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Sometimes people wonder whether all people are universally accountable to obey the teachings of the gospel, the New Testament, or is it only for members of the church? Are people free from the laws of God simply because they have never chosen to submit to those laws, or will God still hold them accountable in the Judgment for the fact they did not obey the Bible?
Jesus is not just Head of the church or King of His kingdom. There are other positions He holds that show that all men are obligated to obey Him. He is:
John 1:1,14; 20:28,29; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 2:9. If He possesses Deity, all people must obey His rules.
Rev. 17:14; 1:5; 19:16. Hence, He possesses authority over all people on earth, even the highest of human authorities.
John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16. If He created all things, then all must obey Him (cf. Acts 17:24,30,31).
Matt. 28:18; John 3:31; Acts 10:36; Rom. 9:5; l0:12; Phil. 3:20,21; Eph. 1:21; John 17:2; Phil. 2:9-11. As Lord, He is Master or Ruler. His authority extends to all people, regardless of whether or not they are disciples.
Acts 17:30,31 (spoken to unbelieving Gentiles); John 5:22-29; 2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46. Men will be judged according to the teachings of Jesus, even if they reject Him - John 12:48. If they do not obey the gospel, they will be destroyed - 2 Thess. 1:8,9.
Furthermore, the law of Jesus and the law of God are the same. What Jesus taught is what was revealed to Him from the Father (John 12:49f; 17:8,20,21,10; 16:15; Luke 10:16). Hence, people are obligated to obey Jesus' law because it is the law of God, and God's rule is universal.
It follows that all men are obligated to obey Jesus' laws. To deny the duty of all men to obey Christ's commands is to belittle the authority and exalted position of Christ, and also to deny the responsibility of all men to obey God the Father!
Those who are subject to Jesus' authority (that includes everyone), must be subject to the whole law.
James 2:8-12 - Like the Old Testament, the perfect law of liberty is a "whole." We must keep it all or stand condemned as transgressors (cf. Gal. 5:3).
Acts 3:22,23 - We must give heed to Jesus in all things whatever He says or we will be destroyed. This was spoken to people who were not His disciples.
(cf. Matt. 28:18-20; 4:4).
People outside the church are clearly subject to some of Christ's commands. Since the gospel is a whole system, they must be subject to it all.
Alien sinners are obligated to obey the gospel commands to believe, repent, and be baptized (Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 17:30; 2:38; 22:16; 10:48; 2 Thess. 1:8). If people are not subject to Jesus' law, then how can they be held accountable for refusing to believe, repent, and be baptized (Rom. 4:15)? But clearly all people are accountable to obey Jesus' commands to be forgiven (Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:4,6; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16; Acts 10:34,35; Matthew 11:28; Luke 2:10). But these commands are just part of His law which must be taken as a whole. Hence, those outside the church are accountable to the whole system.
If Christ's laws are not binding on people who are outside the church, then how could these people be guilty of sin? 1 John 3:4 - Sin is transgression of God's law (not civil law). If people outside the church are not subject to Jesus' law, and Jesus' law is God's law, then how did these people become sinners (Rom. 4:15)?
The church consists of people who have been saved from sin (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23,25). When a person hears the gospel, believes, repents of sin, confesses, and is baptized for remission of sin, then Jesus' blood forgives his sins (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; Matt. 26:28; Rom. 5:6-9) and the Lord adds him to the church (Acts 2:47). But why would a person even need to do this if Jesus' law does not apply to him?
If people are not subject to Jesus' law, what sin can they be guilty of, how can they be held accountable for becoming a Christian, and why should they even enter the church? The fact they are obligated to obey some commands, proves they are accountable to the whole law.
Note: It is true that certain specific laws regulate only people in certain circumstances, such as laws for women, men, elders, parents, children, etc. (In this sense the Lord's supper is only for those in the circumstance of having been cleansed by Jesus' blood.) If we are not in the circumstance described, then we cannot obey that law, but this is because we are not in the circumstance rather than because we are not subject to the law as a whole.
The instructions of God's New Testament apply to all people on earth since the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Copyright 2002, David E. Pratte
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The Bible vs. Denominational Creeds
Why So Much Religious Confusion and Disagreement?
The Importance of Bible Knowledge
How Many True Churches Are There?
What Does God Think about Denominationalism?
The Inspiration of the Bible
Can We Understand the Bible?
Authority of Teaching of Apostles & Paul
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.