Disobedience to Jesus is far more widespread among people who call themselves Christians than what is generally recognized to be the case. Over the years the doctrine that man is saved by grace through faith alone without any kind of works has become so prevalent in men's thinking that it seems it has driven out of men's lives the sense of any kind of responsibility to obey God other than mentally assenting to the sonship of Jesus. Disobedience to Jesus is thus not considered a sin that will damn you just as long as you believe.
What does the Bible have to say on the subject? In John 3:36 we find this passage, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (NAS see also the ASV, ESV, RSV, NRSV, LITV, GNB, and the ISV) The New King James Version translates it, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (NKJV) At first glance it might well appear to you that the two translations are in conflict and are not saying the same thing. While the wording differs the meaning is the same.
First, I would have you note carefully the text of the NKJV rendering. It says, "he who does not believe the Son." Well, if you do not believe the Son then what are you saying? Are you not saying he is a liar? Certainly, you are. Furthermore, if one does not believe the Son one is not going to obey the Son. Why would you obey a man whose word you do not believe? Why would you obey a man you think is a liar and an imposter? You are not and neither am I. We are only willing to obey when we believe.
But this brings up a very important point faith leads to obedience for if a man believes then he obeys. Let me give an example. If you are in an office and a voice comes over the intercom telling you to lock your door and take cover an armed terrorist has entered the building what you do will depend on what you believe. Will you take it as a prank (thinking the person on the intercom is joking and telling you a lie) or will you take it for the truth. What you believe about the message directly affects what you will do.
It is the same way with Jesus and his message for man. What do you really believe about what he has said whether directly or indirectly through the words of other New Testament writers? A lot of people want to take part of what he said, the part that seems reasonable to them, believe and obey it but do not and will not accept everything he has said and refuse to obey that part of the word they don't believe or the parts that make no sense to them and seem to be unreasonable from their point of view. What are they saying? Are they saying sometimes he tells the truth and sometimes he does not? What they are really telling us is that the man Jesus (or we could say the God Jesus) is not totally dependable. Sometimes he means what he says and other times he is not so strict about it about not keeping his word. I wonder how they come to that conclusion.
It is a fearful thing to "not believe the Son" in every saying and command he has given for the passage we are studying says "the wrath of God abides on him" who does not believe the Son. For you or me to pick out what we believe and are willing to obey and separate other commandments into a category of what we do not believe and will not obey displaces Jesus and makes us the law giver. We put ourselves in God's place. It places us in the category of those who do "not believe the Son."
Who are the true disciples of Jesus? He answers that question for us, "If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine." (John 8:31 NAS) Surely, we can all see that when Jesus said that he was not talking about having our nose in the New Testament reading continually but rather obeying his word. At the time those words were uttered there was no New Testament, not a single book had been written. To abide in the words of Jesus is to believe and obey them, live by them all of them.
Again, Jesus said, "If anyone keeps my word he shall never see death." (John 8:51 NAS) Keep means obey which is just the opposite of disobey. Can a man go to heaven by just sitting on his couch saying I believe in Jesus and God's grace?
Can a person go to heaven without loving Jesus? Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15 NAS) See similar statements in John 14:21 and 23 and John 15:10. He says in John 14:24, "He who does not love me does not keep my words." (NAS) Can such a man go to heaven?
Jesus, in his well known prayer in John 17, said of his disciples, "they have kept thy word." (NAS) Of course, he was speaking of the Father's word that he (Jesus) had given the disciples. Could he say that of you and me or would he just have to say "they believed (gave mental assent) to me being your son?" Then ask yourself this question why did they keep that word? Was it not because they believed it? One cannot separate faith from obedience when one knows of a command that has been given that is applicable to him. Faith requires obedience. Obedience is not an option for a true believer. When obedience becomes an option Satan has entered the door for sin to come in.
"By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know him,' and does not keep his commandments, is a liar." (1 John 2:3-4 NAS)
What keeps a person out of heaven? I think we would all answer correctly and say sin does. But, what is sin? How would you define it? How should we define it? The Bible defines it for us when it says, "sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:3 KJV) Modern versions put it, "sin is lawlessness." (NAS) What does that mean if it does not mean that sin is a failure to abide (to keep) God's commands, a failure to keep the word of God?
John tells us, "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3 NAS) If that is true, as it is, is it not then also a necessary deduction that he who does not love God does not keep his commandments? We know it is for we have already read it in John 14:24 quoted earlier in this article.
Finally, Jesus, we are told, "became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation." (Heb. 5:9 NAS) That, of course, excludes all those who do not obey him.
To many obedience is equated with salvation by works. They get hung up on a misunderstanding (emphasis here on misunderstanding) of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith and thus feel that any requirement of obedience for salvation is tantamount to salvation by works. James tells them "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26) but it is a hard doctrine for them to swallow. He says, "A man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." (James 2:24 NAS)
No one can work their way to heaven. Our works would never be that perfect, could not be, for we are human beings but God never meant for man to become indifferent to his word and to treat his commands with contempt as though they amounted to nothing. Jesus is a "King of kings" (Rev. 7:14 NAS) and we are subjects in his kingdom even now as he sits in heaven on the throne of David. Subjects of a king are required by his law to obey him. Kings of old were not men you messed around with. They were feared and respected. You bowed down to them when you went into their presence. You obeyed their orders or else suffered the consequences. When the Bible refers to Jesus as a king it does not have reference to a figure head kind of king we find in the world today but of the old time kings. His word, his commands, must be respected and honored.
In closing I want to ask a few questions. If you believe Jesus have you repented of your sins? Jesus commanded it (Acts 2:38, Mark 1:15, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30). Will you obey or will you live in disobedience to Jesus?
Have you confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus? Jesus commanded it (Rom. 10:9-10, Matt. 10:32-33, Phil. 2:11, 1 John 4:3). We either confess him or we live in disobedience to Jesus.
Jesus commanded baptism and we all know it (Mark 16:15-15, Matt. 28:18-20, John 3:5) and whether you or I like it or not it does not matter. He commanded it and the Bible says it is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Will we obey or will we in disobedience to Jesus rebel against his command?
These are our choices. These are the things it takes to make one a Christian with faith being the foundation. But, once one becomes a Christian every day we have choices to make to either obey or disobey the commands of God. Where are you going to be next Sunday morning? Will you obey Jesus by assembling with the saints? We are admonished to not forsake "our own assembling together" (Heb. 10:25 NAS) We either obey or disobey.
Life consists of two choices disobedience to Jesus or obedience to Jesus. We have free will. We get to choose. We also get to reap the end result of our choices.