What is the meaning and significance of the expression “for obedience” in Romans 1:5 and 1 Peter 1:2? Is it speaking of Christ’s obedience or the apostles’ or ours?
Both writers, Paul and Peter were addressing believers. Therefore, their mention of obedience concerns the obedience of any believers in Christ, including ours. The compelling question follows: Were they referring to obedience in the salvation experience (responding to the gospel) or to obedience to God and His Word, which follows salvation and which should deepen as one grows in grace?
The apostles Paul and Peter were zealous in calling all people to respond to the gospel, to repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is obvious from their letters that obedience doesn’t end there. Thus obedience becomes a test or evidence that saving faith in a person is present. True faith and obeying faith go hand in hand and are inseparable. So the apostles undeniably recognized both junctures in the life of obedience.
In salvation a person transfers his trust in whatever puny, inadequate thing he has previously trusted (baptism, confirmation, good works, church membership, and so on) to Christ alone. This is obeying the gospel: believing on Christ and His finished work of redemption on the cross and accepting that there is nothing we can do in ourselves to merit eternal life. But that obedience is just the beginning. Paul and Peter were calling on those who have obeyed the gospel to observe all that God commands.
The Great Commission is more than preaching the good news of the gospel to every creature. Too many people stop there. Matthew 28:20 also indicates that to fulfill the Great Commission we must teach people to obey all that God says in Scripture. Obedience in the life of the child of God is not an option. It is interesting that the apostle Paul not only begins but also ends his letter to the Romans with the importance of obedience (see 15:18; 16:26).
You asked if Christ were the One referred to in the passages you cite. In various Scripture passages, notably in Philippians 2, we see Christ as our perfect example of obedience. Peter exhorted us to follow in His steps (1 Peter 1:14; 2:20–23). Your question has a certain timeliness. Observers of the Christian scene today are reporting a widespread attitude among those who claim to be true believers. It is a spirit of doing one’s own thing, not unlike the unbelieving world’s attitude of independence. This attitude contradicts the change the Bible says takes place in one who experiences the new birth. Even believers are not perfect; they sin. Yet they have a desire to obey and a sorrow plus a desire to make things right with God if they stumble. They desire victory in their lives.
One Christian leader amazed at the lifestyle of a certain professing Christian challenged believers everywhere concerning the difficulty of understanding how some professing Christians could live the way they do. He posed a question like this: Is it possible they may not be Christians at all?
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