Confessional Faith vs Obedient Faith
Confession Faith or Obedient Faith
“Truly, I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
Jesus tells a parable that every parent can relate to. A man has two sons whom he asks to go out and work in the vineyard. The first one, in a shocking disregard for cultural norms, categorically refuses to do so. Why he refuses is not mentioned, but his refusal is astonishing, for the Jewish culture places a high value on respect for parents and obedience to their commands. For this individual to refuse would have been immediately condemned. However, after reflection, he repents and instead goes out and labors in the field.
The second son gives a different answer. When he hears his father's request, he affirms that he is willing to go into the field and fulfill his family's responsibility. However, although he verbally confirms his willingness to work in the field, he fails to meet his obligation. Instead of working in the field, he becomes distracted and non-compliant. The reason is not given; the only point is that he refused to go.
Then Jesus asks the religious leaders the obvious question, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” The religious leaders then walked into the trap, for they responded with what would have been the obvious answer, “The first.” But in their answer, they condemned themselves. The story's point was not about a child's obedience to the parent; the story is about our response and obedience to God. The first child in the parable represented those who had chosen a life of sin. There was no pretense on their part. They had rejected God and chosen a life of sin. But sin never delivers on the promises it ensnares us with. When these individuals are confronted with the gospel, they recognize their sinfulness and readily repent and turn to God for mercy and grace.
The second child represents the religious leaders and the self-righteous. They have all the appearance of being righteous. They affirmed the law of the Old Testament and all the various teachings of God found in Scripture. They gave continual lip service to obedience to God. However, they disregarded the call to surrender to God when push came to shove. Instead, they continue in their self-righteousness and refuse to submit to God and his word.
Jesus concludes with a strong rebuke and warning. The self-righteous, who verbally consent to the law but fail to practice it, will find themselves the object of God’s wrath and judgment. Those who are sinners, who recognize their sin and repent, receive the blessing of God’s grace.
The application is easy to understand but harder to implement. It is easy just to have a confessional faith. We verbally and publicly affirm our belief and faith in God but fail to repent and surrender to the will of God. We outwardly obey God only when it is convenient and in line with our desires. Stephen Charnock warns of this when he writes, “If things are done not because they are commanded by God but desirable to us, it is a disobedient obedience.” In other words, we only obey because it fits what we want, and we only obey what fits our agenda rather than God’s.
Genuine faith is transformational faith. True faith is when we surrender in complete obedience and obey God whether we agree or not, whether it is convenient or not, and whether it fits our agenda. The accurate measure of our faith is not in our confession but in our lifestyle. Christ points to this when he states, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). But this is not just a single act of obedience at the moment of salvation. It is a continual act of obedience. Daily, we are confronted with the same question: will we obey our heavenly Father or just give lip service? Every day and every choice, we must decide whether to demonstrate an obedient faith or a confessional faith. Which are we going to be today?