Second Key: Obedience Brings Understanding
A second key follows logically from the first: A right attitude leads to a proper obedience of God's laws, which form much of the foundation of the Bible.
James explains that you must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25).
We see, then, that applying what we learn from God's Word is necessary, along with a humble approach. We must begin to live what we learn for God to grant us continued understanding.
If we refuse to accept the understanding God reveals to us, He ceases to give us more of it. God explains this principle: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you . . ." (Hosea 4:6).
For us to understand the Bible, we must first learn about and respect God's law. We read a summary of this principle in Psalm 111:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding haveall those who do His commandments . . ."
Paul emphasizes this point in Romans 2:13, "For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified." If a person studies the Bible just to hear what it says, but not to do what it commands, he is not pleasing God and cannot expect His help.
Sadly, many think Jesus Christ came to do away with the law, but He denied this in the strongest terms. "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets," He warned. "I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18).
Jesus was explaining that all of God's commandments should be "fulfilled" in a more-complete way than that taught by the Pharisees. He stressed that we should take into account the spiritual intent of the law and not just the letter. He showed that both aspects of law-keeping are necessary to truly obey God.
To those who followed Him, but did not obey God's laws, He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Christ expected His followers to deeply respect God's commandments, as He always respected and obeyed them. His view was clear: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). Christ's teachings uphold God's commandments. They do not do away with them.
The apostle Peter wrote of people who desire to receive the Holy Spirit, a requirement for understanding the Scriptures. "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
Therefore, to understand revealed spiritual truths requires the second key, which is faithful obedience to God's perfect laws and instruction as shown in Scripture.
Though obedience is necessary for continued spiritual understanding, this does not mean that obedience entitles us to salvation. God alone, through his grace and mercy, forgives sin, grants us help to overcome and offers salvation as a gift. However, God does expect us to do our part while He fulfills the rest. James emphasized this principle: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he [in order to obey] offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:21-22).
The many benefits of obedience will quickly manifest themselves to the doer. "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good," wrote King David (Psalm 34:8). Jesus Christ said: "Whoever chooses to do the will of God will know whether my teaching comes from him or is merely my own" (John 7:17, Revised English Bible). An attitude of humble, willing obedience is the litmus test!
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