Obedience To The Faith
“By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.” —Romans 1:5
A View Of The Statement
What exactly does “obedience to the faith” mean? The apostle Paul would use this statement in the first few verses of the book of Romans and return to it as he closed out the book of Romans (16:26). Sandwiched in between these two bookend statements is the explanation and meaning of the new covenant by Paul. He was obviously anxious to call believers to obedience. That obedience was to be to the tenants of the new covenant, even as he explained in the content of this great epistle. To be obedient to the faith means to be obedient in every capacity to the truths revealed by God in regard to man’s redemption through Christ.
Obedience is often thought of as a simple action. For instance, we might say that a person was obedient to keep the laws of the state in which he lives. However, while being obedient through action is included in Paul’s statement, there is far more implicated by Paul’s use of the phrase.
In this article, I would like to declare that the believer’s responsibility in regard to being obedient to the faith means that he or she is responsible to accept and maintain both the process by which man enters a relationship with God as well as the process by which man continues in that relationship.
As well, if the right process is embraced, there will also be a specific result that is the outcome. For this to occur, an individual must be “obedient to the faith.”
The first responsibility of the believer is to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is presented by Paul. Paul declares that all men are constituted with a sinful condition and are guilty of sinful action. This truth separates them from God whose nature and character is holy.
Paul declares that God has moved through this obstacle to relationship with men by choosing to justify any person who places his faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Justification is the legal decree of another’s innocence. Paul declares in the book of Romans that the status of justification can only be obtained by faith. To this truth we must forever be obedient. Paul also states that “the just shall live by faith.” We are not saved by faith and then changed by works.
The second great doctrine explained involves the process of progressive sanctification. Paul teaches that progressive sanctification is accomplished through the working of the Holy Spirit within the heart and life of the believer. However, the Holy Spirit doesn’t automatically transform the believer. He only has the legal grounds to work when the truths of faith in Christ and the cross are continually embraced.
Therefore, the object of a believer’s faith determines whether or not progressive sanctification is experienced. This we must accept as right and depend upon it throughout our lives here on the earth. In doing so, we become and remain obedient to the faith. God will always provide grace as the result of properly centered faith. If we are dependent upon justification and not works for salvation, then we are obedient to the faith. If we are dependent upon the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus to work in us as the result of our faith in Christ and Him crucified, then we are operating in obedience to the faith. If we feel at any time that we are justified or sanctified by works, then we have become disobedient to the faith. The processes of God always surround the truth that we are both saved and changed by grace through faith. To this truth we must forever be obedient.
In the book of Romans, Paul also gives us insight as to what the Christian life will look like when one is obedient to the faith. Practical Christian living is described in Romans 12 through 16. Here we find expectations regarding ministry, treatment of people in the world, and the proper treatment of those who are in the body of Christ. If we have been obedient to the faith in regard to justification and sanctification, then we should be experiencing the equipping power of God to aid us in becoming the Christlike example that obedience to the faith produces. The product of obedience to the faith is Christ likeness.
Therefore, being obedient to the faith starts with theology but results with the practical application of proper action such as correct moral choices and the loving-kindness of God displayed to others. If we say that we have the right theology, but our lives are preaching something that is abhorrent to the nature and character of God, then we are not being obedient to the faith.
Being obedient to the faith is not just the embracing of the process, but it is also the truth of exhibiting the intended product. The proper product produced by faith and grace is a life that is godly, loving, kindhearted, full of compassion, and plenteous in mercy. It is a life that operates with humility in its proper placement and location, not desiring or envying the ministry of others. It is a life that treats those in the world with respect and kindness even when they are despairing and insulting regarding Christian beliefs. In our treatment of fellow believers, we are not to use our liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but we should be transformed to love each other even as Christ loves us. We are to be patient and long-suffering with those who are weak in the faith. We are to be busy restoring those who have been trapped and hurt by moral failures. We are to be a beacon of light to the world that is lost. To exhibit these attributes that God has worked in us by His grace is to be obedient to the faith.
To be obedient to the faith is to obey both the processes of redemption as described in Romans and to allow the finished product of God’s grace to be on display for all to see. Paul never gives theology without demanding its practical reality. You and I must embrace the message of the cross, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, as well, we must allow that same gospel to produce a life that is pleasing to God. This is all available because of what Jesus did for us at Calvary.
And God, who gave His best, expects us to embrace His plan and allow Him to build us into the best man or woman of God that we can become. This is what it means to be obedient to the faith.