Obedience. I’m thinking that, in general, it doesn’t rank in the list of the world’s top ten words to embrace. That, for many, the word comes with at least some baggage. Perhaps some having experienced, grudgingly, a forced obedience to a parent or some other ruling authority. Obedience having been associated with oppression, unreasonable demands, and/or unenjoyable consequences. For some, obedience having been established as the basis for worth, adherence as the price needed to be tendered for acceptance and love. I might be wrong, but I think that for at least some, and perhaps for many, saying the word “obedience” is like running your fingernails down a chalkboard.
True in the world and, I’m thinking, true in the church. That, for some at least, obedience has been taught to be the measure of one’s righteousness–don’t perform and you don’t measure up. That, in some church cultures, obedience is the price you pay if you want to be on good terms with the Creator. Want favor? Obey. Want divine acceptance? Obey. Want to be assured of a good outcome after your final breath? Obey! Kind of a lot of pressure. Often the basis for a lot of bad experiences. Obedience . . . hear the fingernails on the chalkboard again?
But what if, rather than being some onerous (and often thought, unattainable) prerequisite for salvation, obedience is, in fact, a glorious outcome of salvation? What if rather than obedience defining my faith, it is, in reality, the fruit of my faith?
Something I read in Romans this morning has me noodling on this idea of obedience as the fruit of faith.
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
(Romans 1:1-5 ESV)
The gospel, or good news, of God. Promised beforehand. About His Son. Him who has come in flesh after the kingly line of David, but shown to be the Son of God through His resurrection from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ our Lord, the One who commissioned His messengers through grace “to bring about the obedience of faith.”
The obedience of faith. That’s what’s tumbling around in my head this morning. Not an obedience which permits faith. Not an adherence to a creed or a code of conduct that merits acceptance. But an obedience which flows from faith. An obedience made possible because of what we believe. An obedience which is the fruit of having placed our trust in the good news that Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh to pay the price for our sin.
As such, infused by faith with desire to live in a way consistent with being a child of God. What’s more, empowered, through faith, to walk in manner worthy of our calling. The gospel being the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (1:16) . . . the good news revealing the righteousness that comes from faith for faith (1:17) . . . a righteousness which bears fruit, the fruit of obedience.
Paul was sent to preach the gospel to bring about the obedience of faith. Before teaching on what to do, he preached on what to believe. And through believing, new creations in Christ are able to live in Spirit-empowered obedience to Christ. Not because they have to in order to be loved, but because they get to as a response to the great love already shown them through the cross.
If faith is the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1 NKJV), then obedience is the substance of things believed in.
O glorious assurance of faith . . . wondrous evidence of faith . . . blessed fruit of faith, obedience.
All by His grace . . . all for His glory.