Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What is "obedience of faith"?

9.61 Salvation through belief in the truth of the Gospel

Today, let us share more verses to further reinforce the truth on “obedience of faith” under the New Covenant.

As mentioned, the key in the New Covenant is about right believing, which results in right living. The key is to belief in the truth of the Gospel. Under the Old Covenant, they had to keep the law perfectly in order to attain to righteousness. Nobody attained to it. The law pronounced a verdict that all had sinned. They used the blood of animals to cover their sins until Christ came.

Then Jesus kept the law perfectly. He imputes righteousness to those who belief in Him. Today, the issue is whether we believe in what Christ has done on our behalf. We receive salvation through the obedience of faith – through faith in Him.

The following verse in Romans tells us that salvation is received by “belief in the truth” of the Gospel of grace that Paul presented. If salvation comes through right believing (in contrast to works of the law), then you can imagine how important the “obedience of faith” is.

(Romans 6:17-18)
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and BELIEF IN THE TRUTH, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another verse below talks about the righteousness of God that comes by faith. It says that in Christ, what matters is faith working through love. It is not about doing things under the law (circumcision or uncircumcision). To the Galatians, Paul said that they started out their race in faith, but the departed from “obeying the truth” by reverting to law.

(Galatians 5:5-7)
For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. You ran well. Who hindered you from OBEYING THE TRUTH?

Paul again equated “obeying the truth” to the “obedience of faith” in Jesus. Today, how do we live our Christian lives? Are we law centered? Do we focus on obeying the do’s and don’ts of Christianity? Or are we Christ centered; and our focus is on believing in Him? When we believe in Him, and we walk according to His leading, God is truly pleased with our obedience of faith.

9.60 What it means to obey the gospel?

Today, let us share more verses to further expound on the “obedience of faith” under the New Covenant.

In the following passage, Paul tells us that not all have “obeyed the Gospel”. So what does it mean to obey the Gospel? Paul quotes Isaiah asking, “Who has believed our report?” So Paul equates obeying the Gospel to believing in the Gospel. He ends off by saying that faith (to believe the Gospel) comes through hearing the preaching of the Gospel.

(Romans 10:14-17)
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
But they have not all OBEYED THE GOSPEL. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So then FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Isn’t it amazing? So much if Christianity focuses of right doing (with reference to the law) when Christianity is really about right believing in Jesus! Today, it is not about the obedience of works of the law. It is the obedience of faith in Jesus. Right believing will result in right doing. Faith will result in true works of faith.

How do we come to the obedience of faith (right believing?). The first part of the above passage tells us that the capacity to believe comes through hearing the revelation of the Gospel. But how will people hear the gospel without a preacher? And how will the preacher preach unless he is sent?

So God raises in the church ministers of the Gospel of Christ. They may be apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers or pastors. But the most important thing is that they are sent to preach the good news of the gospel. The gospel is also called the gospel of peace or the gospel of grace.

The preaching under the New Covenant must be Christ centered (not law centered). It must produce right believing, or the obedience of faith. It must produce works of faith rather than works of the law. It must produce life transformation rather than behavior modification. We are also called to preach this wonderful gospel. The Bible also calls us ministers of the New Covenant.

9.59 Obedience of faith is to believe a doctrine

Today, let us share another verse to further expound on the “obedience of faith” under the New Covenant.

In the book of Romans, Paul expounds on the Gospel to help the believer believe the right doctrine. In fact, the central theme of the book of Romans is justification by faith. Paul explains that the believer is made righteous through believing in Jesus. We are saved through faith in Jesus. The key is about right believing.

In the following verse, Paul says that we were once salves of sin (sinners). But how were we delivered? Not by our own efforts in keeping the law. We were delivered by obeying a doctrine from our heart.

How do you obey a doctrine? A doctrine is like a statement of faith that you belief in. Therefore, we obey a doctrine by believing in the doctrine.

(Romans 6:17-18)
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

In this case, Paul tells us that this is the doctrine of “justification by faith” in Christ.

(Romans 5:1-2)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When we believe in Christ, we are united in His death and His resurrection. We died with Him and were delivered from sin. We rose with Him in righteousness. Therefore we are justified by faith so that we can live as sons of God.

(Romans 6:3-4)
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Therefore today, our deliverance was through believing the right doctrine. And we continue to live our Christian lives by believing every truth or doctrine of the New Covenant based on the finished work of Christ. Right believing will lead to right living.

9.58 Meditation in the word & the obedience of faith

How do we grow in the obedience of faith? How to we grow to believe more of what Christ has done for us? How do we discover more of who we are in Christ and the reality of Christ is us? The key is through the Word of God.

A lot of people still approach the Word as the law – to find out what they should do as Christians. But Christianity is not about “doing”; it is about “being”. We are “human beings” – not “human doings”. Christianity is about being in Christ. When we know who we are in Christ, we will start to walk like Christ. Life is a flow in the Spirit. But when we don’t believe our new identity in Christ, and we try to achieve it on our self-ability, life will always be a struggle.

Under the Old Covenant, the Scripture that they had was the Law. So they approached the Word as the Law – to obey the demands of the law. For example, Joshua had to meditate on the Law in order to do all that is written in it.

(Joshua 1:8)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe TO DO according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

But the New Covenant is the revelation of Christ. The Epistles are written to the Church to build our faith in Christ. The Epistles expound on the good news of the Gospel. The Epistles also interprets the law in the light of Christ. The approach of the Word is to produce faith in Christ.

Let us consider what Paul says in Romans. He tells us that the Word of the Gospel produces faith in the hearts of the hearers.

(Romans 10:16-17)
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Notice the contrast between the Old and the New. Meditation under the Old Covenant results in works of the law. Meditation on the New Covenant is to produce faith in the finished work of Christ.

When the believer puts his faith in Christ, he will start to walk according to what he believes. This is called the obedience of faith, which results in works of faith. It is different from the works of the law under the Old Covenant. When we walk in faith, we also walk in the Spirit because He is the Spirit of faith. We begin to experience the power of the Spirit.

9.57 Why the obedience of faith?

In the last lesson, we talked about the new focus on the obedience of faith. Why does the New Covenant emphasize on right believing instead of right doing? It is not that it does not emphasize on right doing – but it tells us that right doing can only be a consequence of right believing.

In the Old Covenant, the law focused on behavior modification. There was no internal transformation. The law written on stones could not change the hearts of the people. As a result, the sinner could not keep the law. Even if the sinner appears to keep the law, it was only externally. It wasn’t in attitude, thought and speech.

When the people failed to attain to obedience of works, Jesus came to give the real solution. Jesus isn’t interested in making bad people good, He came to make dead people live. Jesus isn’t interested in behavior modification; He is in the business of life transformation.

How did Jesus do it? He went to the cross to purchase forgiveness of sins; and the free gift of righteousness. Therefore, to those who receive His redemption work, He would come and reside in them.

When Jesus lives in us, we become a New Creation. We receive His new nature in us as fruit of the Spirit. Some may not feel any change in their emotions (though many do). But this new nature is a reality. The Holy Spirit has come to live in the believer.

The only way we can walk in the new reality and the only way we can allow Jesus to express Himself in us – is through faith. When we believe we are in Christ, it results in a change in our identity. When we believe that Christ lives in us, we will experience His reality and power from within.

Therefore, when we walk by faith in Christ, He is manifested through us. Right believing will unleash Christ in us – which results in right living. The greater we walk in faith, the more Christ will be manifested in our daily walk. That’s why the Christian life is a race of faith or a fight of faith.

We live every day by trusting in Jesus. When we believe Him in spite of the circumstance, it is called the “obedience of faith”. The moment we believe in Him, it will cause us to respond differently. Faith will transform our actions. So the New Covenant is keeping our eyes on Jesus, instead of our actions. When our eyes are on Him, He will start to work mightily through us.

9.56 A new kind of obedience – the “obedience of faith”

Today we will talk about a new kind of obedience under the New Covenant. There is a change after Jesus went to the cross. Unless we divide the Bible, some may not even realize the difference.

Under the Old Covenant, the focus was on obeying all the commandments. Their blessing was subject to their ability to obey the commandments. It was an obedience of works of the law. For example, for Joshua to be successful, he needed to do one thing – to observe TO DO all that is written in the book of the law (the Old Covenant).

(Joshua 1:8)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe TO DO according to all that is written in it.

Under the New Covenant, Jesus had fulfilled the law perfectly. He was obedient even unto death.

Now, what God wants is for us to believe what Jesus has done for us. Today, all our blessings are given as a result of faith in Jesus. It is a new kind of obedience. This is called the “obedience of faith” or “obedience to the faith”.

Paul talks about his calling as an apostle to bring people to the “obedience to the faith”. In short, Paul was called to preach the gospel so that people would put their faith in Jesus. When they did so, they were obedient to the faith. So it is an obedience of faith.

(Romans 1:5:6)
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ…

The theme of the book of Romans is “justification by faith”. So Paul starts off by talking about the obedience of faith. He also ends the chapter by talking about “obedience to the faith”.

(Romans 16:25-27)
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for OBEDIENCE TO THE FAITH— to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

He said that the preaching of the Gospel to the nations was for the purpose of obedience to the faith. Today, there is a new kind of obedience. It is to believe all that Jesus has done for you.

by Joshua Lye


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