(From September 1977 Word and Work) 

It is somewhat strange, but there are many who misunderstand faith and grace so much that they do not think that the word “obedience” belongs in the Christian vocabulary. Yet Paul says in Romans 1:5 that through Jesus Christ our Lord he had received “grace and apostle-ship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations for His Name’s sake.”


The King James translation of v. 5 says “obedience to the faith,” but in 11:26 when the same Greek expression is used the translation is like the Revised  (ASV) translation here, “obedience of faith.” Regardless of the correct translation of the phrase, there are “grace and apostleship” that Paul had received.


First of all, there is the obedience to the Lord that arises because one believes on Him. When we believe His gospel. His good news that He “died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” and has proved this by His appearances in the forty days on the earth and then to Paul after His ascension; then, if we have true faith, we  respond to that faith in the turning from our sins, confessing His Name, and being buried with Him in baptism. Since the first work of the apostles was to proclaim the gospel so that lost men could so respond, I presume that this is the primary meaning here. To come to Christ in the way He has appointed is a glorious thing that brings a man into a living, vital relationship with the Son of God, becoming himself then a true son of Cod, heir of God and joint-heir with Christ Jesus. What a wonderful thing “obedience of faith” is! Paul later in Romans pointed out that the trouble with the majority of his brethren in the flesh (the Jews), was that they had missed this wonderful blessing because they “did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” Let us be in subjection and truly submit to Him. I feel that similar uses of “obedience” in Acts 6:7, Romans 6:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, and 1 Peter 1:2 confirm this.


But the- term “obedience of faith” carries a wider connotation than that of the “primary obedience” that we have been speaking of. It speaks of any obedience that arises out of faith and expresses faith, contrasted thus to the obedience of the keeping of ceremonies, as under the; Law. Haldane, in his exposition of Romans, well says that “unbelief is rebellion against God. Faith, on the other hand, is an act of submission, or surrender of ourselves to God, contrary to the natural opposition of our minds, in order that He may possess and conduct us and make us whatever He pleases.” He becomes our Lord and Master to Whom all obedience is due and He dwells in us and we in Him that He may give us the power to make this obedience and faith a normal thing.” So fundamental to “living the- Christ life is this that when John says in 1 John 3:4b that “sin is lawlessness,” (not “transgression of the Law” as incorrectly translated in the King James) he is saying that the root nature of sin is a refusal to be controlled by God—a refusal to follow the- bidding of faith and obey Him.


This is the right path to true joy in the Lord. Thousands sing, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey,” without any dedication of their bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). Believe on Him and let Him be your Commander Whom you love and obey.


-Ernest Lyon, long time minister of the Highland Church of Christ and long time professor of Music at the University of Louisville