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Friday, April 18, 2014

The Obedience of Faith

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Is Obedience of Faith a Universal Principle?
Part I
            What is obedience? Is it following a set of laws? Is it following the set practices of a certain church?  Or is it more?  To truly understand how that word is used in the New Testament, a close look at the language (Greek) in which it was written should be examined.
            The Greek word for "obedience" is composed of two words: "under" (upo) and "hearing" (akohn).  The Greek word: "under" speaks of agency or means which governs "hearing." Jesus described this in John 10:27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." It speaks of a faith relationship to Lord Jesus, thus the phrase “obedience of faith.”
             Hebrews 11 describes this lifestyle in the heroes of faith: "And without faith it is impossible to please him: for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:6). Another great illustration of this in Old Testament history is the example of Samuel when he was called by the Lord to be a prophet. He said: "Speak; for you servant hears." (1 Samuel 3:10)
            Is “obedience of faith” universally applicable?  Romans 16:25-26 answers:  "Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.”

The importance of obedience of faith is seen as the "…the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures…" that is, it is the capstone of man's relationship to God and that it is contained in all of God's revelation to man!
            An even deeper examination of the Greek answers some other important questions:
1.      Does obedience of faith have universal eternal application? From past to future?
2.      Is obedience of faith being applied even in the church age to people also applied to the principalities and powers in the heaven (angels)? (Ephesians 3:10).
3.      Is this the precept that the Scripture speaks that the angels desire to look into and examine (1 Peter 1:12)

            In Romans 1:5, the Greek is translated as "obedience to the faith" and then Romans 16:26 "the obedience of faith" (KJV).  In the Greek text, the definite article, "the," is not present in either verse. The Greek definite article is used to identify that which it modifies. Without the definite article, the words speak of quality or the nature of a thing.  Differing translations into English have confused the teaching of the original Greek.
            To illustrate: "The faith" historically is often used concerning the orthodox doctrine of a state church. In the King James’ time, this would be the doctrine of the Church of England, in which the translators of the King James Bible emphatically believed. Indeed, one of the stated purposes for this translation was to achieve unity between the Protestant and Catholic oriented factions in the Church of England.
            This problem applies to other translations as well. In the New American Standard Bible these words are rendered: "The obedience of faith." By placing “The” in front of “obedience,” it implies a specified way of obedience for those that believe. By illustration, this could be obedience to The Ten Commandments, or the Law of Moses, the Beatitudes, or obedience to the ordinances of a state church.  All legalism is not of faith, because a person under a legalistic relationship makes the benefit or threat of non compliance dependent upon the individual. (Galatians 3:9-12). This type of legalism is Paul what deals with in the Epistles of Galatians, Colossians, Romans, and Hebrews.
            In the Greek New Testament, there are only two words in this phrase: upakohn pistews -"obedience of faith." "Obedience" (upakohn) is in the accusative case (used for direct objects) showing that it is the designed result of God’s “grace” and “apostleship” (Romans 1:5).   “Grace” (pistews) is the basis of an unmerited giving of “obedience of faith.” It is a gift that cannot be earned, and “apostleship” is the God given authority to convey the revelation or inspired giving of the New Testament’s good news of God’s salvation. The preposition (eis) shows God’s giving of “grace and apostleship” through the Lord Jesus Christ are the means of producing “obedience of faith” into those who will let them function within them. This preposition literally should be understood as: "into union with." In the King James translation, “for” would have the idea of provision. And, in the New American Standard Bible “to bring about” would have the idea of means. The Greek preposition (eis) gives the understanding that “obedience of faith” will come when people come "into union with” the function of “grace and apostleship.”
            "Faith" is in the genitive case (the reason for putting “of” in “obedience of faith”) indicating possession or characterization of what it modifies. This “obedience” comes about when “grace and apostleship” are utilized to produce faith. Therefore, “faith” rules or produces “obedience.” This Greek construction is found in Romans 1:5 and 16:26.
            As Saul of Tarsus, Paul experienced God given grace on the road to Damascus and came “into union with" Christ’s “grace” and “apostleship” whereby he bore Christ’s name to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).  Indeed, “obedience of faith” applies to all who would profess the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

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