Obedience

Paul’s letter to the Philippians focused on the result of being born again. Aside from the hope that every Christian has of going to heaven when we die, there is a practical side to having put our faith in Christ. Paul told the Philippians that he was “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Paul didn’t explain what the good work was that God was doing in the lives of the believers at Philippi, but the context of his letter showed that the Philippians were being obedient to God’s word. Paul was writing to the Philippians to thank them for a gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention in Rome (Introduction to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, p. 1705). Rather than abandoning him in his time of need, the Philippians stood by Paul and encouraged him to keep preaching the gospel and fighting the good fight of faith.

Paul used the example of Christ to explain why suffering was necessary and told the Philippians, “You are not only to put your trust in Him, but you are to suffer for Him also. You know what the fight is like. Now it is time for you to have a part in it as I have” (Philippians 1:29-30, NLV). Paul pointed out that obedience was necessary for Christ to win the battle against Satan and instructed the Philippians to:

Let this mind be in you, which as also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of a men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

The Greek word Paul used that is translated obedient, hupekoos (hoop-ay’-ko-os) means to listen attentively and by implication submission (G5255). Hupekoos is derived from the word hupakouo which comes from the words hupo indicating an inferior position or condition (G5259) and akouo (ak-oo’-o), a verb that denotes both the sound and meaning of what is spoken (G191). Akouo is used in John 1:40 where it says, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” Akouo in this verse means literally “‘heard from beside John,’ suggesting that he stood beside him.” In other words, Andrew’s obedience (he followed John) was the result of an intimate conversation he had with him.

Paul’s explanation of obedience suggested that it was a dual or combined effort between God and believers. He said, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, NKJV). The Greek words that are translated work and works, have to do with the results or effect of an intentional effort to accomplish a supernatural task (G2716/G1754). One way to look at our obedience to God’s will is to see that the Holy Spirit (God’s supernatural power in us) is activated when we do what God’s wants us to and the result is the accomplishment of a supernatural task that we could not have accomplished on our own.

Submission

Jesus’ commitment to doing his Father’s will meant that he had to fight against his human desire to live a normal life. On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane with eleven of his twelve apostles. When he took Peter, James, and John to a private spot to pray, “he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed saying, ‘My Father, If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will'” (Matthew 26:37-39, ESV). Jesus’ human nature was no different than anyone else’. He didn’t want to die on the cross, but his divine nature made it possible for him to submit to his Father and do what no other human was capable of, voluntarily dying for the sins of all humanity.

After praying a second, and then a third time that his Father’s will would be accomplished, Jesus went to meet his betrayer, Judas Iscariot who had arranged for him to be arrested while he was away from the crowd of followers that typically surrounded him. It says in Matthew 26:47-50:

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. (ESV)

Jesus’ reference to Judas as his friend was not a sarcastic remark, but his way of communicating that Judas wasn’t doing him any harm by turning him over to the religious authorities. Jesus knew that it was his Father’s will for him to be taken into custody that night and crucified the next morning. Everything was happening according to a predestined plan for Israel’s Messiah to be killed like the lamb that was eaten during their Passover celebration. The irony was that Jesus’ death would actually do what the annual animal sacrifice could not. John the Baptist declared about him the first time he saw Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus made it perfectly clear that he was acting according to his Father’s will when he told Peter to put away his sword because “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). In other words, Peter could not defeat Satan with physical force. Jesus then asked Peter two rhetorical questions to ignite his spiritual insight into the situation. He said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, And he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:53-54, ESV). Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy was the ultimate goal of his ministry on Earth. Were it not for his submission to his Father’s will, Jesus would have accomplished nothing more than a short period of communion with his human counterparts and then spent eternity in Heaven alone.