Some people have the attitude, even some of our brethren, that strict obedience to the gospel and its commands is really not necessary. They feel that as long as a person generally does what is right that he does not have to strictly adhere to all the teachings of the " perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25). Consequently, they brand those who would propose that kind of adherence as "legalists."
It is interesting to note, though, that God has always required strict obedience to all His commands. No matter what law from God man was under, he was always to know and diligently follow the will of God. Noah had to explicitly follow the specific instructions of God when he built the ark in order to save his family. Cain's sacrifice was not pleasing to God because he did not heed God's instructions when making his offering. Moses was not allowed to enter Canaan or to lead the children of Israel into it because he had failed on just one occasion to give God the proper honor before the people.
Consider the two priests, Nadab and Abihu, and what is said of them in Leviticus 10:1,2. God commanded them to use a specific fire when burning incense in the tabernacle. But they chose to use a different one. They might have said, as some would today, "So what. Fire's fire. It doesn't make a difference." It did make a difference -- a real one. God was displeased and they perished.
The example of the well-meaning Uzzah in 2 Sam. 6:1-7 shows that even though a person may be sincere in what he is doing, it is not enough. One must follow the instructions of God.
The incident with Uzzah takes place when the children of Israel were bringing the ark of God back from the Philistines who had captured it in battle. They had constructed a cart on which to transport it even though God had commanded that it be carried by certain of the Levites (Ex. 25:14-15; Num. 4:4-6). The law also stated that no one was to touch the ark lest they die (Num. 4:15).
While transporting the ark in this unauthorized manner, the oxen that pulled the cart stumbled. The ark was ready to fall. Uzzah, not wanting the ark of God to fall, reached out his hand and put it on the ark to steady it. God immediately struck him dead.
In trying to keep the ark from crashing to the ground, did he not mean to do well? Was he not trying to do a kind and good thing? As man might see it, yes, but in the eyes of God he was violating a direct command. God would not tolerate such a sin.
King David, seeing what had happened to Uzzah, stopped the ark's journey. Its trek was not resumed until three months later when, having learned from God's judgment on Uzzah, it was transported as God commanded it to be -- the Levites bearing it on their shoulders (1 Chron. 15:12-15).
Some might say, "But didn't Jesus condemn the Pharisees for strict law-keeping? Didn't He tell them they need not be concerned with the details of the law?"
In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced numerous woes upon the scribes and Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. In verse 23 He says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone." Some have gone to this passage to show that it is only the weightier matters of Scripture that one should obey and not, what they consider, the incidentals.
Notice, though, exactly what Jesus said. He says they should have done both-those weightier and those possibly not so weighty. They were to have kept all the law. Does God require obedience to all His precepts? Jesus did in this passage. He still does today.
Matthew 7:21 ("Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven") and Hebrews 5:8,9 are but two of the many passages which teach the word of God must be obeyed. What portion of it can one fail to obey and still please God? None. Consider James 2:10, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all."
God has always demanded obedience. He requires it of us today. Such obedience does not negate His grace and mercy. If we fail to live up to His expectations, if we stumble or fall, we can go to Him, confess our sins and pray for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). He, through His love, mercy and grace, will forgive us. But His grace never gives us license to do as we please or to neglect to submit to something He has commanded of us (see Rom. 6:1-4). We must seek to do the will of the Lord in all things.