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”?