Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rethinking Obedience: The Just Shall Live by Faith - Part I

Over at Miguel Labrador's blog "God Directed Deviations" this morning, he asks an important question in his post: The Gospel Is To Be Obeyed. But How? Miguel asks: "how do you suppose the Gospel is to be “obeyed?” it's a good question that got me rethinking this idea of obedience that we all struggle with. 

I think part of our challenge in our understanding obedience is that our thinking has been shaped by a Judeo-Christian emphasis on doing good. Christians ethics have their place but we set ourselves up for failure when we hold to an ideal of being good, of trying to live right, "to please the Lord." There's nothing wrong with doing/being good, of course, but how many of us can do so with daily consistency? I know I can't but I also know I'm in good company with guys like, well, the Apostle Paul for instance when he says, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Romans 7:24).

Miguel asks this questions in respect to our response to the Gospel. But as I contend, the Gospel is not simply an idea about Jesus, or the story of Jesus, but is in fact the Person of Jesus who is with us always. That is after all what our Lord did say, right? So do we accept this by faith and if so what is our response?

Here's how I answered Miguel's questions:  
Paul says in Romans 16:19, “Everyone has heard about your obedience,” so I think if we understand what the Roman Christians were doing to “obey” it might go a long way toward answering your question. At the end of the letter, Paul is still speaking to the Romans believers, the same believers he admonished in Chapter 2 for “passing judgment” on others. Obviously, a perfect life of doing just the right things is not in view here. So what is? 
Paul spends significant time in this letter developing the concept of faith, which isn’t established on anything we do, but on God’s own faithfulness (Romans 3:2-4) – faith as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Are we depending upon God’s faithfulness to us apart from anything we can do to earn a right standing with God? 
In Chapter 9 Paul goes on to contrast the life of faith to the Israelites, saying, they “pursued the law as the way of righteousness” but that they “have not attained their goal.” (Romans 9:30). When we think of obedience in terms of doing right, not sinning, as a list of do’s and don’t we can and often do miss the one thing God is asking of us – the “just will live by faith” in Christ. That’s where Paul starts from in Romans 1:17. In fact, Paul bookends this letter by the phrase:”obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26). 
This the begs the question, who are we relying on for our obedience? On our own ability or a gift from God? Once we truly understand and appreciate the precious gift we have been given we can then live in response to that gift and will want to share it with others in obedience to Jesus mandate to make disciples.

How do you view obedience? Are we obligated to obey Jesus commands? 

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