Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Obedience of Faith – Part Two

It’s been over two years since I posted part one of The Obedience of Faith. In that post, I pointed to Thomas Watson’s teaching on obedience in his book, The Ten Commandments. To be honest, I have no idea if I had other parts planned for that post, but I was reminded this morning of the importance of this teaching as we finished up our study of the book of Romans in Sunday school.

If asked before this study what Paul’s main objective was in writing this letter to the Romans, I might have answered something like, “to instruct the church on the true nature of saving faith.” However, I saw something this morning allows me to get much more specific now.

Paul’s purpose in writing to the Romans is “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his [Jesus’] name among all the nations” (Rom 1:5). The phrase ‘the obedience of faith’ has stuck in my mind ever since hearing a sermon by Doug O’Donnell back in Wheaton many years ago. My guess is, that Doug actually taught on this back then, but as is often the case with me, I have to relearn these things every few years, or I forget.

In context, this letter to the Romans begins:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Rom 1:1-7 ESV)

Here, in his introduction to his letter, Paul gives a foretaste of what is to come in the rest of his letter. That is, he gives us the purpose statement of his whole life, which is also the purpose statement of the letter. At the time, I was inclined to keep an eye out for how these concepts worked themselves out over the rest of the letter to the Romans.

Back to our last lesson on Romans this morning. If there was any question concerning the key role that the purpose statement of 1:5 plays for the rest of the letter, it is at least reiterated as to its importance in Paul’s benediction at the end of Romans:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

(Rom 16:25-27 ESV)

So now that I’m convinced that this is truly the purpose statement of Paul’s letter to the Romans, I’m going to go back and see how the concept plays out over the length of the book. As it may take a lot of time, it may be a few more years before I get to follow up on this post again.

NB: The image above was created by a friend at work for the new Radio Theatre production: The Screwtape Letters, to be released this Fall by Tyndale House. The image is actually an ambigram, meaning it reads the same when you turn it over.

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