What came first: faith or obedience?
(First published in Thursday, January 31, 2008)
Years ago somebody posed a question that baffled many. What came first the chicken or the eggs? Of course, to those who do not believe in Biblical account of creation, it poses a dilemma since the one comes from the other. This creates a never ending cycle that cannot be stopped, much less started. For those of us who believe that the account of Genesis is real and true, we know the chicken came first. Similarly we can ask: "What comes first: obedience or faith?" The Bible again answers that for us.
Obey in the Greek is hupakouo, a complex word of made of two terms hupo – which means by or from - and akouo – which from which we derive the English word acoustics. To obey means to listen. In this sense faith comes from obedience for we read in Romans 10: 17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Now, Hearing of course is one of the traditional five senses. It is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations via an organ such as the ear. The issue is that the sounds have meaning. In the case of humans, sounds may form words, which also have meaning. So, hearing partly becomes the ability to hear words and understand their meaning.
When we hear God's Word we respond by either believing it or we do not. When we choose to believe it, it is faith. There is no need to touch, see, smell, or taste. There is no need to understand completely what God is telling us. The issue is: do you believe what you are told?
Mary the mother of Jesus is a perfect example. When Mary – the mother of Jesus – was told about the virginal conception: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS," Luke 1: 31. What the angel posed was difficult for Mary to grasp. She wanted to understand more. She asked "the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Luke 1:34.
Knowing what we know today, we would have asked the angel more questions, "Is the Holy Spirit going to divinely inseminate the embryo in me or is He going to actually impregnate me? Will the child have my genes also?" The angel did not answer this question directly. His answer was, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1: 35.) And He added the fact that her older cousin Elisabeth – who was barren - was pregnant. The angel finished his discourse by saying, "for with God nothing shall be impossible."
Mary probably thought that certainly if God could do that which was impossible to men, open Elisabeth's womb – a married barren woman - He could do even the more impossible. She believed that it would not be impossible to God to do as the Angel said with a woman that has never been with a man. Mary heard the words of the angel and chose to believe them. She replied, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" Luke 1:38.
When Mary Magdalene sat at the feet of Jesus she was obeying – she was hearing and listening. Martha on the contrary was just doing. The woman at the well obeyed Jesus. She heard the words of Jesus and went back in the town to tell others. That was an act of faith.
Do you lack faith? It says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Mary Magdalene sat at the feet of Jesus to hear every Word He said. Martha worked around the house worried and troubled. James says in his epistle that he shows his faith by his work (James 2:18). Mary's sitting at the feet of Jesus was a work of Faith. Martha's busy work was not of faith, therefore it was sin "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). Jesus adds to Martha, "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10: 42). From these words we could conclude that Mary pleased Jesus but was disappointed with Martha. Why was Jesus pleased with Mary? Because, she had faith that came from hearing, and hearing by the Word of God made flesh. Unlike Martha, Mary chose the good part. Martha displeased Christ because of her lack of faith.
How about you? Are you choosing the good part? Are you hearing the Word of God? Are you sitting at the feet of Jesus? If you are not, maybe it is time you stop and sit at the feet of Jesus and hear what he has to say.