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"The Obedience of Faith"
The phrase “the obedience of faith” communicates one of the great concepts of Romans. It comes in the first and the last chapters (Romans 1:5 and in 16:26). There have been many religious teachings on this phrase used to lead people to a works based walk with God; in sharp contrast, this hub will show from the Scriptures that this phrase actually communicates a faith based walk, a walk wherein we live out from who we are in Christ, not by trying to become the person God has already declared us to be.
We will not be looking at the Bible as if it is an invoice we must pay, we will be looking at it as if it were a bank account that our Heavenly Father has given us to draw upon. This Hub will focus on the truth that Jesus Christ did the work to procure God's blessing for us-- that God does the transforming work in our lives through the truth of His Word pertaining to Christ's accomplished work-- that He does so from the inside out via gospel transformation, not something we do from the outside in by sweeping and garnishing the flesh by way of behavior modification.
We will see that when a child of God embraces the reality of Christ and knows who and what God has made them to be in Christ, that is when, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) becomes their present experience. For in it's most boiled down state, that is the essence of meaning in the phrase, "the obedience of faith." Even as it is thus communicated and elaborated upon in Chapter 6 verses 1 through 7 of Romans, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (fully immersed/unified- see the Hub Baptized in Holy Spirit) into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin."
There in Romans 6 we find how to step into "the obedience of faith." We simply accept the truths contained in those verses; for, “I have been crucified with Christ. I have died with him. I have been buried with him. I have risen with him and have ascended with him. In the same way he was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father so also shall I walk in newness of life."
"In the same way as he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father so also shall I walk in newness of life". In the same way? Yes! He was dead and God raised him from the dead. That is how we are to walk. God produces the right behavior in our lives as we walk by faith in regard to the truth of our unification with Christ.
As a side-note, have you ever heard the expression “The Greeks have a word for it?” Have you ever wondered what that expression means? It means that the Greek language has a unique word for pretty much everything. The Greek language is a very precise language. This is especially true regarding Koine Greek (Bible Greek).
English often uses the same word to mean entirely different things. For example: The English word “fast” has many definitions which are loosely left to be understood by the common knowledge of people in any given demographic, for example:
- He runs fast. (Speed)
- She is fast. (Loose)
- He is on a fast. (Not Eating)
- Stand fast. (Immovable)
- It is a shoe fast. (Form)
- The boat was tied to the fast. (Mooring)
- He is a fast friend. (Loyal or Close)
- Color fast. (Resistant to fading)
Greek may often use the same word with various nuances of meaning, but the root meaning remains constant. It may also use a different word for the same basic idea but with various possible meanings; for example, in the Greek New Testament there are two Greek words (poieo and prasso) which are both translated into english as "do." Poieo would be a single act. Prasso would be a life style. This distinction in meaning may not seem very significant at first glance, but consider a scenario wherein people experience the things they experience based on what they do, in which case the difference in meaning between a single deed and a lifestyle of deeds would carry great significance. For example in Galatians 5:21b where the word for “do” is prasso (lifestyle) and not poieo (a single act):
Gal 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
In this example of the English word ("do") has only one meaning, thus we can be very happy indeed that the Greek word is prasso, meaning a lifestyle and not a single act.
Now let’s also look at a couple of the words in the Greek that translate into our English word “obedience.” The first one is “peitharcheo,” which refers to obedience to authority. For example: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates” (Titus 3:1). This word is not used with reference to "the obedience of faith." There is different Geek word translated "obedience" in the first and last chapters of Romans where we find the expression “the obedience of faith”. This word is “hupakoe” (pronounced hoop-uh-coy') and it is used in the New Testament fifteen times. There is great significance in the construction of this Greek word. Understanding this word has opened a door of revelation to me with respect to living a more enjoyable and successful Christian life.
“Hupakoe” is a compound of “hupo” (hoop-o) and “akouo” (ak-oo'-o). Hupo is a primary preposition when placed with verbs (the agency or means, through); of place (whither (underneath) or where (below). It often denotes an inferior position or condition. And akouo is a primary verb; to hear (used biblically in various senses):--give audience, come to the ears, be noised, be reported, be understood.
Putting the two together, you have obedience (hupakoe = to submit to and hearken to what is said. In other words, the obedience is produced by the hearing and we do not have this “obedience” apart from “hearing.” Hearing in such a way as to hearken is to give God’s word its superior position in our thinking. It is an issue of humility and belief which opens the door for the gospel to produce a lifestyle with and for God.
This distinction and accuracy about the word translated obedience in Romans 1:5 and in 16:26 is very significant if we are going to understand what these verses are talking about. It is especially significant when this word obedience is coupled with faith. The obedience of faith is a powerful combination of insightful wording. If we will take the time and effort to grasp the message of these words, we will be in a better position to obey God and walk in such a way as our Lord Jesus Christ did. After all, Jesus did say, “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30), and “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me” (John 14:24).
Jesus also said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8; 14:35) and “Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given” (Mark 4:24). What an incentive to listen!
The idea is that “hearing” truth cultivates true obedience; moreover, there can be no true obedience without truth being heard (received, considered, pondered).
The primary method for God's people today for following His lead is for them to hear His Word of Truth pertaining to the good news about Jesus Christ. and to think about it, make it our own, hold onto it.
The obedience of faith is significant since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of (pertaining to) Christ” (Romans 10:17).
In the Old Testament we are told that God spoke to His people and then they acted in faith. The way "acted in faith" is communicated by the Amplified Bible regarding the Old Testament believers who are listed in Hebrews 11 puts it this way, “Prompted, actuated by faith Abel…”, and “Prompted by faith Noah…” “Urged on by faith Abraham…” “These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith”. In other words, it is not so much that they “had” faith, as it was that faith had them.
It is still true today, when men “hear” the word of God spoken, it has the power to accomplish in them that which God intends. After all, God did say, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). And “For the word that God speaks is alive and full of power, making it active, operative, energizing, and effective” (Hebrews 4:12).
“There was a man which had his hand withered” (Matthew 12:10; Mark 3:1, Luke 6:6). This man had never in his life stretched forth his hand, but when he heard Jesus say to him “Stretch forth thine hand” he stretched forth his hand. With the word of command came the power to perform. The word went forth and with it the “energizing and effective” power to do it.
The power of God’s command is so great. When someone speaks God’s command with authority and direction from God, wow, even the dead respond. When Jesus “cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” ”He that was dead came forth” (John 11:43). What will happen in our lives if we make it the primary concern of our lives to “hear” and speak God’s word.
In Luke 10:38-42 we see that Martha came to Jesus when she was very, very busy doing things. She said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” Her sister, Mary, had chosen to sit and listen to Jesus. Jesus responding to Martha’s complaint said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
With all the busy-ness of the average Christian life, I wonder what of the “so many things” we concern ourselves with that we could throw out and lighten our load so we can better “hear.” Notice that Jesus told Martha of what was “necessary” there was “really only one thing.” Mary had chosen that. She “sat at Jesus' feet, and heard God’s word.” Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” The Hermann Cremer Biblico-Theological Lexicon says “the good part” is to be interpreted “that which is to her advantage.”
If we chose that which God says is to our advantage, we will stop most of what we feel we ‘must’ do today. Instead we may want to sit with our open Bible and receptive minds to listen to God. Remember, the Scripture admonishes us “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For whoever would come near to God must necessarily believe that God is what you need and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him out” (Hebrews 11:6). This is not an afterthought. This is not something we might get around to doing. This is the thing that is to our advantage.
That necessary faith comes when we hear. Then our life can be filled with the obedience of faith. This is further unveiled throughout Paul's letters as being the specific matter of "hearing" what God and His Son Jesus Christ have done for us - what has been freely given as a result - who and what we have been made to be in Christ (see the hub articles "Your Real Profile" and "The Christian's True Identity"). Or in other words, we hold the truth of our identity in Christ above any contrary opinions; we look at how God sees us in Christ “AS IN A MIRROR.” 2Corinthians 3:18 also informs us that in doing so we outwardly become that same image, from glory to ever increasing glory. The process of submitting our thoughts to truth in matters of our unification and identification with Christ is indeed an act of faith. And this "beholding as in a mirror" is most definitely to our advantage! It is a "hearing" of God's Word well worth our time and efforts. It is a fruit producing growth that takes place from the inside out, without compulsion on our part, as in Matthew 6:28. It is the same renewed mind process spoken of in Romans 12:2. As a side note, the Greek word translated "transformed" in Romans 12:2 is the same word translated "changed" in 2Corinthians 3:18.
God tells us to reckon ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto Him through our Lord Jesus Christ—the world crucified unto us, and us to the world (Romans 6:11, Galatians 6:14). Our flesh has been crucified with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). Be sure to say so (Romans 10:9-10). Be sure you plunge right out like good old Peter did on those waves and found the waves held him (Matthew 14:28-31). He got a soaking, but better get a soaking and walk on water. I’d rather be the man on the water and get a little wet than the man who stays in the boat and gets nothing. Don’t stay in that boat. Walk on the water.
But what does all of this mean in practical application to our everyday life? How do I live with the things that I know to be true about myself? What do I say when the accuser whispers, “You call yourself a Saint? Would a Saint think those thoughts or do those things? How could you be a Saint if you still have problems with impure thoughts or actions?” When this happens we have to choose between what we “see” in our flesh and what we are told about ourselves in the Scriptures. As did Abraham (our Father of Faith), we call those things which do not appear to exist as though they really do (Romans 4:17). Why? God is always trustworthy, but our perceptions, experiences and opinions are not (Philippians 3:3, Psalms 56:4, Romans 7:18, 2 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Timothy 6:17).
We have been declared righteous in Christ, and this righteousness is “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (Romans 1:16, 17). So let’s keep it clear: We don’t just come to God by faith, get born again, and now get on with living the Christian life as best we can. No! What was begun by faith will be led on in faith. For if “we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life” (Romans 5:10)!
2 Peter 1 provides a tremendous way to apply the gospel in just one block of connected Scripture. If we believe what is said in this chapter, instead of being burdened by our inadequacies and failures, we will be encouraged in every aspect of our life. There is nothing we lack. We do not need to acquire more of this or that; rather, we need to discover what is ours in Christ, right now, and then appropriate it by faith.
Look at what God is telling us here: “Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and of our Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
Everything that is ours in Christ is by what he did (1 Corinthians 8:6). We cannot merit a thing (2 Timothy 1:9, 2 Corinthians 3:5). The good works we do are by what he accomplished (Ephesians 2:10). Our access to the Throne of Grace is by his righteousness (Hebrews 4:14-16). Our righteousness as a Christian is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:20). Christ Jesus is our righteousness before God, for “by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Notice in 2 Peter 1:2 that the way grace and peace are multiplied to us is “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” He says in the last chapter and verse of this epistle, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Grow in grace? Why didn’t he say to grow in merit? The common understanding of grace is “unmerited favor.” If we grow in unmerited favor, we will be resting in the accomplished work of Christ for that which we do not merit. In one sense, we will grow down, not up.
We will grow in the awareness of God’s strength and not our own, like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10; “He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we “grow in grace”, we come to know our weakness and when we grow in “knowledge of our Lord”, we come to know his strength within us.
The reason “the knowledge of our Lord” is a means of grace and peace, Peter says in v.3, is because by that knowledge we will begin to see “that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We lack nothing but discovery. I liken it to a workshop that has every tool necessary to build a table. As I begin the project, I discover I need a power saw. Looking in the workshop, there it is. And the saw is powered by something other than me; I turn on the power by believing God and apply the tool perfectly as I yield to God’s direction. As I proceed with the project I may discover I need a sander. I look in the workshop and there it is. And so it goes. The gospel is the power of God unto those who believe; all we have to do is flick the switch.
In Christ we have “everything pertaining to life and godliness”, but this will only be realized in our experience and lifestyle “BY FAITH.” Remember, this is only “through the true knowledge of Him who called us”. If we desire to KNOW HIM we cannot search the gospel too much. We cannot pray too much to know Him better. And to know God better is to know The Gospel of Christ, which leads to an experiential intimacy with God of which we cannot overdo.
“For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ and that I may actually be found and known as in him, not having any self-achieved righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law's demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that genuine righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, which comes from God by faith” (Philippians 3:8, 9).
Do you see the emphasis in 2 Peter 1? It is knowing God by knowing who we are in Christ, a deep and intimate knowing. Why? It is because “the Christian life” is impossible to walk by any other means. Do you think you can walk with and for God by obeying some set of orders or rules? Of course not. Have you not discovered the best you can accomplish by your own abilities is a roller coaster experience of ups and downs? Of course you have, we all have. At best you can only pretend to be the Christian you are “supposed” to be. If you’re doing that, stop it right now. Knowing Christ is the answer to living with and for God. An intimate knowledge of Christ will produce in you the fragrance of Christ. “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
How then do we “become partakers of the divine nature”? Peter says, It is “by them”, that is by “His precious and magnificent promises”. What does that require? FAITH. We must first know the promises and then we must believe them. If we look at ourselves apart from who we are in Christ, we will be disappointed every time. We must stop examining our performance in the flesh. We will always come up short. As Paul said, “In fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Corinthians 4:3).
One of the best illustrations from Scripture that foreshadows what we are seeing in 2 Peter is found in 2 Samuel 9. Do you know the story of Mephibosheth (He’s mentioned in 2 Samuel 4, 9, 16, 19 and 21)? He was lame in both feet because of another’s fall. When he was five years old, his nurse fell while fleeing with him in her arms. Consequently, he was lame in both feet for the rest of his life.
David said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the [unfailing, unsought, unlimited] mercy and kindness of God?” David having come to the throne as king, by all rights should have destroyed Mephibosheth so that there would not be a possible threat to his kingship by someone of the house of the previous king, Saul. However, because of David’s love for Saul’s son, Jonathan (who died in battle at the same time Saul died), David wanted to show kindness to someone of Saul’s household for the sake of Jonathan.
“David said to him, Fear not, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father's sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather, and you shall eat at my table always.” Mephibosheth was promised he could live in the palace with King David and would receive provisions for the rest of his life. He was promised he could sit at the King’s table as one of the son’s of the King.
However, the Scripture is quick to point out that Mephibosheth was still lame in both feet. That was the equivalent in that day of being considered helpless and worthless. The Scripture tells us, “he ate continually at the king's table, even though he was lame in both feet.” Can you imagine the continual problem he had being reminded every time he awoke to start his day, “I am still lame in both feet. Do I really have the right to go downstairs to eat with the sons of the King? I am supposed to be dead. How do I know I won’t be killed? How can I have peace at the table of the perfect (those who seem to have more right than I have to eat at the King’s table)? I don’t feel like a son of the King. I don’t look like it. Some of them don’t treat me like I am the son of a King. How can I live this life and do it right?”
Here is where we can relate to Mephibosheth. Every morning we awaken, Christ has not yet returned, we are reminded that we are still flesh and blood. Time after time we have thoughts and responses that are not the way a son of God should think or respond. Many times we do what a child of God should not do. We want to do right, but to actually do it seems beyond our lameness.
What will we do? (This is described in Romans 7, “For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me (my lameness). For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (my lameness); for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin (my lameness) which dwells in me.”)
This means that we will have to do what Mephibosheth had to do every day, he had to believe the promises of the king. If Mephibosheth is going to examine himself apart from what the king has promised him, he will live in fear, dread, and failure. That would be much like the average Christian, would it not?
We, too, must believe what the King tells us. For example:
“Now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:22).
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1).
“And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? It is Christ Jesus, he who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:31-34).
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
No, it may not look like it. We may not feel like it. Others may tell us it isn’t so, but if we “let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4), we will succeed in our walk by “His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
We live FROM who we are in Christ, not by trying to BECOME the person God has already declared us to be. We do not read the Bible as if it is an invoice we must pay, we read it as a bank account that Father has given us and we draw on it. Jesus Christ did the work to procure God's blessing for us-- the truth of God word does the transforming work in our lives-- from the inside out-- this is "The Obedience of Faith". Embrace the REALITY of Christ and know who and what God has made you to be in Christ, and “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).