Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Faith is the Fountain, Foundation and Fosterer of Obedience

Faith is the fountain, the foundation, and the fosterer of obedience.

Men obey not God till they believe him. We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience. To disbelieve is to disobey.

One of the first signs of practical obedience is found in the obedience of the mind, the understanding, and the heart; and this is expressed in believing the teaching of Christ, trusting to his work, and resting in his salvation.

Faith is the morning star of obedience. If we would work the work of God, we must believe on Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

Brethren, we do not give a secondary place to obedience, as some suppose. We look upon the obedience of the heart to the will of God as salvation. The attainment of perfect obedience would mean perfect salvation. We regard sanctification, or obedience, as the great design for which the Saviour died. He shed his blood that he might cleanse us from dead works, and purify unto himself a people zealous for good works. It is for this that we were chosen: we are “elect unto holiness.” We know nothing of election to continue in sin. It is for this that we have been called: we are “called to be saints.”

Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.

The obedience that comes of faith is of a noble sort.

The obedience of a slave ranks very little higher than the obedience of a well-trained horse or dog, for it is tuned to the crack of the whip. Obedience which is not cheerfully rendered is not the obedience of the heart, and consequently is of little worth before God. If the man obeys because he has no opportunity of doing otherwise, and if, were he free, he would at once become a rebel—there is nothing in his obedience.

The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without.

It is sustained by the mind’s soberest reasoning and the heart’s warmest passion. The man reasons with himself that he ought to obey his Redeemer, his Father, his God; and, at the same time, the love of Christ constrains him so to do, and thus what argument suggests affection performs. A sense of great obligation, an apprehension of the fitness of obedience, and spiritual renewal of heart, work an obedience which becomes essential to the sanctified soul. Hence, it is not relaxed in the time of temptation, nor destroyed in the hour of losses and sufferings.

Life has no trial which can turn the gracious soul from its passion for obedience; and death itself doth but enable it to render an obedience which shall be as blissful as it will be complete. Yes, this is a chief ingredient of heaven—that we shall see the face of our Lord, and serve him day and night in his temple. Meanwhile, the more fully we obey at this present, the nearer we shall be to his temple-gate. May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon The Obedience of Faith, delivered on August 21st, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

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  • Don

    “Obedience is the grand object of the work of grace in the hearts of those who are chosen and called: they are to become obedient children, conformed to the image of the Elder Brother, with whom the Father is well pleased.”

    How pitiful the argument that God’s elect can lose their salvation if they fall into sin. It ignores the biblical norm for the elect, namely that God’s chosen will persevere, evidenced by their obedience to God.

    C.H. Spurgeon’s concluding prayer is one we should pray daily; “May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey!”

  • Keystone

    “Men obey not Cod till they believe him.”
    ~~~ Spurgeon

    The only biblically sanctioned seafood that demanded belief was the “Holiday-Inn-like” whale that turned direction for Jonah. Obey the whale!
    Perhaps some of the Disciples were snappers too.
    The two loaves and FIVE fish miracle may enter this thought, but I have always believed the fish to be a metaphor for the Pentateuch (5 books; 5 fish) one the food of body, the other food of the soul.
    But Cod? I suppose you could believe in one, but you need not obey the standard of Boston chowders.

    “We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience.”

    Like the tuna ads on TV, “Sorry Charlie”.
    We preach faith that men may know and love the Lord.
    There is something “fishy” about this post, for I genuinely like Sturgeon, er…Spurgeon and his ancient truth sermons. But he treads a most indirect route to make a point here.

    “To disbelieve is to disobey.”

    I know too many atheists that are more Christ-like than Christians.
    They do not believe (so far, or yet), but free will was a prerequisite gift from God to man. God seeks the genuine, not the imitation love in our world.
    To find if someone truly loves you requires giving them the ability to reject you.
    Can I disobey the Sabbath law and watch the Masters on TV instead, clearly disobeying, yet still deeply love the Lord?
    Or,….in keeping with the theme of Spurgeon above, can I go fishing and contemplate God leisurely, as I wait for a bite on the pole to arouse me from thoughts on God?

    Perhaps “faith” carried different connotation in the 19th century of Spurgeon, as opposed to other centuries. Word-meaning changes over time, sadly.
    The Bible does not, gladly.

    New International Version (©1984)
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    New Living Translation (©2007)
    Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

    English Standard Version (©2001)
    So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    NIV Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    I see ABIDE in there as a telling argument, far greater than obey.
    I see it in the Bible there as “expressing itself through love”
    How did you miss that Charlie?

    As for faith being a morning star, a horizon, a beginning, a spark that sets the fire of faith,…well, Moses stared at a Burning Bush and it initiated a morning star of curiosity to investigate, but not faith.
    (And anyone who thinks that a child’s purpose and destiny in life is not God-ordained and monitored, need only read of Moses, dished out of the waters).

    There is a tendency that due to the fame of a speaker or an essayist, we believe whatever they utter. Thus, given the fame of God, all men would believe whatever HE utters, ya’d think, eh? But Spurgeon is famous enough for us here. (Exception: I like Billy Graham, but his altar call endings and need for a head count always seemed most unChrist-like to me; but he is famous…we are likely to accept what comes out of his mouth as much for the truth embedded, as well as his being the sayer of words…..regardless of truth merit). Many of today’s pastors are rich in this category.

    I believe God created Free Will for He does not possess it Himself.
    God is love. Nay, God is perfect love, and the attributes of love are delineated in the marriage quoted 1 Corinthians 13 verses.
    There is nothing about free will in that Bible recitation.
    No loopholes; no way out.

    But man has free will to believe, or even NOT to believe.
    You hear little anymore about exercising your God given right to not believe, remain a wretch, sin, find Hell and eternal damnation.

    Church has become a “feel good” moment on a Sunday hour or two, so we can get back to our way of “freely chosen” way of life. It is why people are growing in dislike of church itself, for the hypocracy that is US, is revealed every Sunday when we complete the exercise of church attendance.

    “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
    The invisible….becomes visible…in our minds. And the visible is always easier to love.
    The quip “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is often tempered to “Absence makes the heart go wander”.
    We need a God with skin. A God we can touch.
    Thomas was filled with doubt UNLESS he could touch. We pooh-pooh poor Thomas for this exposed claim, …..but we are all Thomas’.

    Matthew 7:16 “You will know them by their fruits.

    Galatians 5:22-23 ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

    Amazingly, FAITH is a difficult fruit….coming way down the list.
    Perhaps it is a function of SELF-CONTROL coming ……last!

    This was not my favorite Spurgeon sermon, Aaron.
    “Cod” you find a better one soon?

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks again for finding a typo (and a big one too – not sure how I failed to notice that one).

      RE: “We preach faith that men may know and love the Lord.”

      Remember too that Jesus said in John 14:15 that “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” James also wrote that faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

      Obedience is a fruit of love for Christ and the proof of love for Christ, which is, I suspect, the point of Spurgeon’s sermon.

      Sorry this one wasn’t a favorite excerpt from Spurgeon for you, Keystone. Can’t win them all, right? :)

  • Keystone

    Joshing you a lot this day, Aaron!

    However, Spurgeon’s standard sermon is so high that this one just did not level up to his own standard for me.

    You and I BOTH ended up using biblical quips to “explain” what Spurgeon was saying.
    Typically, his words speak for themself well, and without the need for commentor evaluation to understand the thought.

    He wrote: “We preach obedience….”
    I wrote “We preach faith…..”
    You biblically documented my conjecture on FAITH, very well.
    Links to “obedience” in this sermon are real yawn makers.

    I read him every day at “The Daily Spurgeon” and think I left the link to that here, long ago. Spurgeon is eloquent, but he “Cod” have been better today.

  • Keystone

    YIKES ALIVE! Do not watch the Masters on TV, while writing on masterful sermons.

    “We preach faith in order that men may be brought to obedience.”

    “We preach faith that men may know and love the Lord.”

    Loads of biblical quotes confirming Keystone conjecture.

    Watching the Masters on TV.