“To do what someone tells you to do or what a rule, law, etc., says you must do.”
The above dictionary definition shows that someone first gets a command given to them, and then they “do” what they have been told to do. They can be told in person or by a written rule. They must do more than promise to obey, or even try to obey. They must “do” what they have been told.
Now in normal human society obedience is required when someone in authority wants you to do something. You may not want to obey, but if you are “under their authority” then you have to obey anyway.
Those in authority over you can influence you to obey them by reward or punishment. So, you may say to your child “if you clean your room you can watch that movie you have been wanting to see”, or you may say “if you don’t clean your room you will be grounded.”
In legal terms we consider disobedience towards a law as a punishable offense.
OK. Now God gives commands. And, He monitors our response. Nothing can be hidden from Him. We must do what He says. As with civil law He uses reward and punishment. He cannot be deceived.
Many Christians try to obey God by using will power alone. That is, they read a command such as “do commit adultery” and they attempt to obey this command using the power of choice. This is called “keeping the Law” and for many people this is all they know to do. This is legalism.
There are multiple problems in attempting to “keep the Law”:
1. It is not possible to fully obey all of God’s Law by will power alone, even if you want to obey all His law, and even if you try. Will power is too weak.
2. Many people do not even try to obey all of God’s Law because there are some parts that they don’t want to obey.
Thus the Bible says in regard to these 2 limitations that “no one will be justified by keeping the Law” and “all have sinned.” This means, of course, that we all need forgiveness and we all need a savior who” pays for our sins” by taking them on himself. That is, we are saved by grace.
Now, unfortunately, many Christians think that if they realize that they cannot obey God by will power alone and if they give up trying to earn salvation (and instead rest in grace) then they don’t have to obey God any more. They will merely rely on forgiveness and grace since they believe they do not have the power to obey.
So, we need to look at obedience from some source beyond mere will power. And we also have to look at “commands” as something beyond mere written rules.
Jesus teaches that we need to obey God, but that now it is done by relationship to him. Not just in our imputed state but in our daily life. So, we learn to hear from God by The indwelling spirit and we need to be strengthened by Jesus and empowered to obey. This is summed up by this statement: “What the Law could not do, being weakened by the flesh, God did when Jesus died for our sins and condemned sin in the flesh; so that those that walk in the spirit and not in the flesh, can fulfill the Law”.
So we still need obedience, but not a legal transaction, rather, a relationship with God.