Why Men Do Not Obey God
Obedience to God’s Word is essential. Consider the words of Hebrews 5:8-9: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” The parable of the talents shows what will happen to those who fail to do God’s will: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. . . .And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:30; Matthew 25:46). Peter raises a question that God’s Word clearly answers. He asks, “. . .what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17). Why do men fail to obey God? There is no single answer to this question but many different answers.
Some do not obey God because of the cost involved. In Luke 18:18-23 we read of a rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus looked into this man’s heart and saw covetousness. Jesus told him to sell what he had and follow Him. Notice the man’s reaction: “And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich” (Luke 18:23). He refused to obey Jesus because it cost too much. Some today are not willing to pay the price of obedience. Interestingly, Jesus let the man walk away and did not lower the price to get the man to come back.
On one occasion some thought Jesus’ teaching was hard. “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60). They did not like what they heard. Similarly, some today will “obey” the things they agree with but not the things they disagree with. Some will not accept what the Bible says about baptism for the remission of sins. Others ignore what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 concerning marriage and divorce. These are hard sayings to them and they will not obey.
Pride keeps many from obeying God. There are examples of this in the book of Jeremiah. “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:31). “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 6:16). Clearly the people of Jeremiah’s day were rebellious and filled with pride. Pharaoh demonstrated this attitude also. “And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Some fail to obey God because they feel the time is not right. They are like Felix who said to Paul, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). Felix, like so many others, wanted to obey God on his timetable. Obeying God is not convenient with many and does not fit into their plans.
In Luke 8:11-15 Jesus taught great lessons concerning the hearts of men:
"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
These four soils represent the four kinds of hearts that men have. Some fall to temptation. Others are choked with the cares, riches and pleasures of this life. Here is another reason man fails to obey. Some are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Timothy 3:4). The love of pleasure will keep many from the joys of heaven.
God wants all men to be saved (I Timothy 2:4; II Peter 3:9). But only those who obey will be saved (Matthew 7:21; Revelation 22:14). We need to keep in mind what will happen to those who fail to obey God. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thessalonians1:7-9).
These are a few of the many reasons why men do not obey God. Saul learned a great lesson on obedience. “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22). Man is a free moral agent and the choice is clearly his. “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If on the day of judgment we are among the disobedient it will be of little significance as to why we disobeyed God.