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Bible verses about Obligation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

We could easily think of integrity ("righteously" in NKJV) strictly in terms of law and pursue it no further. But when we see how this word is translated elsewhere, we add a dimension that helps us better understand how we should act toward our fellowman.

In Luke 23:41 and I Thessalonians 2:10, the same word is rendered "justly," meaning right, proper, or fair. This is the adverbial form of the Greek dikaios, meaning "to be conformed to that which is right," which Plato said is inseparably bound to the word translated "sober" above. A person who is dikaios neither selfishly nor forgetfully transgresses the bounds of what is right. He gives everyone his due.

To Christianity, this translates into "my duty is my right." This concept branches out into areas of life like civility, consideration, concern, and respect and has little or nothing to do with what we normally consider as "law." I Corinthians 13:4-7 is a clear example of such instruction.

The grace of God obligates us to these duties in our relationships with others. To conform to them fulfills what Paul means by living with integrity in Titus 2:12. It encompasses keeping the commandments, of course, but it also involves such virtues as probity, honesty, goodness, irreproachability, fairness, nobility, and being just and sensitive to another's needs, including giving correction in kindness and mercy (Galatians 6:1-2).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

We come under obligation when a service is rendered to us, causing indebtedness. Very closely related to accountability and responsibility, obligation makes us feel required to follow through to repay the indebtedness. True obligation is a deep conviction that we owe someone something. This concept is integral to the seriousness of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

The word "obligation" or one of its forms does not appear in the King James translation of the Bible and only three times in the New King James Version. However, its sense appears scores of times through other words, such as "because," "therefore," "wherefore," "for," and "thus." These words precede a Christian requirement, an exhortation to obedience or a certain godly attitude.

For example I Peter 1:15-16 states, "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" Because God our Father, whom we represent, is holy, we are under obligation to be holy. Peter draws upon our sense of obligation to the Father to exhort us to obedient conduct. He later intensifies the sense of obligation:

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.(I Peter 1:18-20)

Though we can certainly understand that "you" refers generally to mankind, it has a greater impact if we see it aimed directly at the individual. That is, Christ would still have died if only you had sinned and needed redeeming.

One's sense of obligation is in direct proportion to his ability to contrast the peerless quality and pricelessness of the gift given as compared to the worthlessness of the purchased possession. A billionaire might consider a thousand dollars to be pocket change. To a person bankrupt and destitute, a thousand dollars is a fortune.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Christ's death on the stake thus becomes the instrument which enables God to give us grace. But do not be misled into thinking that grace is without cost. Nothing could be further from the truth! It could easily be the most expensive gift you will ever receive. Not only did grace cost the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but it also costs us our lives if we are to receive it!

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? . . . Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. . . . And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:3, 11, 18)

Recall again Peter's words in I Peter 2:24: "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed." Upon giving us grace, God expects us to give the rest of our lives in obedience to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Obligation's closest synonym is "duty." It is produced by a strong and compelling sense of indebtedness for a benefit or service received, or by being bound by contract, promise, or law. Obligation is what one owes in return for a favor or because a law or promise demands one must give it. Adherence to duty or obligation produces loyalty or faithfulness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

We come under obligation when we are rendered a service, producing indebtedness to the one who performed it. We feel required to respond by repaying the indebtedness, and in many cases, a heartfelt "thank you" is in order, at the very least. True obligation, closely related to accountability and responsibility, is a deep conviction that we owe someone something. This sense is very important to the proper understanding of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

The word obligation does not appear in the King James Version and only three times in the New King James Version. However, its sense appears scores of times through other words and phrases, such as "because," "therefore," "wherefore," "thus," and "for." These words frequently precede a Christian requirement of conduct or attitude, an exhortation to obedience, or instruction concerning cause-and-effect.

Notice this in I Peter 1:15-16: ". . . but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" Because God, our spiritual Father whom we represent, is holy, we are under obligation to be holy ourselves. Peter draws on our sense of obligation to the Father to exhort us to obedient conduct. He then intensifies our sense of obligation by reminding us that we owe our lives to Christ because He redeemed us:

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (verses 17-21)

Though one might understand that the "you" in verse 18 might apply generally to many, it has far greater impact if we take it as aimed directly at us personally. Christ would still have died if only you had sinned and needed redeeming!

These verses help us to understand something vital to our well-being. One's sense of obligation to God is in direct proportion to his ability to contrast the peerless quality and pricelessness of the gift with the worthlessness of the purchased possession. A billionaire might consider $1,000 to be pocket change, but to a person bankrupt and destitute, it is a fortune. Thus, evaluations vary due to differing perspectives.

The apostle Paul wails in Romans 7:24-25, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Our sense of obligation rests on a thoughtful and true assessment of ourselves and our self-centered, aimless, corrupt, sinful lives compared to the purity our Redeemer possessed and displayed in His sacrifice for us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Exodus 13:14-16

We can safely conclude that the price of buying the Israelites' freedom was the devastation of Egypt's land, and above all, the killing of Egypt's firstborn. God designed the redemption of Israel's firstborn to remind them of the high cost of their liberty. The Egyptians slain for Israel's release belonged to God just as surely as the Israelites, but God used them to pay for Israel's freedom. That collective sacrifice became a type of Christ. The practical inference is that Israel was obligated to the One who paid the price—God. To us, that God would use virtually an entire nation to pay for another nation's freedom can be a stunning, even shocking concept. However, God is Creator. He owns everything and is certainly free to do as He pleases.

God will even things out later, though, as Isaiah 19:18-25 shows. Then, Egypt will once again be a great nation. The redeeming of Israel's firstborn was to serve as a costly and constant reminder that freedom is not free and that they were obligated to God for their redemption from Egypt. Forgetfulness produces ingratitude, which in turn produces disobedience because such people are no longer motivated by a sense of obligation to the One who worked so powerfully in their behalf (Deuteronomy 8:10-20).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Exodus 34:6

God bears long and is slow to anger. Longsuffering is proof of God's goodness, faithfulness, and His desire to grant us salvation. Romans 2:4 describes God as forbearing and longsuffering. Forbearance is refraining from the enforcement of something that is due like a debt, right, or obligation. Longsuffering differs slightly in that its emphasis is on temperament.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering


 

Proverbs 3:27-28

Cotton Mather, a Puritan preacher, once said, "The opportunity to do good imposes the obligation to do it." He is implying that we have been favored when an opportunity to serve in this manner arises. We are not to do it only when it is convenient or when it will contribute to our fame, but we should do it when we have opportunity, no matter how often it occurs or how much self-denial it takes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Proverbs 12:15

One who perceives the truth has a force, a beauty of character, which creates a favorable impression that opens doors and accomplishes things. Would we not rather loan money to a person we know works hard and pays his debts than a person with poor work habits who defaults on his obligations?

A wise person is one who recognizes truth, understands that he must meet his obligations and submits to it. This process produces a good witness whether the obligation to truth is met verbally or behaviorally. If a person will not do this, he deceives himself that he can somehow "get away with it," and his witness and name will demonstrate his poor character.

This principle holds true in every area of life upon which a name is built, whether in marriage, child training, employment, or health. Many run from the truth about themselves. Nothing destroys a reputation quicker and more permanently than for a person to be known as a liar or a hypocrite.

Therefore, the ninth commandment covers not only making a false witness about another or an event with the tongue, but also not bearing false witness about God by our conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Ninth Commandment (1997)


 

Proverbs 27:10

Proverbs 27:10 directly confronts the subject of obligation and loyalty in human experience. The first clause is simply a Hebraic way of saying, "Don't desert tried and true friends." An available friend is better than an unavailable relative. The second and third clauses reinforce the first. Be loyal to and rely upon help that is near, tried, and true.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Matthew 18:28-30

The heartlessness of the forgiven man—along with his utter disregard of his obligation to emulate the gracious example of his king—is sin. Compared to our offenses against God, the offenses that our brethren commit against us are small and insignificant. Since God has forgiven us so much, we ought to forgive each other of anything, large or small (Matthew 6:15). Grace bestowed puts the receiver under obligation to manifest the same grace to others. Even though a person receives forgiveness, it does not guarantee that he will be a better person, as this deceived world generally believes today (as seen in how ineffective leniency on murderers, rapists, and thieves is.)

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Luke 7:36-47

This woman perceived and appreciated a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself as to weep, cleanse His feet with her tears, kiss, and anoint them! Notice her emotion, courage, devotion (oblivious of public opinion), and humility (in performing the task of a slave). We can safely guess that Jesus had turned this woman from a life of sin. She may have been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expressed her love and gratitude, springing from her recognition of or faith in His greatness as contrasted to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

In contrast, Simon the Pharisee, evidently a man of some substance and ambition, was moved to invite the popular Jesus to his home. Self-concerned and inhospitable, he did not offer Jesus even the customary services a host normally provided visitors to his home.

From the context we can assume that he felt himself to be at least Jesus' equal. His conclusion that Jesus was no prophet probably suggests he felt superior to Him, that He was no more than an interesting celebrity. This biased self-evaluation in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation and thus no corresponding gratitude, humility, or act of love—let alone common courtesies.

Had he a heart at all? The scene unfolding at his respectable table scandalized him, but God thought it so inspiring, He recorded it for our benefit. Simon judged, "She is a sinner." "No, Simon," Jesus replied, "she was a sinner." In this lies a major clue to the difference between the two people.

Simon and the woman had something in common, according to the parable: Both were debtors to the same creditor, and neither could meet His obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Luke 7:36-38

This episode demonstrates a contrast between two attitudes of mind and heart. Simon, conscious of no need, had neither love toward Christ nor a desire for forgiveness. His impression of himself was that he was a good man in the sight of God and men. The woman, on the other hand, seems aware of nothing except her sinfulness and her great need of forgiveness. This resulted in mournful weeping over her destitution and love for the One who could fill her need.

Perhaps nothing shuts us off from God more firmly than human self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:17). It is a strange phenomenon that the more clearly we see our sins the better person we are. Perhaps the most damaging of all sins is to be conscious of no sin. The supreme lesson in this vignette is that the woman's attitude not only resulted in forgiveness but also played a major role in producing gratitude and loving devotion for Christ in her.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Luke 7:36-50

The setting of the Parable of the Two Debtors is the house of Simon, a Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to eat with him. To show respect for Jesus, a woman stops in uninvited, but Simon calls her a sinner, one notoriously wicked, a prostitute (Luke 7:36-39). These three real people are reflected in the three fictitious characters of Jesus' parable (verses 41-42): a creditor, a debtor who owes 500 denarii, and another who owes 50.

The forgiving creditor represents Jesus Christ. The professedly righteous man owing 50 denarii represents Simon. The person in debt for 500 denarii represents the woman sinner.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Debtors


 

Luke 7:41-50

The woman perceived a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself. A proper sense of obligation works to produce a valuable Christian virtue—humility.

Notice her emotion, devotion, and seeming unconcern for public opinion in going far beyond the normal task of a slave. We can safely guess that Jesus had played a huge part in turning this woman from her bondage to sin. She may have first simply been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. However, she thought deeply and personally on the difference between her life and His words. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expresses her love and gratitude springing from recognition of His greatness as compared to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: Here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

Now notice the contrast with Simon the Pharisee, who was evidently a man of some substance and a measure of aggression that resulted in him inviting the celebrated Jesus to his home. He was a man so self-concerned and inhospitable that he failed to offer Jesus even the customary services a host provided visitors to his home. Simon probably felt himself at least Jesus' equal, and his conclusion that He was no prophet perhaps indicates that he styled himself as Jesus' superior. He likely considered Jesus nothing but an interesting celebrity who could gain him recognition in the community for having Him as his guest.

His evaluation of himself in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation, and thus no gratitude, humility, or act of love, let alone common courtesy. Had he a heart at all? He was scandalized by this dramatic and arresting scene taking place at his respectable table.

While God considered her act of love to be so awesome that He had it memorialized as an eternal witness, Simon's perception of it only concluded, "She is a sinner." No, Simon, she was a sinner, and therein is a major clue to the reason for their differing reactions to Jesus. In Jesus' parable, Simon and the woman held something in common—something Simon did not grasp, but the woman did. Both were debtors to the same Creditor, and neither could meet their obligations, but Simon did not even see his indebtedness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:42

Jesus draws a direct correlation between acts of love directed toward Him and the recognition of the enormity of the forgiven sins, as contrasted to the payment made to remove our indebtedness.

We are obligated to love Him, and if the recognition is strong, we are virtually driven to do so due to grasping the enormity of what we have been saved from in contrast to the tremendous value of what we are now free to pursue. Could we, like the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:1-7, have left our first love because we no longer make an effort to remember these things?

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 7:47

One who knows he has been forgiven much feels more obliged to the payer of his debt than the one who thinks his indebtedness small. He feels obliged to live the way the payer of his debt tells him he should. Those most conscious of forgiveness will bear the most fruit in godly love.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Luke 7:47

The person who knows he has been forgiven much feels more strongly obliged to the one who paid his debt than one who thinks his indebtedness and forgiveness are of little consequence. The one forgiven much feels obligated to live the way his Redeemer tells him he should.

Jesus is telling us that those most conscious of forgiveness will be the most fruitful of love. The depth, fervor, and growth of our Christianity depends perhaps more largely on the clarity of our consciousness of this contrast than upon anything else.

One can be very gifted yet not grow as much as one less gifted but more aware of his obligation to Christ. The latter will simply be more motivated. On the other hand, some come along like the apostle Paul, who was both greatly gifted and constantly conscious of his obligation to Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 14:25-33

Christ could not have made our obligation any clearer, yet after receiving forgiveness, so many are forgetful and blasé about this responsibility! Family ties are the strongest of bonds, but our loyalty to Christ must supersede them. Beyond that, we must have the humble devotion to bear any burden He deems necessary for our good, the corporate good, or as a witness as part of this way. From our perspective, we can hardly deem God's gift to be free!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Luke 17:8

From the master's point of view, all the servant had already accomplished was a matter of obligation, and now he demands further obedience and additional service from him. His needs must be satisfied first, and then at the proper time, the servant may eat. This represents our work on earth on our Master's behalf, giving Him the spiritual food and drink of seeing His Father's will accomplished (John 4:32-34). We are under obligation to Christ, and without delay and rest, we must present ourselves completely to Him in service (Romans 12:1).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unprofitable Servants


 

Acts 9:2

Christianity is shown here to be a way. Protestantism is hesitant to admit that Christianity is a way, a way of life, a path to a destination. Why? If one believes that Christianity is a way of life, he must admit the fact that he is obligated to obey certain things to achieve the end, the goal, of that way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Romans 12:1

To paraphrase, he says, "In light of all I have just told you, this is what you are obligated to do." Chapter 12 primarily concerns relationships within the body and to a lesser extent to those outside. Chapter 13 begins by stating our obligation to submit to civil governments, respect those in authority, and pay taxes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Romans 12:3-8

These six verses are all tied together by humility—that one should not think of himself more highly than he ought. God has put us each in the body as it pleases Him, so we should not think that we, as, say, the toe are better than the knee because the toe cannot do the knee's job. God thinks of the toe just as highly as He does of the knee, but if He has put us as a toe, why not in faith do the job of a toe because that is what God wants us to be? If He had wanted us to be a knee, He would have put you in the body as a knee, but He made us to be a toe, so be happy as a toe! Do a toe's work in faith!

Paul tells us to think soberly, logically, seriously, that as God has dealt to each a measure of faith, that we in faith can consider our place in the church and deal with it. So, whatever we are to do, do it! Do it with all the gifts and skills that God has given—but do not try to do another's job. It is his job to do diligently, not ours. God put us in the body to do a specific job, our job not his, otherwise He would have given us his job!

If we have been given the job to exhort, then we should exhort. If it is our job to minister and serve others, serve—but do not take another's job to prophesy. Paul is saying, "In lowliness of mind, be content where you are, because obviously God has put you there for a reason. If you do the job that God has given to you, you are fulfilling His will." The church, then, can be united because the members are not competing over each other's responsibilities.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 13:8-10

Paul presents us with an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he says that we should owe no man anything that he can rightfully claim from us. But on the other hand, we must owe everyone more than we can hope to pay, that is, perfect love.

He extends and intensifies the concept of obligation. We must be more scrupulous within the limits of the common idea of indebtedness, and also infinitely widen the range within which it operates. Did not our failure to meet our obligations to God and man accrue for us an unpayable debt? Now that the debt has been paid, we are obliged not only to strive to avoid further indebtedness, but also to expand and perfect the giving of love.

This paradox is more apparent than real, because love is not an added duty but the inclusive framework within which all duties should be done. Love is the motivating power that frees and enables us to serve and sacrifice with largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

If we view love as just the keeping of God's laws, we are stuck on a low-level, letter-of-the-law approach to righteousness. Do not misunderstand, keeping God's law is a necessary aspect of love, but love is far more complex. Commandment keeping is compulsory and can be done in an "only because" attitude, one that concludes, "I must love the person, but I don't have to like him." Drawing upon Christ's teaching, Paul gives an entirely new significance to the idea of obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Romans 13:8-10

In verse 8, Paul has presented us with an interesting paradox. On the one hand, he states that we should owe no man anything that he can rightfully claim from us, yet on the other hand, we must owe everyone more than we can hope to pay—perfect love. By this, he extends and intensifies the concept of obligation. We must be more scrupulous within the limits of the customary concept of indebtedness, and we must infinitely widen the range within which they operate.

Was it not our failure to meet our obligations to God and man that accrued the unpayable debt in the first place? Now that the debt has been paid, we are under obligation, not only to strive to avoid falling into the same trap, but to expand and perfect the giving of love. The paradox is more apparent than real because love is not merely one's duty added to others, but is the inclusive framework within which all duties should be performed. Love is the motivating power that frees and enables us to serve and sacrifice with largeness of heart and generosity of spirit.

However, as long as we view love merely as the keeping of God's laws, we are stuck on a low-level, letter-of-the-law approach to righteousness. That is most assuredly a vital and necessary aspect of love, but there is far more to love. That level of love can be merely one of compulsion, and be done in a "just because" attitude: "I must love this person, but I don't have to like them." This may suffice for a while, but Paul, by drawing upon Christ's teaching, unveils an entirely new significance to the concept of obligation.

Of what level was the love of the fallen woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them with her lips, and anointed them with costly oil? Was her conduct merely to keep a commandment, or was it an exquisite expression of a heart freed to give its all?

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

The basis for our obligation to Christ could not be stated any clearer. He gives three reasons:

1. Verses 9-11 show what put us into indebtedness to make redemption necessary.

2. Verse 19 says that our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit.

3. Verse 20 states that, because of redemption, we now belong to the One who redeemed us, and we must glorify Him in body and spirit.

Concerning our bodies being "the temple of the Holy Spirit," it is good to reflect on the Old Testament symbolism that God abode in the Holy of Holies within the Temple. Paul reminds us that God now lives in us (John 14:17, 23), and we are obligated to live with the utmost circumspection so that He in no way is defiled by our conduct. So it is with Christ: We are obligated to consider His demands in every area of life all the time and under every circumstance. What an honor!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Paul is paraphrasing what Jesus said: "Obey the laws of God. Don't steal. Don't lust. Don't covet. Don't be a drunkard - because you are justified." Paul gives justification as the very reason they should obey the law of God - because they had been justified. He says, "Choose life because you have been justified." Justification is given as the reason - indeed, the obligation - for voluntarily choosing life, for choosing not to sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

The picture here is of a slave being purchased from the horrible system of slavery. Redemption implies the buying back of something or the paying of a ransom. Paul's illustration is that we have been bought from slavery to sin. Up to the point of redemption, our lives have been the lives of slaves.

What we have received is the most expensive gift that has ever been given to purchase mere slaves. We have been bought with a price—the very life of the Creator. Paul is undoubtedly using this illustration to emphasize to us that, because we have been purchased, we are under obligation to the One who purchased us. As he writes, "Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." In other words, he is imploring us to become holy. This is our moral responsibility as purchased slaves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

1 Corinthians 11:24-25

Concerning the bread and wine, Christ instructs us, "Do this in remembrance of Me". This command could also be translated, "Do this for the remembering of me," or "Do this in case you forget." God does not want us to let His Son's sacrifice get very far from our minds. He does not want us to get maudlin over it, but to remember that it represents the measure of His love and our worth to Him. Remembering helps us retain a right sense of obligation. He does not wish that our obligation become a burden, but fill us with a wonder, an awe, that He would pay so much for something so utterly defiled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Our acceptance of the blood of Christ that reconciles us to God puts us under obligation to live our lives from then on in submission to God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

Galatians 2:20

Even though the law had no power to condemn him to death—he was "dead" to it, as verse 19 says—Paul was still quite active! His life continued to contain a great deal of activity. When Christ was crucified, He then also became "dead to the law" in the sense that it held absolutely no power over Him. The law's power, its threat to a human being, lies in being able to condemn him to death. But once a person has died, as Paul shows in Romans 7, the law no longer has any power over him.

The phrase "I am crucified" shows that it is a continual thing, an ongoing process. Through Christ's intercession, the law's condemning power is held at bay. This is what Christ does in His role as our High Priest. But Paul then clarifies it by saying that he still is very much alive and kicking—he does not simply roll over and relegate all responsibility to God.

He then shows another facet: Once we have made the covenant with God, we have signed ourselves over to Him, and suddenly our lives are not our own anymore. We still have to go through this life, but it is Christ living His life in us that makes us alive spiritually.

Jesus Christ gave up His physical life so that, through His sacrifice, we could be brought into alignment with God; this is what is called "justification." We respond by yielding to the direction that He now gives to us. We are to have faith in Him and the entire process that He is bringing us through—not merely that we are forgiven for our sins, but also that we will be brought to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It would not be faith if we were resisting Him throughout this life by disobeying Him! It would be a contest of wills: Can God still save me even though I am rebelling? Trusting in God to bring us to a state of completion while refusing to obey Him are mutually exclusive. God simply will not allow someone into His Kingdom who will not willingly submit to living the way God requires (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 5:10; 5:19-20; 6:33; 7:21; 13:41, 47-50; Acts 28:23; Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; II Thessalonians 1:5; II Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 119:172)!

David C. Grabbe


 

Philippians 2:12-13

The apostle is urging us, not to work to achieve salvation, but to labor to carry out the responsibilities that the receipt of God's grace has imposed on us (Titus 2:11-15). Christianity is not merely the passive receiving of forgiveness and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. We are to carry forward what we have freely received from God to its proper end.

We need to add to this another thought found in Deuteronomy 5:29: "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!" Which of these - the will to carry forward what we have received or the heart - is more important to growth in conversion and leaving Babylon? Which of them is subject to the other? Is the will a self-determining agent, or does something else determine it? Is the will superior to every other faculty of the body? Is it sovereign or servant? Does it govern, or is it subject to the pleasure of other faculties?

Most who consider themselves Christian, believe that, because free moral agency exists, the will is the more significant. Human philosophies also insist that the will governs man. However, this cannot be. To the contrary, the Word of God teaches that the heart or mind is the dominating center of our being.

Consider a circumstance that each of us faces, perhaps many times on any given day. If a person has before him two options, which will he choose? Unless some overriding reason exists, he will choose the one most agreeable to him, that is, to his heart, his innermost being.

What if the choice is between moral or immoral alternatives? If a person is what the Bible calls a "sinner," and he must choose between godliness and sinful indulgence, which will he select? He will choose the latter because he prefers it, all arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

Why? Because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, his heart is desperately wicked. Jesus reinforces this in Matthew 15:19-20: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man. . . ."

If one were to present a truly converted person with the same options, he would choose the life of piety and virtue. Why? Because God has given him a new heart:

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:24-27)

Ezekiel's prophecy is in perfect harmony with God's promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus, it is not the will that makes the sinner impervious to all appeals through the gospel to forsake his way, but it is his corrupt and sinful heart.

The sinner will not come to Christ and keep the Sabbath and holy days, quit stealing from God, or do any other thing commanded by God because he does not want to. He does not want to because his heart hates Christ and loves sin. Romans 8:7 is proof that human nature is at war against God.

The human will is the faculty of choice, but it is as much subject to the mind as the hands, feet, eyes, and sexual organs. It is a servant of the mind, and in turn, various influences affect the mind throughout the course of life. Proverbs 4:20-23 confirms this:

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out it spring the issues of life.

The heart determines one's preferences and inclinations, and thus it determines one's choices, subjecting the will to it. Because of this, it is imperative to understand the evil that Satan and his demons have communicated to us either directly or through the course of this world. The world has shaped our pre-conversion heart, and thus it affects our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Two)


 

Philippians 3:6

Does this contradict Paul's poverty of spirit in I Timothy 1:12-15? No, before conversion Paul was a great deal like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7. He was clothed in respectability, but he knew he was guilty of many deeds and attitudes for which Jesus denounced the Pharisees. In Philippians 3, he is instead looking back on what he thought of himself then. However, as God called him, he came to see himself through God's eyes as a man struggling with sin but rescued from it through Jesus Christ, which he describes in Romans 7. He then became a man whose faith was in God's grace, and he responded with zealous work largely out of a deep sense of grateful obligation.

Paul was full of wonder and gratitude when he remembered what Christ had done and continued to do through and for him. G.K. Chesterton, an atheist who converted to Catholicism, commented regarding this circumstance, "It is the highest and holiest of paradoxes that the man who really knows he cannot pay his debt will be forever paying it."

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

These verses give us a concise but graphic overview of powerful and evil attitudes driving this world toward the brink of annihilation. We have all been victims to some degree of these ungodly attitudes. We cannot escape being affected by them, and even after conversion, it is difficult to fend them off. This overriding way of life has an invasive way of forcing one to concentrate attention on self-satisfaction. It leads one to believe that life, government, employer, or society owes him a living. A strong sense of obligation to serve others, especially freely given service, and loyalty are major victims of its onslaught because it produces the attitude that one is owed rather than that one owes.

Notice how many of the descriptors given in these verses directly relate to focusing on the self. Self-satisfaction is the foundation, the launching pad, and driving force that motivates sin. It is sin's very essence. We should not be deceived into thinking that God does not want us to have any satisfaction in life, but we should rather understand that human nature, aided by Satan, easily allows conduct to get out of control and finds satisfaction beyond the bounds of righteous standards. God wants satisfaction to be produced differently in us.

Sex is an area in which we can see this principle quite easily. God created and pronounced it very good as He stopped His work during Creation week. The Bible shows it is to be used for reproduction and binding a marriage ever more closely in an intimate, loving, pleasurable, and satisfying way as each partner gives and serves the other. God intends it for use within marriage only.

However, as we can see by observing the world, if a person lacks a strong sense of obligation to his mate or to God due to taking wedding vows, to God's laws, or to his personal relationship with Christ, its use can get out of control when one seeks only to please himself. Self-satisfaction then becomes a destroyer of marriage and family life. The stability of the community is disturbed, and above all, one's relationship with God can be shattered by means of something He intended for our good. A deep sense of obligation motivates us toward the vital virtue of faithfulness.

The Bible uses several metaphors to teach the result of human nature's perverse longing for self-satisfaction. Paul notes in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Sin indebts us to death to an amount that, if we paid it, cuts off all hope of eternal life. Proverbs 22:7 adds important understanding to the spiritual principle involved here: "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." Sin put us in debt to the one we obeyed in sinning. Once we sin, we are living on borrowed time, and we, the borrowers, the debtors, lose our independence. In terms of sin, we owe our lives to someone else. A sinner is no longer his own man!

The idea of "servant" becomes clearer when we understand it as "slave." Slavery is another metaphor for what self-satisfaction produces. Sin puts us in bondage to the cruelest taskmaster in the universe, Satan, the one who generates this host of self-centered attitudes. We are completely unable to break free from this bondage without supernatural help, as Hebrews 2:14-15 says:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

2 Timothy 3:2

"Thanksgiving" means virtually the same thing in Hebrew, Greek, and English: a heartfelt and cheerful acknowledgment of favors bestowed on us by others. This is especially interesting because it involves consciously thinking about a circumstance that makes one feel a sense of obligation. The English "thank" comes from the same root as "think." Its Indo-European root is tong, whose basic meaning is "to know or form in the mind, regard or consider; to determine by reflecting." Thanking involves thinking. Spiritually, it is consciously looking for the good with God in view.

Some say that ingratitude is the most common of sins. II Timothy 3:2 shows that it is a hallmark of the end-time generations not to consider, or reflect deeply upon God's part in our peace, prosperity, and liberties. This is a practice that we must develop by exercising it on a daily basis.

The Greek word translated unthankful, means "to refuse to recognize debts; to feel one has the right to services and be without obligation." The American attitude is not disregard of God, but rather failing to remember the good He has done. We have become indifferent in relating blessings to God, and He calls upon us to reverse this in our lives. This right worship of Him requires a true knowledge of Him, keeping His commandments and steady communication with Him in prayer and study so we really come to know Him. Then we can be truly thankful on a daily basis.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

Titus 2:11-14

Titus 2:11-14 describes this obligation thrust upon us as a result of receiving God's grace. These verses are jam-packed with instruction about our Christian responsibilities. Having grown up in this Protestant-dominated society, we have heard much about God's "free grace." Though God's grace is freely given, by no stretch of Scripture can we properly label it as free! No gift has ever been so costly! It cost Christ His life! And because grace obligates us to give our life as a living sacrifice completely set apart to God (Romans 12:1), it has also cost us ours.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Titus 2:11-12

Paul writes that grace - self-motivated, condescending, reconciling, tender and forgiving mercy - has "appeared." How has grace appeared to bring salvation? In the context of Titus 2, in its broadest sense, it has appeared in the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The gospel includes the message of our great hope, the promise of Christ's return, Jesus' perfect life, and His death for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Greeks used "appeared" in their literature to describe the sun's light bursting out from the heavens onto the darkened earth. Its feminine form is used in other places to describe Christ's first and second comings. When used in the passive voice, it means "to show openly" or "shine light upon" with the sense of suddenness and unexpectedness. This is part of the sense here since we do not normally expect grace to reveal or teach us anything.

Grace, however, has a clear message that has much to do with our responsibility and growth. "Teaching" in Titus 2:12 is the Greek word paideuo, also translated as "chastens" in Hebrews 12:6. It is used in the sense of schooling, training, or disciplining. In the context of educating a child, it describes activity directed toward moral and spiritual development and influencing conscious will and action. In religious matters, paideuo means chastising to educate one to conform to divine truth. It includes instruction, as in a classroom; drilling, as in "practice, practice, practice"; and chastisement, as in spanking or rebuking to bring about correction.

God's grace teaches us by putting us under obligation negatively - to quit sinning - and positively - to grow and produce fruit. The Moffatt translation clarifies this obligation by defining the terms in more modern language. "For the grace of God has appeared to save all men, and it schools us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions and to live a life of self-mastery, of integrity, and of piety in this present world." These are the areas toward which we must turn our attention to fulfill our duty to Christ. Moffatt retains the positive and negative aspects in his version: first, the negative renouncing of "irreligion and worldly passions," then the positive living of a life of "self-mastery, integrity, and piety."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Philemon 1:8-19

The book of Philemon relates an interesting event in Paul's life in which he calls upon Philemon's sense of gratitude and obligation to him. In verse 8, Paul says he could use his authority to order Philemon to accept the slave Onesimus back, charging any debt he owed Philemon to Paul. However, he appeals to him through other means. In verse 19, he delivers a double-barreled proposition. First, Paul himself writes in his own hand that he will repay any of Onesimus' indebtedness, putting Philemon in greater-than-normal obligation. Then, Paul reminds him that he owes Paul his very life spiritually. He implies that Philemon's spiritual indebtedness to him should more than cover any material debt Onesimus owed to Philemon.

Therefore, Paul suggests that Philemon charge it to his account. What Paul did for Onesimus reflects in a small way what Christ did for us. As Paul laid himself out for Onesimus, Christ did for us in a much greater way to pay our spiritual indebtedness and set us free. As Paul claims Philemon's indebtedness to him, so Christ claims our indebtedness to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

1 Peter 1:17-19

Redeem means "to buy back." The essential purpose of biblical redemption is to deliver a person or thing from captivity or loss, and as such, it becomes an almost-perfect image for God's saving actions in behalf of sinning mankind. How much would we be willing to pay for the life of someone we love dearly? Kidnappers take perfidious advantage of this desire for the safety of a loved one. They steal a person precious to another—usually a child but sometimes a mate—and hold them for ransom to extort a grand sum of money they think will put them on easy street.

God the Father was willing to pay the ransom price for us by giving up the life of the One He loved most, His own Son, the only other being in all of creation that lived life on the same level as He did. He freely made this sacrifice in exchange for our liberty from our bondage to Satan and our debt to death at the same time. Likewise, the Son willingly volunteered to be the payment in full.

Now, let us turn this reality around and examine it from the perspective of the one released. As one released, how great a sense of loyalty and obligation born out of gratitude do we feel toward the One who came to our rescue by paying such a huge price for our freedom? Plainly and simply stated, this is the issue in regard to our spiritual obligation. This aspect of our salvation is one of the major themes of the book of Ruth. At one point in the narrative, Ruth prostrates herself at her redeemer's feet (Ruth 3:7-14), illustrating her recognition of her obligation.

The book of Philemon relates an interesting event in Paul's life in which he calls upon Philemon's sense of gratitude and obligation to him. In verse 8, Paul says he could use his authority to order Philemon to accept the slave Onesimus back, charging any debt he owed Philemon to Paul. However, he appeals to him through other means. In verse 19, he delivers a double-barreled proposition. First, Paul himself writes in his own hand that he will repay any of Onesimus' indebtedness, putting Philemon in greater-than-normal obligation. Then, Paul reminds him that he owes Paul his very life spiritually. He implies that Philemon's spiritual indebtedness to him should more than cover any material debt Onesimus owed to Philemon.

Therefore, Paul suggests that Philemon charge it to his account. What Paul did for Onesimus reflects in a small way what Christ did for us. As Paul laid himself out for Onesimus, Christ did for us in a much greater way to pay our spiritual indebtedness and set us free. As Paul claims Philemon's indebtedness to him, so Christ claims our indebtedness to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

1 John 1:8-10

John is instructing us about the obligation we have due to receiving atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness does not remove from us the obligation to keep the commands of God. The law of God is not done away once we are under the blood of Jesus Christ. His death paid for our past sins. Though His death will pay for sins committed after our original forgiveness, we are urged not to break God's laws. Sinning without serious regard and deep appreciation for Christ's death brings us into danger of committing the unpardonable sin (Hebrews 10:26, 28-29). A disciplined and robust effort to obey God's commands witnesses to Him the depth of our appreciation for the grace He gives through Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

Find more Bible verses about Obligation:
Obligation {Nave's}
 




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