Faith and Obedience

Faith is not obedience. Obedience is not faith. But faith and obedience always go together.

Obedience is a NT teaching. In the NT, the word translated "obedience" (ὑπακοή) occurs 15 times (Rom 1:5; 5:19; 6:16; 15:18; 16:19, 26; 2 Cor 10:6; Phm 1:21; Heb 5:8; 1 Pet 1:2, 14, 22). So, like it or not, it is a teaching of Paul and Peter. Interestingly, Jesus did not use this Pauline word, but he used the word translated "keep" (τηρέω), which means to observe, guard and attend carefully to his word and teaching (Jn 8:51; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10, 20; 17:6).

Obedience and faith are linked together. Check out Romans 1:5 in five common English translations. The NIV says, "the obedience that comes from faith." The ESV, NASB and HCSB says, "the obedience of faith." The NLT says, "believe and obey." The Message says, "obedient trust." N.T. Wright's The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation says, "believing obedience."
Obedience coming from faith. Scholars debate the exact relationship between these two words "obedience" (ὑπακοή) and "faith (πίστις)." Many think that Paul presents faith as the basis for, or motivating force of, obedience: "obedience that springs from faith" as rendered by the NIV: "the obedience that comes from faith." This places emphasis on post-conversion commitment and obedience of the Christian (after one believes in Jesus by faith) to follow and obey the truth, or doctrine, or Christ.

Obedience which is faith. The other option is to take "faith" as a definition of "obedience": the obedience which is faith, or the obedience which consists of faith. This expresses Paul's intention to promote the commitment of wholehearted devotion to Christ and to the truth of the gospel.

Together but not synonymous. In either option (which do not necessarily exclude each other), although faith and obedience do always belong together, they are not synonymous, and the NT usually maintains a distinction between them. Also of note is that this is the obedience of faith and not the obedience of law.

Faith alone includes obedience and wholehearted submission to Christ. Thus, the proper response to the gospel is faith, indeed faith alone. Yet a true and living faith in Christ both includes within itself an element of submission, especially because its object is "Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 1:4) or "the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7). One who wholeheartedly submits to Christ as Lord willingly will invariably and inevitably live a life of obedience to Him.

From this coming Sunday, 9/21/14, I plan to begin preaching through Romans. My primary reference sources are
The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo (NICNT, 1996), The Message of Romans by John Stott (The Bible Speaks Today, 1994) and Romans 1-7 For You by Tim Keller (The Good Book Company, 2014). I also just ordered Romans (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides, 1999).

Sam Storms: The phrase "obedience of faith" may mean one of three things, depending on how one interprets the genitive "of faith": 1) If it is an objective genitive the translation would be, "obedience directed toward, or in, [the] faith," in which case "faith" would refer to a body of doctrine or the message of the gospel. 2) If it is a subjective genitive the translation would be, "obedience that comes from or is produced by faith? (cf. Rom 15:18). 3) If it is an appositional or epexegetical genitive the translation would be "the obedience which is faith." Belief in the gospel can be described as an act of obedience, as indicated by the parallel phrases in Rom 10:16 ('But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah said, 'Lord, who has believed our report''?). I prefer option two. That faith in the gospel to which Paul calls us is the kind that obeys. Thus, if your so-called 'faith' does not obey, is it 'saving' faith?