“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken then the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22
Charles Spurgeon believed that these words by the prophet Samuel were “worthy to be printed in letters of gold.” Indeed, God had commanded Saul to “slay utterly all the Amalekites and their cattle,” but instead “suffered his people to take the best.” As it turned out, choice sacrifices were no substitute for obedience.
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon sought to bring the charge home to those “who have made a profession of your faith in [Christ].” Here Spurgeon insisted that “to keep strictly in the path of the Saviour’s command” was better “than any outward form of religion.”
Indeed, Spurgeon was wary of blindly assuming the best. Preaching to his own congregation he said, “probably, there are some of you here to-night who may be living in the neglect of some known duty.” For those whose “conscience” was “enlightened” Spurgeon charged them to “be disobedient no longer.”
Although he used few examples to illustrate his point, Spurgeon turned his attention to two issues in particular; hidden sins and charitable work. On the first point he acknowledged that “there may be some evil habit in which you are indulging.” And, while he was glad that such people still came to church, prayed, and etc. he earnestly contended “I pray you give up that sin!” Indeed, outward Christianity was no substitute for true, deep, personal holiness.
For his second point Spurgeon noted that “to obey is better than sacrifice in the matter of caring for the sick and needy.” Indeed, Spurgeon saw the large number of charitable hospitals in London as a “princely [trophy] of the power of our holy religion.”
However, it was possible, in Spurgeon’s view, for these “home of mercy and healing [to] become evils to ourselves.” This tragedy would happen when “we contribute of our wealth to their exchequer and neglect personally to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” In short, the true solution was to “sacrifice, but also obey.”
In the second, and final section of his sermon, Spurgeon turned to admonish the “Unconverted” and prayed for “grace to deal with them affectionately, faithfully, and earnestly!” In his opening salvo Spurgeon stated his point succinctly, “God has given to you in the gospel dispensation a command…in the obeying of which there is eternal life, and the neglect of which…everlasting ruin.” The command was simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
To believe was “to trust, to trust with your whole heart.” Indeed, faith in Christ was God’s chosen way of salvation, as Spurgeon said, “If [God] wills to save, he has a sovereign right to choose his own way of saving.”
In Spurgeon’s view, God chose this way “because it is a way which honours his dear Son.” For “trusting Jesus gives glory to Jesus.” Furthermore, faith had a “double action.” Spurgeon noted that “it empties you, but it fills you; it strips you, but it clothes you.” It emptied men of pride and stripped their robes of self-righteousness and filled them with the Holy Spirit and provided Christ's imputed righteousness for their dress.
However, Spurgeon lamented that “most of men, instead of obeying God, want to bring him sacrifice.” These men were those who “[supposed] that their own way of salvation [was] much better” than what God had chosen. Such “sacrifices” could take many forms, but essentially each boiled down to works righteousness. And as Spurgeon said, “these things will no more save you than husks will fill your hungry belly.”
But, since Spurgeon knew that the natural man will always resist the simple gospel he endeavoured to show “how to obey is better than sacrifice.” First, Spurgeon argued that to believe in Christ was more “humble.” Second, he argued that to “obey” and “believe” was “really a more holy thing.” Indeed, Spurgeon noted that “it is a more holy thing to do what God bids you, than to do what you yourselves invent.
Finally, Spurgeon asserted that the precept “Believe and live” was “certainly a great deal more effectual to the soul’s salvation.” Here Spurgeon warned his congregation that “all your best works are…rubbish…if you trust in them they will be your ruin.” Indeed, guilty sinners needed to lose their “filthy rags” of self-righteousness and accept the “spotless robe” of Christ’s righteousness. They had to “Believe and live.”
“Sinner, you may go and do fifty thousand things, but you will never get your sins forgiven, and you never, never shall have a hope of heaven unless you will obey this precept: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.’”
Why you should take up and read:
Charles Spurgeon fervently believed that “to obey is better than sacrifice,” especially when the command was to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” In his sermon, Spurgeon offered a penetrating examination of sinful, neglectful disobedience. For those wanting to “obey” rather than “sacrifice” please be encouraged to take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/obedience-better-than-sacrifice#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.