Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990) 201-224.

        Copyright © 1990 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.   

 

 

THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH

    IN THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS

  Part I: The Meaning of hupakoe pisteos (Rom 1:5; 16:26)

 

 

   D. B. GARLINGTON

 

UNIQUE to the whole of pre-Christian Greek literature and to Paul

himself, the phrase u[pakoh> pi<stewj, occurring in Rom 1:5 and

16:26, 1 gives voice to the design of the apostle’s missionary gospel. Within

Romans itself the phrase is invested with a twofold significance. For one,

against the backdrop of faith’s obedience in Jewish literature, these words

assume a decidedly polemical thrust: the covenant fidelity of God’s ancient

people (Israel) is now a possibility apart from assuming the identity of that

people.2 Dunn then is right that the phrase neatly summarizes Paul’s apol-

ogetic in the Roman letter.3

From another point of view, Rom 1:5 can be looked upon as a program-

matic statement of the main purpose of the Roman letter.4 For this reason

Dunn again is correct in writing: “To clarify what faith is and its impor-

tance to his gospel is one of Paul’s chief objectives in this letter.”5 In order

 

 

1 Rom 16:26, of course, is part of a well known textual crux. However, I agree with G. H.

Parke-Taylor that the verse’s authenticity is supported by the way in which the phrase so

adequately sums up the intentions of the latter portion of the letter (“A Note on eis hupakoen

pisteos in Romans i:5 and xvi:26,” ExpT 55 [1943-44] 306). C. E. B. Cranfield, on the other

hand, takes the doxology of vv. 25-27 to be a later editorial addition, but he ascribes its origin

to an orthodox source and accounts for its presence “because its intrinsic merit commended it”

(A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [ICC; 2 vols.;

Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975-79] 1.808-9). More recently, L. Hurtado is open to the possibility

of the text’s originality (“The Doxology at the End of Romans,” in New Testament Textual Criticism:

 Its Significance for Exegesis. Essays in Honour of Bruce M. Metzger [ed. E. J. Epp and G. D.

Fee; Oxford: Clarendon, 1981] 185-99), while J. D. G. Dunn is inclined to take it as a post-Pauline

addition (Romans [WBC; 2 vols.; Dallas: Word, 1988] 2.913). I am assuming the doxology’s authenticity;

but although the argument below is enhanced by this assumption, it does not exclusively depend on it.

Even if editorial, these words are a fitting climax to the burden of Romans 14-16.

2 I have argued this at length in “‘The Obedience of Faith:’ A Pauline Phrase in Historical Context”

(Ph.D. thesis, Durham University, 1987), to be published with the same title (WUNT 2/38; Tübingen:

Mohr, forthcoming 1990).

3 Dunn, Romans 1.18.

4 N. T. Wright, “The Messiah and the People of God: A Study in Pauline Theology with Particular

Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans” (D.Phil. thesis, Oxford University, 1980) iii.

M. Black likewise remarks that “to win obedience from the Gentiles” is “the main purpose of the Epistle

 to the Romans” (Romans [NCB; London: Marshall, Morgan

& Scott, 1973] 175).

5 Dunn, Romans 1.17.

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to appreciate the point, it will be necessary briefly to relate the importance

of faith to another purpose of the letter, viz., “to redraw the boundaries

which marked out the people of God.”6 Whereas before to be a member of

the covenant people was to live within the boundary set by the law, the

eschatological people have assumed a new corporate identity.7 And since

there is now “no distinction” between Jew and Gentile (1:16-17; 2:11;

10:12; etc.),8 Paul endeavors in Romans to expound the ethical and social

expression of this new corporate entity. Pursuant to this end, the letter’s

opening paragraph (1:1-7) draws upon concepts evocative of Israel’s rela-

tionship to Yahweh and applies them to all the Romans, the klhtoi< of Jesus

Christ.9 The pivotal point of the introduction is v. 5—the obedience of faith

among all the nations for Christ’s name’s sake—“A neat and fitting sum-

mary of his complete apologetic in Romans.”10

Actually, these facets of our phrase are two sides of the same coin: Paul’s

clarification of the significance of faith entails both his denial of Jewish

superiority and his reshaping of the covenant community. The recognition

of this is vital to our concern, because, as we shall argue in a subsequent

article, the relation of faith and works in Paul is illuminated to no small

degree by the way in which “the obedience of faith” serves in Paul’s hands

as a tool for obliterating distinctions between Jew and Gentile.

In light of its significance for Romans, then, “the obedience of faith” is a

phrase of no little importance for understanding the Pauline mission as a

whole, both in its universal outreach and its ethical dimensions. Neverthe-

less because its precise meaning remains a debating ground for commen-

tators on Romans, this first article will be devoted to an exegetical

 

 

6 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans 13:1-7—A Charter for Political Quietism?” Ex Auditu 2 (1986) 61.

As Dunn remarks elsewhere (Romans 2.580-81), when Paul in Rom 9:30b redefines righ-

teousness (i.e., from righteousness as articulated by the Torah to that of faith in Christ), he is

fully aware that in the process he is redefining the covenant. Similarly W. D. Davies contends:

"Paul demands that the people of God, belonging to Abraham, be defined in a new way. The

meaning of ‘descent’ from Abraham has to be radically reconsidered: it no longer has a

physical’ connotation” (“Paul and the People of Israel,” in Jewish and Pauline Studies [Phila-

delphia: Fortress, 1984] 128). Likewise Black: “The whole inspiration of Jewish life was the

Law and obedience to it; the inspiration of Christian living is Christ, apprehended by faith,

and obedience to the Risen Lord” (Romans, 38).

7 Dunn, “Romans 13:1-7,” 61. The recent book of R. D. Kaylor, Paul's Covenant Community:

Jew and Gentile in Romans (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988), approaches the letter from this vantage point.

8 Accounting for the frequent usage of the adjectives “all” and “every” in a markedly

qualitative sense, i.e., all people irrespective of ethnic identity can now be numbered among

the covenant community.

9 In detail see Garlington, “Obedience,” 329f.

10 Dunn, Romans 1.18. Commenting on Rom 15:18, Dunn remarks: “The recall of a key

motif from 1:5 [i.e., ‘the obedience of the Gentiles’] is no doubt deliberate since it ties together

precisely a key theme of Jewish covenant self-awareness (obedience) and Paul's outreach to the

Gentiles: it is precisely Paul's claim that the obligations of the covenant were being fulfilled

in the faith response of the Gentiles” (ibid. 2.868).



THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                     203

 

exploration of the meaning of Paul’s singular phrase within the setting of

his most famous missionary epistle.

 

            I. The Function of 1:5 and 16:26 within Their Immediate Contexts

 

Rom 1:5 occurs in the middle of Paul’s opening greeting to the Christians

in Rome. He begins by identifying himself as a servant of Christ Jesus and

an apostle called and separated to the gospel of God (1:1). This succinct

description of his identity and commission leads him to write somewhat

more fully of this gospel, which was promised in the OT and has as its

subject Jesus Christ, the Son of David and risen Son of God (1:2-4). There-

after he speaks of his apostolic commission and more particularly of its goal,

i.e., to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations for the sake

of the name of Christ (1:5). Thus the totality of Paul’s missionary endeavors

is epitomized by the words u[pakoh>n pi<stewj e]n pa?sin toi?j e@qnesin

u[pe>r tou?  o]nomatoj au]tou?. Commenting on “all the nations,” Michel

rightly observes that we have to do with a comprehensive missionary ex-

pression which corresponds to faith’s obedience.11 Paul then relates that the

Roman Christians are themselves included among the e@qnh who fall within

the scope of his apostolic activities (1:6). Finally, he greets them as God’s

beloved and called saints, terms evocative of Israel's peculiar relation to

Yahweh in the covenant (1:7).

Rom 1:5 thus stands at the pivotal point of the letter’s introductory

paragraph, i.e., between Paul’s statement of his calling and his depiction

of the gospel (vv. 1-4), on the one side, and his address of the Roman

Christians (vv. 6-7), on the other. Effectively the verse’s expression of the

design of Paul’s apostleship is also a delineation of the eschatological pur-

poses of God: it is through Paul’s preaching that Jesus, the king of Israel,

takes the nations in captive obedience to himself (cf. Gen 49:10; Ps 2:8f.).

Paul therefore portrays his mission as the instrumentality by which the risen

Christ in the fullness of time asserts his rule over the new people of God.12

Rom 16:26 forms part of the letter’s concluding doxology, which ascribes

glory to the only wise God for his confirmation of the Romans in the gospel

preached by Paul. This gospel is further explicated by the statement be-

ginning with the second kata< of v. 25 and extending through v. 26. Paul’s

depiction of his gospel takes the form of a contrast between the “silence” of

 

11 O. Michel, Der Brief an die Römer (MeyerK 4; 14th ed.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,

1978) 76.

12  The apostle’s preaching was not merely eschatological in its subject matter; it was itself a part

of the eschatological drama. The apostle was called, not just to build a group of believers, but to take

part in the work of God which is to culminate in a wholly new order or existence” (W A. Beardslee,

Human Achievement and Divine Vocation in the Message of Paul [London: SCM, 1961] 85). Among

the first to call attention to the eschatological nature of

Paul’s mission was A. Fridrichsen, The Apostle and His Message (Uppsala: A. B. Lundequistska,

1947). Cf. H. N. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975)

47, and P. R. Jones, “1 Corinthians 15:8: Paul the Last Apostle,” TynBul 36 (1985) 3-34.

 


204                   WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

the “mystery” in eternity past and its “manifestation” through the “pro-

phetic Scriptures” at the present time.

As in 1:5, the reiterated u[pakoh> pi<stewj here in 16:26 assumes a de-

cidedly eschatological coloring.13 For one thing, it stands in direct relation

to the “prophetic Scriptures.”14 Such a connection between faith’s obedi-

ence and the Scriptures of Israel is to be viewed in connection with Romans

9-11 and 15:9f., where Paul argues from the OT that it was the divine

purpose all along to bring the Gentiles into covenant standing with Israel.

In so doing, he explains how the Scriptures have come to fulfillment in the

preaching of Christ to all men without distinction. Thus the contact of

u[pakoh> pi<stewj with the “prophetic Scriptures” is significant, because

Paul sees in the latter an intention of God to manifest faith’s obedience as

an eschatological reality.

Second, Paul announces that the “mystery,” i.e., the eternal salvific plan,

has “now”15 been realized in the preaching of the gospel.16 Without going

into any real detail, we may say the term is heilsgeschichtlich. Ridderbos, for

instance, places Paul’s usage of musth<rion chiefly in the realm of the

redemptive-historical. By the nature of the case, there is a noetic aspect to

the “mystery,” which is preserved by Paul.17 But there is in addition “a

plainly historical connotation: it is that which has not yet appeared, that

which still exists in the counsel of God and has not been realized in history

as fulfillment of that counsel.”18 Of course, it is precisely the historical

realization of the musth<rion which Paul envisages in his preaching of

Christ.19 Analogous to 1:5, faith’s obedience on the part of the Gentiles is

 

13 On the eschatological character of faith in Paul, see, e.g., H. Binder, Der Glaube bei Paulus

(Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1968), who repeatedly emphasizes this (e.g., pp. 43, 89); R.

Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (New York: Scribners, 1952) 329-30; J. Pathra-pankal,

Metanoia, Faith, Covenant: A Study in Pauline Soteriology (Bangalore: Dharmaram College,

1971) 168f., 200f.

14 Cf. 1:5, where the phrase is located within close proximity of 1:2, which speaks of the

foretelling of the gospel “through his prophets in the holy scriptures.”

15 The “eschatological nu?n” of v. 26 is an adverb recurring in crucial Pauline passages which

announce the arrival of the eschaton, e.g., Rom 3:21; 5:9; 7:6, 17; Eph 2:12-13; Col 1:26-27; 2 Tim 1:9-10.

16 See Cranfield's remarks, Romans 2.812.

17 Cf. R. Brown, The Semitic Background of the Term "Mystery" in the New Testament

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968) 32f.; B. Van Elderen, “The Purpose of Parables According to

Matthew 13:10-17,” in New Dimensions in New Testament Studies (ed. R. N. Longenecker

and M. C. Tenney; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 184f.

18 Ridderbos, Paul, 46; cf. id., “Israël in het Nieuwe Testament, in het bijzonder volgens

Rom 9-11,” in G. Ch. Aalders and H. N. Ridderbos, Israël (The Hague: Van Keulen, 1955)

57-58. Brown rightly concluded that musth<rion in Paul is uniformly the (historical/escha-

tological) realization of God’s purpose to unite Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ

(“Mystery,” 68). See further, S. Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (WUNT 2/4; Tübingen: Mohr,

1981) 74f.                                                        

19 As Dunn notes, the schema of a mystery previously hidden and now unveiled by means

of the correct hermeneutical key was a familiar one. He cites 1QH 2:13-19; 1QpHab; 4QpPs

37; 1 Pet 1:10-12; 2 Pet 1:19-20 (Romans 2.915).


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                      205

 

the goal to which the revelation of the mystery looked. Consequently faith

and the obedience of faith assume a distinctively eschatological character.

Seen in this light, “the obedience of faith” is to be regarded as a phrase of

some significance for the understanding of Paul. It is, in other words, his own

articulation of the design and purpose of his missionary labors: God is now

bringing his purposes to pass in salvation history through Paul’s gospel, i.e., the

preaching of Jesus Christ (v. 25). Paul’s commission then is to be viewed as

nothing less than the eschatological actualization of the eternal plan to

create faith’s obedience among the nations.

This then is how Rom 1:5 and 16:26 function within their respective

contexts. However, the primary question is yet to be answered: what does

u[pakoh> pi<stewj mean?

 

II. The Grammatical Options

 

As noted above, the precise import of the phrase continues to be a matter

of dispute among the commentators. Its interpretation is mainly bound up

with one’s understanding of the genitive pi<stewj, although to a certain

degree the meaning of “faith” in these texts is involved as well. Simply put,

what is the relation of “faith” to “obedience”?

A convenient summary of the options is provided by Cranfield.20 The first

three interpretations he lists assume the objective genitive:

 

(i) ‘obedience to the faith’ (i.e., to faith in the sense of fides quae creditur, the body

of doctrine accepted)

(ii) ‘obedience to faith’ (i.e., to the authority of faith)

(iii) ‘obedience to God’s faithfulness attested in the gospel’

 

Two interpretations assume the subjective genitive:

 

(iv) ‘the obedience which faith works’

(v) ‘the obedience required by faith’

 

One interpretation calls for the adjectival genitive:

 

(vi) ‘believing obedience’

 

One interpretation assumes the genitive of apposition:

 

(vii) ‘the obedience which consists in faith’

 

It should be noted that the terminology varies among individual writers.

Black,21 for example, opts for the adjectival genitive, but he explains this as

the obedience which springs from faith, thus combining the ideas of ad-

jectival and subjective genitive (or genitive of source). In fact, it will be seen

 

20 Cranfield, Romans 1.66.

21 Black, Romans, 38.


206                   WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

that some of the grammatical options differ in name only. In evaluating the

possibilities before us, we shall consider in turn the strengths and weak-

nesses of the respective positions.

(1) We begin with those based on the objective genitive. Viewed solely

in grammatical terms, these interpretations are the least attractive. H.

Schlier argues with some plausibility that if the idea conveyed by the ob-

jective genitive were correct, Paul would have written something like i!na

u[pakou<swsin t^? pi<stei, in a manner corresponding to u[pakou<ein t&?

eu]aggeli<& in 10:16; 2 Thess 1:8 (cf. 3:14).22 Parke Taylor reasons as well

that “if ‘the faith’ (i.e., a body of formulated doctrine) had been intended,

doubtless the definite article would have been used.”23 An additional prob-

lem is that 1:5 would be the only instance in Romans where pi<stij is used

in the sense of fides quae creditur.24

It is true that this reading of the text is not entirely beyond redemption.

As is clear from 2 Thess 1:8; 3:14, there is in Paul the notion that one is to

obey the gospel or the word of God. According to Rom 6:17, what char-

acterizes those who walk in newness of life is their obedience from the heart

to the tu<poj didaxh?j, the apostolic tradition, to which they have been

committed. The problem with Israel, on the other hand, is that she has

refused to submit to God’s righteousness (Rom 10:3), i.e., she has not

obeyed the gospel (Rom 10:16). The Galatians similarly were being hin-

dered from obeying the truth (Gal 5:17). As a grammatical category, how-

ever, “objective genitive” has difficulty standing up to the criticisms

brought against it, as u[pakoh> pi<stewj would be a rather unexpected way

of saying “obedience to the (authority of) faith” (or “God’s faithfulness

attested in the gospel”).

(2) The two possibilities categorized by Cranfield as subjective genitive

differ little, if any, in effect. The real intention of this line of thinking is that

obedience finds its fountainhead in faith. As Black remarks: “The words

define the purpose and sphere of Paul’s special apostleship: it was to bring

the Gentile world to an obedience which springs from faith, in contradis-

tinction to an obedience based on the external observance of the law.”25

Strictly speaking, it might be more appropriate to regard pisteos thus

interpreted as genitive of source rather than subjective genitive, since faith

is viewed as the matrix of obedience. Yet “subjective genitive” is not totally

without merit, as stress is placed on faith as the active agent in obedience.

At any rate, Cranfield’s two variations on the subjective genitive can be

merged into one, thus simplifying somewhat the options between which one

must decide.

 

22 H. Schlier, Der Römerbrief (Freiburg: Herder, 1977) 29. Cf. E. Käsemann, Commentary

 on Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980) 14.

23 Parke Taylor, “Note,” 305.

24 Gal 3:23, however, demonstrates that Paul could use “faith” in this way (but with the

article).

25 Black, Romans, 38. Cf. the commentaries of Bruce, Lenski, and Hendriksen.



            THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                      207

 

(3) The interpretation which takes pi<stewj to be genitive of apposition

perhaps commands the most respect among commentators. 26 Michel, while

taking the genitive as objective, expresses what is at stake in the genitive of

apposition as applied to our phrase: “Faith for Paul is in the first instance

obedience to the word, and obedience for him is the fundamental and decisive act

of faith.”27

(4) The one category which remains is “adjectival genitive,” i.e.,

u[pakoh> pi<stewj is “believing obedience,” the significance of which is to be

determined by Paul’s broader statements on the relation of u[pakoh< and

pistis.

The possibilities before us then are subjective genitive/genitive of source

(used interchangeably), genitive of apposition, and adjectival genitive.

These will now be considered in more detail. It should be clarified, how-

ever, that our interest lies not in grammatical labels for their own sake but

principally in the complex of ideas suggested by these categories.

 

III. “The Obedience of Faith” as the Expression of the Believer’s

       Total Response to the Gospel

 

The (exclusive) genitive of apposition interpretation represents the ma-

jority opinion among the commentators. Taking Cranfield as a represen-

tative, it is to be observed that the most common argument along these lines

is that of the analogy of usage in the Roman letter: “The equivalence for

Paul of faith in God and obedience to him may be illustrated again and

again from this epistle. Paul’s preaching is aimed at obtaining from his

hearers true obedience to God, the essence of which is a responding to His

message of good news and faith.”28 Murray likewise maintains: “Faith is

regarded as an act of obedience, of commitment to the gospel of Christ.”29

Such statements illustrate that there is accord among a class of exegetes that

u[pakoh> pi<stewj signifies an obedience which is directly identifiable with

faith. Sometimes this is set over against the obedience which consists in

works of the law.” 30

The strength of this position resides in the parallel texts in which faith

and obedience are tantamount to each other. The point should be suffi-

ciently clear from the following table.31

 

 

26 Including Barrett, Cranfield, Calvin, Murray, Kasemann, Ridderbos, Schlier, Sanday/

Headlam, and Wilckens.

27 Michel, Römer, 76 (“Glaube ist für Paulus zunächst Gehorsam gegenüber dem Wort,

und Gehorsam ist für ihm der grundlegende and entscheidende Glaubensakt” [italics mine]).

28 Cranfield, Romans 1.66.

29 John Murray, Romans (NICNT; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968) 1.13-14.

30 Cf. Michel, Römer, 76; Black, Romans, 38; W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism

(2d ed; London: SCM, 1955) 148.

31 Modified from Cranfield, Romans 1.66 n. 3.



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1:8: “your faith is proclaimed in all the world”

16:19: “your obedience is known to all”

10:16a: “but all have not obeyed the gospel”

10:16b: “for Isaiah says, ‘Who has believed our report’ ”

11:23: “if they do not remain in unbelief

11:30: “by their disobedience

11:31: “so they now have been disobedient

1:5: “the obedience of faith among all the nations”

15:18: “to win obedience from the nations”

 

Schlier supplements the list by pointing to 10:21 (lao>n a]peiqou?nta kai>

a]ntile<gonta) and 15:31 (tw?n a]peiqou<ntwn e]n t^?  ]Ioudai%), where unbe-

lieving Israel is described in terms of disobedience (cf. 2 Thess 1:8). Schlier

concludes that obedience is that of faith, so that unbelief can be designated

as disobedience.32

We may reply that as far as these texts are concerned—with one qual-

ification to be established below—the point is well taken. V P. Furnish33 is

correct that obeying the gospel can parallel believing the preached word

(Rom 10:16; cf. John 3:36; Heb 3:18-19). Furthermore, the obedience char-

acter of faith is implied in Rom 10:3, where Paul maintains that Israel has

not submitted to God’s righteousness in the gospel, choosing rather to es-

tablish her own. It would be idle then to deny that Paul regarded Israel’s

unbelief as disobedience, and vice versa.

At this juncture, however, the question arises: Is the significance of u[p-

akoh> pi<stewj exhausted by treating it as a genitive of apposition? In an-

swering, it must be appreciated that other factors enter into the picture.

Cranfield, for example, having championed the genitive of apposition,

seems compelled to add: “It is also true to say that to make the decision of

faith is an act of obedience toward God and also that true faith by its very

nature includes in itself the sincere desire and will to obey God in all

things.”34 Murray similarly has been quoted as saying that faith is an act

of obedience, i.e., commitment to the gospel; but he continues: “Hence the

implications of this expression ‘obedience of faith’ are far-reaching. For the

faith which the apostleship was intended to promote was not an evanescent

act of emotion but the commitment of whole hearted devotion to Christ and to

the truth of his gospel. It is to such faith that all nations are called.”35

In effect therefore the obedience which consists in faith cannot be ab-

stracted from the (ethical) obedience demanded by the gospel. Hendriksen

epitomizes the issue when he writes: “Such obedience is based on faith and

springs from faith. In fact, so very closely are faith and obedience connected

that they may be compared to inseparable identical twins. When you see

 

32 Schlier, Römer, 29.

33 V. P Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968) 185.

34 Cranfield, Romans 1.66-67.

35 Murray, Romans 1.13-14 (italics mine). Cf. A. Schlatter, Gottes Gerechtigkeit.

Ein Kommentar zum Römerbrief (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1935) 22.

 


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                              209

 

the one you see the other. A person cannot have genuine faith without

having obedience, nor vice versa.”36

There would then appear to be some basis for maintaining that the

genitive pi<stewj is deliberately ambiguous, denoting an obedience which

consists in faith and an obedience which finds its source in faith. The ques-

tion is whether other data can be brought to bear which would serve to

clarify matters. In my estimation, such data are at hand. Therefore while

conceding that the idea of apposition is present in pi<stewj, we come now

to argue that there is a place for the genitive of source in our interpretation

of Paul’s language. In so doing, we shall reason, first of all, from the broader

perspective of faith and obedience in the Hebrew Scriptures and then from

contextual considerations in Romans itself

(1) In the OT and later Judaism faith and obedience are virtually syn-

onymous. As represented principally by hnvmx, “faith” in the Hebrew Bible

is two-sided: trust and a commitment (to the covenant) resultant from

trust.37 Without going into any real detail, we note with Edmund Perry:

 

the Old Testament does not set trust and obedience in contrast to each other as

separate ways of satisfying the demands of God. emuna comprehends the totality

of what we commonly mean in the familiar expression “faith and works.” Obe-

dience without trust (i.e. obedience not genetically generated from trust) is not

the obedience God requires. Only the obedience of trust is reckoned to man as

righteousness and everything else is exposed for the sham that it is, “lying wind

words,” “false lips” and “deceitful ways.” Conversely, trust inevitably expresses

itself in action. “Trust in the Lord and do good” are two aspects of the same act

of will by which man is declared righteous.38

 

Along similar lines, Bultmann can say that faithfulness is obedience;

hence the law and the commandments are among the objects of faith.39 D.

Hill likewise remarks that “Judaism has really no place for a rigid distinc-

tion between faith and works: faith can only fully exist when it is embodied

 

 

36 W. Hendriksen, Romans (New Testament Commentary; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Baker,

1980) 1.45.

37 The same is characteristic of pre-Christian Judaism. In detail, see Garlington,

Obedi-ence,” 18f. To cite one example, E. Haag rightly speaks of Glaubensgehorsam in the book of

Judith. See Haag's Studien zum Buch Judith (Trier: Paulinus, 1963) 82; id., “Die besondere Art

des Buches Judith and seine theologische Bedeutung,” TTZ 17 (1962) 300.

38 E. Perry, “The Meaning of emuna in the Old Testament,” JBR 21 (1953) 255-56. Among

the many works devoted to faith in the OT which support Perry, see, e.g., A. Weiser, TDNT

6.174f.; A. Jepsen, TDOT 1.292-93; E. Pfeiffer, “Glaube im Alten Testament: Eine

grammatikalisch-lexikalische Nachpriifüng gegenwärtiger Theorien,” ZAW 71 (1959) 151-64;

G. Ebeling, Word and Faith (London: SCM, 1963) 206f.; D. Lührmann, “Pistis im Judentum,”

ZNW 64 (1973) 20f.; id., Glaube im frühen Christentum (Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1976) 31f.; E.

Gräber, Der Glaube im Hebräerbrief (Marburg: Elwell, 1965) 79f.; G. Wenham, Faith in the Old

Testament (Leicester: TSF, 1976).

39 R. Bultmann, TDNT 6.199-200.



210                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

in works.” 40 J. Pathrapankal adds: “The obligation of the people to have

faith in Yahweh was precisely an undertaking to remain faithful to the

covenant.”41 G. Fohrer, then, is able to remark that a systematic exposition

of faith in Judaism is unnecessary, impossible and even foreign to its idea

of faith, because “Faith is action—this holds true for biblical faith as well

as for post-biblical Judaism.”42

In a real sense, then, to speak of faith is to speak of obedience. “Faith and

obedience are one action. Faith has to be proven by obedience.”43 Further

confirmation is provided by the OT's main terminology for obedience, viz.,

hearing (normally fmw as rendered by a]kou<ein, u[pakou<ein, and ei]s-

akou<ein).44 F. W. Young is worth quoting at length.

 

To really hear God’s word inevitably involves one in an obedient response in

action prompted by faithfulness to and faith in the God who is revealing himself

in and through particular historical events. Not to respond in obedient action is

tantamount to unbelief—and so the prophet chastises his people for their blind

eyes and deaf ears (Isa 6:9-10), which betray their faithlessness. This inevitable

consequence of failing to hear is rebellion or disobedience. But rebellion is not just

the willful disobedience of one who has heard. Rebellion is the sign that one has

not really heard, since to hear implies a faith-obedience response.45

 

Of course, it is possible to argue that Paul’s ideology of faith represents

a radical break with his Jewish heritage. Nevertheless one of the most

striking phenomena of Paul’s letters is that he nowhere debates the defi-

nition of faith with his opponents. Faith as such was never a point of

controversy; Paul simply assumes the OT conception as common ground

between himself and those with whom he disagrees.46 Furnish therefore is

 

40 D. Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings (SNTSMS 5; Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1967) 145 n. 1.

41 Pathrapankal, Metanoia, 77.

42  G. Fohrer, Glauben and Leben in Judentum (2d ed.; Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1985) 159.

43 H.W. Bartsch, “The Concept of Faith in Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” BR 13 (1968) 51.

See further Furnish, Theology and Ethics, 182f.

44 A linguistic study of “obedience,” with the various Hebrew and Greek synonyms, has

been provided by G. Friedrich, “Mub u[pakoh> pi<stewj Röm 1:5 mit ‘Glaubensgehorsam’

iibersetz werden?” ZNW 72 (1981) 118-.23 (although Friedrich’s conclusion that u[pakoh>

pi<stewj means “die Verkündigung des Evangeliums” and not “the obedience of faith” does

not follow from his data); R. Deichgräber, “Gehorsam and Gehorchen in der Verkündigung

Jesu,” ZNW 52 (1961) 119-22.

45 F W. Young, “Obedience,” IDB 3.580 (italics mine). According to E. Käsemann, “faith

is right hearing” (“ ‘The Righteousness of God’ in Paul,” in New Testament Questions of Today

[Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967] 177). On obedience and disobedience in the OT (and NT), see,

among others, A. Büchler, Sin and Atonement in the Rabbinic Literature of the First Century

(London: Humphrey Milford, 1928) 1-118; G. Kittel, TDNT 1.216f.; W. Mundle, “Hear, Obey,”

NIDNTT 2.172f.; Garlington, “Obedience,” 6f.

     46 Cf. U. Wilckens, Der Brief an die Römer (EKKNT 6; 3 vols.; Neukirchen: Neukirchener

Verlag, 1978) 1.89.


     THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                     211

 

justified in speaking of faith as obedience in Paul.47 What is radical about Paul,

however, is faith’s object—Christ.48 Apart from the scandal of a crucified

Messiah, the deciding factor, to coin a phrase, was Paul’s “Christological

eschatology.”49

(2) In every other occurrence of obedience language in Paul the refer-

ence is to Christian behavior.50 In particular, it must be appreciated that

the obedience character of faith in Paul entails transfer from one realm into

another. As Furnish points out, faith’s reference is in the first instance to the

God who raised Christ from the dead and is co-ordinate with the confession

that Jesus is Lord. Furthermore, “It is precisely the obedience character of

faith which makes it the means of the believer's participation in Christ’s

death and resurrection and which discloses how this is at the same time a

walking in newness of life.’ ” Consequently, “The acknowledgment of Jesus

as ‘Lord’ is not possible apart from the acknowledgment that one resides in

the sphere of his sovereign power and is bound over to his service. Faith,

therefore, is the acknowledgment that one ‘belongs’ to Christ, and as such

it is an act of commitment to him.”51 In short, any idea of faith as obedience

and obedience as faith must reckon with the broader eschatological/ethical

dimensions of Paul’s thought, in particular transfer of lordship, which lies

at the heart of the Pauline “obedience of faith.”52

(3) The sequence of thought in Romans 1-8 has something to say. Al-

though interpreters differ as to the chapter and verse divisions of this por-

tion of the letter, it is nonetheless true that Paul’s discussion of justification

by faith is followed by his demand that the justified live the life of the new

creation. Therefore the eschatological revelation of the righteousness of

God (1:17; 3:21) can hardly be divorced from the formation of a righteous

community modeled on the obedience of Jesus Christ, the Last Adam

(5:12f.).53 One might say that the latter-day realization of the dikaiosu<nh

 

47 Furnish, Theology and Ethics, 182f.

48 This most naturally accounts for Paul's unusual phrase pistis Iesou Christou. A. J.

Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulation in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980) 257, then, appropriately

paraphrases it as "christic faith." (On pp. 259-60 Hultgren shows that the formulation occurs

in Rom 3:22, 26, in contexts employing the "eschatological nu?n" of the revelation of the

righteousness of God.)

49 Cf. Ridderbos, Paul, 49; C. F. D. Moule, “Jesus, Judaism and Paul,” in Tradition and

Interpretation in the New Testament: Essays in Honor of E. Earl Ellis for his 60th Birthday

(eds. G. F Hawthorne and O. Betz; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) 50.

50 Rom 2:8; 5:19; 6:12, 16, 17; 1 Cor 14:34; 2 Cor 2:9; 7:15; 10:5, 6; Eph 6:1, 5; Col 3:18,

20, 22; Phil 2:12; Phlm 21; Tit 2:5, 9; 3:1.

51 Furnish, Theology and Ethics, 185.

52 Cf. P. Minear, The Obedience of Faith (London: SCM, 1971) 65; R. Tannehill, Dying and

Rising with Christ (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1967) 9. Paul’s “transfer terminology” has been exam-

ined in more detail by E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977)

463f.

53 Contra Käsemann’s claim that “the characteristic linking of faith and obedience in Paul

has a meaning which is not primarily ethical, but as is especially clear in 2 Cor 10:4-6,

eschatological” (Romans, 15). This is a false dichotomy. Furthermore, Käsemann would be



212                 WESTMINSTER. THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

qeou? has as its ultimate intention a covenant-keeping community in the

truest sense. In the language of Isa 61:10, the eschatological Israel is to be

clothed in a garment of righteousness. Significantly it is within the cadre of

the new creation theology of Romans 5-8 that Paul can depict Christians

as those who have become obedient from the heart to the tu<poj didaxh?j

to which they have been committed.54 Paul is therefore very much con-

cerned to maintain the organic relationship between a faith which justifies

and a faith which works (cf. Jas 2:21f.).

(4) There is the connection between u[pakoh> pi<stewj and Paul’s greet-

ing to the Roman Christians in 1:6, in which he includes them within the

scope of the apostolic commission to promote faith’s obedience en tois

ethnesin. Were obedience confined solely to the initial act of faith, Paul

could not have written as he does, simply because the Roman church was

founded by another (15:20). Yet he includes even them within the purview

of his labors: it is their obedience of faith which he is eager to secure, along

with that of the othe e@qnh.

(5) Within the immediate context of 1:5 further confirmation is to be

had. In 1:10f. Paul relates his frequent prayers on behalf of the Romans. In

particular, he prayed that he might be allowed to visit them for the purpose

of imparting some spiritual gift, specifically the mutual encouragement of

his and their faith. Thereafter he states that his intentions in coming to

Rome were with a view to reaping some harvest among the believers there.

It is in this connection that he voices his obligation and eagerness to preach

the gospel in Rome, an especially significant consideration, as it alerts us to

the fact that gospel proclamation has a more comprehensive design than

the conversion of non-Christians to the faith. Paul, in other words, proposes

to preach the gospel in Rome for the express goal of contributing to the

advancement of those who are already committed to Christ.55 Thus his “harvest”

among the Romans and the other evil (1:13) bears a striking resemblance to the

obedience of faith,” which he seeks to engender not only among the na-

tions but also on the part of the Romans (1:5-6). In short, this conjunction

of 1:5-6 with 1:10f. informs us that there is more at stake in faith’s obedi-

ence than the initial act of credence/trust which responds to (obeys) the

gospel as preached by Paul.

In addition to these arguments in favor of a more inclusive reading of

u[pakoh> pi<stewj, the parallels between faith and obedience cited by var-

 

hard pressed to establish anything other than a primarily ethical focus in 2 Cor 10:6: every

thought is to be subjected to the obedience of Christ.

54 L. Goppelt (TDNT 8.250) remarks that tu<poj didaxh?j is “the impress which makes an

impression, so that in context the teaching can be described as the mould and norm which

shapes the whole personal conduct of the one who is delivered up to it and has become

obedient thereto.”

55 The fact that Paul’s gift is conveyed by gospel preaching implies that when, in 1:16-17,

he envisages the dikaiosu<nh qeou? as being revealed in the gospel, the righteousness in question

transcends the forensic category of a “righteous status” and is inclusive of the totality of God’s

requirements for righteous living in the “eschatological now” (Rom 3:21, etc.).

 


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                      213

 

ious commentators could stand some re-examination. It has been conceded

that Rom 10:16; 11:23, 30; cf. 10:21; 15:31 are to be understood in terms of

an equivalence between disobedience and unbelief (cf. again John 3:36;

Heb 3:18-19). In this regard Cranfield is justified in writing: “The obedi-

ence which God requires is faith. To obey the gospel is to believe it and to

believe in Him who is its content; and to believe the gospel and believe in

Christ involves obeying it, obeying him.”56 Israel’s disobedience then is her

unbelief, and vice versa.

However, apart from an overly narrow reading of these verses (as we shall

see below), it is too readily assumed that Paul’s negative statements con-

cerning Israel are a sufficient elucidation of the positive ones, which speak

of the design of Paul’s missionary preaching. In other words, it is possible

to see in these pronouncements a dimension of thought which is more

preponderant than in their negative counterparts, i.e., a comprehensive

conception of obedience which entails not only one’s acceptance of Jesus as

the Christ but also one’s compliance with the (covenant) demands of this

Christ. It is not to be denied that the obedience which consists in faith is

primary (both logically and chronologically): cause and effect must be kept

in proper sequence. Nevertheless the parallels of phraseology exhibited by

1:5/15:18 and 1:8/16:19 can be read in another light, so as to suggest that

more is involved than the bare equation of obedience and faith.

We begin with 1:8 as compared with 16:19, since the similarity of lan-

guage is so conspicuous. In the former Paul gives thanks for the faith of the

Romans, which is proclaimed in all the world, and in the latter he rejoices

that their obedience is a matter of public record. The principal question is

whether obedience in 16:19 is strictly tantamount to faith in 1:8 or is to be

distinguished from it in some sense.

It will be advantageous to look first at 16:19: “For while your obedience

is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I would have you wise as to what

is good and guileless as to what is evil.” As might be expected, there is no

real uniformity among the commentators respecting the precise import of

obedience” in this verse. On the one side are scholars who take 16:19 to be

a repetition of 1:8. For instance, Käsemann maintains that “if its [the

Roman church’s] faith is characterized as u[pakoh<, this means subjection to

the received doctrine, which corresponds again to 6:17.”57 Michel believes

that Paul here repeats 1:8. He further compares “obedience” in our verse

with its occurrence in 1:5 and interprets it along the lines of his under-

standing of u[pakoh> pi<stewj, i.e., as objective genitive. For Michel the

gospel has become a “new law” requiring faith as the fulfillment of its

stipulations, as over against the Torah, which required “works” for the

satisfaction of its demands.58 These writers represent the consensus view

 

56 Cranfield, Romans 2.536.

57 Kasemann, Romans, 418.

58 Michel, Römer, 481.



214                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

that 16:19’s commendation of the Romans’ obedience is ipso facto a com-

mendation of their reception of the gospel.59 Rom 16:19 then is little more

than a repetition of 1:8.

However, we proceed to what might be called the “minority report” on

obedience” in 16:19. Black takes it to be “Christian obedience, i.e., the

obedience of faith (defined at 1:5).”60 Murray sees “a term characteristic of

this epistle and adapted to the subject of which he now speaks.”61 Hodge

relates that the language of 16:19 can bear two interpretations: “The word

obedience may express either their obedience to the gospel, their faith . . . or their

obedient disposition, their readiness to follow the instructions of their religious

teachers.” He opts for the latter view, citing as parallels 2 Cor 10:6; Phlm

21.62

For the sake of clarification, it should be said that these two assessments

of our text are not necessarily antithetical to each other, at least not directly

so. It is, rather, a matter of a more limited as opposed to a more expansive

range of meaning for “obedience.” Those who take the term in its more

comprehensive sense of Christian obedience would include within the scope

of u[pakoh< the primary factor of believing reception of the gospel. The

question is then how expansive is Paul’s vision when he speaks of the obe-

dience of the Romans?

In attempting to resolve the issue, due weight should be given to the flow

of thought in which 16:19 occurs, i.e., in the middle of Paul’s admonition

to his readers to avoid those who create dissensions and stumbling blocks,

which run counter to the teaching received by them (16:17f.).63 In view of

th>n didaxh<n in 16:17, it would be tempting to conclude that the obedience

of the Romans consisted solely in their acceptance of a body of truth. Yet

even a cursory reading of 16:17-20 informs us that ethical matters are very

much on the apostle's mind. There is, in other words, more implied in the

text than merely the loyalty of the Roman Christians to a set of beliefs, as

important as that was for Paul. A thoughtful reading of the paragraph

indicates that there is an inseparability of doctrine and ethics in Paul’s

exhortations at this stage of the letter. At least three factors point in this

direction.

First, the presence of at ai[ dixostasi<ai and ta> ska<ndala, which were at

variance with the received teaching (para> th>n didaxh>n h{n u[mei?j e]ma<qete)

 

 

59 See as well the comments of Dodd, Godet, Leenhardt, Cranfield, Schlatter, and Liddon.

60 Black, Romans, 184 (cf. p. 38).

61 Murray, Romans 2.236.

62 Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (repr. Edinburgh: Banner of

Truth, 1972) 450-51.

63 Contra W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the

 Epistle to the Romans (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895) 430, 16:17 does imply that dissensions

and erroneous teachings had begun to be a feature within the Roman church. Assuming, as he

does, the inseparable connection between teaching and practice, Paul makes a special point

of exhorting his readers in this regard.


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                     215

 

(v. 17), suggests that behavioral matters had some bearing on Paul’s con-

troversy with the deceivers in Rome (v. 18). There is here at least an implicit

contrast to the earlier portrait of the readers, who became “obedient from

the heart” to the tu<poj didaxh?j to which they had been committed (6:17).

In the present context ska<ndalon is best taken as “temptation to sin” or

enticement to apostasy.”64 Furthermore, Gal 5:20 reckons dixostasi<ai

among the “works of the flesh.” In particular, the peace and harmony of the

church were being endangered, which for Paul was especially heinous (cf.

1 Cor 1:10f.).65 To be sure, theological error was beginning to take a toehold

in Rome, but Paul’s concern was equally the jeopardy in which practical

living was being placed.66

Second, the obedience of the Romans was to be supplemented with wis-

dom and guilelessness (v. 19b). Paul rejoices over the well-known obedience

of his readers, but he desires that they be sofou>j ei]j to> a]gaqo<n, a]kerai<ouj

de> ei]j to> kako<n. Most likely v. 19b stands in an adversative relation to v.

19a, i.e., the Romans are far-famed in their consistency of Christian be-

havior, yet Paul desires that such obedience be shored up by discernment

of good and avoidance of evil. Even if one understands “obedience” in 16:19

as commitment to the truth, it follows nevertheless that the verse as a whole

articulates an inseparable connection between obedience and ethics, which

in itself argues for a more comprehensive understanding of u[pakoh> pi<stewj,

since obedience as faith is never to be wrenched from its moral effects.

“Obedience,” to recall Murray’s comment,67 is to be taken in the sense

which it characteristically bears in Romans, as it is now adapted to the

subject at hand.

Third, throughout this paragraph Paul makes several allusions to Gen-

esis 3, which in themselves are most suggestive. In v. 18 he almost certainly

classifies the false teachers in Rome as the serpent in the Garden of Eden,

who deceived Eve.68 In v. 20a he alludes to Gen 3:15 and virtually identifies

the Romans with the seed of the woman, who was to be the instrument of

Satan’s undoing. Accordingly it is not stretching the point to see in 19b Paul

 

64 BAGD 753. In the NT ska<ndalon also means “that which gives offense or “causes

revulsion” (applied by Paul to men’s rejection of the cross of Christ, Gal 5:11) (ibid). The other

sense, however, is more appropriate for this context, because “temptation to sin” and “en-

ticement to apostasy” are precisely what Paul wishes to avoid.

65 Cf. F. Mubner, Der Galaterbrief (HTKNT; Freiburg: Herder, 1981) 382.

66 See the important statement of E. E. Ellis on theology and ethics in Paul, Prophecy and

Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 75.

67 Murray, Romans 2.236.

68 The same deception motif occurs in Rom 7:11, where likewise the deceitful tactics of the

serpent are in view. See J. D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (London: SCM, 1980) 103-4

The reference is even more pertinent when one considers that one of the meanings of ska<n-

dalon is “temptation to sin,” or “enticement to apostasy.” Thus what the serpent began to

do to the human race (through Eve) is continued by the deceivers in the Roman church, who

sought to seduce the unsuspecting. The same identification is made in 2 Cor 11:3, 14-15, where

the “super-apostles” are depicted in similar terms.

 


216                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

placing his readers in the position of Adam and Eve, who in paradise were

tempted to transgress the will of God. Thus Paul wants them to be able to

discern the good while avoiding involvement in evil. Such a mode of ex-

pression is not surprising in view of Rom 5:12f., according to which the

obedient Last Adam has created a new humanity characterized by obedi-

ence. Hence the “obedience” of the Romans is colored by the creation ideal

of commitment to the Creator rather than Satan, and therefore belongs

very much within the sphere of covenant commitment.

Having considered 16:19 in some detail, it will be necessary only to look

briefly at 1:8, in which Paul thanks God for the Romans because their faith

is proclaimed in all the world. It is incontestable that this verse is in some

sense akin to 16:19. The question is, though, how are we to understand the

particular relationship of the two? Is an identical thought expressed in both

places, only with a variation in terminology, or is the latter an outgrowth

and development of the former?

In answering the question, we must first pause to inquire into the deno-

tation of pi<stij in 1:8. One group of commentators is insistent that the

reference is not to the act of faith but the state of faith, i.e., “Christianity,”

thus placing pi<stij entirely within the realm of the objective. Michel69 and

Kasemann,70 for example, maintain that pi<stij does not mean coming to

faith (Gläubigwerdens) but the state of faith (Glaubensstand). Käsemann in

particular views 16:19 as a repetition of 1:8.71

On the other side, Schlier concedes that pi<stij could mean the state of

being a Christian (Christenstand) or Christianity (Christentum). “But,” he says,

such a translation considerably weakens what is meant here, namely, that

which Paul in 1:5 has called u[pakoh> pi<stewj.”72 This, I think, carries more

conviction than the other interpretation, because, apart from 1:5, pisteu<w

and pi<stij in 1:16-17 clearly denote the act of trust whereby one encoun-

ters the dikaiosu<nh qeou?. It is highly unlikely then that “faith” in 1:8

would bear a meaning other than its obvious one in the verses which

bracket it.

Assuming then that pi<stij in 1:8 is to be understood in its most common

Pauline sense of the act of belief/trust in Christ (God or the gospel), we

return to the original question, viz., how does 1:8 (“your faith”) relate to

16:19 (“your obedience”)? Over against those who understand the latter to

be a virtual reiteration of the former, the contention here is that the rela-

tionship is to be understood otherwise, i.e., the “obedience” of the Romans

praised by Paul in 16:19 is the inseparable complement of their “faith” (for

 

69 Michel, Römer, 80 n. 8.

70 Kasemann, Romans, 17.

71 Cf. Sanday/Headlam, who see “faith” as a merger of ideas with stress on pi<stij as the

state or condition of faith—but with an important qualification: “Here it is practically equiv-

alent to ‘your Christianity’, the distinctive act which makes a man a Christian carrying with

it the direct consequences of that act upon the character” (Romans, 19).

72 Schlier, Römerbrief, 36.

 


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                 217

 

which he gives thanks in 1:8) simply because of the strongly ethical char-

acter of u[pakoh< in 16:19 (in context). Indeed, this phenomenon of faith

giving rise to obedience is exactly what one would expect when u[pakoh>

pi<stewj is given its pregnant force of an obedience which springs from

faith. Consequently the similarity of language between 1:8 and 16:19 is

accounted for not because Paul says the same thing over again, but rather

because in his thinking obedience is the inevitable and indispensable ac-

companiment of the faith which accepts Jesus Christ in the gospel.

The conclusion to be drawn from 1:8 and 16:19 is that they do not

establish the interpretation which wishes to view u[pakoh> pi<stewj as only

the obedience which consists in faith. On the contrary, this conjunction of

faith and obedience in 1:8 and 16:19 respectively argues strongly for giving

Paul’s phrase a more inclusive reading.

It remains now to give some consideration to the similar-sounding state-

ments of 1:5 (“the obedience of faith among all the nations”) and 15:18 (“the

obedience of the nations”). Since it is precisely the meaning of 1:5 which is

in dispute, our attention will be focused on 15:18 in its context in order to

determine what light can be shed by the one passage on the other.

In turning to the commentators, we are not surprised to find them di-

vided along the same lines as previously indicated. On the one side, Michel

can say that ei]j u[pakoh>n e]qnw?n in 15:18 means “to obey, i.e., to come to

faith.” He cites as parallels 1:5; 6:17; 16:26 and concludes that “the entire

Roman letter is occupied with this ‘obedience’ of faith.”73 Käsemann like-

wise views the “obedience” of this verse as “identical with acceptance of the

gospel.”74 C. K. Barrett also sees here a reference to the conversion of the

Gentiles.75

Others call attention to the obvious parallel between 15:18 and 1:5 but

assume a different position as to the actual sense of u[pakoh> e]qnw?n. Inter-

preted against the backdrop of 1:5, where pi<stewj is taken to be subjective

genitive, Lenski takes e]qnw?n as subjective genitive, thus making the obe-

dience in question that rendered by the Gentiles. Hence the obedience of

the Gentiles is broader than their believing reception of the gospel.76 Black

sees Paul’s language as the expression of the “main purpose of the Epistle

to the Romans.”77 As with Lenski, this statement of the matter is to be

 

73 Michel, Römer, 459.

74 Kasemann, Romans, 393-94.

75 C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (London: A. & C.

Black, 1957) 276. Cf. Schlatter, Gerechtigkeit, 387; F. Leenhardt, The Epistle to the

Romans (Cleveland: World, 1961) 369; H. Ridderbos, Commentar op het Nieuwe

Testament: Aan de Romeinen (Kampen: Kok, 1959) 331; A. Nygren, Commentary

 on Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1949) 453; Cranfield, "Romans 2.758 (see n. 2

for the variant a]koh<n in 15:18).

76 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Minneapolis: Augs-

burg, 1961) 883.

77 Black, Romans, 175.



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understood by way of analogy with Black’s previous comments on 1:5, viz.,

that “the obedience of faith” is the obedience which proceeds from faith.78

The context of 15:18 speaks decisively in favor of this latter group of

commentators. The first contextual factor is that 15:7 is a summary of the

entire paraenetic section commencing at 14:1: “Welcome one another, there-

fore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” It almost goes

without saying that the burden of 14:1-15:7 is for a quality of life to be

displayed among the Romans corresponding to what earlier was called the

living sacrifice” of themselves (12:1). Paul is particularly concerned with

harmony in the church, as expressed by the mutual reception of the mem-

bers of Christ’s body, the gist of which is voiced by 15:5-6: “May the God

of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with

one another, in accord with Jesus Christ, that together you may with one

voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Therefore the train of thought begun in 14:1 and climaxing at 15:7

provides the background for our interest in 15:18. Accordingly we are

pointed in the direction of an ethical obedience highly desired by the apos-

tle. The paraenetic goal of Paul is seen all the more clearly in the light of

two data which precede the summary (15:7) of his exhortations to the

Romans. The first is the servanthood of Christ (15:3 as it quotes Ps 69:9);

the second is the life of harmony in accord with Christ Jesus to be lived by

all Christians (15:5). Christ then, particularly in his role as (the) Servant,

is the model for the Romans in their everyday relations with one another.

Therefore the obedience of Christ and his people emerging from these

verses creates a strong presumption in favor of “the obedience of the na-

tions” in 15:18 being taken in ethical categories.

A second contextual factor supporting the subjective genitive interpre-

tation is that 15:8-13 grow out of 15:7, i.e., the Romans are to welcome one

another because of the mutual position occupied by Jew and Gentile in the

purposes of God. In a more explicit statement of the servanthood of Christ

(v. 8), Paul indicates that Christ acted on behalf of the “Circumcised,” in

order to confirm God’s promises to the patriarchs and thereby to bring

about the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God.79 Having sup-

ported this contention with biblical proof (vv. 9b-12), he prays that the

Romans’ faith may be attended with joy, peace, and hope (empowered by

the Holy Spirit). The effect of vv. 8-13 is to ground the mutual reception

of the Romans (v. 7) in Heilsgeschichte, i.e., the purpose of God as achieved

by Christ is that the nations now have come to share in the promises made

to Israel’s patriarchs. In this respect Schlatter is justified in his reference to

 

78 Hodge concurs: “The obedience of which Paul speaks is the sincere obedience of heart

and life” (Romans, 440). But note that Hodge does retain the notion of the “word” and “power”

of Christ converting men to himself.

79 “The recall of a key motif from 1:5 is no doubt deliberate since it ties together precisely

a key theme of Jewish covenant self-awareness (obedience) and Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles:

it is precisely Paul’s claim that the obligations of the covenant were being fulfilled in the faith

response of the Gentiles” (Dunn, Romans 2.868).

 


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                     219

 

the Gentiles’ former disobedience and their present obedience of believing

in Christ.80 Yet, according to v. 13, Paul’s concern goes beyond their re-

ception of the gospel. This statement sufficiently corresponds to v. 5, both

in form and content, that the latter is virtually recapitulated by the former.

Thus the work of Christ (v. 8), as anticipated by the OT (vv. 9b-12), is

meant to attain its ultimate goal in the harmonious coexistence of the

various factions within the Roman congregation(s) (v. 13)81 (as opposed to

dixostasi<ai and ska<ndala).

As the thought progresses, the intensity of Paul’s paraenesis is not less-

ened. Therefore the third contextual datum is that, having wished for joy,

peace, and hope to be enjoyed by his readers, he confirms his optimism for

them by stating that he is convinced that they are “full of goodness,” along

with knowledge and the ability to instruct one another (v. 14). Nevertheless

he is aware that in certain regards they need reminding about their duty

as Christians (v. 15a), which Paul is bold enough to do because of his office

as an apostle of Christ (vv. 15b-16). Two points in this connection are

noteworthy.

(1) It is again to be observed that Paul includes the Romans within the

scope of his mission, even though their church had not been founded by

him. Therefore his promotion of their obedience assumes wider dimensions

than the conversion experience. Hence when 15:18 speaks of Paul’s aim to

win obedience from the Gentiles, such obedience, by the nature of the case,

must be subsequent to their initial response to his gospel.

(2) The language of vv. 15b-16 is directly reminiscent of 12:1-2.82 15:16

draws on the language of the OT cultus. Paul is a leitourgo>j Xristou? ei]j

ta> e@qnh, who likens the Gentiles to a prosfora< offered by himself in

priestly service of the gospel (i[erougou?nta to> eu]agge<lion tou? qeou?).83

Earlier, in 12:1, he called on the Romans to present themselves as a “living

sacrifice,” “acceptable” (eu]a<restoj) to God. Coordinate with this is his

appeal to them to be transformed by the renewal of their minds so that they

may approve God’s will (12:2), the ethical force of which is beyond dispute.

When therefore in 15:18 Paul articulates the goal of his mission as the

u[pakoh> e]qnw?n, a statement made on the heels of his intention that the

 

 

80 Schlatter, Gerechtigkeit, 387.

81 Cf. Bultmann, Theology 1.320.

82 If we bring 12:3 into play, the correspondence with 15:15 is enlarged; both speak of the

grace” given to Paul to be an apostle. It is in 1:5 that he speaks for the first time of this “grace”

and does so in direct connection with “the obedience of faith.”

83 As over against R. Jewett (“Romans as an Ambassadorial Letter,” Int 36 [1982] 16) and

Käsemann (Romans, 392-93), Paul’s conception of himself as a leitourgo<j is sacerdotal in

connotation; not literally so but as he saw his mission as the fulfillment of the symbolico-

typological ministry of the Levitical priesthood. In this regard Käsemann is right that cultic

terms and motifs are here used in a “transferred eschatological sense” (ibid., 393). See further

A. J. Hultgren, Paul's Gospel and Mission (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 134f.

 



220                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

prosfora?  e]qnw?n be “acceptable” (eu]pro<sdektoj), “sanctified by the Holy

Spirit,” one cannot help but see a decidedly moral dimension to the outcome

of his ministry.84

In vv. 17-21 a fourth matter of relevance emerges. Paul here reflects on

the “sanctified” character of his offering and concludes that he has reason

to be proud of his work for God (v. 17), although he qualifies by ascribing

the winning of the Gentiles, by word and deed, to Christ (v. 18; cf. 1 Cor

15:10). In addition to word and deed, the power of the Holy Spirit in

producing signs and wonders enabled Paul to preach the gospel of Christ

from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum” (v. 19). A cursory reading

of vv. 18c-19 might leave the impression that the obedience of the Gentiles

consisted solely in their belief in the gospel. Without, however, denying the

primary importance of the Gentiles’ reception of Christ, it is possible to

read Paul’s whole train of thought in another way.

The ethical categories of 15:14-16 can be seen to flow into Paul’s reflec-

tion on the success of his missionary work (vv. 17-21). In this light the

obedience of the Gentiles by word, deed, signs and wonders, and the power

of the Holy Spirit is traced to its fountainhead in Paul’s labor of bringing

the gospel to those who have never heard. Hence in 15:14-21 we encounter

the twin ideas of an obedience consisting in faith and an obedience pro-

ceeding from faith, only in reverse order.85  V. 18 then, which speaks of the

obedience of the Gentiles, comes at the pivotal point between the moral

effects of Paul’s preaching and his account of the preaching itself.

One final contextual consideration emerges from the verses which con-

stitute the remainder of chap. 1.5, viz., vv. 22-33. For the sake of conve-

nience, this part of the text can be divided into two subsections. The first

is vv. 22-29. Here Paul reiterates his desire to visit Rome en route to Spain.

In this connection he mentions the offering by the Gentile churches on

behalf of the poor in Jerusalem; it is they who have come to share in the

spiritual blessings of Israel and ought therefore to share with Jewish Chris-

tians in material things as a part of their priestly service (leitourgh?sai

au]toi?j). Two matters are particularly noteworthy.

(1) The participation of the Gentiles in Israel’s spiritual blessings

(“riches,” according to 11:12) at least implies that they have come to par-

take of God’s total salvation in Christ. 15:8 spoke of the confirmation of

God’s promises to the patriarchs; and by way of analogy with the broader

Pauline teaching, these promises are inclusive of such items as sonship to

 

 

84 Käsemann is correct that in the phrase h[ prosfora> tw?n e]qnw?n the genitive is epexe-

getical: “the Gentile world itself is the offering.” However, he is wrong in denying a connection

between this and “the self-offering of Christians which the apostle brings about” (Romans, 393):

surely the one is the immediate effect of the other. Moreover, in both instances, the sacrifice

in question is meant to be “acceptable,” an OT cultic term signifying the unblemished char-

acter of what is offered to Yahweh.

85 It is possible to see a chiastic pattern in the construction of 15:7-21 as a whole: vv. 14-21

correspond inversely to vv. 7-13.


 THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                221

 

God and the gift of the Spirit. If then Paul envisages a complex state of

affairs into which the Gentiles have been incorporated, his concern is as

much for their welfare after conversion as for the conversion itself.

(2) The Gentiles, who are Paul’s offering to God, have become priests in

their own right; they are now privileged and obliged to serve (as priests)

their Jewish brothers in Jerusalem. It is then natural enough to regard this

service as integral to their obedience.

Within this same subsection v. 29 has some bearing on the issue. Paul is

confident that when he comes to Rome he will do so in the “blessing” of

Christ. Assuming the reading eu]logi<aj 86 we are taken back to Paul’s

previously stated desire to impart some spiritual gift to the Romans (1:11),87

i.e., the strengthening of their faith (1:12). The obedience of Paul’s readers,

in other words, will be promoted by the impartation of Christ’s blessing.

Hence the blessing of Christ and the obedience of the Romans can be seen

in terms of cause and effect.

The second subsection of the remainder of chap. 15 is vv. 30-33. Of

particular concern to us is Paul’s request for prayer for himself that he may

be delivered from “the disobedient [tw?n a]peiqou<ntwn] in Judea,” who are

most naturally Jews who oppose the gospel.88 However, many commenta-

tors make a simple cross-reference to 10:16, 21; 11:30-31 in their delinea-

tion of these “disobedient.”89 While in basic accord with this procedure,

Michel calls attention to two points of interest, although he apparently does

not take note of their significance for v. 18 of this chapter. For one thing, he

cites 2:8 as a parallel to 15:31, according to which Paul speaks of toi?j

a]peiqou?si t^? a]lhqei<%. This reference is appropriate because, as W.

Mundle reminds us, Paul has in view the totality of non-Christian human-

ity as disobedient to the truth.90 In addition, Michel maintains that the

antithesis of a]peiqou?ntej is self-evidently u[pakoh> pi<stewj.91

The impact of Michel’s observations is that the “disobedient” of 15:31,

i.e., unbelieving Jews, are not to be identified solely in terms of their re-

jection of the gospel. Such, of course, was for Paul a momentous issue.

Nevertheless disobedience to the truth (2:8) entails more than the repudi-

ation of a set of propositions. As the context of 2:8 suggests most plainly,

 

86 See TCGNT, 537.

87 Jewett wishes to restrict the blessing of Christ to the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile in

Rome (“Romans,” 18). No doubt, this was much on the apostle’s mind; but the blessing in

question is certainly more comprehensive. In 1:11-12 Paul spoke of his desire to visit the

Romans for the purpose of strengthening their faith. Thus the blessing of Christ is the totality

of what he would do through Paul to further the obedience of faith among the Romans.

88 E.g., Käsemann, Romans, 407.

89 E.g., Cranfield, Romans 2.778; Schlier, Römerbrief, 438.

90 W. Mundle, Der Glaubensbegriff des Paulus. Eine Untersuchung zur

Dogmengeschichte des ältesten Christentums (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,

1977) 30.

91 Michel, Römer, 468 n. 19.

 



222                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

behavioral patterns hinge on one’s acceptance or rejection of the truth.92 It

is, according to 2:13, only the doers of the law who will be justified (in

eschatological judgment). More pointedly, in 2:17f. Paul charges that his

Jewish contemporaries have been guilty of ethical infractions, thus nullify-

ing the value of their circumcision (vv. 25f.); and it is surely striking that

Paul’s question (about Israel) in 3:3, “What if some were disobedient,” is

paralleled in the second clause by “does their unfaithfulness [a]pisti<a]93 nul-

lify the faithfulness of God?” Therefore by the term “disobedient” Paul reduces

his Jewish contemporaries to the level of paganism. Without then downplaying the

significance of Israel’s unbelief, which is doubtless primal in Paul’s think-

ing, the disobedient in Judea form the antithesis of the obedient Gentiles

(15:18), in the pregnant sense of u[pakoh<.94 It is fitting then that we take the

disobedience of the Jews as precisely the opposite of “the obedience of

faith.”

We deduce then from 15:18 and its context that “the obedience of the

Gentiles” does indeed form a genuine parallel to “the obedience of faith” in

1:5, but in such a way that the latter is further explicated by the former (in

its setting). That is to say, Paul envisages not only the believing reception

of his gospel by the nations but also their constancy of Christian conduct.

Their obedience (of faith), in other words, stands in contrast to the dis-

obedience (of unbelief) of Israel in her rejection of the same gospel.

If we may anticipate our next study, u[pakoh> pi<stewj thus understood

marries faith and Christian obedience. As Mundle has seen:

 

Since . . . acceptance of the gospel is an act of faith, the apostle in this sense can

also speak of the obedience of faith . . . and all the more as recognition of the

gospel contains within itself the resolution to be baptized and become a member

of the Christian church. It is therefore not a matter of a change of mind which

has no effect on the rest of one’s life, but a decision which entails the weightiest

practical consequences.95

 

We have consequently in the phrase the key link between present justi-

fication by faith alone, on the one hand, and future judgment according to

works, on the other. While it is faith which justifies here and now, it is the

 

92 To be sure, in Gal 5:7 “obeying the truth” has to do with the acceptance of Paul’s gospel

as over against that of the Judaizers. Yet, as the context clarifies, only those who adhere to this

gospel can produce the “fruit of the Spirit” as opposed to the “works of the flesh” (5:19, 22).

Cf. J. M. G. Barclay, Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul’s Ethics in Galatians (Edinburgh: T. &

T. Clark, 1988) esp. pp. liOf., 202f.

93 Cf. in v. 5 h[ a]diki<a h[mw?n and in v. 7 e]n t&? e]m&? yeu<smati, both of which carry overtones

of covenant fidelity.

94 Thus more is at stake in the statements of 10:16; 11:23, 30, 31 than is normally granted

by the commentators. The nature of Israel’s ethical disobedience will be considered in a

subsequent article. For the moment we note with Dunn that Israel fulfilled the law on the

external, nationalistic level but not on the profound level demanded by the obedience of faith.

See particularly Romans 1.109f.; 2.582, 593.

      95 Mundle, Glaubensbegriff 30 (cf. p. 39).

 


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                 223

 

doers of the law, according to Rom 2:13, who will be justified in eschato-

logical judgment. We are compelled to agree with Barrett that it was im-

portant to Paul to show that “obedience has a place in the system of grace

and faith.”96 Nygren speaks to the issue when he remarks: “Obedience is

always required of man in his relation with God. It was so in the Old

Testament. There it was particularly obedience to God's law, obedience to

the covenant. But obedience is also necessary in the new Aeon ushered in

by Christ.”97 Accordingly, for Paul the faith which justifies at the present

time must inevitably result in an obedience of faith which will justify in

final judgment;98 or, phrased differently, it is by faith’s obedience that the

Christian becomes a “doer of the law.”99

 

IV. Conclusion

 

In Rom 1:5; 16:26 Paul has chosen to coin an ambiguous phrase which

expresses two ideas at the same time:100 the obedience which consists in faith

 

 

98 Barrett, Romans, 131 (on 6:16). Cf. again Cranfield, Romans 1.66, and Murray, Romans

1.13-14.

97 Nygren, Romans, 55. The biblical notion of “righteousness,” which, for all intents and

purposes, is synonymous with obedience, likewise entails a comprehensive assessment of one’s

place in God’s covenant (note how u[pakoh< in 1:5 is paralleled by dikaiosu<nh in 1:17). Neither

the OT nor Paul knows of a righteousness which is only forensic, i.e., one divorced from a

quality of life concomitant with a righteous status. Among the plethora of works devoted to

righteousness,” most of which affirm this basic outlook, see K. Kertelge, Rechtfertigungbei

Paulus (2d ed.; Munster: Aschendorf, 1971); J. A. Ziesler, The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul

(SNTSMS 20; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972); J. Reumann, Righteousness in

the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982); Hultgren, Paul’s Gospel, 34f.

98 We may add that “faith alone” in Paul characteristically has reference to the way in

which one enters the covenant people of God, as opposed to the Jewish demand for circum-

cision and commitment to an unmodified Torah. Hence faith is not antithetical to “good

works” as such but to Jewish distinctives. See further E. Watson, Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles:

A Sociological Approach (SNTSMS 56; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) 119;

Garlington, “Obedience,” 356f.; Dunn, Romans 1.lxiiif.; id., “The New Perspective on Paul,”

BJRL 65 (1983) esp. 110f.; id., “Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians

3:10-14),” NTS 31 (1985) esp. 532f.; E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Phil-

adelphia: Fortress, 1983) 17f.

99 Taking a clue from Cranfield, Reumann rightly comments that in Rom 6:16 the phrase

slaves of righteousness” underscores obedience, which, he says, is “a Pauline definition of faith

(1:5), thus stressing that in the Christian life ‘faith-obedience’ must be its characteristic mark

until the work of God’s justifying righteousness is complete, at the final judgment” (Righteous-

ness, 83).

100 As an interesting analogy, B. Przybylski (Righteousness in Matthew and His World of

Thought [SNTSMS 41; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980] 17-20) discusses the

possible translations of the title moreh sedeq in CD. He notes that the Hebrew could be rendered

either “teacher of righteousness” (objective genitive) or “righteous or right teacher” (explicative

genitive). He opts for the former yet concedes, “The problem with which we have been dealing

may in actual fact be a pseudo-problem arising solely out of difficulties inherent in the process

of translating from Hebrew into English.” Thus, “It should not be taken for granted that these

two ideas are mutually exclusive” (p. 20). This is suggestive because it reminds us that Paul’s

 


224                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

and the obedience which is the product of faith.101 Therefore although

grammatical tags can be applied to pi<stewj only with some reservation,

the category which best serves the intention of Paul is “adjectival

genitive”;102 that is, pi<stewj is descriptive of u[pakoh> in a manner to be

defined by the larger context and in keeping with the most pertinent ex-

egetical data.103 This means that “genitive of apposition” and “genitive of

source,” while not inappropriate in themselves, are to be rejected as too

restrictive. Consequently the English “faith’s obedience” (or “believing obe-

dience”) perhaps as well as any translation preserves the intention (and

ambiguity) of the original.104

The small phrase u[pakoh> pi<stewj contains a world of thought, for in it

Paul depicts God’s eschatological design for a new humanity, a new Israel.

As over against unbelieving/disobedient Israel, the nations have responded

in faith to the gospel of Christ and have become, in contrast to what they

once were (Rom 1:18f.; 6:16; Eph 2:1f.), the faithful and obedient people of

God. For Paul then there could be no higher commendation of his Christian

readers than that voiced by Rom 1:8—“Your faith is proclaimed in all the

world”—and Rom 16:19—“Your obedience is known to all.”

 

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Semitic background could easily account for a flexibility in his Greek usage, permitting more

than one meaning to reside in his genitival phrases. Perhaps the most famous of such phrases

is dikaiosu<nh qeou?.

101 Cf. Dunn, Romans 1.17; Ridderbos, Paul, 237 (the two are “interchangeable ideas”).

102 Labeled, however, as “genitive of quality” by N. Turner, A Grammar of New Testament

Greek. Volume III: Syntax (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963) 212, and BDF §91.

103 Cf. Barclay's treatment of Paul's o[ no<moj tou? Xristou? (Obeying the Truth, 134).

104 See Parke-Taylor, “Note,” 305, for the various ways in which translators have grappled

with the difficulties inherent in our phrase. The German Glaubensgehorsam perhaps better

conveys the unity of faith and obedience than most of the English renderings.

 

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