Study Guide
by David Chadwell

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Lesson Ten

We invested this quarter in a study to examine basic differences between Judaism and Christianity. Our last two lessons will focus on insights that should be developed though this study.

A common, internal struggle of enormous significance characterizes Israel's and Christianity's understanding of God's expectations. Israel failed to develop God's balance between obedience to God and pursuit of God's purposes. This was a devastating failure. As did Israel, too often Christians fail to develop God's balance between obedience to God and pursuit of God's purposes. In ignorance of God's purposes, Israel was and Christians are prone to stress obedience to God as they ignore God's purposes.

Israel's failure illustrated: Read Isaiah 1:10-15 and note:

  1. God called Israel "Sodom and Gomorra," the symbols of total spiritual failure.
  2. Their sacrifices insulted God and their incense was an abomination.
  3. Their acts of worship were NOT a source of pleasure to God.
  4. God called their worship a "trampling in the courts," not acts of praise.
  5. Their evil involvement in their lives made their obedient observance of the new moon, the Sabbath, and the assemblies disgusting to God.
  6. Observing the commanded assemblies (doubtless in strict obedience to the law) caused God to hate their worship; their religious assemblies burdened God.
  7. A weary God refused to look at them as they worshipped or to hear their prayers.

Did God command the acts of worship and assemblies they observed? Yes. Was their problem a failure to obey worship commands? No. In their obedience, they were ignorant of God's purposes. To them, it was perfectly acceptable to involve their lives in things that opposed God while obediently performing the correct acts of worship. They divorced obedience to God from God's purposes. The reasons and motives for one's obedience were irrelevant and insignificant as long as the person did what God commanded. God's purposes were never an important consideration.

The failure to understand the relationship between obeying the commandments of God and pursuing the purposes of God was a constant source of conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees defended a disastrous absence of balance between divine purpose and obedience. They even used obedience to tradition to oppose God's purposes (see Matthew 15:1-11). Jesus' attempts to open their eyes to God's purposes infuriated them. All their arguments about working on the Sabbath centered in God's purposes (see Matthew 12:1-8 and Luke 6:6-11). Jesus used scripture to challenge them to consider God's purposes (see Matthew 9:10-13).

The balance between obedience and purpose:

God's mature son or daughter is dedicated to God's purposes in Christ, in rescuing the lost, in edifying the saved, in nurturing the spiritually immature, in encouraging the spiritually mature, and in focusing those in Christ and out of Christ on the eternal. Never will dedication to God's purposes lead him or her to rebel against God. His or her desire and ambition is to obediently serve God. However, never will he or she use obedience as a reason to oppose or work against God's purposes.

Consider a couple of illustrations from Jesus himself. Doing good on the Sabbath did not violate the commandment not to work on the Sabbath. Extending forgiveness to a penitent, immoral woman did not oppose obedience. Showing compassion, expressing mercy, and extending forgiveness never endorsed the evil. It fulfilled God's purposes.

What God wants in His children is what we hope for our children. When children are young, they do not understand adult purposes. Loving parents teach their young children to obey them. The parents do not abuse, oppress, or damage their children. They teach their children to obey because they love them. Immature children left to their own choices and decisions cannot grasp the significance, consequences, or long term results of their choices. They are taught obedience for their own good and protection.

As children begin to mature, they begin to grasp and understand adult purposes. The more they mature, the more they understand adult purposes. The more they understand adult purposes, the further they grow from habitual, conditioned obedience. When the child reaches adult maturity, he or she will be dedicated to adult purposes. Responsible dedication to good adult purposes results in a surrender of self through service that exceeds anything that habitual obedience can produce. Dedication to purpose is dependent on maturity.

The same situation is true of God's children. In our spiritual immaturity, God stresses obedience. He does not abuse, oppress, or damage us. He teaches us to obey because He loves us. Were He to abandon us to our own immature choices and decisions, we would make destructive choices. In our spiritual immaturity we are ignorant of the significance, consequences, or long term results of evil. When immature, our skills for identifying evil range from poor to nonexistent.

As we spiritually mature, we increasingly grasp God's purposes. The more we mature, the better we understand His purposes. As maturity increases, dedication to God's purposes grows. When we become spiritual adults, we are totally dedicated (heart, mind, and soul dedication) to God's purposes. The result is a self surrender and service that exceeds anything habitual obedience can produce. Our commitment and service to Christ exceeds anything that obedience would produce. Dedication to God's purposes in Christ is the highest form of surrender to God. Understanding God's purposes led Jesus to the self surrender of crucifixion.

David Chadwell

God's Contrasting Approaches Study Guide (lesson 10)
Wednesday evening Bible class, Spring Quarter 1999
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Copyright © 1999
Permission is granted to freely copy and distribute with text unchanged, including author's name.
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