Obedience is, in a general or abstract sense, a readiness to carry out or perform the ordinances of another, i.e. to put the design of another into execution, and thereby satisfy the will of another person or persons. The word, then, signifies the capacity to hearken to any one's advice, directions, or orders. In religion obedience must be animated by love (q.v.). Obedience -maybe paid (a) on the part of man (1) to God and Christ; (2) to one's parents; (3) to superiors generally, especially one's government. There is also (b) the obedience which Christ paid to God the Father. See below.
1. Obedience to God may be considered
(1) as virtual, which consists in a belief of the Gospel, of the holiness and equity of its precepts, of the truth of its promises, and a true repentance of all our sins;
(2) actual obedience, which is the practice and exercise of the several graces and duties of Christianity;
(3) perfect obedience, which is the exact conformity of our hearts and lives to the law of God, without the least imperfection. This last is peculiar to a glorified state, though it should be our aim in this. SEE PERFECTION.
The obligation we are under to obedience arises —
(1) from the relation we stand in to God as creatures (Ps 95:6);
(2) from the law which he has revealed to us in his Word (Ps 119:3; 2Pe 1:5,7);
(3) from the blessings of his providence which we are constantly receiving (Ac 14:17; Ps 145);
(4) from the love and goodness of God in the grand work of redemption (1Co 6:20).
As to the nature of this obedience, it must be —
(1) active, not only avoiding what is prohibited, but performing what is commanded (Col 3:8,10);
(2) personal, for though Christ has obeyed the law for us as a covenant of works, yet he has not abrogated it as a rule of life (Ro 7:22; Ro 3:31);
(3) sincere (Ps 51:6; 1Ti 1:5);
(4) affectionate, springing from love and not from terror (1Jo 5:19; 1Jo 2:5; 2Co 5:14)
(5) diligent, not slothful (Ga 1:16; Ps 18:44; Ro 12:11);
(6) conspicuous and open (Php 2:15; Mt 5:16);
(7) universal; not one duty, but all must be performed (2Pe 1:5,10);
(8) perpetual, at all times, places, and occasions (Ro 2:7; Ga 6:9).
The advantages of obedience are these:
(1) it adorns the Gospel (Tit 2:10);
(2) it is evidential of grace (2Co 5:17);
(3) it rejoices the hearts of the ministers and people of God (3Jo 1:2; 2Th 1:12,12);
(4) it silences gainsayers (2Pe 1:11-12);
(5) encourages the saints, while it reproves the lukewarm (Mt 5:16);
(6) it affords peace to the subject of it (Ps 25:12-13; Ac 24:16);
(7) it powerfully recommends religion, as that which is both delightful and practicable (Col 1:10).
(8) it is the forerunner and evidence of eternal glory (Ro 6:22; Re 22:14).
2. Obedience to parents is taught us in the N.T. Scriptures in Epheshians 6:1 (also in Col 3:20): "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Thus also servants are to obey their masters, as taught in Eph 6:5 (also Col 3:22; 1Pe 2:18): "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."
3. Obedience to authority (q.v.); this, however, the Christian is taught to exercise only when not out of harmony with the divine commands, for it is the duty of the Christian to obey God rather than man (Ac 4:17; Ac 5:29).
See Krehl, New-Testament. Handworterbuch, s.v. Gehorsam; Charnock, Works, 11:1212; Tillotson, Sermons, ser. 122, 123; Saurin, Sermons, vol. i, ser. 4; Ridgley, Body of Divinity, qu. 92; Dwight, Theology; Walker. Sermons; Fuller, Works; Robert Hall, Works. SEE HOLINESS; SEE LIBERTY; SEE NECESSITY; SEE SANCTIFICATION.