory in salvation is to be given to God.  Most religious groups argue that belief and repentance  (I would add confession of Lordship and baptism) are prerequisites to salvation. Both belief and repentance are obedient actions.  Yet, even with these prerequisites salvation is still a gift from God.

Although it might make sense to say that obedience lessens God’s glory in some way, I think that Scripture does not follow.  Scripture both lays out that man is required to obey, but yet salvation glorifies God and not man, because without Him stepping into human history and dying for us we would have no hope.

Now is it possible that obedience takes away glory from God? Once again I would say yes. If we obey believing that our obedience in some way makes us worthy of our salvation, then we have missed the point and taken the glory away from God.  Instead our attitude should be like that of Luke 17:10.  Even when we do all that is required we are still unworthy servants.

Therefore obedience, which comes from faith, is still God-centered and glory is still God’s not ours.

What say you?

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12 Comments

  1. Good Morning Wesley:

    Long time reader,first time responder…this post caught my attention and I hope you will permit a few quick thoughts. In my humble opinion, Obedience doesn’t take away the glory of God for we have placed in this world with one objective…”Be Rich Toward God” (Luke 12:21). The works we do on this earth can’t earn our salvation for there is no accumulation of faithful actions that compensate for the gift on the cross. Rather, our obedience demonstrates our daily attempts to follow the two greatest commandments each built around the single word, “Love!” Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength…Love your neighbor as yourself!” When you truly make that decision to put your faith in God through your belief, the result of the decision is going to be to give God what he desires most…Yourself (your heart and your devotion)! Augustine said that all ethics can be summed up in this: “Love God, and do what you will,” for the soul that truly loves God will want to what God loves!

    Obedience doesn’t earn my salvation…it helps me come to know God better each day!

    Thanks

    Jeff

  2. Wesley

    December 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Well you need to comment more often! Very well said. Obedience neither prior to salvation or after salvation is about glorifying man.

  3. Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.

  4. It’s not that obedience takes away glory from God. A better question would be: is a person willing to acknowledge that God gives His people the ability to obey?
    If yes, they should believe that the Holy Spirit works in a believer training them up in righteousness to obey.
    Take a car for example. Imagine you were the car and you desired to run because your owner wanted you to. There are 2 things that the owner does in order for you to obey such a desire. He fills you up with gas and starts the ignition. You would thus say that the owner deserves the credit for your ability to run.

  5. Wesley

    December 6, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Could you elaborate more on “God gives His people the ability to obey”? If by that you mean that without God giving us life and His image than we could not obey I think that statement is so obvious it goes without saying, however I have a feeling you mean something different. Please explain.

  6. Ebenezer Salisbury

    December 6, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    wouldnt that be God glorifying himself Bob, if you take that to the ultimate extreme?

  7. Wesley,
    That is exactly what I mean. God works within believers, plain and simple. I can’t put enough emphasis on how important the Holy Spirit is. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us; that is the “ability” that I speak of.

    Ebenezer,
    The answer to your question is yes, that is God glorifying Himself. God is a jealous God desiring of ALL glory. We are a creation created for the Creator. May the Lamb who was slain receive the reward of His suffering!

  8. Wesley

    December 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    So is it completely impossible for a person to obey without the Spirit?

  9. Correct. See Romans 8:1-8

  10. Wesley

    December 7, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Romans 8 is a section of a person post-conversion. What about a person pre-conversion?

  11. Romans 8:28-30
    Matthew 13:3-9,18-23
    Philippians 1:6
    2 Corinthians 7:10-11

    Basically, it’s not a matter of pre-conversion nor post-conversion; the matter is whether the Spirit is working in a person or not.
    We know that the Spirit came to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment as seen in John 16. That conviction causes godly grief which is the knowledge that one has offended God with their sin (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). From there we go on to consider Matthew 13 and the parable of the sower and ask, “Did the person have godly grief from sadness of their sin, or did they have worldly grief meaning that they felt bad just like a child feels bad for breaking a window?” We see from the parable of the sower that some would receive the word gladly, but when trials come because of it they fall away; this is the result of worldly grief and the Spirit was not working in them (note that the person did not understand the word). If a person receives and understands the words they will not fall away. Well what does it mean to understand the word? Understanding could be explained as being brought to the knowledge that your sin makes God angry along with Christ’s righteousness and atonement. When you look at what the Spirit convicts of…it’s pretty obvious…the Spirit was working in the person. Now, let’s look at Romans 8:28-30. For those who love God all things, including godly grief, work together for good. He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.
    Going back to the original thought of pre-conversion and post-conversion we should see that God begins in a person, according to Philippians 1:6, a good work starting with His foreknowledge and predestination and ends with glorification. The Spirit’s role is actually 1 continuous work from conviction to sanctification (the process of making someone holy).

    I hope this was explained well enough for you to understand. Don’t hesitate to make mention of anything you might be confused about. It should all fit together like a puzzle though.

  12. Wesley

    December 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Thank you for being more thorough. I asked for the thoroughness because I have learned from talking Scripture with people that it is possible to say the same thing without meaning the same thing.

    Not confused at all. I agree that when the message is preached the Spirit uses that message to convict the world of their sin. Those who are good soil will allow the message to convict them and turn from their sins and follow (obey) Jesus.

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