Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Whenever I think of the constant tension between legalism (works based righteousness) and libertinism (no moral standards) I often think of obedience being the argument for the former and grace and faith being the argument for the latter. The legalist says, “we’ve got to do this, this, and this, to gain approval from God.” The libertine says, “we can do whatever we want because God is gracious and will let us off the hook in the end.” Often times both of these positions are regarded as the “higher ground” and the most faithful to Christ.
Paul tells us that obedience and faith go hand in hand. Believing God is an actual good work. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:3). Abraham would not have been credited with more righteousness had he been “more obedient” or given God more “opportunities” for forgiveness.
This concept is absolutely mind blowing to me.
As a father, the greatest “good work” I can do is believe what God says.
I put good works in quotations because even the good work of faith is a gift from God because “no one seeks God.” (Romans 3:11)
Now think about this for a moment. I am called to obey. I am called to believe. By believing, I am obeying and all other forms of obedience flow from this. If I want to eliminate anger from my life, I must first believe what God has said regarding His son Jesus, the resurrection, my role in His kingdom and His Church, and how God desires me to behave. If I wish to be free from envy, I must believe that I am an heir to all of God’s goodness and therefore have no need to covet. If I wish to be faithful in pursuing God, I must first believe that God has been faithful in pursuing me.
This may seem elementary (and it really is) but it is foundational to everything else. No matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, the one concept of obedience of faith, is constantly front and center. We believe and therefore we obey. We obey by believing.
It’s not a “one or the other” kind of thing. Its both or nothing.