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The Obedience of Faith


by truthablaze

Romans 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name                                                                                                                                      

Romans 16:26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: Modern "theologians" have tried their best to fill today's pulpits (and airwaves) with messengers heralding a gospel of easy-believism. Despite their best efforts, I'm still persuaded that there is still a remnant out there who preach and believe the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind, that I decided to write about "the obedience of faith." To the honest student of scripture, it becomes evident that there is an intrinsic link between believing and "behaving."                                                                                                                                                        

The devil likes nothing more than when he can convince people there is no correlation between what one believes/professes and what they actually do. So much is said in the Word of God about obedience. The word appears many times in the New Testament alone. I challenge you to just do a word study sometime on "obedience", "obey", "obeyed", etc. and see what you come up with . I think you might be surprised to see the results. What you will quickly learn, is that God is concerned not only with what we say and think, but how we behave. Because we have a limited amount of space to devote to this topic today, I'm just going to use a few examples from various writers of scripture. They all bring their own unique personalities to the table and put things a little differently, but the message is the same. True faith produces obedience....otherwise it is not saving faith at all! I quoted Paul above from the book of Romans (1:5 & 16:26) when he speaks of the "obedience of faith."                                                                                                                                                                 

I find it interesting that many liberal theologians have chosen Paul as their "spokesperson" to champion their cause. No doubt it's because Paul made it clear that salvation was not through "works of the law" but by faith that we are saved. Numerous times Paul declared that we are not made righteous by the works of the law but by grace through faith. This is indeed valid and true. The problem however comes in when we decide that faith is active where no obedience is present. In Paul's great treatise on justification by faith (the book of Romans), I find it poignant and fitting that he frames the theology of this book between these terms "obedience of faith" (or obedience to the faith) in the first few verses and last few verses of Romans. He wants the readers of Romans to be clear that though faith justifies apart from works of the law, it operates and is active by obedience. I believe that the Holy Spirit knew that the writings of Paul would be used for unholy purposes and that's why He had Peter to pen these words of scripture: II Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction Peter admitted that some of Paul's writings are difficult to understand upon first glance. He also states that many will "wrest" (an old English word meaning to twist or distort) Paul's writings to their own destruction.                                                                              

We'll get to some of Peter's writings in a moment, but for now let's continue to look at how Paul linked believing to behavior: Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Here clearly Paul teaches that obedience is linked to righteousness and disobedience (or in this context "yielding to sin") produces death in all it's various forms. Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.Again Paul links spiritual life with the deeds of the body. Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Paul often uses this term "I beseech you" in his letters. He is begging and pleading with his readers to heed the message. Romans 1-11 deal with the theology of the Christian faith. The first 2 and a half chapters deal with the guilt of the whole world. The next three chapters deal with justification by faith. Then in chapters 6-8 Paul contrasts living in the flesh and living in the Spirit. Chapters 9-11 deal with past, present, and future redemption for Israel. Chapter 12 is a transitional point and begins the practical application of the theology. Notice chapter 12 uses the pronoun "therefore" as a conjunction.                                                                                                                               

Paul has just described in great detail God's plan of salvation throughout the ages. He then makes an appeal for his readers to live a holy life in light of everything God has done to provide a means of atonement. Thus their behavior is linked to their theology. Now let's look at what James has to say about believing and behaving- or as this article is titled "the obedience of faith." James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Many of the reformers had a disdain for the book of James because of it's practical application of faith. In their zeal to sever all ties with Roman Catholicism, I'm afraid that the "reformers" did a very poor job of emphasizing the need for obedience to the faith. The impression that many of them have given-and sadly this thought is very prevalent among reformed churches- is that believing takes the place of behaving. Apparently this was a problem in James' day too, otherwise he wouldn't have addressed such a problem. Here he states that it really doesn't matter what a person says, but what they do. James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Here we are introduced to the concept of two different kinds of faith....living (or saving faith)...and dead! James challenges the reader by showing that outward obedience is a manifest token of authentic faith. Of course we must be careful here to note the order of progression. The works do not produce the faith, but rather the authentic faith will produce the works.                                                                                                                                     

I must be careful to point this out, lest anyone think that I'm promoting a righteousness by works theology. James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?If all one has is a said faith/verbal profession, he is merely on equal footing with the devil- for even they (the demons) believe....and tremble. He further goes on to say that it is vanity or foolishness to believe that faith without obedience will save- he declares it to be dead faith. Next let's look at what Peter has to say about obedience to the faith. We noted earlier that he warned against those who distort Paul's writings. Peter's epistles have a very strong and straightforward demand for obedience and holiness. I think that's why it's so important for us to rightly divide the word of truth, in order that we might see the whole picture. Some focus only on the judgment of God and never the love- others focus only on the grace of God, and never the holiness of God. We must understand God (as much as we can understand him with a finite mind) on His terms and in all of His communicable attributes...not just the ones we prefer. I Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. Peter says that we are elected and sanctified by the Spirit so that we might obey Jesus Christ. God has called and chosen us so that we might walk in the obedience of faith. Peter appeals to the holiness of God as the reason for our command to obey and be holy. God never asks us to do something we are incapable of. Of course the natural man is incapable of serving God, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we can indeed be holy just as we are commanded : I Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 1:16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy Because of the judgment to come, Peter appeals to all of his readers to obey God. There will come a day when judgment will "begin at the house of God." I Peter 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?                                      

What about those who do not obey God? What will be their fate? I think we all know the answers to these questions. Peter also appeals to the eschatological implications of the coming of the Lord. Jesus is coming back for His church at any moment. Because we do not know the day or the hour, we are urged to live a holy life lest we be caught unaware. II Peter 3:11Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godlinessI think out of all the new testament writers (except for the teachings of Jesus Himself) ,the apostle John makes perhaps the most compelling link between belief and behavior. Let's look at some of his remarks concerning this topic: I John 3:6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. John leaves no ambiguity as to what his theology entails. It is a theology of belief and obedience. I think it is worth noting that he says in verse 7 above "let no man deceive you." He was well aware (as we should be too) that one of the hallmarks of satanic doctrine is to subtly deceive people into believing that their actions have no bearing on their salvation. John sharply rebukes this by saying that the one who practices righteousness is righteous....the one who does not...is following the devil.                                                                                                                                             

Of course the greatest of all figures in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, had much to say about obedience as well. Let's look at some of His comments. I will leave off commentary on them and just post the scriptures, because His words are so pure and straightforward, they need no additional remarks. : Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 6:47 Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 6:48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 6:49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandmentsJohn 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to himJohn 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 14:24 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 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. There is much more we could say about the specifics of the obedience of faith, but suffice it to say that just in this short article we have enough compelling evidence to show that believing and behaving are inseparable. God bless you as you continue to study His Word!