Several months ago, I had noticed something at the start of the book of Romans which I had not noticed before. It was the phrase, to bring about the obedience of faith.
Now, this phrase might not seem like an earth shattering concept to most, but for whatever reason, it was to me, and it simply jumped off the page. So much so, I had to look into it further, so I did a word search of the Bible…
And, do you know what I found out?
I discovered that this phrase only occurs in two places in scripture…
And, do you know where it is found?
It is found exclusively in the opening and closing of the book of Romans. It is not found anywhere else in the Bible. It is only found at the beginning and ending, as two bookends, introducing and concluding one of the more detailed and rich books regarding Christian theology in all of scripture. Similar to the rooks on a chessboard, flanking the pieces, standing tall like two towers, there they are, declaring the purpose of Paul’s ministry, and ultimately of the church as a whole…
“…to bring about the obedience of faith.”
The question I want you to consider is…
Do you possess an obedience of faith, or what I would call the obedience of flesh?
Here is where the obedience of faith appears in the Bible…
Romans 1:1-7 (ESV)
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV)
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
Again, what is basically being said in the opening and closing of this letter, “to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (that’s the church in Rome), is that the obedience of faith is the ultimate goal of the Christian life and ministry.
Why is this important?
Because, the bringing about of the obedience of faith (as it says in verses 5-6) accomplishes something very important. The bringing about of the obedience of faith is “for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
In other words, it is for both Christ’s glory (God’s glory if you will) and also for the edification of Christians, which is the reason why the obedience of faith must be displayed in a fallen world. Such a display is what we (Christians) are called to manifest, called to make apparent, called to exhibit. It’s what we are commanded to make happen through how we live our lives, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, you might be thinking…
“What is the obedience of faith, and what is the difference between it and the obedience of flesh?”
Great question, I’m glad you asked…
Obedience of Faith vs. Obedience of Flesh
Obedience of faith and obedience of flesh are two different brands of obedience. Let me briefly differ to 1 Timothy to help illustrate this point…
1 Timothy 1:5 (ESV)
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
A Biblical love is what is in view here, not a worldly love. Paul doesn’t say to Timothy that “the aim of our charge is love,” and then just stop there, leaving Timothy to love according to what he feels, just as the world does. No, Paul qualifies the love in view by saying that it must be issued from “a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” In other words, where it comes from or what it is of determines what type of love it is. It’s the same in Romans with regards to obedience. Proper Biblical obedience must be qualified by what it is of. In both of these cases, obedience and love (for the Christian) must be of faith and nothing else.
As a side note, when the Apostle John wrote about love in his second epistle, he connected love and obedience…
2 John 6 (ESV)
“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.”
The NIV renders the connection more clearly…
2 John 6 (NIV)
“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
Whether we are talking about love or obedience, the question which we must ask ourselves is…
“Do I have faith?”
Because if we do not have faith, what kind of love or obedience do we really have?
Back to Romans
All of the theological concepts touched upon in the Book of Romans (justification, sanctification, glorification, propitiation, redemption, election, salvation, adoption, the list goes on and on) are all given to bring about in us a better, more scripturally sound and Biblically demonstrated, life application. Paul wrote to the Romans (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) because their lives were supposed to reflect Christ to a fallen world and to each other, for His glory; and we are to do the same. In other words, we are called by God through the book of Romans, to behave in accordance with who Christ is and what He has done for us.
A Christian’s Daily Walk
Some friends and I were recently reading a book together entitled “A Christian’s Daily Walk” by Henry Scudder. Here is a quote from that book. It was written back in the 17th century…
“When you are thus awake, and are risen out of your bed, that you may walk with God the remainder of the day, it will be needful that you first renew your peace with God, by faith in Jesus Christ; and then endeavour to show your dutifulness and gratitude to God, by doing those works of piety, equity, mercy, and sobriety, which may any way concern you that day. For how can two walk together, except they be agreed? And how can any walk with God, if he be not holy in all his conversation? You have as much cause to beware of him, and to obey his voice, and not provoke him who goeth before you in the wilderness of this world, to guide and bring you to his heavenly kingdom…” – Henry Scudder, 1635
We must first, renew our peace with God by faith in Jesus Christ, and then endeavor to show dutifulness and gratitude to Him. As Henry Scudder says, we have cause to beware of Him, to obey His voice, and to not provoke Him.
As Paul says, we must bring about an obedience of faith.
Godspeed, to the brethren!
(This blog was inspired by a sermon that I gave on August 6, 2017. You can listen to it by clicking here.)