This entry is part 35 of 45 in the series: Troublesome texts
- ‘I will bless those who bless you’
- Genesis 6:1f – Who were ‘the sons of God’?
- Genesis 6-8 – A worldwide flood?
- Genesis 22 – “Abraham, kill your son”
- Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive”?
- Matthew 2:1 – ‘Magi from the east?’
- Matthew 2:2 – The star of Bethlehem
- Matthew 2:8f – Can God speak through astrology?
- Colossians 1:19f – Universal reconciliation?
- Matthew 5:21f – Did Jesus reject the Old Testament?
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:3 – Who asked Jesus to help?
- Matthew 8:5 – Son? Servant? Male lover?
- Matthew 8:28 – Gadara or Gerasa?
- Matthew 10:23 – ‘Before the Son of Man comes’?
- Matthew 11:12 – Forceful entry, or violent opposition, to the kingdom?
- The Parable of the Sower – return from exile?
- Matthew 18:10 – What about ‘guardian angels’?
- Matthew 18:20 – ‘Where two or three are gathered…’
- Matthew 16:18 – Peter the rock?
- Matthew 21:7 – One animal or two?
- Matthew 25:40 – Who are ‘these brothers of mine’?
- Matthew 27:52f – Many bodies raised?
- Mark 2:25f – ‘When Abiathar was high priest’?
- Luke 2:1f – Quirinius and ‘the first registration’
- Luke 2:7 – No room at the inn?
- Luke 2:8 – Shepherds: a despised class?
- Luke 4:16-19 – An incomplete quotation?
- John 1:1 – ‘The Word was God’?
- John 2:6 – symbol or history?
- John 2:12 – Did Mary bear other children?
- When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
- John 3:16f – What is meant by ‘the world’?
- John 4:44 – ‘His own country’?
- John 20:21 – “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
- Romans 1:5 – ‘The obedience of faith’
- Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16 – faith in, or faithfulness of Christ?
- Romans 11:26a – ‘And so all Israel will be saved’
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 – ‘God made Christ to be sin for us’
- Galatians 3:17 – How much later?
- Galatians 6:2 – ‘The law of Christ’
- Galatians 6:16 – The Israel of God
- 1 Timothy 2:15 – Saved through child-bearing?
- 1 Timothy 4:10 – the Saviour of all people?
- Hebrews 6:4-6 – Who are these people?
- Hebrews 12:1 – Who are these witnesses?
Romans 1:5 ‘Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name.’
What is meant by ‘the obedience of faith’? Here are the main interpretative options:-
(a) ‘Faith’ may mean ‘the faith’, or the body of apostolic teaching. Compare Acts 6:7 – ‘obedient to the faith’. But the definite article is absent in the original, and the context in Romans (which emphases ‘faith’) is against this interpretation.
(b) The expression may mean, ‘the obedience that consists of faith’. Cf. Rom 6:17; 10:16; 15:18–20; 16:25–26; 2 Thess. 1:8. Calvin: ‘Faith is properly that by which we obey the gospel’. It might be countered that although there is a close connection between obedience and faith in the NT, they are not regarded as synonymous. Kruse favours this interpretation, drawing attention to the immediate context, where in which Paul has just mentioned the grace that has been given to him to preach the gospel, and to similar expression in Rom 16:25-27, where the context indicates that Paul has belief in the gospel in mind. Kruse also points out the Paul seems to use ‘faith’ and ‘obedience’ almost synonymously in Rom 1:8/Rom 16:19.
(c) It may mean, as the NIV translates, ‘the obedience that comes from faith’. Cf. Rom 6:16; Eph. 6:1, 5; Phil. 2:12; Col. 3:20, 22; 2 Thess. 3:14; Heb 11:8. Bruce: ‘the obedience that is based on faith in Christ. The ‘faith’ here is not the gospel or the body of doctrine presented for belief, but the belief itself.’ Stott says, ‘the proper response to the gospel is faith, indeed faith alone. Yet a true and living faith in Jesus Christ both includes within itself an element of submission (cf. Rom 10:3), especially because its object is ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’ (4) or ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ (7), and leads inevitably into a lifetime of obedience. That is why the response Paul looked for was a total, unreserved commitment to Jesus Christ, which he called ‘the obedience of faith’.’ Murray, Cranfield, and Morris also incline to this interpretation.
Although inclining towards (b), Kruse says that we should not, in any case, separate faith as obedience from faith that expresses itself in obedience. Indeed, a number of interpreters (Kruse cites Garlington, Schreiner and Dunn) think that we should take a ‘both/and’ approach. Schreiner: ‘It is unlikely…that “the obedience of faith” should be confined to a single act of obedience that occurred when the gospel was first believed. Nor should faith and obedience be sundered as if Christians could have the former without the latter.… The belief first exercised upon conversion is validated as one continues to believe and obey (11:20–22)’
Morris says, ‘Whichever way we take the expression, obedience is not an option (cf. 1 John 3:23–24). It is binding on all Christians.’
Moo prefers to understand the two terms, ‘obedience’ and ‘faith’ as mutually interpreting. ‘Faith, if genuine, always has obedience as its outcome; obedience, if it is to please God, must always be accompanied by faith.’
Similarly, Edwards says: ‘There is no separation in Paul’s mind between faith and obedience, between believing and doing. “Only he who believes is obedient,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “and only he who is obedient believes” (Cost of Discipleship, p. 69). The Book of James is particularly aware of the problem of saying one thing and doing another (James 2:14–26). Jesus himself taught that a tree is known by the fruit it bears (Mt 7:15–20; see also 21:28–32). His call to “Follow me” demands an act which embodies a belief.’