Confession Apart from Obedience is Worthless

by Mike Ratliff

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Matthew 7:21 (LSB) 

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 at the Whitehouse. 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?

23 And when He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?” 24 And Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the crowd; for they all regard John as a prophet.” 27 And they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 And he answered and said, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 And the man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered and said, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They *said, “The first.” Jesus *said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even regret afterward so as to believe him.Matthew 21:23-32 (LSB) 

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.

33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34 Now when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his fruit. 35 And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?” 41 They *said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.”
42 Jesus *said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation, producing the fruit of it. 44 And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
45 And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He *was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to seize Him, they feared the crowds, because they were regarding Him to be a prophet.Matthew 21:33-46 (LSB) 

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.

46 “Now why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the river burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who heard and did not do accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the river burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49 (LSB) 

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.

19 And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21 (LSB) 

27 Now it happened that while Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” 28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Luke 11:27-28 (LSB) 

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 checked 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!

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