We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name,
Have you ever tried to explain a word or phrase to a young mind? And in the moment of explanation you question whether you actually know what it means yourself, or wonder how you came to understand a thing you can’t explain, you just know in your gut? We do this funny little thing with words and phrases. The more we hear a phrase we tend to take for granted it’s meaning. Sometimes the meaning we ascribe to it is correct, and sometimes it isn’t.
Here Paul says that the gospel is preached to bring about the obedience of faith and the meaning I was taught growing up was that means people should obey the command to believe in Jesus. Sounds good, right? But if we look at the context that surrounds this verse it seems Paul is speaking of something much greater than obeying a call to give mental assent to the gospel.
After verse 5, he goes into a near tirade of how humanity has refused to give God His rightful place as Creator and Ruler; instead of obeying Him and living according to His desires, they choose to live according to their own rules, even in spite of the negative consequences of doing so. They even go so far as to give standing ovations to those who practice this depravity.
Many can get caught up in the condemnation Paul says God visits on those lifestyles that he categorizes as depraved (and that has it’s application), but in the midst of that topic he lists more common sins like envy, hate, quarreling, lying, gossiping, etc.; things that many of us practice on the regular and don’t bat an eye at.
I believe it’s important to keep this distinction in our minds. Paul has said there is a way to live, and living opposite of that brings wrath on the one who does so. And if we think some don’t fall under this umbrella, Paul argues that even those without God’s law are guilty because creation clearly testifies there is a higher Being mankind is responsible to and humanity still disregards that as well… Paul makes sure we all are sitting at the round table.
Romans 1 reminds us there’s a way humanity is meant to live, and humanity refuses to, so humanity is joyfully diving heading to its own destruction. But there is good news that through belief brings about obedience. Do you see that? Paul doesn’t say there’s good news that someone paid for all your wrong and if you just believe this has been paid, that mental assent gains you eternal life. No no. Rather if one believes this good news he/she will, because of this belief, change the way they live. They will begin to obey God’s way for mankind to live; not because this obedience purchases their forgiveness or freedom, but rather because the Creator has forgiven them and allowed them a second chance to live as they were intended to live.
Salvation is not gained by the obedience; but this obedience will not be absent. It is the obedience of faith. Paul seems to present the two as one coin, two sides. All who believe in Jesus WILL LIVE as God intended. They will obey, because of their faith in God’s work. The idea of salvation by faith alone without works is not something that can be found in Romans chapter 1. What Paul is saying by thy phrase “the obedience of faith” can be summed up using James’ words “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?… Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-18)