Are The ‘Obedience Is Required’ Passages Just Descriptive Or Are They Also Prescriptive?

Just about every page of the Bible has a verse on it that proves one must obey God to be saved. But some say these passages are all descriptive, not prescriptive. What they mean by that is that these scriptures are all just saying a saved person will obey, not that his salvation is conditioned upon his obedience.

But consider a verse like I Cor 7:19 – “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.” The ‘a’ part of that verse is saying the same thing as Acts 15:1, Gal 5:6, and 6:15, that circumcision is not a condition of salvation under the New Testament dispensation (contrasting Old Testament with New Testament law). But that would have to mean the ‘b’ part of the verse is saying that the keeping of other commandments (New Testament instructions) are conditions of salvation. Do you see how that is prescriptive, not just descriptive – that obeying God’s commandments are prescribed in order to be saved?

Following are some other texts that are no doubt prescriptive, and not just descriptive …

I Peter 1:22 “ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth”

Revelation 22:14 “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”

James 2:14-24-26 “by works a man is justified, and not by faith only”

II Corinthians 5:10 “every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”

Romans 2:6-10 God “will render to every man according to his deeds … continuance in well-doing … eternal life … them that … do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil … but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good”

I Pet 1:17 “Father … without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work

Revelation 20:11-15 “they were judged every man according to their works

Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”

Let’s also consider a passage like Heb 5:9 – “he (Jesus) became the author (source) of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” I could see how some might think that verse is just descriptive of a Christian (unlike the ones above that are worded in such a way that they are no doubt prescriptive). But if I said the parallel “the teacher became the source of a grade of an ‘A’ unto all them that have a 90 average,” is that just descriptive or is it also prescriptive? Isn’t it prescriptive in that having a 90 average is a condition of getting the grade of ‘A’?

Consider also Matt 7:21 – “he that doeth the will of my Father … shall enter into … heaven.” Is that just “describing” those who will enter heaven – that they will be obedient to the Father in this life (which is true), or is it also “prescribing” that one must obey in order to enter heaven? If I said the parallel “he that wins the race will win a gold medal,” isn’t that saying winning the gold medal is contingent upon winning the race?

The Bible is clear. To be saved we must trust and obey God.

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2 Responses to “Are The ‘Obedience Is Required’ Passages Just Descriptive Or Are They Also Prescriptive?”

  1. thinkahed Says:

    I am enjoying reading these. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight. Consider addressing in the future whether God requires perfect obedience.

    • Patrick Donahue Says:

      Ray – Very good question friend. God does not require perfect obedience (Rom 3:23, I John 1:8,10 make it clear that “ain’t happening” anyway). But God does require that we repent of all our sins (Luke 13:3, Acts 8:22, I John 1:9). See the difference?

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