the weblog of Alan Knox

For the obedience of faith…

Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in discipleship, scripture | 8 comments

For the obedience of faith…

Over the last couple of days, I’ve shared posts related to some of our discussion with the church last Sunday when we studied Romans 1:1-17 together. (See my posts “Amazed at living in the last days” and “That I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.”)

There was another phrase in that first part of Romans 1 that resulted in a great and encouraging discussion. It was the phrase “the obedience of faith.”

Here is the phrase in the context of Romans 1:

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 (Romans 1:1-6 ESV)

Isn’t that an interesting phrase: “the obedience of faith.” We don’t often think about obedience in relation to faith like that.

Later, I searched for that phrase and found that it only occurs one other time Scripture… also in the letter to the Romans… and at the very end of the letter. Here is the only other occurrence of the phrase “the obedience of faith” in Scripture:

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. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

The fact that the phrase “the obedience of faith” occurs at the very beginning and very end of this letter (and nowhere else) could be very significant and could indicate a theme for this letter (a literary device called inclusio).

Now, you may have noticed that in both instances the phrase is included with a prepositional phrase that was translated as “to bring about the obedience of faith.” Without getting to technical, the phrase “to bring about” comes from a preposition that often translated “to” or “for.” In this case, I think it would have been better if the translators had left it as “for the obedience of faith,” instead of “to bring about the obedience of faith.”

Here are some other ways the phrase is translated:

… for obedience to the faith… (KJV and NKJV)

… to the obedience that comes from faith… (NIV)

… to bring about the obedience of faith… (NASB, with a note “for obedience of faith”)

Similarly, the HCSB offers a few different possibilities: to bring about (“to” or “for”) the obedience of faith (“the obedience that is faith,” “the faithful obedience,” or “the obedience that comes from faith”).

But, regardless of how we translate the preposition (and it is an important question), the phrase “obedience of faith” remains to be considered. You can see some of the questions raised by looking at the options given by the HCSB translators.

What do you think Paul meant by the phrase “the obedience of faith”?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-28-2013

    I’ve never noticed that phrase before. It’s interesting!

    I don’t know. When I saw the post title & read the first half of the entry — I was thinking that “obedience of faith” actually meant the faith that comes from obedience…..or said differently the obedience which would cause us to receive the faith… or said differently the choice or choices (the obedience) to believe (have faith)………but I see now it is really referring to obedience that comes from faith.

    I wish I could have heard the discussion!…perhaps you should start videotaping your discussions…. and then posting them online… and then maybe charging people to hear them…. hehe……sorry got carried away for a second there 🙂 reverted back to my church marketing past.

  2. 2-28-2013


    Apparently, this is only interesting to you and me. 🙂


  3. 2-28-2013


  4. 2-28-2013

    I think it’s interesting too, but I’m going to stay out of this. Judging by my track record I think that’s the wisest course to take. 🙂

  5. 2-28-2013

    Lol at ben hehe ….and so i guess based on my track record i should have ended my comment my w “i dont know”….since ill change my mind a ridiculous amount

  6. 2-28-2013

    I think it refers to Christ’s summarization of all believers around the world to do as found in the great commission. Both passages refer to what believers are to do everywhere in the world.

  7. 3-1-2013

    I was thinking along the lines of Randi, it seems to me Paul is the perfect instrument as an Apostle in God’s hand to illuminate the understanding of faith to us. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
    So, I would tie it together with James’ concept of “Faith without works” or I might call it faith without legs.
    Am I understanding your input correctly? Since I am convinced God cares first about our hearts or motivation and is able
    to deal with our ineptness, it seems to me the obedience of faith is the same as the obedience of love.
    Is there a question of what “brings this about” ? For me it’s similar to what came first, the chicken…
    It doesn’t matter does it? God causes it all. But it’s fascinating to watch His elocution.
    I always wonder if I should write what I think, but I really enjoy Allan’s questions and everyone’s response.
    I go to Churches that aren’t interactive in the least sense and find your posts very provocative.
    Thank you all!

  8. 3-1-2013


    Aw, come on… jump in. You know it will be fun.


    What leads you to believe that Paul is referring to the great commission? (I’m not disagreeing with you… just wondering what pointed you to that command.)


    We lose something important without interaction – mutuality or “one another-ing” – which God uses to grow the church in maturity. I appreciate your interaction here.