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For the obedience of faith (Part 2)

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in discipleship, scripture | 16 comments

For the obedience of faith (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post, “For the obedience of faith,” I pointed to that interesting phrase that is only found in 2 place in Scripture. Both occurrences of the phrase are found in Paul’s letter to the Romans – once at the very beginning and once at the very end: Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26. (Think kind of “bracketing” or “iclusio” is very important in literary analysis, and could indicate a theme for the entire letter.)

But, what does the phrase “for the obedience of faith” mean?

Well, let’s start with the word “faith.” Often, this phrase is translated as “for the obedience of THE faith” while “the faith” stands in the place of a set of religious beliefs and practices. The word “faith” is often used in this way today. People talk about the Christian faith, or the Muslim faith, or the Jewish faith.

It seems that this use of the term “faith” would work well with the term obedience: i.e., “for the obedience of Christian beliefs and practices.”

The problem is, in the book of Romans, the many (almost 40) uses of the term “faith” all seem to point to a different meaning: “trust” (primarily, trust in God). Here are a few examples:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Romans 1:8 ESV)

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22 ESV)

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness… (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. (Romans 9:30-32 ESV)

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23 ESV)

In the same way, if you were to study Paul’s use of “obedience/disobedience” and “obey/disobey” in the letter of Romans, you’ll find that word group is also extremely important in the letter. I’m not going to list many occurrences of “obedience,” but remember there is a very important section of the letter related specifically to obedience and disobedience:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16 ESV)

So, it seems that with the phrase “for the obedience of faith,” Paul is talking about living a life of obedience to God that is based on trusting God. While he’s certainly talking about obeying God in many different ways, the first act of obedience is trust (faith). In fact, all other thoughts and actions of obeying God flow from our trust in (faith in) God.

Thus, referring back to Romans 1:5, Paul recognized that he had been given grace and had been sent “for the obedience of faith,” which refers to 1) his trusting (faith) in God which resulted in his obediently going from place to place to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ so that 2) others can respond obediently to God by trusting (faith in) him as well.


16 Comments

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  1. 3-1-2013

    Hi Alan
    Ive been offline for quite awhile with our business and yours is the first posting Ive read thru in a long time. That’s because i find yours at the top of my list of ‘important’ topics as opposed to ‘interesting’.
    And there is nothing more important or interesting than the obedience of faith, to which Id like to comment briefly.
    Since I was saved 40 yrs ago, and probably because of the challenging circumstances that led to my conversion, I’ve been acutely aware of the fact that the NT scriptures were written to a very different kind of people than we all are today.
    I personally think our relativism and educations have dulled our consciences to the gentle dove of the voice of God.
    This has caused me to try to think objectively and dig into the historicity of the early church et al, so that I could avoid the perils of subjectively interpreting scripture that the modern church is captive to and has been eviscerated by.
    The prime directive of all scripture is obedience, which produces, and without which there can be no faith.
    Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered, and we must follow Him there.
    Scripture also declares that faith works by love. Selah.
    But we have, by systematic disobedience to the first commandment of Jesus, to love one another as He loves us, corporately changed the meaning of faith from trust and obedience to belief and statements.
    We now largely listen to our own rhetoric, trying to make scripture fit our experiences and worldviews, which are many, and are at variance with each others.
    When I was saved at 17, from a life of crime, addiction and vile sinfulness, I went to many churches, looking for some resonance with my own new found faith, which I was being transformed daily by thru the blood, sweat and tears of obedience to God. I was too addled in my mind at the time to read the bible, and asked the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me, trusting that since He had written the scriptures, He could very well repeat them to me.
    He did.
    Being young and tender hearted as a new convert, I found very little resonance among a dozen or so churches of all stripes, for my desire to find new avenues of loving and trusting God. In retrospect, I probably scared them.
    In the grand scheme of things, I just couldnt go to church, I told the Lord so and I guess He understood and led me immediately to meet a small group of youth who were very similar to me, and that was the start of a long and wonderful journey.
    The fundamental foundation though of our fellowship was that trusting God resulted in radical obedience, and deep love for one another.
    As the decades have passed, my family and I have witnessed many, many churches and families who might have hurdled their various obstacles, some self inflicted and many sent by satan, but because of their loosey goosey subjectivity to traditions, and their less than radical obedience to the known Word of God, they failed.
    Faith, true faith, changes me and us into the likeness of Jesus, as He was in the flesh.
    Its not often today that observers of our walk with God remark, like they did with the disciples, that we have a remarkable likeness to Jesus.
    If we truly want to please Father, we will call one another back to radical obedience, which is to trust Him that when He commands us to love one another as He loves us, He will unite our hearts in love, and we will begin to change us corporately into His image.
    Our abandonment of the corporate-ness of Christ has left us no other course than to pursue Him individually, and if we are lucky, with a few other faithful ones who wont stab us in the back.
    Our divisions will not only disappear but they will be seen as poison to the love and unity that we will achieve as a result of radical obedience to the known will and Word of God.
    This may sound like semantics to some.
    So be it.
    The evidence that someone truly wants what God does, is when he or she gives up anything and if needed, everything to obtain it.
    This was the message of John the Baptist, before Jesus came the first time. He’s coming again, for His church this time, and at some point we all need to get up off our corporate duffs, trim our lamps and prepare to enter the bridal chamber.
    He that has an ear to hear, let him understand.

    Until our gospel is rooted in our own conversion to true trust and obedience, evidenced by His love binding us all together in everyday ways, against all odds, we will need to explain and discuss these fundamental scriptures you have written about.
    But we should know this, that the early church, to whom they were written, were very familiar with trust and obedience of the faith, as the foundation of their relationship with God and one another.Paul commended several for clearly demonstrating the acts of trust and obedience.
    I notice that very few comment on topics such as these, and I suspect its because intuitively, we all know our faith is not up to the measure of the stature of Christ.
    That’s what we should be challenging one another on, without fear, judgement or reminders of past sins.
    I thank God for you and your blog Alan, as its one that expresses the need to get back to fundamentals.
    blessings
    Greg

  2. 3-1-2013

    trust & obey – for there’s no other way – to be happy in Jesus – but to trust & obey

  3. 3-1-2013

    Greg,

    That’s a great comment. If you don’t mind, I’d love to share it with a wider audience as a guest blogger post.

    Randi,

    “Let us do his good will; he abides with us still.” Our trust in his presence and power (“he abides with us”) is the only reason that we can obey (“do his will”).

    -Alan

  4. 3-1-2013

    Of all the ways faith is expressed, I think obedience is the most important. Anyone can have faith in God that He’ll grant some desire (whether He does so or not). It’s a different matter when God tells you to do something crazy, like sacrifice your son on Mt Moriah, and you obey, not just because God told you to, but because you trust that He is good in spite of appearances.

  5. 3-2-2013

    Very inspiring post Greg. 40 years ago puts you into the same move of God that caught and cleansed me, though I was a few years older than you. Love your testimony here, especially the simplicity you experienced in receiving the the Word of God directly from the Holy Spirit. In those first tender years of my walk with the Lord, He gave us songs, which we sang over and over and over…until the spirit of the Scriptures was deeply implanted in our hearts, way before anyone could preach or teach us and before we could decipher much of the Bible. The local churches did not know what to do with us, a small group of young scallywags rescued but so different from them…so we carried on in our homes for some years. After that things got complicated with the introduction of hierarchy and conformity…but meanwhile we had been welded together in the simplicity of love and trust and we went through out desert wilderness together, many of us surviving to emerge stronger in faith to continue on into liberty. Scattered around the world, but still bound together in spirit and truth and even some still gathering together weekly to help and encourage, to share in faith and love, to partake of His riches and provisions in each other. Blessings to all.

  6. 3-2-2013

    wow, that WAS an awesome comment Greg. I’m glad others commented on it so I could know to go back & read it — somehow I had missed it. You are so very right. I yearn for that type of trusting, obedient love.

    “If we truly want to please Father, we will call one another back to radical obedience, which is to trust Him that when He commands us to love one another as He loves us, He will unite our hearts in love, and we will begin to change us corporately into His image.”

    I am experiencing that in my marriage as we take steps to continually be submissive to each other & consider one another…. with my children as we train them…..and I’m starting to get teeny tastes of it with others and it’s beautiful! But we are so far from being built up with others. But I know we have also come so far from where we were!! It’s so much harder & takes so much longer than I desire. The scriptures on perserverance & strength needed… the narrow roads & suffering….those are starting to make more sense.

  7. 3-2-2013

    I’m enjoying all the input on the phrase “the obedience of faith.” Thank you, everyone.

    -Alan

  8. 3-2-2013

    One of the first songs the Lord gave to me shortly after I surrendered to His loving kindness and repented.

    Let Us Cast Our Nets

    Let us cast our nets in the sea of Love
    Way out beyond the blue
    Let us catch the hope that all mankind
    Will come back home to you

    Our boats are sturdy, we thank you Lord
    Our sails are set by you
    Let us cast our nets in the sea of Love
    Way out beyond the blue

    Oh take our hearts for bait dear Lord
    And rid the sea of brine
    So that every man be caught and cleansed
    And know your love divine.

    Just thought I would share that since I used that phrase “caught and cleansed” in my earlier post. I lived in a mountainous seacoast region with a population of about 300-400 depending on what time of year. Our first instinct was to spread the Good News, so a lot of our songs were really prayers to be effective in sharing with and seeing our many loved ones, family and friends saved. Over about 4 years we shared with nearly everyone and at that time 40 some folks actually experienced a changed life and gathered with us, sometimes driving 40 miles or more to gather in all kinds of weather. Some of us were proficient musicians making our sharing in song very natural and easily incorporated into community activities.

  9. 3-2-2013

    Just in case someone might be interested in reading the testimony of one of those folks who was with us from very early, she just published a book for which I wrote the Preface called LOVE SONG OF A FLOWER CHILD, A Story of Redemption in the Drop-Out Days: the Tune-In, Turn-On Times of Berkeley and Big Sur by Mary Stewart Anthony. (Available in Kindle, hard and soft cover from Amazon). As I write Mary and her husband are on their way back to China for a visit to their many friends there where they endeared themselves as missionaries. They reside in Northern CA and are the proud grandparents of seven from their two daughters. Lots of obedience of faith in her story!!!!

  10. 3-2-2013

    P. S. There are testimonies from 6 or 7 of these same folks…who over 40 years ago were moved on by the Holy Spirit and gave their lives over to Jesus, in the addendum of this book.

  11. 3-3-2013

    I have to share with you all how much God used this theme again in our lives this week! It will easily turn into a book so I will try to summarize. We went to a parenting seminar Saturday – which was reminding us that all correction comes from LOVE and we can trust that.

    Which lead beautifully into our discussion as a Church today which was actually focused on the parallels between Jacob & Esau, the prodigal son & his brother and Israel & The Church. Which culminated in thoughts on trusting God. Which lead to discussion on the fact that we can obey only when we trust.

    The same lesson we are trying to teach our children – God the Father is trying to teach us as His children! To TRUST that the parent loves you and knows what is best for you. That parents discipline & correct their children not because they are disgusted with them. Not because they are angry – but because they know what is best for them.

    The only way our children can be transformed is if they understand our love is un-conditional and that we desire good for them. When they know they are LOVED and are clothed with righteousness because of their relationship in Christ – they can be HUMBLE & take their eyes off of themselves. They can OBEY – because their heart has been changed (softened) by the trust that we, as parents, know what is best for them, see the bigger picture of everything & desire good for them.

    If we don’t have the security of unconditional love — we will never be able to be HUMBLE (therefore transformed, molded)… We will always be focused on our pride that tries to defend it’s SELF-Sustained worth. Which will look like self condemnation shame self hatred or pride/arrogant/self righteousness depending on the day.

    So it IS the TRUST in that LOVE (through Christ) that transforms our thinking and changes our desires to be the same of what the parent wants for us! The molding of hearts!!

    Trust & obey. All transformation starts in the SECURITY of His LOVE that we can trust in! Praise Jesus.

    Hope that makes sense – I’m trying to type really fast because I have very little nap time left. Hope it makes sense to somebody.

  12. 3-3-2013

    Feel free to use anything you find helpful Alan.
    Great comments too Rita and Randi.
    A really neat thing about the Lord, though He has us spread over the face of the earth, is how He unites us in common experiences of following Jesus in His earthly journey. Though the church is divided, He miraculously brings us together past the same milestones as our revelation of Him grows corporately. He said, and I truly believe (because I see it unfolding) that the whole earth will express His glory, who is Jesus Christ.
    Whether we love Jesus, ignore or fight against Him, our every breath is an acknowledgment of his supremacy as King and God.
    blessings
    Greg

  13. 3-4-2013

    Interesting posts recently on obedience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts -I have enjoyed reading your blog as of late.

    Obedience has been something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately. I’ve been privately journaling my faith walk pretty extensively for the past 18 months or so and obedience keeps coming up. I kind of came to the realization/conclusion that obedience was my ‘love language’ to God … (I posted a reflection here http://www.discipleforging.com/2012/12/our-spiritual-love-language.html)

    I also noticed in my journaling that when I felt the nudging of the Spirit and I had to make a choice of obedience/disobedience, fear (of one thing or another -usually man) was always a hurdle I needed to get over. If I am first and foremost called to love God and others, then I need to learn to recognize and face my fears -“love casts out fear”.

    Thx again for the thoughtful posts.

  14. 3-5-2013

    Thanks again for the great comments, everyone!

    -Alan

  15. 3-9-2013

    Alan,

    Finally getting caught up on backlogs. Nice to see why you were able to comment on my posting about Romans 1 : )

    James

  16. 3-11-2013

    James,

    Yes, that is quite a coincidence, isn’t it?

    -Alan