If you want to be challenged in your faith like never before, try reading through the book of Romans. Often a “tough pill to swallow” this book is jam packed with many difficult lessons, especially to new believers. (So if you find yourself in that category, take heart, you’re not alone!)
This summer when I was the guest speaker at Twin Lakes Bible Camp I challenged the kids to think about those difficult lessons in the Bible not just as something that needs to be solved, mastered, and understood, but instead as an opportunity to spend time with God. A chance to wrestle through things you don’t understand and giving him the space to respond. Spending time with God isn’t just about talking to him in prayer– don’t forget to LISTEN to him as well. Understanding everything about the Bible isn’t the goal of Christianity, knowing and loving God is the goal.
Walking through Romans
Anyway…back to Romans. My husband and I have been slowly working our way through the book and studying it against a number of commentaries, studies and other books. One verse in particular stood out to me as I read through the scripture this time, a phrase in Chapter 1 verse 5 which says “the obedience of faith” or “the obedience that comes from faith” depending on the translation you’re reading.
I know to some of us all these words can be difficult to keep straight. Or am I the only one who can read a paragraph in the Bible three times and still have no idea what I’m reading? (Sidebar: Later this week on my YouTube channel I will discuss this very thing and even give you a practical method for slowing down and getting more out of the passages you read, so stay tuned).
Let’s define these terms before moving on:
Obedience: Compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
Faith: Reliance, loyalty, or complete trust in God or someone else
After reading those definitions the phrase, “the obedience of faith” seems interesting. If faith is about trusting someone and relying on them, what does it have to do with doing what they want you to do?
One of the commentaries we’ve used in our study is Timothy Keller’s Romans 1-7 For You*. The words he uses to unpack this phrase are so incredibly thought provoking, I dare not paraphrase them. About verse five he says:
“First, it does not mean that Paul is teaching the Gentiles that, to be saved, they must both have faith and do obedience, as though both are necessary grounds of being right with God. This is an obedience that comes from faith— that springs from a wholehearted trust in Jesus, God’s Son. Obedience flows out of faith; it is a consequence of saving faith, not a second condition for salvation.“
Going Deeper into Salvation
That last sentence is so powerful. We’ve all fallen into that trap though haven’t we? Thinking our obedience is a condition for our salvation. What happens to your soul after your body dies is what Christians refer to as their salvation, AKA being “saved.” And we tend to have a pretty misinformed understanding of it.
Salvation: Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin.
Have you ever heard someone say, “To get to heaven you just have to be the best person you can be,” or “She has to be going to heaven, she’s just such a nice person”? Well I hate to say it so bluntly but these people are more wrong than they can understand. Being a “good” person, doing “nice” things throughout your life, making the “right” decisions actually has ZERO impact on whether or not you are going to heaven.
When people say, “He’s going to heaven because he’s a nice person,” they’re only looking at his outward actions and behaviors. In reality the only thing that determines your salvation is God. Believing God is who he says he is. Having faith that Jesus died for your sins on the cross in order that you may spend eternity with him. THAT is what determines your salvation. It has nothing to do with whether or not your “good” deeds outweigh your “bad” deeds.
And it’s entirely possible to do great works and be a perfectly pleasant person without knowing who God is. This passage is reminding us the way we act here on earth does not determine whether or not we go to heaven, rather those acts of obedience are the RESULT of knowing we’ve been saved.
Once you realize what God has done for you, that the creator of the universe was tortured and beaten so you could enter into a relationship with him free of the guilt of sin, your natural reaction is to thank him. To thank him with my words, my deeds, my thoughts. You learn there is nothing this world could offer me that is better than him, so I trust that obeying his commands will only benefit me.
Next time you find yourself trying to act a certain way simply so God will “approve” of you… stop. Remember, God already does approve of you.
Your behavior is not what justifies you. Instead live as someone who was once an orphan and now has a family. Give him all your faith, obey him because you know he loves you and wants only the best for you. He is a good good father and obeying him will be the best, most life giving decision you make.
I’d love to hear how God is working in your life. Please comment below with what you thought of this post, or share your story! Then, to receive weekly encouragement similar to this straight to your inbox sign up to receive my weekly email newsletter.
*Keller, Timothy (2014-01-30). Romans 1-7 For You: For reading, for feeding, for leading (God’s Word For You – Romans Series) (Emphasis added) (Kindle Locations 154-156). The Good Book Company. Kindle Edition.