The Obedience That Comes From Faith

Romans 1:5-7

Paul starts out in Romans 1:5 with “through Him, we have received grace.” There is some debate on whom the “we” is here. Some have suggested Paul is only referring to himself, which does not seem to fit Paul’s writing style. Others think Paul is including the readers of the letter in the “we”, but that does not seem to fit what comes next. The simplest reading which has the best fit would be that Paul is referring to his ministry team that is with him in Corinth as he writes this letter.

It would be good to pause here and refresh our understanding of the word “grace.” Grace is unearned favor. For example, if a police officer pulled you over for speeding and let you off with a warning that would be an example of mercy. Grace goes beyond that. If the officer instead of giving you a warning gave you one hundred dollars, that would be grace. You did not earn that money, but the officer gave it to you anyways. It came completely from him and was not because of anything you did.

Paul here says that he received grace, “through Him.” Paul is putting the emphasis completely on what Jesus did and keeping it off himself. Jesus granted Paul grace or unearned favor. Paul did nothing to deserve what he got; in fact as we read in Acts 8 (c.f. 1 Tim 1:15) he did everything he could to not earn it.

Not only did Jesus grant Paul grace, he gave Paul a special mission to reach the gentiles (Acts 9:15). Paul’s entire post-conversion life was dedicated to reaching the world for Jesus. He had a desire to see his own people saved, but that was not where his calling was.

Not only was he to call the gentiles (non-Jews) to be saved, but also he was to call them to the obedience that comes from faith and to be owned by Jesus. This idea of obedience relates back to the very first verse of Romans where Paul calls himself a slave belonging to Jesus. There is nothing you can do to earn the salvation that comes through faith, but once you are saved you are not designed to sit still.

Ephesians 2:10 says we are saved by faith, for good works that were prepared for us in advance. In John 21:15-17 we read Jesus telling Peter that if Peter really loves Jesus, he will feed Jesus’ sheep. Furthermore in John 14:15 Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep his commandments. The point I am trying to make here is that genuine saving faith creates a desire to serve and act. James made the same point when he wrote that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).

Is it possible to be genuinely saved and have no desire to serve, and never develop such a desire? I would say that the Bible does not seem to support that as a possibility. A person that is saved is changed. From the human point of view, it might not be an instantaneous change, but it should show over time.

The reason for this is also given in this verse where it says “for His namesake.” If you were to come across a group of people that wanted you to give them money, and wanted you to do work for them but they were rude and mean to everyone they meet would you do it? How a Christian reacts directly reflects on Christ. I have long ago lost count of how many times I have heard people point to bad behavior among Christians as the primary reason they want nothing to do with Christ.

On the flip side when someone comes across a group of genuinely loving and helpful people, they tend to want to join them and learn about them. They will often freely give of their time and resources to help a group that focuses on helping others.

Paul closes out this section of the letter by calling the believers in Rome “saints.” It is important to point out at this juncture that no place in the bible is the concept of a person being special or extra holy and getting the title “saint.” There are no super-Christians who have special privileges that extend beyond death. The bible uses the word “saint” to refer to all believers everywhere.

The Greek word that we have translated as saint is “ἁγίοις” which is only found in the plural in the New Testament[1]. The world means “holy” or separate. This is the same concept used to describe the priests of the temple, and the holy implements. The idea is set apart to God for service. In that same sense, all believers are set apart for service to God.

In summary, Biblical faith is not some mild assent to a collection of ethical maxims but an active commitment of one’s life.[2] When someone becomes a Christian their life changes and a desire to be obedient to God grows in their life. The more that they walk with God, the more they will look like Him and honor His name among the world.

[1] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 53.

[2] Robert H. Mounce, vol. 27, Romans, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 62.

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