The Obedience of Faith

by Mike Ratliff

1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 5 δι᾽ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, 6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 7 πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Romans 1:1-7 NA27)

1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, a called Apostle having been set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised before through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 concerning his Son – having come from the seed of David according the flesh, 4 – having been designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we received grace and Apostleship for obedience of faith among all the nations on behalf of his name, 6 among whom you are also the called ones of Jesus Christ, 7 to all the ones in Rome, loved ones of God, called ones, saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

In the passage above the word “faith” in v5 translates the noun πίστεως (pisteōs), which is the Genitive, Singular of πίστις (pistis), “faith, faithfulness.” The verb form of πίστις, πιστεύω (pisteuō) means, “to have faith in, trust; particularly, to be firmly persuaded to something.” Some teach in our time that this “faith” we are describing here simply means “mental assent” and so teach that all one must do to be saved is mentally assent to a few facts about Jesus.

Back in Romans 1:5, Paul described his receiving grace and Apostleship εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως “for obedience of faith…” In other words, Paul described his salvation and all that was given to him by the grace of God, including his Apostleship, was for him to be able to live an obedient, abiding life under the Lordship of Christ. That was not only his calling, but the calling of all who are truly saved. True saving faith always produces obedience and submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ (Romans 16:19, 26; cf. 10:9-10; cf. Matthew 7:13 14, 22-27; James 2:17-20).

If we look closer at both the noun πίστις and πίστεως, the verb form, in Hebrews 11 the “Hall of Faith” it becomes very clear that to believe is to obey. Here is Hebrews 11 from the ESV with full textual apparatus.

         [11:1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of [e]things not seen. [2] For by it the people of old received their commendation. [3] By faith we understand that the universe was created by [f]the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of [g]things that are visible.

         [4] By faith [h]Abel offered to God [i]a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And [j]through his faith, though he died, he [k]still speaks. [5] By faith [l]Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. [6] And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God [m]must believe that he exists and [m]that he rewards those who seek him. [7] By faith [n]Noah, being warned by God concerning [o]events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of [p]the righteousness that comes by faith.

         [8] By faith [q]Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place [r]that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. [9] By faith he went to live in [s]the land of promise, as in a foreign land, [t]living in tents [u]with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. [10] For he was looking forward to [v]the city that has [w]foundations, [x]whose designer and builder is God. [11] By faith [y]Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered [z]him faithful who had promised. [12] Therefore from one man, and [a]him as good as dead, were born descendants [b]as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

         [13] These all died in faith, [c]not having received the things promised, but [d]having seen them and greeted them from afar, and [e]having acknowledged that they were [f]strangers and exiles on the earth. [14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. [15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, [g]they would have had opportunity to return. [16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed [h]to be called their God, for [i]he has prepared for them a city.

         [17] By faith [j]Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, [18] of whom it was said, [k]“Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” [19] [l]He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. [20] By faith [m]Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. [21] By faith [n]Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, [o]bowing in worship over the head of his staff. [22] By faith [p]Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

         [23] By faith [q]Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of [r]the king’s edict. [24] By faith Moses, when he was grown up, [s]refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, [25] [t]choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy [u]the fleeting pleasures of sin. [26] [v]He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to [w]the reward. [27] By faith he [x]left Egypt, [y]not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured [z]as seeing him who is invisible. [28] By faith [a]he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

         [29] By faith [b]the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. [30] By faith [c]the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. [31] By faith [d]Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she [e]had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

         [32] And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of [f]Gideon, [g]Barak, [h]Samson, [i]Jephthah, of [j]David and [k]Samuel and the prophets—[33] who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, [l]stopped the mouths of lions, [34] [m]quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, [n]became mighty in war, [n]put foreign armies to flight. [35] [o]Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. [36] Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even [p]chains and imprisonment. [37] [q]They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[f1] [r]they were killed with the sword. [s]They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—[38] of whom the world was not worthy—[t]wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

         [39] And all these, [u]though commended through their faith, [u]did not receive what was promised, [40] since God had provided something better for us, [v]that apart from us they should not be made perfect.        

(Hebrews 11 ESV)

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[e] Rom. 8:24; 2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:8

[f] See Gen. 1:1

[g] [Rom. 4:17]

[h] Gen. 4:4-8; 1 John 3:12

[i] Prov. 15:8

[j] Gen. 4:10

[k] ch. 12:24

[l] Gen. 5:22-24; [2 Kgs. 2:11]

[m] 1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 29:12-14; [John 4:24]

[m] 1 Chr. 28:9; Jer. 29:12-14; [John 4:24]

[n] Gen. 6:13-22; Luke 17:26; 1 Pet. 3:20

[o] ver. 1

[p] Rom. 4:13; [Gen. 6:9; Ezek. 14:14, 20]

[q] Gen. 12:1-4; Acts 7:2-4

[r] Gen. 12:7

[s] Acts 7:5

[t] Gen. 12:8; 13:3, 18; 18:1, 9

[u] Gen. 35:27

[v] ch. 12:22; [ch. 13:14]

[w] Ps. 87:1; Rev. 21:14

[x] Rev. 21:2, 10

[y] Gen. 17:19; 18:11-14; 21:2

[z] ch. 10:23

[a] Rom. 4:19

[b] Gen. 22:17; 32:12; See Gen. 15:5

[c] ver. 39

[d] ver. 27; John 8:56; [Matt. 13:17]

[e] Gen. 23:4; 47:9; [1 Chr. 29:15; Ps. 39:12]

[f] Eph. 2:19

[g] [Gen. 24:6-8]

[h] Gen. 26:24; 28:13; Ex. 3:6; 4:5; [ch. 2:11]

[i] [ver. 10; Matt. 25:34; John 14:2]

[j] Gen. 22:1-10; James 2:21

[k] Rom. 9:7; Cited from Gen. 21:12

[l] Rom. 4:17-21

[m] Gen. 27:27-29, 39, 40

[n] Gen. 48:16, 20

[o] [Gen. 47:31]

[p] Gen. 50:24, 25; Ex. 13:19

[q] Ex. 2:2, 3; Acts 7:20

[r] Ex. 1:16, 22

[s] Ex. 2:10, 11

[t] [Job 36:21; Ps. 84:10]

[u] 1 John 2:17

[v] ch. 13:13; [Ps. 89:50, 51; Phil. 3:7, 8; 1 Pet. 4:14]

[w] ch. 2:2; 10:35

[x] Ex. 12:37; 13:17, 18

[y] Ex. 10:28, 29

[z] ver. 13; See 1 Tim. 1:17

[a] Ex. 12:21-30

[b] Ex. 14:21-30

[c] Josh. 6:15, 16, 20

[d] Josh. 6:25; James 2:25

[e] Josh. 2:1, 8-13

[f] Judg. 6:11

[g] Judg. 4:6

[h] Judg. 13:24

[i] Judg. 11:1

[j] 1 Sam. 16:1, 13

[k] 1 Sam. 1:20

[l] Judg. 14:6; 1 Sam. 17:35; Dan. 6:22

[m] Dan. 3:25

[n] Judg. 7:21; 1 Sam. 17:51; 2 Sam. 12:29

[n] Judg. 7:21; 1 Sam. 17:51; 2 Sam. 12:29

[o] 1 Kgs. 17:22; 2 Kgs. 4:35

[p] Gen. 39:20; Jer. 20:2; 37:15

[q] 1 Kgs. 21:13; 2 Chr. 24:21

[r] 1 Kgs. 19:10; Jer. 26:23

[s] 2 Kgs. 1:8

[t] 1 Sam. 22:1; 1 Kgs. 18:4; 19:9

[u] ver. 2, 13; [1 Pet. 1:12]

[u] ver. 2, 13; [1 Pet. 1:12]

[v] [Rev. 6:11]

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[1] 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

Now, truly believing something, being fully persuaded of it automatically demands behavior that conforms to the belief. To believe in Jesus means three things. First, it means to believe in Who He is, that He is God incarnate, Saviour, and Sovereign Lord. Second, it means to believe in what He did, that He died for your sins and rose again from the grave. Third, it means to believe in what He says to trust Him and His Word implicitly and desire to obey Him in all respects. To obey Him means we acknowledge His Lordship and submit to His authority. If any presentation of the Gospel does not in some way present the essence of these three elements then it is a false presentation of the Gospel. Also, those who profess to be believers but who are in obvious rebellion to the Lordship of Christ and in unbelief as to who He is and the verity of His Word, et cetera…well, you know the answer to that one.

Soli Deo Gloria!

13 thoughts on “The Obedience of Faith

  1. Dear Mike,

    Long story very short my parents modeled a simple faith that is just precious to me. All my life they had taken people into our home anywhere from several months to a couple years. They gave up everything (worldly speaking back in the early 90′s) to move in with my grandmother who had alzheimers and take care of her. Well, she ended up locking them out of the house when the paranoia became too great for her. So,my parents ended up living in what used to be a store front, just one room with a small bathroom in the back, because that is all they could afford. My mom cooked their food on a hot plate and honestly I never thought of anything as being “wrong”. They lived that way for over a year and I never once heard them complain about anything. The other interesting thing is, although it was never discussed, my parents always tithed. They were truly the most content people no matter what was going. They literally gave the shirts off their back to anyone with joy.

    Their greatest blessing was having no where to turn but the Lord. They had a living faith. Praise God for His faithfulness.

  2. Loved this, Mike…Shall share it with my sisters in our little Bible study…we were discussing what some of our unsaved folks mean when they say,’Oh, I believe in Jesus, already!’
    Praying for you ..that you remain faithful and are strengthened in contending for the Truth!

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  4. Amen, my brother. You get to the nub of the “Free Grace” people who think a new creature in Christ can and likely will live just as he when dead in his sin – unless! the church gets hold of him and disciples him. Why, according to Charles Stanley (a “Free Grace” advocate), the man in Matt 22:11-14 is in Heaven! The wailing and gnashing of teeth are metaphors for the “less light” he enjoys being not so close to the throne of God. Stanley KNOWS this man is in Heaven because, in the PARABLE, Jesus calls him “friend”. (Stanley makes this argument in his book, Eternal Security.)

    Not all who call the Lord as such will be welcomed into eternal rest. Only those who do the will of the One Who is Lord of lords.

  5. Amen Manfred, yes, that is quite sad. I used to listen to Charles Stanley preach on his TV show, but it has been a very long time since I have either heard him or read anything by him. That ended when I became convinced of the Sovereignty of God and once that truth permeated all my theology there was no room for the likes of the any man-centered nonsense. Sadly, so many are still in that darkness and when I come into their comfort zones with the truth, it makes them very uncomfortable and they get a scared or angry look on their face and I am no longer welcome. All that has happened many times, but there is also the case where I have been given the opportunity to open the Word and rightly divide it to them. That makes all the difference.

  6. Another inspiring post Mike. Most of the fallen Churches here in the UK don’t even have faith in the narrative history of the Genesis creation and flood as they have fully fallen for theistic evolution from “the oppositions of science falsely called” and this is what the Pastors and Vicars are taught at theology colleges. You feel like saying to them at what point do start to believe the Bible? and why would God create the universe in the manner of depraved imaginations from the mind of men (or satan)? They call for unity and say it does not matter as long as we believe in Jesus but they don’t believe he made all things in the manner that he made them so rob him of his eternal power and glory.

  7. That is quite sad Andrew and it just shows that one can be quite religious and on the inside of the visible Church in leadership and not have this faith at all.

  8. Mike – We both praise God for sanctifying and growing us in Truth and knowledge of the Truth. When I first read that book of Stanely’s – 15 years back – I thought it an excellent answer to the the Arminian argument. When I read it again, 2 years ago, I nearly threw up at the thought that I had recommended it to so many people.

  9. To not obey nor desire to obey God demonstrates a high amount of disrespect for Him, His Nature, and His Attributes. He is the Author of Salvation. From beginning to end…it is His work. So to say He saves us in order for us to disobey Him is contrary to His Nature and deeply dishonors the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention the other two persons of the GodHead, in our lives. Equally dishonoring, disrespectful and heinous is if we look to ourselves as a source or origination of obedience. Not that we do nothing; however, we are not the source, strength, or sustainer of obedience.

    “God gives commands we cannot perform, that we may know what we ought to request from Him.” – Augustine

    In terms of God’s Sovereignty and the believers growth in grace, “it is NOT to encourage a spirit of fatalistic indifference” as AW Pink has stated but: “The word to every believer is “Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). This was the Apostle’s aim, and it should be ours. Instead of hindering the development of Christian character, a proper apprehension and appreciation of God’s Sovereignty will forward it. Just as the sinner’s despair of any help from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace; and just as the sinner despairing of help from himself will cast him into the arms of Sovereign mercy so the Christian, conscious of his own frailty, will turn unto the Lord for power. It is when we are weak we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10): that is to say, there must be consciousness of our weakness before we shall turn to the Lord for help. While the Christian allows the thought that he is sufficient in himself, while he imagines that by mere force of will he shall resist temptation, while he has any confidence in the flesh then, like Peter who boasted that though all forsook the Lord yet should not he, so we shall certainly fail and fall. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). The promise of God is “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might (of their own) He increaseth strength” (Isa. 40:29).”

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