Thursday, August 8, 2013
To Believe or Disobey?
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:30-36 (ESV)
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Yeah, troubling a bit. I mean, I believe in the Son. No question there. I have eternal life then. Right? Only thing comes in. I can’t remember the last time I obeyed him. God’s wrath must be upon me. I mean I woke up this morning in a fit of lust, and greed, and anxiousness caught up with me before my first cup of coffee. It followed me for most of the day. There was a woman I saw while walking. She caught my attention from three blocks away, and I’m not sure my thoughts were the purest. See where I’m going? Who obeys the Son? Most of us are still walking around with two eyes and our right hands are we not? Jesus says let tomorrow worry about tomorrow? Who has done that? Jesus says if we look upon a woman with lust we are guilty of adultery. I think you get the picture. We fail to obey. I say we because I know you do too.
The problem is translation, and I can’t for the life of me figure this out. There is a tendency in reformed thought to equate believe with obedience. I mean the word they translate disobey here, could just as easily be translated disbelieve, and it would seem to me that it fits better there, to disbelieve. Disbelieve would be a fine counterpart to believe in the passage as a whole, believe go to heaven. Disbelieve and receive God’s wrath.
There is I suppose a relation though between faith and obedience. Those who believe obey Jesus in this one thing, they believe. Whatever else they do in life they obey Jesus in that one thing. And then again, is it them doing it? or is it the work of the Holy Spirit? Because our faith is beyond us, the ability to believe is beyond us, even more so than our ability to obey his law is beyond us.
Faith can’t be equated with obedience, and that is what the translators try to do here. Equate faith with obedience. That didn’t even work for Paul, who didn’t do the good that he would, but did the bad he would not. Obedience to the law of God is impossible for the sinner. And we are all sinners. Yes, you you anxious worry wart are a sinner. I know, because you are chewing your nails. Obedience to the gospel? I don’t know what that would even mean. Seriously, no. Who obeys news? Dan Rather tells you there was a bomb that went off in Syria. What’s to obey? I mean, if the Drudge report tells me it I might consider believing it, but obeying it? What would that mean. Gospel, good news, nothing to obey, just something to believe. Jesus died for your sins. Believe, because there is nothing for you to obey.
But just there, by believing the gospel, throwing it all down on him, betting the house and going all in, winner take all, that’s faith. Oh yeah, betting the chips and going for a ride, come what may. And there, in believing, you fulfill the law in him who fulfilled the law for you. There you have it, perfect righteousness. There you find your obedience to the law, in the cross of Christ who atoned for your sins.