Obeying Jesus as King
Last week, we covered what the “Christ” title means. Now, we must also consider the impact of declaring Jesus to be the Christ, which the gospel demands. It’s not enough to just say the words; we must declare that Jesus is the Christ in a way that leads to salvation. We do this by proclaiming it with our whole heart and fully surrendering our lives to Jesus. Practically speaking, we should give a newly converted disciple of Jesus the opportunity to publicly declare this immediately before they are baptized. If we truly believe that Jesus is the Christ, it has massive implications on our lives. For starters, it means that we surrender our lives to him as our king, seeking to obey all of his commands (Matt. 28:20).
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Matthew Bates, who wrote the provocatively titled book Salvation By Allegiance Alone, writes: “The gospel climaxes with the enthronement of Jesus as the cosmic king, the Lord of heaven and earth, even though all too often this portion of the gospel is entirely omitted when it is proclaimed today.” He makes the case that to declare Jesus to be the Christ is to swear allegiance to him as God’s anointed king. “Faith in Jesus,” he says, “is best described as allegiance to him as king.” Practically speaking, this means that to declare Jesus to be the Christ is to devote yourself to him in love, serving his purposes and obeying him as king. “This enacted obedience is essential to salvation,” Bates states.
When we declare, “Jesus is the Christ,” we devote ourselves to him in obedience. Jesus asked a penetrating question about this when he said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). By asking this question, Jesus makes the strong point that if we call him Lord, we should do what he tells us to do; in other words, we should obey him. The Apostle James asked a similar, thought-provoking question: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?” (James 2:14). The implied answer to this inspired question is, “No, faith without obedience isn’t saving faith.” Obedience is critical for salvation, which means that it’s essential to the gospel.
We see this also in Romans 1:1-6, another critical passage in the New Testament that expressly reveals the content of the gospel. In it, the Apostle Paul directly connects obedience to Jesus with the message of the gospel:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. —Romans 1:1-6
It’s not surprising that in this passage, Paul places a heavy emphasis on the truth that Jesus is the Christ. Specifically, he refers to Jesus as either “Christ Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” three times in these six verses. And take note, it also emphasizes that obedience is essential to having faith in the gospel. Specifically, in Romans 1:5, the Apostle Paul writes that the grace we have received in the gospel is “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” This is a purpose statement. In other words, God’s purpose for the gospel is bringing about in us obedience to Jesus, who is the Christ.
2. Matthew W. Bates, Salvation By Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017) 77.
4. Ibid. 8.