Confession Apart from Obedience is Worthless

by Mike Ratliff

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 ESV)

There are many false teachings in our time within the visible Church. What we must never forget is that there is nothing new under the Sun. The heresies we encounter now are actually very old. Some have been around a long time in their current form while others are recycled versions of an older heresy that was dealt with hundreds of years ago. Why should our enemy and his seed come up with new attacks when the old ones wreak havoc, deepen spiritual blindness, and keep people mired in man-made religiosity instead of becoming spirit-filled, obedient Christians?

The heresy we will examine in this post was actually preached against by our Lord Himself. Sadly, it is still prevalent in our day. This heresy says that confession (religiosity) is the means of justification whether there is accompanying, good works or not. On the other hand, there are also theologians in our time who have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Their cry is, “Deeds not creeds!” This movement seeks to ignore the creeds and confessions such as the Westminster Confession and the Apostles Creed as having any value to Christianity. However, a study of them will quickly show the reader that they are actually teaching mechanisms developed by those who came before us that were intended to  teach the people in the local churches doctrinal truths. The “deeds not creeds” movement actually discourages Christians from studying theology or doctrine at all.

Of course, the leader of the “deeds not creeds” movement is Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Church model. The emphasis in the Purpose Driven Church model is not on knowing the Word of God and obeying it. No, instead the PDC paradigm is primarily focused on doing “good” works while keeping an “open mind.” Pluralism is a major corner stone in its structure. Rick Warren has been quoted as saying that there are many ways to God. He even intentionally used the name “Isa” for Jesus in his Inaugural Prayer earlier this month. This is the Muslim name of a Jesus that is not Jesus Christ, but is actually the one Islam teaches will destroy Christianity. In any case, Rick Warren does claim that he is teaching his followers to live obedient lives. Is he? Wouldn’t that depend upon what one’s definition of obedience is?

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:23-32 ESV)

What was John the Baptist’s message to the Jews? He preached repentance. His God given task was to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. He was a prophet, however, the rulers of the Jews rejected him as such. I like the way the Geneva Bible translated the answer from these false religious leaders statement, “We do not know.” The Geneva Bible translation says, “we cannot tell.” In other words, they had no discernment. They had none concerning  our Lord Jesus Christ as well. They did not believe John the Baptist nor did they believe our Lord. What is the obedience spoken of here by our Lord? The tax collectors and prostitutes believed John the Baptist and the fruit of it was repentance. However, these men simply hardened their hearts to the truth they heard as well as the obvious work of God in the hearts of the people.

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46 ESV)

Those who fall on this stone are shattered. Those it falls on are crushed. This is speaking of apathy towards our Lord (those who fall on the stone) while those who are crushed by it are those who reject Christ as Lord and Saviour. Those who obey God are not those who reject Him nor do they ignore Him. No, they believe and repent. This is obeying God. Those whom God saves this way are changed forever through the washing of regeneration. They live their lives from that point on entirely with Christ as their Lord. They confess Him as Lord and they live obedient lives as they abide in Him. Their lives are marked in every part by the work of the Holy Spirit in them to know the truth and live according to it.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49 ESV)

Confession apart from obedience is worthless. Those who profess to be Christians, but who live only for the here and now and for self-gratification are those who have built their spiritual house on a foundation of sand. Those who believe, repent, and then live their lives walking by faith, walking in the spirit, and abiding in Christ have proven that their foundation is the chief cornerstone which was rejected by Jewish leaders of His day and most people today.

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21 ESV) 

As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28 ESV)

Notice that those who do the Word of God must also hear it. The reason we need to study the Word of God, and the creeds and confessions help us do that, is so we hear it. This is the mechanism God uses to speak to our hearts. This is why it is such a tragedy that so many so-called Christian leaders are denigrating the Word of God as infallible and authoritative for the Christian.

What does it mean for the Christian to be “obedient” to God? It means that they hear the truth and obey it by faith. They believe God and obey Him. It’s not keeping a set of rules that can be check off when completed. No, this is drawing near unto God in prayer and devotion as living sacrifices. These live in the Word of God. It applies to every part of their lives. This renews their minds continually, which transforms them into godly, Christlike believers full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They will do good works as well as the natural byproduct of being Spirit-filled. However, the obedience spoken of here begins with believing God and repentance.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Confession Apart from Obedience is Worthless

  1. Pingback: Confession Apart from Obedience is Worthless - Reformata

  2. I strongly agree. In order to enter the kingdom of God, it’s not enough that we call his name and praise him everyday but do his will

  3. “The “deeds not creeds” movement actually discourages Christians from studying theology or doctrine at all.”

    Blind leading the blind. But the ‘seeker friendly’ goat herders and their staff sure encourage the purchase and study of every piece of garbage available at the local ‘Christian’ book stores. When I suggested to the adult Sunday school the study of 1 John written by God, instead of some popular books written by man, people looked at me like I was off my rocker.

    I am still in shock as to how few within these purpose captive churches will rise up and challenge with God’s Word, the clearly false teachings .. or even just leave to find a pulpit from which God’s Word is preached.

    The Lord has greatly blessed me by leading my family to a church where God’s Word is preached and studied faithfully.

  4. The Bible says that we find pasture in the wilderness. I did not know the Lord until he drew me out of the harlot church and into a desolate wasteland where he was able to get me away from all of the vanity, distractions, traditions, and myths coming from the visible church. While we are in that lonesome place, we truly receive the gift of repentance because the wilderness experience is such a powerful means of purging the worldliness out of God’s people.

    Attendance at a big beautiful sanctuary with warm smiles and a pat on the back from a pastor will not merit salvation. Because the people cast off restraint and there is no vision, I agree that judgment is lacking. It is such a blessing to have been afflicted, cold shouldered, and rejected by the large mega churches that I tried so desperately to belong to. I give glory to God for drawing his people out of that oppressive system where they will find pasture in uncommon and undesirable places. Praise God for his sovereign hand in the process of sanctification.

    It is good to be free from that bird cage. It is great to be free from men who ‘sacrifice unto their own dragnets.’ God is not in their hearts. Mammon is.

  5. Pingback: The Great Commandment « Possessing the Treasure

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