16. The Sin Of Disobedience


In the previous lesson, we began a study of the nature of sin. We listed four kinds of sins, sins of immorality, sins of omission, sins of brotherly offence and sins of disobedience to God. We will now consider the last of these.

Actually, all sin is disobedience to God. If one is immoral, he has disobeyed God; if he fails to do good, he has transgressed the will of the Father.

However, by sins of disobedience to God, we here refer to those things which are morally all right but religiously wrong. Not all divine commands deal with moral principles.


The Old Testament abounds in examples of people who disobeyed God in matters not involving morality and who were severely punished for doing so.

Paul says of Old Testament incidents, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. Therefore, we ought to examine these cases carefully.

When Jehovah destroyed the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the only family delivered was that of Lot, nephew of Abraham. God instructed Lot, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” Genesis 19:17.

As they left these towns upon which God rained fire and brimstone, Lot’s wife apparently could not restrain her curiosity and she looked back. Immediately she became a pillar of salt. There was nothing immoral in her action, but she paid with her life because she disobeyed God.

In 1 Kings 13 we are told of a young prophet whom God sent to King Jeroboam of Israel to warn against his idolatry. He was instructed, “‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” 1 Kings 13:9. The king attempted to persuade the young man to go home with him, but he refused.

Later, however, the prophet was deceived by an older prophet and went home with him to eat. After leaving his host, the young prophet was slain on his way home by a lion because he had disobeyed the command of God. He had done nothing morally wrong in eating with the old man, but for his transgression, he surrendered his life.

Another example is that of Uzzah. When the tabernacle was built, the Levites (who cared for it) were forbidden to touch the Ark of the Covenant which was placed in the Most Holy Place.

Later, the ark was taken by the enemies of Israel, the Philistines, who kept it until they realised that it brought them only bad fortune. It was then returned to Israel where it was kept for a time in the house of Abinadab.

King David then determined to move the ark once more, and it was placed upon a new cart drawn by oxen. As it went down the road it began to tip and Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, put forth his hand to hold it. Immediately, God struck him dead. 2 Samuel 6:6-7.

Had Uzzah done anything morally wrong? He had not. Indeed, we may reason that his intentions were the best as he did not wish the ark to fall from the cart. Morally it was not wrong for Uzzah to steady the ark, but religiously it was because God had forbidden it.


The danger of disobeying divine commands is clearly shown in apostolic warnings.

Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” Galatians 1:6-8.

The curse is directed against the one who would preach a perverted gospel. We can pervert the gospel by adding to it or taking from it. If we do not speak here the scriptures speak, we have perverted the gospel; if we are not silent where they are silent, we have perverted it.

John warns, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9.

Whenever we add to what is clearly taught, we have “gone onward.” We have spoken where the Bible has not spoken (or is silent) and therefore do not have God.


The religious world is more divided over what the Bible does not say than what it does say. As already noticed, the scriptures forbid us to go beyond what is written which means that in religious matters we are forbidden to speak when the Bible is silent.

The rule relating to our obedience to God is this: God’s commands must be obeyed without alteration. Where the method of our obedience has not been stipulated, we may rely on our own good judgment, but we may do nothing to alter the divine command.

Numerous Biblical examples illustrate this principle. When Jehovah determined to destroy the world by water, he purposed to save the good man Noah and his family. He told Noah to build an ark and gave the specifications including the size and number of storeys. He told Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood, Genesis 6:14. This command was both positive and negative in its implications.

Positively, Noah was to use gopher wood. But negatively, he was forbidden to use any other kind of wood such as oak, hickory or maple. True, God did not say, “Don’t use oak, hickory or maple.” But Noah knew that, when God told him what to use, he could not substitute anything in its place.

We know that Noah did not use any other kind of wood because it is said of him, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Genesis 6:22.

Of course, God did not specify every last detail. No doubt Noah used tools in his building although these were not named. This was incidental.

If Noah used tools, he was simply carrying out the command to build the ark out of gopher wood. On the other hand, had he substituted another kind of wood he would have been changing the divine injunction.

A similar example is that of Naaman the leper, captain of the Syrian army. The prophet Elisha told him that if he desired to be cured of his leprosy he should dip himself seven times in the Jordan river.

At first Naaman reasoned “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So, he turned and went off in a rage.” 2 Kings 5:12.

Now, Elisha had not told Naaman not to dip himself in those rivers but had he done so he could not have expected his leprosy to be cured, since he would have been altering the command of the prophet.

The command not only said “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan,” 2 Kings 5:10, but it also said by implication, “Do not wash yourself in any other river if you expect to be cured.”

In the New Testament, we notice the Great Commission of Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15. In the command the apostles were told to preach.

They were also told what to preach, namely, the gospel. Jesus didn’t say in so many words, “don’t preach politics or economics.” But as we read the scriptures we find the apostles preaching exactly what Christ had told them to preach, the gospel. Why did they not preach politics?

Jesus didn’t specifically say not to. But they knew that, when they were told what to preach, they were forbidden to preach anything else. The command included the gospel and excluded politics. On the other hand, there are many incidentals to preaching the gospel.

Shall one preach on the street corner, in a church building or on the internet? This is left to our judgment. If we use the internet, we are employing it as a means of carrying out the command, but if we start preaching politics, we have changed the nature of the command.

Take baptism. Immersion is clearly specified in the scriptures. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death” Romans 6:4.

Paul didn’t say, “Don’t sprinkle.” He didn’t have to. When he stated that baptism is a burial, he ruled out sprinkling and pouring as substitutes. But whether one should be buried in baptism in running water or still, hot water or cold, is left strictly up to us.

In either case, we are simply carrying out the Lord’s command, but if we substituted sprinkling for a burial, we would be altering the command.

The same principle applies to the Lord’s supper. In that memorial feast, Jesus gave his disciples the bread, emblematic of his body, and the fruit of the vine, representative of his blood. He specified the elements of the supper, bread and fruit of the vine.

Should we substitute chicken for the bread or orange juice for the fruit of the vine we would alter the Lord’s command, even though he did not say in so many words, “Do not do that.”

When the early Christians assembled to worship God, they sang praises to him. Of this singing Paul said, “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19.

Paul instructed Christians as to the kind of songs that they were to sing, psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. While he didn’t say, “Don’t sing love songs, patriotic songs or pop songs in praise to God,” we should be able to understand that these songs are excluded because the kind of songs is specified.

Further, on exactly the same principle that we have been studying, the kind of music to be used in worship of God is stated. In Colossians 3:16 we are told, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Notice that our music is to be singing, vocal music. All other New Testament scriptures relating to the subject teach the same thing. While instrumental music in worship (there is no objection to its use for personal entertainment) is not forbidden in so many words, it is excluded on the same basis that preaching politics or partaking of orange juice in the Lord’s supper are excluded.

The command has been given and we are not at liberty to change it by substituting something else for what the Lord has told us to do. If we add instrumental music to our singing, we have altered the command by speaking where the scriptures are silent.

Had the scriptures said, “Make music,” then it would have been up to us to determine the kind of music to be used, but since we are told to sing instead, we are forbidden to choose the kind of music.

There are incidentals in the command to sing. Any song requires a tune. We are not told whether that tune shall be written or memorised. In using a hymn book as an aid to singing, we have not changed the command to sing.

The only kind of music we make as we sing with a hymn book is vocal, but if we add another kind of music, we have altered the command.

In conclusion let us note that if there is a question as to whether God will accept our actions, it is better to be safe than risk disobeying God. For disobedience to God is sin, and sin can keep us from eternal life.


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