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Is It Possible to Guarantee Our Obedience?

by Tom Stewart
October 10, 2001

"And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and DO them"
(Ezekiel 36:27).

If you believe that man has a sinful nature that renders his best attempts at obedience sinful, then it is doubtful that you would say that anyone could guarantee our obedience this side of Heaven. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" (Job 14:4). But, if you believe, as I do, that our parents only pass down to us a run-down physical body that may be used to encourage us to sin, i.e., physical depravity, while the ability, i.e., moral agency, to make a right moral choice, i.e., holiness, or wrong moral choice, i.e., moral depravity, remains intact, then the possibility is left open for you to claim the promise, i.e., "And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and DO them" (Ezekiel 36:27), that the covenanted Holy Spirit of this New Testament Age has been offered to us on the condition of faith to cause us to walk in joyful, loving, holy obedience, this side of Heaven! "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the Promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14). [See our article, "Must We Then Sin?" ---New Window, for a Scriptural answer to that question.]

Instead of vaguely assuming that the Holy Spirit simply dwells in Professed Christians, the Scripture teaches us that the Spirit is given only to those that obey Him.
"And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts 5:32). But, if the Spirit is only given to those that "obey Him" (5:32), then obedience to the Gospel, i.e., "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (Acts 17:30), must be possible. However, it is dangerous, to assume that the Sovereign God has no agency in bringing us to repentance, for we have been assured that God most absolutely is working in us, while we are repenting. "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the Truth" (2Timothy 2:25). We must cooperate in our Salvation, but it could not be Salvation unless HE saved us. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His Mercy He saved us, by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5).

Consider again the wonderful Promise of our text,
"I will put My Spirit within you" (36:27). This is most certainly the promised giving of the Spirit in this New Testament Age. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:9). Look at what God has promised us that He will accomplish in us. "And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and DO them" (Ezekiel 36:27). He says that He will "cause" us to obey Him, but does that mean that He must set aside our moral agency to force or necessitate our obedience like a machine? Nonsense! "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). If God wanted robots, He would have created robots; but instead, "God created man in His Own Image" (Genesis 1:27). God is able to cause us to walk in obedience, so that our obedience is a "sweet savour of Christ" (2Corinthians 2:15), that He, and not we, may be glorified. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be Glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be Praise and Dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (1Peter 4:11).

God's Promised Spirit dwells within those who abide in Him through their
"faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). "If ye keep My Commandments, ye shall abide in My Love; even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, and abide in His Love" (John 15:10). Though it is unnecessary to request the Holy Spirit to indwell us, since He immediately takes up residence in all those who repent, i.e., "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38); still, we are continually exhorted to be filled with His Spirit. "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13). The influence of the Holy Spirit will not only cause us to walk holy, but would yield the fruit of the Spirit. "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-25). As you can see, the presence of the Spirit, not only is based upon obedience, but yields obedience. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

Since we have been given this Exceeding Great and Precious Promise to secure our obedience, may we be good stewards of such a trust.
"Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great and Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:4). [See our article, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window.] And, yes, God's Promise does guarantee our obedience, IF we will trust Him for it. "Have faith in God" (Mark 11:22).


Tom Stewart

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