“as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.”
If the Christian follows the three admonitions of verse 13, he will not conform to evil desires. In verse 14, we find the fourth responsibility – to conduct ourselves under God’s norms.
as obedient children
“Obedient children” is literally “children of obedience.” When we come to Christ, we become members of God’s family. Our whole attitude changes because we are in a new family. Obedience is an indication of trust in God.
“To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).
This was a statement by Samuel after Saul disobeyed the Word of the Lord. The Lord had said, “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them” (v. 3). “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them utterly. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed” (v. 7). The problem here was not obedience but total obedience.
Samuel came to Saul again, and Saul said, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (v.13). Saul tries to make brownie points with the preacher Samuel. He claims personal innocence from this problem but blames the people “for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed” (v.15). He shifts the blame to his people.
Saul also tries to justify his sin by religion, “We are going to make sacrifices with these sheep!” It is to this comment that Samuel says, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Religion means nothing without the right heart. God takes no interest in religion. His interest is in revival. God is not interested in our sacrifice but in our soul. The Lord cares very little about our gifts or service if we do not have the proper heart towards Him. Saul obeyed, but only in part. “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me” (v. 20). The Lord is not the Lord if he is not Lord of all. Saul was willing to give to God as long as there was no loss on his part.
Saul repented, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now, therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord” (vv. 24, 25). This is the original point! God does not want formal obedience. He wants the believer to obey because of personal affinity with Himself. However, God disciplined Saul for incomplete compliance.
God is not interested in religion but in a relationship.
Is your relationship with the Lord mechanical? Do you have a vital relationship with Him?
Saul did not listen to God. He carried out what was convenient for himself. He was not concerned with God’s will. The will of the superior should be the implicit command of the follower.
The attitude in the church today is, “Sure, I’ll minister in the church – as long as it is convenient for me. I’ll lead a small group because no one else will.” God does not want that kind of sacrifice. If Samuel were here, he would say, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Action based on a personal relationship with God is far more important than duty to the church.