Bible Study Opportunities
The Obedience of Faith
By Jon W. Quinn
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;” (Romans 16:25,26).
In his letter to the brethren at Rome, Paul dealt extensively with the topic of justification by faith. It is interesting to note that among both the opening (1:5) and closing (16:25,26) remarks of the letter, that the term “obedience of faith” is used.
This faith that is to be obeyed is the topic of the letter to the Romans. The book of Romans is not about justification by faith alone. If is about justification by a faith that is to be obeyed. “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake,” (Romans 1:5).
Faith is that which produces obedience. Regarding the faith that justified, it is an obedience producing faith. A faith without obedience is not the justifying faith discussed in the book of Romans, or any other Old or New Testament book. The gospel of our faith is to be obeyed (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
Two Kinds of Obedience
There is more than one kind of obedience. For example, there is the obedience of human reason. This is an activity that results not from faith but from our own opinion and judgment. The activity itself may or may not be according to God's word. Sometimes people do the right thing not because God has told them to but because they have determined it is what they want to do. While something good may be accomplished, it is only the result of one's own thinking and not faith and commitment to God.
The other kind of obedience is the obedience of faith. It results from trust in Jesus Christ. Because one trusts in Christ, he seeks to do what Jesus commanded. This is why it is called “the obedience of faith.”
When we talk of obedience, we are talking about works. Since there are at least two kinds of obedience, then there must be at least two kinds of works. Works that result from human reasoning have absolutely nothing to do with justification (Ephesians 2:8-10). But works that result from our doing what God has said because of our faith are, in reality, the workings of God. For example, when I am baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3,4) I am engaging in a work. But it is a work of God, not my own. Paul wrote: “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12).
When the Bible says we are not justified by works, it does not refer to the workings of God, but rather to other kinds of works such as works of human resigning or works or the Old Law.
Points of Agreement & Disagreement
Most of the Protestant religious world is committed to the idea that we are justified by faith alone apart from any kind of works at all, specifically baptism comes to mind. But as we saw above, baptism is how we put our faith in the working of God, not in our own works. If you seek to be a member of a denomination. it is likely that you will be required to accept salvation by faith only apart from baptism or any other work. But if you seek to become a Christian only and be added by the Lord to His church, you must put your faith in the working of God by being buried and raised up with Christ in baptism. This is a very critical issue, and one must not allow the issue to become lost.
Sometimes people will say, “If you say baptism is necessary then you must think that the blood of Christ is not adequate.” But this misses the point. The blood of Christ is entirely adequate (Matthew 26:28). The question is how does one come into contact with the blood?
Yes, all agree that the blood of Christ is the active agent that takes our sins away. All agree that this cleansing is received by faith. Practically all agree that the Bible teaches that baptism is something that ought to be done.
The disagreement is over when does this contact with the blood and the cleansing it brings take place.
It is not just any obedience that justifies, but the obedience of faith. When faith expresses itself in obeying the Lord, then the Lord takes away sins. Paul wrote to the Galatians and said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:6,7). Therefore, it is “faith working in love” that makes all the difference! The outcome of such faith is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9).
When Salvation Occurs
Salvation occurs when one obeys the gospel from the heart (Romans 6:16-18). This is the obedience of faith. Faith alone brings no such benefit, but an obedient faith does.
This helps us to understand God's place for baptism in man's response to the gospel. This is why Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).
This is why Peter said, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
This is why Saul was told, “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16).
This is why our aim should be the same as that of the preachers, teachers and apostles of the New Testament: To bring about the “obedience of faith” and nothing less than that.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois December 12, 1999