Sunday, October 10, 2010

Obedience to the Faith

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 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, 5 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, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7 ESV
So begins the book of Romans. We did some commentary reads on this passage and observed some great summaries of what Paul is saying from the beginning of his letter. For one, there's a fabulously succinct synopsis of the gospel in two verses. Secondly, the words Paul uses to describe himself, the church, and Christ reflect his perspective on how the gospel affects our relationship with God. But what really drew our attention was some conflicting views of verse 5 both in the commentaries and in different translations - so we dove a little deeper into the text.

Via Strong's Concordance, we looked up the words "obedience" and "faith" to determine what is specifically meant in this context. We're not Bible scholars and can't read the Bible in straight up Greek, so this resource will be very valuable. Obedience is hupakoē in Greek, and means attentive hearkening, that is, (by implication) compliance or submission. Faith is pistis, and means persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; by extension the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: - assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity. It said more than that, but we cut out the superfluous words.

What is Paul summarizing here? We know from previous study that Romans deals heavily with the idea of the Law vs. grace through Christ. In this verse, Paul states that he is called "to bring about the obedience of faith" - is he talking about an obedience to a set of rules, i.e. Law? Or is our faith in Christ something different? Strong's makes it pretty clear - the "system of religious truth" is a credence, an assurance, a belief. Doesn't sound like rules to us, at least.

The point, we both agree, is that Paul is establishing right from the start the entire proposition of the book of Romans, i.e. salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. After his summary of the gospel, Paul makes a deliberate choice of words to direct the readers to the gist of his argument. We are called to be obedient to faith. Not to the Law. Obedience to faith is our submission to the reliance upon Christ for salvation.

There's more we could draw out of this passage, but I think you get the point.

Resources: Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, Matthew Henry's Commentary, Wesley's Explanatory Notes, Strong's Concordance, Bible Gateway (Bible translations)

1 comment:

  1. We read your post, and David would like to direct you to James, to remind you that faith without works is dead. He says that this is why you can have James and Romans side by side. He would like to point out that many christians make a case for not following the law, because they are "saved by grace." And that they equate waving their hands in the air with having faith, but don't do anything to reach out to those in need. David thinks that this is the equivalent of saying, "go, be warmed and filled." (that's a reference to James 2:16.)

    The thing that came to mind for me was John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I don't think you can separate it out. Faith without works is dead, and works without faith is filthy rags.