He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36
Obey – Even in translation this verse demands that we see the connection between “believe” and “obey.” But when we realize that John’s thought and sentence structure is Hebraic, the force of this connection is undeniable. Believing has nothing to do with gathering the facts. If there is no obedience, there is no belief. This fact is emphasized when we see that John uses two present active participles for “believing” and “disobeying.” There are no nouns here. It is not the collection of correct beliefs versus the collection of mistaken opinions. It is the action of believing versus the action of deliberate disobedience (in Greek apietheo – do you see something familiar here? Disobedience is connected to apathy).
The Christian church preaches a theology of divorce. It has separated believing from doing. It claims that knowing that Jesus is the Christ and proclaiming this truth is sufficient for a salvation ticket. The church today rarely speaks of the demand for obedient perseverance. Its goal is to get you to heaven by whatever means possible. If that means divorcing behavior from declaration, so be it. But Yeshua will not tolerate such foolishness. John’s gospel captures this in bold type in this verse parallelism. In John, “to believe” is never to simply acknowledge the facts. John uses the Greek word pistos ninety-two times. It is never a noun. It is never “belief.” It is always “to believe into,” to move from one worldview to another, to shift everything about who I am and what I do from the system of this world to the Kingdom of God. It is action, not information.
Hebrew loves to describe concepts with opposites. Here John paints a picture of opposites that clearly defines what believing means. The opposite of believing is not being ignorant. It is not being confused or having the wrong facts. The opposite of believing is disobeying. This can only mean that believing is the same as obeying. Anyone who claims to believe in Jesus but does not obey the teachings of Jesus is not only deceived, he is condemned. To divorce believe and obey is spiritual suicide.
For a Christian, nothing is more important than obeying Yeshua. He is the only means for graceful access to the Father. He is the only sacrifice that reconciles the rift between us and God. To ignore what He says is insanity. Yet week after week, in congregation after congregation, we preach divorce. We march in goose-step to the beat of the Greek drum, wrongly dividing the word of truth by telling ourselves that Jesus’ example of obedience does not apply to us. Is it any wonder that the scariest verse in the Bible is the one that says, “I never knew you.”
There is hardly a single page of Scripture that does not speak of obedience. It is the consistent theme from Genesis to Revelation. It is the neon sign that stands above the salvation billboard. If obedience is the hallmark of our Savior, can it be any less important for us? There is no avoiding this subject. It is not “Jewish.” Jesus was a Jew, but He came for all of us. His instructions are for all of us. His example is for all of us. It’s time to bring the divorce to an end and reconcile believing and obeying. There is no train to glory that does not pass through the plains of the wilderness and in the wilderness I must learn to obey or be left behind.
Topical Index: Obedience