Creflo Dollar - What Does It Mean to Obey In the New Testament - Part 1
How does obedience work in the New Testament? How does obedience work in the New Testament? I ask that question because there's just so much you're going to see about obedience and what it is in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And so, tonight, let's start in Deuteronomy chapter 28, verses 1 through 13. Deuteronomy chapter 28 and verses 1 through 14. And just the first five minutes, we're just gonna, I want you to just hear, you know, there's sometimes I'm so hungry to teach you and for you to be taught, because I found out, and you'll find out in this series, that's really how you renew your mind. Okay?
Let's begin here. We're going to read verse 1 through 13. He says: "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:" He says, "And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in. Blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD swear unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasures, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the works of thy hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:"
Now, Deuteronomy 28, verses 1-13, 1 through 13, we just read. This refers to the rewards and the blessings of perfect obedience to the law. Perfect, "if thou keep all my commandments". So, this is perfect obedience to the law. Remember, James says, if you violated just one area, you're guilty of the whole thing. And so the blessings and the rewards that comes from perfect obedience to the law; however, since no one, except Jesus, has ever obeyed the law perfectly, you do understand that. Nobody but Jesus has obeyed the law perfectly. Nobody but Jesus. Your mama and them, my mama and them, ain't nobody but Jesus obeyed the law perfectly.
You see, we all are disqualified from these blessings, based on our performance. Based on our performance, we all are disqualified from these blessings. But the good news is, listen, these blessings are a part of our inheritance because we've been given the gift of the perfect obedience of Jesus. In other words, because of the perfect obedience of Jesus, we get none of the curse but all of the blessing, not because we had to perform to get it, but we have been given the gift of the perfect obedience of Jesus. So, we are not blessed because we obey perfectly. We are blessed because Jesus obeyed perfectly. Oh, did y'all hear that? I'm not blessed because I obeyed perfectly, which I couldn't do anyway, but I am blessed because Jesus obeyed perfectly.
So, one of the questions that many people have, when confronted with the gospel of grace, is how does obedience fit into this new covenant, this New Testament, this new covenant of grace? Well, let's begin with this. And it was important for me to show you that because, you know, a lot of blessings we've heard of. I'm the head and not the tail. But not because of your performance. You could not perfectly perform, and so the great thing was Jesus, you know, his job was to keep all of the law and to keep every bit of it, every jot and tittle, and we have been blessed with the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. And so we have been gifted, through Jesus, all of those blessings and rewards because of his perfect obedience.
So, let's begin to deal with this. What does it mean to obey in the New Testament? Let's start off, and let's look at the New King James Version. It does take a couple of words and really gives the exact, the exact translation for it. So, let's study that New King James Version, Hebrews chapter 3 and verse 18 through 19. Hebrews chapter 3, verse 18 through 19. I think I'm learning, as I teach grace, just to teach it before I start comparing your religion with it. I think it'll come, if I just teach it right. Then you'll say, "Ah". You know, I can cause a big fight, man, 'cause I can go messing with your religion and then compare to this. "Well, I don't understand". You understand. You just don't want to. Okay?
All right, so let's look at this, Hebrews chapter 3, verse 18 through 19, in the New King James. He says, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter in His rest, but to those who did not obey"? Those who did not obey would not enter into his rest. Verse 19 says, "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief". All right, let's examine this just for a moment, because he said the same thing, but he used two different terms. In verse 18, he says, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter in His rest". All right the people that could not enter in his rest, he said, were those who did not obey. Well, he says the same thing in verse 19. "So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief".
In verse 18, he uses the phrase, you know, he talks about disobedience. They didn't go in because they disobeyed. He caused their disobedience in verse 19, unbelief. You didn't enter into the rest because you disobeyed. Those who didn't enter in was because of unbelief. In this New Testament, unbelief is equivalent to disobedience. Disobedience and unbelief are what we see in the New Testament. So, Israel did not enter into that rest from their enemies because of disobedience. What was their disobedience? Unbelief. Unbelief was their disobedience. Do you see that here? If you've got that, say amen, and I'll go on. I'm looking at your faces, and the computer's going off in your head. And what I'm trying to get people to do is instead of you just listening to me, read it. It's there. It's right there in the Bible I'm not making this stuff up.
Now, so we need to note that God equates unbelief with disobedience. Okay? That was not so in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament it was, you know, you didn't believe because of... well, excuse me, it was disobedience because you didn't do something. You disobeyed because you didn't do something. But here he makes it plain in the New Testament, your disobedience is unbelief. For Israel, not trusting God's promise and ability, when you didn't trust God's promise, and when you didn't trust God's ability, that was disobedience. Because of unbelief or disobedience, Israel did not enter the promised land, and the corresponding rest from their enemies that God had promised.
So, if Israel's unbelief was called disobedience, then belief on their part would then be known as obedience. Is everybody following me there? And that's a pretty safe assumption there, that if we see that disobedience was known as unbelief, then obedience would be known as belief. So, in the same context, God went on to say that his rest is still available. Now, that was rest for them to come out from amongst their enemies. But then God says something in fact, let's go to Hebrew chapter 4:3, Hebrews chapter 4:3. God says something here. He says this rest is still available. Okay? They didn't get it, but this rest is still available. Hebrews chapter 4:3 says, "For we who have believed do enter that rest", "We who have believed do enter that rest".
And so it's available for you who do believe. You who do believe can enter into that rest. Remember, that's going to be equivalent to you who obey. Your obedience in the New Testament is belief. Those who believe/obey can still enter into that rest. In fact, we're exhorted, if you'll go down to verse 11 there, Hebrews chapter 4, verse 11, we're exhorted to be diligent to enter that rest. Look what it says in Hebrews 4:11. To be diligent to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. He says, "Let us labor". I like the phrase in the New King James Version. He says, "Be diligent. Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience". So, if we're going to be diligent to enter into that rest, we're going to be diligent to believe/obey. We're going to be diligent to believe/obey. If you understand that, say amen.
So, basically, "If I ask you, how do you enter into the rest"? Belief. How do you hinder yourself from entering into the rest? Okay. All right, let's use another word. How do you enter into the rest? Obey. And how do you obey? What's obedience in the New Testament? Belief. What's disobedience in the New Testament? Unbelief. So, in light of God equating belief with obedience, our actions, listen to me carefully, our actions are not the first place where obedience must occur. See, in the Old Testament, our actions were the first place where obedience had to occur. If your actions were obedient, we could tell if you were obedient, first of all, based on your actions. But in this New Testament, in light of belief and obedience being equated as the same, our actions are not the first place where obedience must occur.
Where if our actions, see, everybody's like, "You've gotta obey God". They're saying your actions is the first place where obedience or disobedience occurs. But now what happens here is obedience begins in the same place where everything in our relationship with God begins. In the New Testament, our obedience begins with believing the gospel. In the New Testament, our obedience begins with believing the gospel. So, I want you to consider the Galatians. The whole reason why Paul wrote the book of Galatians, that letter was sent because there were fake Christians trying to talk people out of their freedom that they found in grace. And so he wrote the entire book. And he starts off, I think it's in chapter 2, "Who has bewitched you and caused you to turn away from your freedom that you found in Christ".
All right, so consider Galatians. Go to Galatians chapter 5:7. When Paul wrote to address the drastic problems that were there, they had received the gospel. The church in Galatia had received the gospel. They had received the freedom of Christ, and in Galatians chapter 5, the first part of it, he stated that they were running well. They were doing well. He says, "You ran well. You were running well. Who bewitched you? You were believing right. You were running well, but something happened". They had come under the influence of religion. They had been bewitched into mixing Jesus or grace with human performance or legalism. And what did Paul have to say about that? If you'll read the rest of this, he says, "You ran well, or you run well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth"? Or what? Who hindered you from what? Believing the truth. Something happened.
Somebody's been saying something to you. You were running well. You were believing well. Who has bewitched you? Who hindered you in believing the truth? Obeying the truth was not, first of all, located in their actions. It was in their belief. If the Galatians were not obeying, they must have been disobeying. And what they were disobeying was the truth of the gospel. So, Paul did not write to them about any commandments they were violating or any traditions they were not keeping. He wrote to them about standing in the liberty by which Christ has made you free. Let me show you that. Galatians chapter 5:1. Standing, he's talking about standing in the liberty or the freedom by which Christ has made you free. Look at this, verse 1. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with that yoke of bondage".
You know that yoke of bondage, that old way of believing the law. Don't be entangled again with the law. Stay in the liberty. And he says obey by believing. Obey by believing. So, for the Galatians and for us today obeying God was and is a matter of believing the gospel. Obeying God was and is a matter of us believing the gospel. So, you see how you've gotta rightly discern that now, because if I go to talking to you about you're not obeying God, I'm not talking about based on something you're doing or you're not doing. I'm basing it on what you're not believing. I can say to a person who comes up to me, and they say, "Well, you know, I'm having problems believing, you know, what Jesus said about my righteousness". And I'll say to them, "You're in disobedience". They're thinking, "Well, what have I done"? I'm not talking about what you've done. I'm talking about how you're believing. You're not believing. Does everybody see that now?
All right, now go with me to Romans chapter 6. This is going to be pretty amazing here. Romans chapter 6 and verse 16. Romans chapter 6 and verse 16. Let's look at this in the New King James Version, as well. Now, verse 16 says this: "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey", now you see something getting ready to happen here, right, "slaves to obey, you are that one's slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness"? Now, let's do some deep study here now. You know, I don't feel the need of telling you, well, you know, the Greek word for this is this, and then shak-a-doom-doom, and I'll just tell you what it means in Greek, okay? I mean, it may be impressive to the guy who's speaking, but I'm not doing that, okay? And there's nothing wrong with that, okay? But I want you to stay hooked up with what we're talking about.
So, this word "obey," right here, verse 16, in the Greek it means to listen. It means to hearken. It means to listen. So, when he says here, "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to listen," or to hearken to, that word "hearken" means to pay attention to or to heed what is being said. So, literally, what Paul is saying is you are slaves to whomever you pay attention to. You are slaves to whomever you listen to. You are slaves to whoever you take heed to what they are saying. You're a slave if you listen to, pay attention to, or take heed to what they're saying. So, Paul is not talking about performance and obeying the law here, but it's talking about the message that we are listening to. He is talking here about what we believe. Are we listening to the one whose sin was unto death? Adam. Or to the one whose obedience is unto righteousness? Jesus.
In other words, do you believe that you are still in Adam's sin, as a sinner, or do you believe you are in Christ's righteousness as a saint? That's what he's saying. And the whole time we've been going around and trying to figure out, "What have I done"? He's like, no, you are going to be a slave to who you believe? Do you believe? You're going to believe what you're hearing. You're going to believe what you're paying attention to. You're going to give heed to what you hear and what you pay attention to. So, if I continue to preach this sin unto death that came from Adam, and you start believing that, okay, versus me preaching obedience unto righteousness, which came from Jesus, and you believing that... do you believe that you are still in Adam's sin as a sinner? He says, "Well, if you hear that, that's what you're going to start believing". And he's going to call that believing. He's going to say you're obeying that form of doctrine that you're listening to. Or do you believe you are in Christ's righteousness as a saint?
He says, "What you believe is going to be determined by what you are hearing, hearkening to, and taking heed to. Because your belief system is going to be based on what you hear the most". That make sense? Let me show you this little Scripture in the NLT, guys. Romans 5:18 and 19, Romans 5:18 and 19, just to let you know, it's here, Romans 5:18 and 19. I feel a awesome responsibility to lay stuff, get it recorded; because once it's recorded, and it's on all these platforms, then I believe, I was praying, "God, how do I make a sermon perpetual, so that you're not the only one to just hear it, and it ends after we get the benediction tonight. But I'm believing that after the night is over with, this sermon's going to travel around the world". And you know it's happening. It travels around the world, and I don't have to get sad like, "Oh, I wish the chapel was packed tonight".
But even if it's packed tonight, it still would not enough people. Even if the Dome is packed full time, it's still not enough people. I want to get this gospel around this world, so people can hear it. All right, look at what he says in the NLT. "Yes, Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone". Verse 19, "Because one person disobeyed", or what? Did not believe. "Because one person disobeyed," or did not believe, "God". He said what happened for that one person, I cannot wait to show you this. It's... calm down. I was so blown away in my study time yesterday. Whew. Do I have time to go over this? Probably not. But the Bible says he'll teach us how not to be ungodly. You know ungodliness is? It's when you do something and don't see a need to get God to bless it. It's when you do something and don't involve him in it.