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Rightly Dividing

The Obedience of Faith

The obedience of faith may be one of the most underrated and underused expressions in the Scriptures. It’s only used twice, once in Paul’s greeting to the Romans (Romans 1:5) and again in the benediction of Romans (Romans 16:26), but we should use it more often.

There are a couple proposed interpretations for the phrase.

One possibility is that πίστεως (“of faith”) is a genitive of apposition, where the genitive restates the same idea as in the main noun, or what’s sometimes called an epexegetical genitive, where the genitive clarifies the meaning of the head noun. If that’s the case, the Paul’s mission was to bring about “obedience, that is, faith,” so that obedience is a larger category of which faith is a more specific kind. That interpretation could work. It’s at least theologically correct, and could be compared to John 6:29 where Jesus called faith a work of God (to be done). And since “believe” is an imperative (Mark 1:15), faith would be obedience to the command.

But πίστεως seems to me to better fit the pattern of the genitive of source (or genitive of production). Pauls’ mission was to bring about “obedience derived from or sourced in faith,” or even with the gloss, “obedience produced by faith.”

When I think about the flow of the letter, with the emphasis on justification by faith followed by Paul’s immediate response to anticipated arguments about faith and grace denying the obligations of obedience, especially in chapters 5 and 6, it causes me to lean toward the interpretation of the (necessary) obedience that comes from faith.

I also take Paul’s quote from Habakkuk about the righteous living by faith (Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17) to refer to faith-driven righteous behavior, not just faith-received justification, though it has to start there.

The Great Commission requires that disciples be taught to “observe all that (Jesus) commanded” (Matthew 28:19). This means that complete obedience to the Lord is the mission, though we understand such a life starts with faith in Him.

We are forgiven by grace alone through faith alone, and then re-formed, still by grace through faith. But this re-formed obedience is a post-requisite. We are being transformed (Romans 12:1), we are being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). This is sanctification. Our resurrection in Christ causes us to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), and sometimes we need to have the feet of our hearts washed again (see John 13:10). The whole thing is from faith to faith (Romans 1:17), and obedience is the fruit of healthy faith.

Faith is no more an enemy of works than the sun is an enemy to flowers. Obedience is the bloom, the color, the fragrance of salvation in the flesh. It is the obedience of faith.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Know, Reckon, Yield

When I was a child I thought like a child, which meant I thought it was more common to be on fire. I say that because we were regularly drilled in the fire safety trifecta of: Stop. Drop. and Roll. Since fire feeds on oxygen, the emergency procedure aims to suffocate the fire. As it turns out, by God’s grace, I have never needed to apply these instructions, but they certainly have been memorable.

What I really wish is that I would have been similarly drilled as a disciple of Christ. There is a three-fold set of commands in Romans 6 that I would have used much more often, even daily, and numerous times throughout the day in dealing with sin and temptations to sin. The sanctification trifecta is: Know. Reckon. Yield.

We Know not only the truths of the gospel, but our union with Christ in the gospel events. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).

We Reckon or deliberately deliberate on this new reality. “So you also must consider (reckon in the KJV), from λογίζομαι, meaning count it to be so) yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

And then Yield to the new way. “Present (yield in the KJV), put at His disposal) yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13).

Every believer has been baptized into Christ’s death, and we have been raised from the dead to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-4). Are you hot with with offense or bitterness? Are you engulfed with guilt and regret? Are you consumed with anxiousness or doubt? Confess your sin, and then Know. Reckon. Yield. Today we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, and ours in Him.