There is a vast difference between simply acknowledging someone and being willing to obey him. For instance, let us consider Nebuchadnezzar’s decree which he made after the three young Jewish captives were spared from death in the fiery furnace. We read in Daniel 3:29: “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
Notice, Nebuchadnezzar fully acknowledged that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego was the most powerful God, but he fell short of the mark in the sense that he did not obey and serve that God. Even when he was warned in a dream and through Daniel’s subsequent explanation of that dream, he continued to walk in pride and was severely punished as a consequence. There is no indication that Nebuchadnezzar ever forsook his idols and became a true and obedient follower of the Creator God.
Let us also look at what King Darius wrote, as recorded in Daniel 6:25-27, after Daniel was saved from the lions in the lions den: “To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Here again, we find a full acknowledgement that the God of Daniel works signs and wonders and that He is able to deliver from danger, but we do not find in the Bible, nor in history, that King Darius began to obey and serve that God Whom he acknowledged.
What does James tell us about acknowledgement of and belief in the existence of the true God? James 2:19 says: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” Satan and the demons acknowledge and believe in the true God, but they are not about to serve and obey Him. Knowing the righteous judgment of God for disobedience, they tremble. They know that belief in God and acknowledgement of His existence are not enough–but they are unwilling to obey Him.
Notice Peter’s words, as recorded in Acts 5:32: “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit [which] God has given to those who obey Him.” If God gives His Holy Sprit only to those who obey God, then He also withholds it from those who disobey Him. Obedience is a requirement for salvation.
Look at what God inspired Samuel to say about the importance of obedience, in 1 Samuel 15:22-23: “So Samuel said: ‘Has 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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.'”
As faithful servants of God, we must not just acknowledge God and believe in His existence, but we must willingly obey Him. Notice that by faith Abraham obeyed (Hebrews 11:8). That is why we read in Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, AND that He is a REWARDER of those who diligently seek Him.”