Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991) 47-72.

        Copyright © 1991 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.   

 

 

THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH

     IN THE LETTER TO THE ROMANS

  

Part II: The Obedience of Faith and Judgment by Works

 

      D. B. GARLINGTON

 

THE previous study of the obedience of faith in Romans was an attempt

to determine exegetically the meaning of Paul’s unique phrase u[pakoh>

pi<stewj. It was concluded that the phrase is deliberately ambiguous, de-

noting simultaneously the obedience which is faith and the obedience

which is the product of faith. Because of its essentially two-sided character,

it was suggested that the notion of faith’s obedience provides the link be-

tween present justification by faith alone and future judgment according to

works. Since faith, obedience, and judgment generally in Paul are such

well-worn territory,1 the scope of this article is restricted to an examination

of the relation of the obedience of faith to final vindication (justification) in

the day of judgment. In particular our attention will be focused on the

theology of Rom 2:13.

In his seminal study of “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Concep-

tion of the Spirit,”2 G. Vos comments that the biblical idea of “salvation”

is, strictly speaking, a future condition (“immunity from the condemnation

of the last day”) which has been projected back into the present. Similarly:

 

 

1 For works devoted to faith and obedience in Paul, see my “The Obedience of Faith:” A

Pauline Phrase in Historical Context (WUNT 2/38; Tübingen: Mohr, 1991) 2 nn. 5-6. The judg-

ment motif has been canvassed, e.g., by L. Mattern, Das Verständnis des Gerichtes bei Paulus

(ATANT 47; Zürich: Zwingli, 1966); C. J. Roetzel, Judgment in the Community: A Study of the

Relationship between Eschatology and Ecclesiology in Paul (Leiden: Brill, 1972); J.-M. Gambier,

“Le jugement de touts les hommes par Dieu seul, selon la vérité, dans Rom 2.1-3.20," ZNW 66

(1975) 187-213; K. P. Donfried, "Justification and Last Judgment in Paul," ZNW 67 (1976)

90-110; E. Synofzik, Die Gerichts- and Vergeltungsaussagen bei Paulus (GTA 8; Göttingen:

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977) esp. 78-90; U. Wilckens, Der Brief an die Römer (EKKNT; 3

vols.;Zürich/Neukirchen: Benziger/Neukirchener, 1978-82) 1.142-46; N. M. Watson, "Justified by

Faith, Judged by Works—an Antinomy?" NTS 29 (1983) 209-21; K. R. Snodgrass, "Justifi-

cation by Grace—to the Doers: An Analysis of the Place of Romans 2 in the Theology of Paul,”

NTS 32 (1986) 72-93; R. Heiligenthal, Werke als Zeichnen (WUNT 2/9; Tübingen: Mohr, 1983)

esp. 165-97; A. J. Hultgren, Paul’s Gospel and Mission: The Outlook from His Letter to the

Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 98-111; F Watson, Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles

(SNTSMS 56; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) 119-22; L. J. Kreitzer, Jesus and

God in Paul’s Eschatology (JSNTSup 19; Sheffield: JSOT, 1987) 99-129. The studies of Donfried

and Mattern come the closest to the present one in their recognition of the importance of faith’s

obedience for the judgment texts in Paul.

2 In Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus

Vos (ed.. R. B. Gaffin, Jr. ; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980) 91-125.

 

         47



48                       WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

Justification is, of course, to Paul the basis on which the whole Christian state

rests, and in so far eminently concerns the present, and yet in its finality and

comprehensiveness, covering not merely time but likewise eternity, it presents

remarkable analogies to the absolute vindication expected at the end.3

 

The impact of Vos’ remarks is that justification, as any other facet of

soteriology, transpires in stages, corresponding to salvation inaugurated

and salvation consummated. The problem, however, is not so much the

recognition of this basic datum as is the presence of biblical—particularly  

NT—passages which ground eschatological justification in the works of the

individual. We think, for instance, of Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees: “I tell

you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless

word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you

will be condemned” (Matt 12:36-37). All the more striking because of its author

is the pronouncement of Rom 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who

are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” And,

of course, there is James’ insistence that justification is by works and not by

faith alone (2:24). Even in passages where “justification” as such is not

mentioned, the same perspective is evident, e.g., 2 Cor 5:10: “For we must

all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be

repaid according to what he has done in the body, whether it be a good

thing or a worthless thing.”4

The question then is how the NT and particularly Paul can make what

appears to be a quantum leap from present justification by faith alone to

future justification, which entails an assessment of one's life “in the body.”

In answering, we shall argue that Paul himself provides the bridge between

these seemingly polar opposites.

 

 

  I. Paul’s Dialogue with Israel in Rom 1:1-3:8

 

(1) To review briefly from the first article, one of Paul’s prime purposes

in Romans is to redraw the boundaries which mark out the people of God.

Whereas once to be a member of the covenant people was to live within the

perimeters set by the Torah, the eschatological people have assumed a new

corporate identity. And since with the advent of Jesus Christ there is “no

distinction” between Jew and Gentile, Paul seeks in Romans to expound the

social and ethical expressions of this new entity. At the outset (1:1-7) then

he draws upon concepts evocative of Israel’s relationship to Yahweh and

applies them to all the Romans, the klhtoi?j of Jesus Christ. The pivotal

 

 

3 Ibid., 93.

4 Translation mine. The same principle is embraced elsewhere, e.g., Matt 16:27;

1 Cor 9:24-27; Col 3:25; 2 Tim 4:14; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 2:23.



  THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                        49

 

point of the introduction is v. 5—the obedience of faith among all the

nations for Christ’s name’s sake—“a very neat and fitting summary of his

complete apologetic in Romans.”5

(2) Rom 1:1-7 is paralleled by 1:16-17,6 which is normally taken to be

the letter's thematic statement. Without going into detail, we note that the

revelation of the righteousness of God to all believers—the Jew first but also

the Greek—is the functional equivalent of “the obedience of faith among all

the nations.” As modern research has shown, dikaiosu<nh is essentially a

relational concept.7 As predicated of God, it has to do with his fidelity to

the covenant: “God is ‘righteous’ when he fulfills the obligations he took

upon himself to be Israel’s God, that is, to rescue Israel and punish Israel’s

enemies.”8 As is well known, in the Psalms and in chaps. 44ff. of Isaiah,

God’s righteousness becomes synonymous with his salvation—hence Yah-

weh’s dikaiosu<nh (hqdc / qdc ), his “act to restore his own and to sustain

them within the covenant.”9 Thus the dikaiosu<nh qeou? which has now

been manifested apart from the law is “God’s action on behalf of those to

whom he has committed himself.”10

This dynamic or “action-oriented” understanding of righteousness (as

opposed to “status only)11 has a twofold bearing on our particular concern.

For one thing, it alerts us that the primary controversy between Paul and

Judaism had respect not to grace as opposed to “legalism,” i.e., earning

salvation through the accumulation of merit and thus establishing a claim

upon God,12 but to the Jewish restriction of the grace of God to Israel

 

 

5 J. D. G. Dunn, Romans (WBC; 2 vols.; Dallas: Word, 1988) 1.18.

6 Common to both are Jew/Gentile, the gospel, faith, obedience/righteousness, power.

7 See, among others, Hultgren, Paul's Gospel, 12-46; E. Käsemann, “ ‘The Righteousness

of God’ in Paul,” in New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969) 172;

K. Kertelge, Rechfertigungbei Paulus (NTAbh 3; 2d ed.; Münster: Aschendorff, 1967)

15-24; D. Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings (SNTSMS 5; Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press,

1967) 85-86; J. Reumann, Righteousness in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982) 12.

8 Dunn, Romans 1.41. Cf. W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (2 vols.; Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1967) 1.241-42.

9 Dunn, Romans 1.41.

10 Ibid. 1.166 (on 3:22).

11 Reumann, Righteousness, 15-16. In agreement with Hultgren, Paul's imagery of justifi-

cation is more prophetic/apocalyptic (theological/theocentric) than forensic (anthropologi-

cal/anthropocentric) (Paul's Gospel, 37).

12 Instead of “legalism” I prefer “nomism,” or, in the phrase of R. N. Longenecker, “reacting

nomism,” i.e., “the molding of one’s life in all its varying relations according to the Law in response

to the love and grace of God” (Paul: Apostle of Liberty [New York: Harper & Row, 1964] 78).

 “Reacting nomism” consequently is, for all intents and purposes, the same as E. P. Sanders’ now

famous “covenantal nomism” (Paul and Palestinian Judaism [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977] 236

et passim). H. Räisänen prefers to speak of “Biblicism” rather than “legalism” (Paul and the Law

 [WUNT 1/29; Tübingen: Mohr, 1983] 184; cf. id., “Legalism and Salvation by the Law: Paul’s

Portrayal of the Jewish Religion as a Historical and Theological Problem,” in Die paulinische

Literatur and Theologie [ed. S. Pedersen; Aarhus: Forlaget Aros, 1980] 63; B. S. Jackson,

"Legalism," JJS 30 [1979] 1-22).



50                      WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

(though including proselytes).13 Thus for Paul to draw upon a term so well

established in the OT and in intertestamental literature was in effect for

him to say that God’s pledge to uphold and sustain the ancient covenant

people now has equal applicability to “the Greek,” who is no longer obliged

to become as “the Jew” in order to claim the promise of the dikaiosu<nh  

qeou?. As J. A. Ziesler puts it: “God’s righteousness is his own covenant

loyalty, now in Paul widened beyond a covenant with Israel and made

universal. This righteousness is saving precisely in that man, Jew or Gentile,

is now drawn into and lives in God's righteousness.” 14God’s righteous-

ness,” according to 10:3, is no longer peculiarly that of the Torah but is now

embodied in Christ, the te<loj of the law. Hence justification in Paul is

primarily concerned to answer the question, On whose behalf does the God

of Israel go into action to effect salvation? Is it Israel only or also the

Gentiles?15

In the second place, because dikaiosu<nh assumes as its frame of refer-

ence the Hebrew (as contrasted with the Greco-Roman) notion of righ-

teousness, we are alerted to the possibility that the semantic range of the

verb dikaio<w is broadened by its relation to the OT concept of the

dikaiosu<nh qeou?. According to Reumann’s findings, “‘righteousness/jus-

tice/justification’ terminology in the Hebrew scriptures is ‘action-oriented,’

not just ‘status’ or ‘being’ language, and binds together forensic, ethical and

other aspects in such a way that some sort of more unified ancient Near Eastern view

 

13 This now widely accepted appraisal of Paul and Judaism was sparked off by Sanders’

Paul. J. D. G. Dunn, most prominently, has applied Sanders’ assessment of Judaism as “cov-

enantal nomism” to Paul’s teaching on the law, e.g., “The New Perspective on Paul,” BJRL

65 (1983) 95-122; “Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Gal 3:10-14),” NTS 31 (1985)

523-42; Romans 1.1xx-lxxi. It is this particular approach which I am assuming throughout,

including Dunn's criticism of Sanders' (and H. Räisänen's) appraisal of Paul and the law. An

adequate response cannot here be provided to dissenting reviews of Sanders on Judaism and

Dunn on Paul, such as H. Hübner, "Pauli theologiae proprium," NTS 26 (1980) 445-73; id.,

Law in Paul's Thought (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1984); id., "Was heißt bei Paulus ‚'Werke des

Gesetzes' ?" in Glaube and Eschatologie. Festschrift fur Werner Georg Kümmel zum 80.

Geburtstag (eds. E. Grässer and 0 Merk; Tübingen: Mohr, 1985) 123-33; R. H. Gundry, "Grace,

Works, and Staying Saved in Paul," in The Best in Theology (eds. J. I. Packer et al.; Carol Stream,

IL: Christianity Today, n.d.) 1.81-100; S. Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Church's Faith: Paul

and His Recent Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). Dunn has replied to several of his

critics in Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville: Westminster/John

Knox, 1990) 206-14, 237-41.

14 J. A. Ziesler, The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Enquiry

(SNTSMS 20; Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, 1972) 187. In Reumann’s words, “The

gospel of God’s righteousness will have to do not just with his loyalty to his covenant people

but with his whole creation and all peoples” (Righteousness, 65). Cf. R. D. Kaylor, Paul's

Covenant Community: Jew and Gentile in Romans (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988) 60.

15 As K. Stendahl puts it, Paul's discussion of Jew/Gentile equality (in Romans 2 and 3) is

carried on "in light of the new avenue of salvation, which has been opened in Christ, an avenue

which is equally open to Jews and Gentiles, since it is not based on the Law, in which the very

distinction between the two rests" (Paul Among Jews and Gentiles [London: SCM, 1977] 81).

 


        THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                    51

 

can readily be presupposed.” 16 “Justify” at times is certainly an adequate trans-

lation of dikaio<w. Nevertheless justification is inclusive of more than “ac-

quittal.” Indeed, it is the pregnant significance of the idea which modern

scholars have sought to preserve by the resurrection of the archaic term “right-

wise.” Even in those instances in the LXX where dikaio<w (= the hiphil

of qdc) is strongly forensic in meaning, Ziesler reminds us that it is forensic

in the Hebrew sense, i.e., the verb signifies “restoration of the community

or covenant relationship, and thus cannot be separated from the ethical

altogether. The restoration is not merely to a standing, but to an existence

in the relationship.” If such is an adequate grasp of dikaio<w, insight is

immediately provided into how Paul can move so deftly from justification

by faith here and now to ultimate justification by works.

(3) Having stated his thesis that the dikaiosu<nh qeou? is now available to

all without distinction,19 Paul proceeds in 1:18-3:20 (including the reca-

pitulating statement of 3:23) to eliminate Jewish superiority by a series of

arguments designed to place Israel on an equal footing with the remainder

of humanity.20 Kaylor has correctly seen that although Paul does indeed

address himself to the reality of universal human sinfulness, his central

design is to show that there is no real distinction between Gentile and Jew: “This

affirmation of non-distinction in sinfulness has as its larger purpose the

affirmation that there is no distinction in salvation! There is one new cov-

enant that unites Jew and Gentile as the one people of God.”21 Paul’s

message to Israel then is that the Torah is powerless to provide freedom from

sin's power.22 In so saying, he is “preparing the way for the presentation of

one new covenant in Christ which will bind Jew and Gentile together as one

new people of God, renewed by God’s grace and empowered by the Spirit

to fulfill God’s will in ways that neither Gentile nor Jew has been able to

accomplish.”23

The first item of his agenda is pursued in 1:18-32, where he implicates

Israel in the disobedience of Adam, thus reducing the covenant people to

 

16 Reumann, Righteousness, 16 (italics mine).

17 E.g., throughout the English version of R. Bultmann's Theology of the New Testament

(London: SCM, 1952), and Reumann, Righteousness, 11 et passim. E. P. Sanders opts for a

somewhat unwieldy term of his own devising, "to righteous" (Paul, the Law, and the Jewish

People [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983] 13-14 n. 18 et passim).

18 Ziesler, Righteousness, 20.

19 "All" throughout Romans bears a strongly qualitative sense, i.e., "all God's beloved in

Rome" (1:7), Jew and Gentile in Christ, as documented by P. Minear, The Obedience of Faith:

The Purposes of Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (London: SCM, 1971).

20 Kaylor, Community, 32, terms this section "Gentile and Jew: Alike in Covenant Breaking."

The whole of Kaylor's treatment of Romans is supportive of the interpretation herein pre-

sented.

21 Ibid., 34.

22 Ibid., 35.

23 Ibid., 45-46.



52                         WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

the level of Greco-Roman paganism, as startling a notion as that must have

been to his Jewish compatriots. Since the appearance of M. D. Hooker's

article "Adam in Romans I,"24 students of Romans have been aware that

Paul's depiction of man and his plight is modeled on the fall of Adam in

Genesis 3.25 Although it is hardly true that Adam was an idolater in the

same sense as the pagan world of Paul's day, he can justly be accused of

serving the creature rather than the creator; "and it is from this confusion

between God and the things which he has made that idolatry springs."26

Most relevant for our purposes, Paul does not exempt Israel from the in-

dictment of idolatry. Although his thought moves mainly within Genesis 3,

the words h@llacan th>n do<can  (tou? a]fqa<rtou qeou?) in Rom 1:23 are

extracted from Ps 106(105):20 and Jer 2:11 (cf. Deut 4:15-18), which have

to do with Israel's idolatry.

It is here that Paul's running debate with Judaism in the Roman letter

comes into play. His implication of Israel in Adam's sin of idolatry seeks to

make the chosen people at one with the rest of humanity. Especially note-

worthy in this regard is the affinity of this passage with the book of Wisdom.

Scholars have long been aware that Paul's denunciation of idols and immor-

ality is modeled on Wisdom and have rightly emphasized the similarities. 27

However, Hooker is right that the differences are no less striking than the

similarities.28 The most striking discrepancy is that whereas in Wisdom the

Gentiles and apostate Jews engage in idolatry, in Romans 1 Israel qua Israel,

no less than the Gentiles, is involved in and repeats the primal sin of Adam.

Paul, in other words, has reduced contemporary Israel to the level of pa-

ganismthe Israel which is unswervingly loyal to the Torah and the God

of the Torah. I have argued elsewhere29 that the idolatry in question is

Israel's continued attachment to the Torah after it has served its purpose

in salvation history, the idolatry of elevating the law of Moses to a position

of unwarranted devotion and bestowing on it a permanence it was never

intended to have in God's ultimate plan. Thus, according to Paul, due to

her own idolatry, Israel is in no position to be the mediator of salvation.

 

 

24 NTS 6 (1959-60) 297-306; cf. id., "A Further Note on Romans I," NTS 13 (1966-67)

181-83.

25 Cf. J. D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making (London: SCM, 1980) 101-2; D. J. W. Milne,

"Genesis 3 in the Letter to the Romans," Reformed Theological Review 39 (1980) 10-18.

26 Hooker, "Adam," 301.

27 E.g., A. T. S. Goodrich, The Book of Wisdom (London: Rivingtons, 1913) 398-403; W

Sanday and A. C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the

Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1895) 51-52; E. E. Ellis, Paul's Use of the Old

Testament (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1957) 77-80; C. Romaniuk, "Le Livre de la Sagesse

dans le Nouveau Testament," NTS 14 (1967-68) 505-7.

26 Hooker, "Adam," 299.

29 D. B. Garlington, "IEROSULEIN and the Idolatry (Romans 2:22)," NTS 36 (1990)

142-51.



       THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                              53

 

(4) Rom 2:1-3:8 forms the central section of the broader division of

1:18-3:20. Considering the amount of space Paul devotes to Israel here, it

would follow, as remarked above, that his actual intention is to remove the

nation from a position of superiority, particularly as this segment of the

letter is the outgrowth of 1:18-32 (dio<, 2:1). Before turning his attention

directly to the one who calls himself a Jew (2:17),30 the groundwork is laid

in vv. 1-16 for the indictment of Israel. Before giving detailed consideration

to 2:13, it will be useful to survey the main features of 2:1-3:8.

(a) At the outset of chap. 2 (vv. 1-5), Paul continues to speak in broad

generic terms: his adversary is man as such (&# a@nqrwpe), vv. 1, 3. Even so,

he is occupied with man as he stands in judgment on other men. That

Jewish man is in the back of his mind is evident from vv. 17-24, because this

man charges others with sin, while he himself is not free from its taint. The

Jew who believed that God would judge the world "in righteousness" (Ps

9:8; 96:13; 98:2, 9) himself will be the object of wrath (the punitive side of

righteousness),31 because the judgment of God is "according to truth" (v. 2),

i.e., God's covenant faithfulness,32 or, more specifically, his "righteousness"

as defined as his commitment to his creatures,33 a proposition established

in chap. 1. It is he who is presumptuous in his judgment of others and must

acknowledge that the goodness of God (especially in the gospel) is meant

to lead him to repentance (v. 4);34 it is he who is delinquent in his respon-

sibility to the creator. (In what sense this is true we shall see below.) Cam-

 

30 See Wilckens, Romer 1.147-48.

31 The declaration of 1:17 that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel alludes to

Ps 98:2, 9: "The Lord has made known his salvation; before the nations he has revealed his

righteousness . . . for he comes to judge the earth; he will judge the world in righteousness and

the peoples with uprightness." Not only so, the same Psalm underlies the programmatic

statement in 1:18 that the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven. Accordingly the wrath

which Israel expected to fall on the Gentiles because of their lack of conformity to the Mosaic

standards will fall on her because she refuses to render to God the obedience of faith which

has Christ as its object; she, in other words, will not submit to the righteousness of God (10:3)

as revealed eschatologically in the gospel.

32 The a]lh<qeia group in the LXX frequently does service for hnvmx etc., designating God's

fidelity to the covenant. Particularly striking are passages in which God's a]lh<qeia represents

his determination to punish Israel for breaking the covenant, e.g., Neh 9:33; Pr Azar 4-5, 8-9;

Tob 3:2; Add Esth 14:6-7; 1QS 1.26. See further R. Marcus, Law in the Apocrypha (New York:

AMS Press, 1966) 3-4; Roetzel, Judgment, 32.

33 The thesis of Käsemann's " ‘The Righteousness of God’ in Paul." Paul thus denies a role

to the Torah in eschatological judgment by assigning that function to the primal creator/

creature relationship established in Eden. This in itself informs us that the focus of judgment

is loyalty to or apostasy from God the creator (not one's allegiance or lack thereof to the Sinai

covenant). Cf. below n. 89. As a sidelight, what is known as "common grace" is actually the

dikaiosu<nh qeou?, the concrete manifestation of which is his "goodness," designed to lead the

disobedient to repentance (Rom 2:4; Acts 14:17).

34 The riches of God's kindness is a prominent covenant idea (cf. Rom 10:21 = Isa 65:2

LXX). As the Israel of old, the Israel of Paul's day remains the object of Yahweh's pleading:

his goodness is still being extended to his people, this time in the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Yet, in typical fashion, the nation's heart is hard and impenitent (Rom 2:5).

 


54                        WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

bier then is quite right that the religious situation addressed by Paul is that

of the exclusive Jewish claim to salvation, which is reflected by the vocab-

ulary of judgment (various forms of kri<nw).35

(b) The principle of judgment according to works, commensurate with

judgment "according to truth,"36 introduced in vv. 6-16, becomes in Paul's

hands an implement for the undoing of Israel's boasting in national priv-

ileges.37 A whole host of OT texts lie behind the proposition that "he will

render to everyone according to his works."38 Snodgrass furthermore is

right that judgment according to works is one of the most basic assumptions

of Judaism and appears in all strata of Jewish literature.39 For our purposes

it is noteworthy that Paul again draws upon the creation language of man

as God's image when he depicts the "works" according to which God will

judge as the quest for "glory, honor and immortality"; to those thus inclined

will be given "eternal life" and "peace" (vv. 7, 10). Likewise the talk of

"obedience" in v. 8, as confirmed by 5:12-18, is a conspicuous creation

reference. By appealing to creation categories, Paul implies that, accept-

ability to God is not conditioned on Jewishness but on one's commitment

to be an accurate image-bearer of God the creator. Thus the "righteous-

ness" in which God will judge the world is no longer tied to all the par-

ticulars of the Torah.40 Vv. 10-11, which look back to 1:16-17, make it

explicit that "glory, honor, and peace" are for "everyone who does good, the

Jew first and also the Greek." In the words of Peter, "Truly I perceive that

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does

what is right [e]rgazo<menoj dikaiosu<nhn] is acceptable to him" (Acts

10:34-35).

(c) Vv. 12-16 develop the proposition that the possession of the law is in

itself no guarantee against wrath in the day of judgment; what is required

is obedience to the law, which Romans as a whole clarifies to be "the

obedience of faith." Thus Gentiles, who possess on their hearts the func-

tional equivalent of the law written on tables of stone, are qualitatively in

the same position as Israel. Once more, Paul levels humanity by means of

creation ideas, in this instance the law of creation inscribed on Adam's heart.

 

35 Cambier, "Jugement," 189.

36 As Cambier shows ("Jugement," 188), the twofold center of interest, works and truth, is

established at the outset of chap. 2 in vv. 1 and 2 and then continued into vv. 6-16: works (2:6,

11) correspond to the judgment of the inner person (vv. 9-16).

37 Israel's boasting is interpreted as her pride in covenant privileges (Rom 9:4-5), in agree-

ment with Dunn, "New Perspective," 95-122; id., "Works," 523-42; id., Romans 1.1xx-lxxi,

110-11; Räisänen, Paul, 170, 177; id., "Paul's Conversion and the Development of his View of

the Law," NTS 33 (1987) 410-12, and contra Westerholm, Law, 169-73.

38 See C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the

Romans (ICC; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: T. & T'. Clark, 1975-79) 1.146; Snodgrass, "Justification,"

90 n. 44.

39 "Justification," 77. See his assemblage of passages on p. 90 n. 38.

40 According to 2:12-16, the law by which the Gentiles will be judged is the functional

equivalent of the law written on stone; but even here the focus is on the law of God which

transcends Sinai and finds its origin in creation. It is this law that the Gentiles do "by nature"

(fu<sei), i.e., as created in the image of God.


THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                             55

 

(d) Rom 2:17-3:8 approach the subject along the lines of a synagogue

debate. Drawing upon the perspective established in 2:1-3, 2:17-24 judge

the Jew guilty of the very things of which he accuses others. We find here

the reversal of those passages in Jewish literature which tie morality to

Israel's segregation from the nations.41 Then vv. 25-29 move from the realm

of "morals" into that of the "boundary markers"42 of Israel, specifically

circumcision.43 The argument is to similar effect as in vv. 12-16, viz., cir-

cumcision in itself is no preventive against the judgment of God, because

the uncircumcised man who keeps the law will be regarded as circumcised.

In addition, for the first time in Romans Paul speaks of the "true Jew" as

one who is identified by means of internal not external realities. Antici-

pating 7:6, where the antithesis of "Spirit" and "letter" likewise comes to

the fore, 2:29 places the genuine Jew within the realm of the Spirit, i.e., the

era of the Spirit's work in the eschaton. In other words, from now on

Jewishness is defined in relation to the new creation and effectively to Christ,

the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17).

Rom 3:1-8 carry the dialogue with Israel to a final step. Paul here qual-

ifies that being Jewish does indeed have advantages, particularly as regards

being entrusted with the "oracles of God" (cf. Sir 1:15; Abot 1:1). Yet this

is so only if Israel is faithful, which Paul denies, at least in the case of "some"

(v. 3). This rejection of Israel's claim to faithfulness makes sense in light of

the charge of idolatry in 2:22, i.e., his compatriots have not been loyal to

the only God after all, inasmuch as they have allowed the Torah to usurp

the place reserved for his Son.44 When judged by the criterion of fidelity to

the creator (kata> a]lh<qeian, 2:2), the Jew is as guilty as the Gentile.

Stephen's anti-temple polemic (esp. Acts 7:39-53)45 is to the same effect:

because the temple has become a virtual idol to them, his executioners, who

received the law, have not kept it.

 

41 E.g., Ep. Arist. 139-43;,Josephus, Ag. Ap. 2.169-75; Philo, Mos. 1.278; Jub. 22:16;

Pss. Sol. 17:28; 3 Macc 3:4. The outlook articulated so clearly by these individual passages is char-

acteristic of entire documents, such as Judith, the Additions to Esther, and the Qumran

corpus.

42 Dunn's phrase (from the articles "New Perspective" and "Works," as cited above). More

recently A. J. Saldarini has spoken of the "boundary mechanisms" for maintaining the in-

tegrity of God's people (Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society [Wilmington:

Glazier, 1988] 136).

43 The importance of circumcision can hardly be underestimated. From M. Stern's Greek

and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism (3 vols.; Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and

Humanities, 1976-83) it is evident that although other ancient peoples practiced circumcision,

the Jews were preeminently "the circumcised." To illustrate, the author of Jubilees (15:25,

28-29) identified circumcision with the sign of the Mosaic covenant, which was actually the

Sabbath (Exod 31:12). O. Betz, "Bescheidung," TRE 5.718-19, shows how some later authors

equated circumcision with law-obedience, even to the extent of identifying "the blood of the

covenant" (Exod 24:8) with "the blood of circumcision."

44 Gal 4:3, 8-11 draw a parallel between the Galatians' former bondage to idols and their

desire to embrace the bondage of the Mosaic law.

45 See J. D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (London: SCM, 1977) 271.



56                        WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

This survey of 1:1-3:8 provides the necessary context and framework of

interpretation for the justification of the doers in 2:13 and the bearing which

the obedience of faith has on that declaration. Of the essence of under-

standing the relation of faith and works in Paul is a grasp of the direction

in which his thought moves as he pens the words of Rom 2:13 (and like

statements elsewhere). The upshot is that the actual subject matter of this

lengthy section of the letter is Paul's response to the inbred nationalism of

his Jewish contemporaries, the gist of which is his denial that Israel in fact

occupies the uniquely favored position imagined by her. Hence the men-

tality against which he argues is not that of a "legalistic" works-righteousness

method of salvation, but one which would confine (eschatological) salvation

to the members of a specific group—Israel. Because such is the real issue

under debate, we are prevented from prejudging that there was in his mind

a necessary contradiction between good works in this life and justification

in final judgment. In other words, an attempt on Paul's part to circumvent

a "legalistic" understanding of justification is simply out of accord with the

aim pursued by him.

 

  II. The justification of the Doers of the Law: Rom 2:13

 

Because Rom 2:13 must be seen as part of an integral whole, it will be

necessary to say something in more detail about the verses immediately

preceding and following.46

The entrée into v. 13 is provided by vv. 6-12, which state the principle of

judgment by works; this forms Paul's rebuttal to the presumptuous person

who judges others (vv. 1-5). In other words, this a@nqrwpoj will not escape

condemnation precisely because God is an impartial judge whose verdict is

kata> a]lh<qeian (v. 2); he will render to every man according to his deeds

(v. 6). With Ps 62:12 and Prov 24:12 in mind, Paul pens what in and of itself

was a perfectly acceptable dictum to first-century Judaism. Indeed, the

notion of vindication for the faithful covenant-keepers is one of the com-

monplaces of Jewish thought (e.g., 2 Macc 7:9; 4 Macc 17:11-12; Tob

4:9-11; Pss. Sol. 9:3-5). The Jew would have understood his justification in

terms of his faithful practice of the full range of covenant obligations,47

including sacrifice for sins committed. Correspondingly the nations are to

be condemned because of their rejection of these standards.

That Paul has something else in mind, however, is indicated by the

creation phraseology of v. 7: toi?j . . . u[pomonh>n e@rgou a]gaqou? do<can

kai> timh>n kai> a]fqarsi<an zhtou?sin [a]podw<sei] zwh>n ai]w<nion. That is to

say, consonant with 1:18-3:20, the standard of judgment is one which tran-

scends the Sinai covenant and roots the vindication of the individual in

matters which pertain to humanity as such, not simply Jewish humanity.

 

46 See Dunn's analysis, Romans 1.76-77, 89.

47 Cf. ibid. 1.85.



       THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                       57

 

(a) The combination of "glory" and "honor" recalls Ps 8:5's (LXX v. 6)

depiction of man's (Adam's) creation (cf. Job 40:10). "Glory" stands by

itself in Rom 1:23 and 3:23: in both cases it designates the obverse of the

quest delineated in 2:7. In the former, man outside of Christ has rejected

the creation glory of Yahweh for the sake of idols, while in the latter he has

failed to measure up to his capacity as God's image (glory).48

(b) "Immortality" (a]fqarsi<a) in the LXX occurs only in Wisdom and

4 Maccabees. Wis 2:23 is particularly relevant: "God created man for

immortality [e]f ] a]fqarsi<%], and made him the image of his own eternity."

This not only gives voice to the author's conception of man's reason for

existence, it places in parallel the ideas of immortality and image: man is

God's creation image by virtue of his capacity for endless life. 4 Macc 17:12,

especially striking in view of Paul's present argument, makes "the prize for

victory" of the Jewish martyrs "immortality in long-lasting life." If Paul in

fact has such a conception in mind, his appeal to immortality represents a

reversal of the mentality of 4 Maccabees as a whole, which makes absti-

nence from pork of the essence of fidelity to God and thus a precondition

of a]fqarsi<a (see especially 5:14-38). In the same vein, according to 2

Macc 6:18-20; 7:1, one ought to be willing to die rather than partake of

swine's flesh. Particularly striking for us is the connection of such refusal

and the prospect of resurrection (eternal life) in 2 Maccabees 7 as a whole.

(c) "Life" as a creation motif is exhibited by the prominence given the

idea in the first two chapters of Genesis. Outside the NT the exact phrase

"eternal life" occurs only in Dan 12:2; 2 Macc 7:9; 4 Macc 15:3, where it is

tantamount to resurrection, and in 1QS 4.7, where everlasting life (Hcn yyH) is

clearly in view. The phrase features prominently in Paul's delineation of the

work of Christ and its effects in Rom 5:12-6:23. "Eternal life" then is equiv-

alent to the life of the age to come, i.e., resurrection and "immortality," and

in effect a completion of the program commenced and yet interrupted with

Adam.49 Noteworthy is the phrase "the justification of life" (dikai<wsin

zwh?j) in 5:18. This is justification as it inevitably results in life and from

which it is inseparable.

(d) If we bring v. 10 into view, another creation term emerges, viz.,

"Peace." In biblical thinking "peace" is a virtual synonym of "rest," i.e., the

sabbath rest held forth to man upon the completion of his mandate to

subdue the earth,50 but in the course of biblical history undergoes a se-

mantic shift and becomes synonymous with the "salvation" (new creation)

procured by Christ.51 Significantly, Paul's statement in Eph 2:15-17, lo-

 

48 See further ibid. 1.167-68.

49 Cf. the comments of Dunn, Christology, 110-11.

50 See, e.g., A. G. Hebert, The Throne of David: A Study of the Fulfilment of the

Old Testament in Jesus Christ and His Church (London: Faber, 1941) 159-63.

51 A. T. Lincoln, "Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New Testament," in From Sabbath

to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (ed. D. A. Carson;

Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 197-220.



58                        WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

cated in a context replete with creation associations, that Christ has made

and then preached peace serves to further the proposition that Jew/Gentile

distinctions have now been abolished by the blood of the cross.

It is in light of these observations that the adverbial phrase kaq ] u[po-

monh>n e@rgou a]gaqou? (Rom 2:7) is to be given its obvious and straightfor-

ward meaning: "patient persistence in doing what is recognized to be

good."52 This speaks of the modality of man's quest to be all that he was

intended to be in the original design of the creation. That human activity

is envisaged is confirmed by the synonymous expressions "obeying the truth"

(v. 8) and "doing good" (v. 10), as well as by the antitheses "disobeying the

truth," "obeying wickedness" (v. 8), and "doing evil" (v. 9). Moreover, as

Dunn further comments, the verb zhte<w reinforces u[pomonh<: "what is in

mind is a sustained and deliberate application (present participle), rather

than a casual or spasmodic pursuit of the goal."53 If we may state one of our

major conclusions beforehand, it is just u[pomonh<, endurance in testing, that

defines in large measure what is intended by "the obedience of faith" which

issues in eschatological justification.

The effect of this evocation of the creation goal of man's existence is that

"God shows no partiality" (v. 11),54 which in turn opens up the way into the  

paragraph of vv. 12-16, where Paul's intentions surface even more clearly.

The terms used by him to bifurcate the human race (from the Jewish point

of view) are significant. V. 12 distinguishes between those who have sinned

a]no<mwj and those who have sinned e]n no<m&. Thereafter no<moj becomes the

fulcrum of the discussion of final judgment (vv. 13-15). One's relation to the

law, in other words, is reflective of the normal Jewish distinction between

the people of God and outsiders: the Torah (in its unmodified form) was to

be the standard of the great assize, and according to it one would be

vindicated or condemned. Thus to be e]n no<m&, i.e., Jewish,55 was to be

safe,56 and to be a]no<mwj (mh> e@xontej no<mon, v. 14), i.e., Gentile, was to be

lost. Once again, Paul speaks formally in terms acceptable to Jewish ears,

but he turns them to Israel's disadvantage. "His real point . . . is that

judgment will not depend on whether the individual starts from within the

 

52 Dunn, Romans 1.86. We shall see in our final study that the "good work" of 2:7 relates to

the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Ultimately the "good work" is alle-

giance to God the creator and a refusal to be seduced by Satan's alternate explanation of the

creator/creature relationship (tantamount to idolatry). Cf. Rom 16:19b.

53 Ibid.

54 On proswpolhmyi<a, see ibid. 1.89.

55 On e]n no<m& and similar phrases, see further Dunn's comments, "Works," 532-35. Ac-

cording to Dunn's assessment, "Paul is referring to the typical Jewish self-understanding of the

people of God as circumcised and defined by the law, as characterized by practice of the law's

distinctive features" (p. 535).

55 As Sanders more than once affirms, "all Israelites have a share in the world to come unless

they renounce it by transgression [i.e., apostasy]" (Paul, 147, citing m. San. 10.1).



                          THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                       59

 

people of the law or from outside. Both will be judged; sin in both cases will

be condemned."57

The escalating argument of 2:6-3:8 reaches a climax when 2:13 enters

the picture as an explanation of why remaining within the perimeters of the

law is no insurance against the eschatological wrath of God. That is to say,

the Torah—with its boundary markers of Jewish identity—as a mere pos-

session is not enough, "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous

before God, but the doers of the law will be justified." Paul, in other words,

grounds "immunity from the condemnation of the last day"58 in one's per-

formance of the law, not in pride of its ownership (as illustrated by Bar

4:3-4).

Not surprisingly by this time, Paul draws on conceptions which in them-

selves were familiar to his contemporaries. The combination of "hearing"

and "doing," as Dunn notes, was characteristic of Judaism. Indeed, as

Wilckens59 points out, the shema of Deut 6:4—"Hear, 0 Israel"—has doing

in view. However, what would have sounded odd was Paul's contrast of the

two here, hearing versus doing, because, in point of fact, the respective

descriptions "hearers of the law" and "righteous" were complementary and

overlapped in large measure.60 This leads us to infer that in driving a wedge

between these interdependent components of Jewish self-definition, Paul

has in mind a different kind of "doing the law," a doing,61 as we shall see,

commensurate with "the obedience of faith."

Interestingly, the first occurrence of dikaio<w in the letter is here in 2:13,

where it has reference to the future justification (dikaiwqh<sontai) of oi[

poihtai> tou? no<mou. Of course, beginning with 3:21 Paul will explain that

the ultimate vindication of the people of God has been secured by the

"redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (3:24). Nevertheless the future tense,

 

 

57 Dunn, Romans 1.96. "What one finds in Romans 2 is essentially a Jewish view of

judgment, but one that is radicalized and applied to both Jew and Gentile" (Snodgrass,

"Justification," 78). Snodgrass adds that Jewish texts normally accord mercy to Israel while

condemning Gentiles according to their works. As for Jewish self-assessment: "The degree

to which the Jews were automatically accorded mercy or were also judged according to

works differs in the various writings and often depended on how much an author was pleased

or displeased with his Jewish contemporaries" (ibid).

58 Vos, "Spirit," 93.

59 Wilckens, Römer 1.132.

60 Dunn, Romans 1.97. He cites Deut 4:1, 5-6, 13-14; 30:11-14; 1 Macc 2:67; 13:48; Sib Or

3:70; Philo, Cong. 70; Praem. 79; Josephus, Ant. 5.107, 132; 20.44. Cf. his comments on 1:17

and 10:5. Much of my Obedience is devoted to arguing that in the pre-Christian materials hearing

and doing (i.e., faith and obedience) are tantamount to each other. Thus a first-century Jew,

offered the option of hearing or doing, would have rejected it as a false alternative. Cf. Dunn,

Romans 2.613; id., "Works," 535; id., "New Perspective," 112; H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology

 of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 202;

M. Buber, Two Types of Faith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951) 56; F. Mußner, Der

Galaterbrief (HTKNT; Freiburg: Herder, 1981) 170.

61 Dunn, Romans 1.132.



60                    WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

appearing in this setting of last judgment, serves to underscore that justi-

fication properly speaking is yet to be. It is here that Vos' observation, cited

above, is particularly relevant. That a certain quality of life is envisaged is

confirmed by the "parallelismus membrorum" of 2:13a, b; that is, those who

will be justified are the di<kaioi para> qe&?. The latter phrase is steeped in

the OT/Jewish idea of conformity to the covenant, as confirmed by ta> tou?

no<mou and to> e@rgon tou? no<mou (2:14, 15) to which the consciences of the

Gentiles bear witness.62

Attempts have been made to deny that the perspective of Rom 2:13 is

Paul's.63 Ziesler, for example, takes it to be the expression of the Jewish

viewpoint, "used to demonstrate to the Jews that their traditional way of

justification is really no way, because while possessing and hearing the law,

they do not fulfil it."64 Along similar lines are those interpretations which

seek effectively to make the verse hypothetical, i.e., Paul formulates the

principle of justification according to strict justice for the purpose of dem-

onstrating that no one can be justified by the law (assuming the factor of

sin).65

However, such interpretations falter because there is nothing in Paul's

language to suggest either that the viewpoint represented is someone else's

exclusively or that he is speaking in hypothetical terms. His pronouncement

about future justification by "doing good" is as realistic as his declaration

of God's wrath upon the one who "does evil"; on this he and his Jewish

interlocutor are in agreement. Indeed, it is precisely in terms of the con-

tinuity between Paul and Judaism at this point that the genius of his ar-

 

 

62 Rom 2:14-16 is problematic for many interpreters of Paul; Cranfield (Romans 1.155-16)

and Räisänen (Paul, 103-6) give the different views. Sanders (Law, 123-24) sees these verses,

when compared with 1:18-32, as forming the "principal incongruity" of Romans 1 and 2. Yet

there is no basis here for the justification of man outside of Christ. The ga<r of 2:14 is the last

in a sequence of four ga<r-clauses (vv. 11-14), whose function is to deny Jewish superiority

predicated on the possession of the law; all of them relate to the proposition of vv. 9-10 that

judgment and reward respectively are allocated in terms of obedience, not national privileges.

Gentiles can "do" as well as Israel; and what they do is no less than the law inscribed for Israel

on the tables of stone. In themselves, however, vv. 14-16 do not affirm that Gentiles or Jews

can be justified by (their own) works: they are simply the last link in a chain of reasoning that

Jews qua Jews are no better off than pagans qua pagans. If anything—given the backdrop of

1:18-32—the verses teach that Jew and Gentile are equally exposed to the wrath of God and

both must seek "the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (3:24). To say that Gentiles at times

perform the requirements of the law (o!tan plus the subjunctive) is not to attribute to them "the

obedience of faith" requisite for justification in final judgment: man outside of Christ cannot be

obedient.

63 The various approaches have been categorized by Snodgrass, "Justification," 73-74;

Sanders, Law; 125-26; Raisanen, Paul, 103-6.

64 Ziesler, Righteousness, 189.

65 E.g., C. Hodge, A Commentary on Romans (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975) 53-54; R.

Haldane, Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (London: Banner of Truth, 1960) 88-90; J.

Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; 2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-65)

1.71-72.



                     THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                                61

 

gument in Romans 2 emerges. In other words, because the Judaism of

Paul's day knew of a future vindication based on present fidelity to the

covenant, Paul's concern is seen to be that of calling into question the

prevailing understanding of who "the righteous" are and the grounds on

which they may expect to be justified.

 

The difference [between Paul and Judaism] is that the dominant strands in the

Judaism of Paul's time started from the presupposition of a favored status before

God by virtue of membership of the covenant people, which could be charac-

terized by the very link between "hearing the law" and "the righteous" which

Paul here puts in question. Like his fellow Jews and the whole prophetic tradition,

Paul is ready to insist that a doing of the law is necessary for final acquittal before

God; but that doing is neither synonymous with nor dependent upon maintaining

a loyal membership of the covenant people.66

 

This statement of the matter leads us to draw both a negative and a

positive conclusion. Negatively, since Paul endeavors to undermine a na-

tionalistic/exclusivistic understanding of the judgment, his purpose is not

to deny the place of works (behavior) as such in the scheme of ultimate

justification. Wilckens is quite correct that there is nothing in Paul's the-

ology which is inimical to works.67 Positively, as intimated above, we are

informed that the specific character of "doing" present in Paul's mind is in

one important respect other than that assumed by his Jewish counterparts.

It is to this we now turn.

 

 III. The Doing of the Law as the Obedience of Faith

 

Foundational to an understanding of faith's obedience in Paul is a his-

torically accurate picture of the same theology in Judaism. R. N. Longe-

necker is justified in his disapproval of those Christian scholars who have

followed E. Schurer's assessment of Judaism as a "fearful burden which a

spurious legalism had laid upon the shoulders of the people";68 and we

agree with writers from G. F. Moore onward that ancient Judaism has not

been given the kind of fair reading it should have received by NT scholars.

Hand in hand with the "legalistic" conception of Judaism has gone the

notion that the rank and file of the Jewish people had no concern with heart

purity and internal religion. Bultmann, for example, contended that obe-

dience for the Jew was "formal" rather than "radical," in that "the law

failed to claim the allegiance of the whole man."69

 

66 Dunn, Romans 1.98.

67 Wilckens, Römer 1.145.

      68 Longenecker, Paul, 65. Thyen, for example, applies H. Braun's assessment of the Psalms

of Solomon to the whole of pre-Christian Judaism (see H. Thyen, Studien turn Sündenvergebung

im Neuen Testament and seinen alttestamentlichen and jüdischen Voraussetzungen [FRLANT 96;

Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970] 76-77).

69 Primitive Christianity in Its Contemporary Setting (London: Thames & Hudson, 1956) 68.

 


62        WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

We cannot here enter fully into the issue. Suffice it to say that the sources

can be read otherwise so as to suggest that the conception of faith's obe-

dience in the Judaism antecedent to and contemporary with Paul was not

dissimilar to his own. Most pointedly, one cannot read such passages as 2

Macc 1:3; Sus 35, 56; Pss. Sol. 1:3, 7; 2:14-15; 3:7-8, 12; 4:5, 8; 8:9 without

some recognition of the internal factor in Jewish religion. As for the later

tannaitic literature, Longenecker's treatment of "The Piety of Hebraic Ju-

daism" 70 is a model of balanced scholarship. He demonstrates, in the words

of I. Abrahams, that there were both "weeds" and "flowers" in the garden

of Judaism, and that the elements of nomism and spirituality must be kept

in proper proportion to one other.71 On the one side, an obedience rooted

in faith is in evidence; on the other, the "weeds" of Judaism were its ten-

dency toward "externalism," of which Buber, among other Jewish writers,

was aware.72

However, "externalism" has to be defined. It is here that Longenecker

recognizes: "the essential tension of predestruction Hebraic Judaism .. .

was not primarily that of legalism versus love, or externalism versus in-

wardness, but fundamentally that of promise and fulfillment."73 In other

words, "externalism" is not to be conceived of as a disregard of inward

motivation or internal purity, but as an undue emphasis on those factors

which marked out Israel as a distinct society.

 

Such an understanding of the covenant and of the law inevitably puts too much

weight on physical and national factors, on outward and visible enactments, and

gives too little weight to the Spirit, to faith and love from the heart. Such an

understanding of the people of God inevitably results in a false set of priorities.

On such an understanding of the law, fulfilment of the law will inevitably be

judged in terms of these priorities.74

 

Paul's real polemic then is to be taken as a protest against a misplaced

accent on the boundary markers. This very adequately accounts for pas-

sages such as Romans 2 and Paul's insistence elsewhere in Romans that

believers have become obedient "from the heart" (6:17) and that the law is

 

70 Longenecker, Paul, 65-85.

71 Ibid., 82-83. Sanders' Paul has shown repeatedly how rabbinic authors (especially in

their prayers) long for internal purity and personal intercourse with God. Likewise the Qum-

ran hymns exhibit this clearly, not surprisingly in light of O. Betz's findings that in the Scrolls

the righteousness of God takes absolute priority over human activity ("Rechtfertigung in

Qumran," in Rechtfertigung. Festschrift für Ernst Käsemann zum 70. Geburtstag [eds.

J. Friedrich et al.; Tübingen: Mohr, 1976] 34). As Betz concludes, the issue at Qumran (and

I would say in all the pre-Christian texts) is not merit but a consciousness of Israel's election

stemming from membership in the community of salvation (p. 36).

72 Buber, Two Types of Faith, 58-59. Cf. R. Banks, Jesus and the Law in the Synoptic

 Tradition (SNTSMS 28; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975) 180.

73 Longenecker, Paul, 84.

74 Dunn, "Works," 534. Cf. id., Romans 2.582-83, 593.



        THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                         63

 

fulfilled "in" them (8:4), though, as we have said, the external factor in

Judaism is not to be absolutized.

It is here that "the obedience of faith" enters the picture; its significance

may be considered under three headings: (1) the hearing of faith, (2) the

primacy of the love command, and (3) perseverance.

 

 

1. The Hearing of Faith

 

When Paul wished to impress upon his Galatian converts the irreducible

minimum of his gospel as opposed to that of his adversaries, he asked them

if they received the Spirit e]c e@rgwn no<mou  or e]c a]koh?j pi<stewj (Gal 3:2).

As noted in the first article, hearing and faith in OT and later Jewish

thinking are virtually synonymous: to hear rightly is to obey.75 Conse-

quently "the obedience of faith" and "the hearing of faith" depict the same

activity, i.e., believing response to the gospel. In fact, the resemblance of the

two phrases would be even clearer were we to translate the latter as "the

response of faith."76 Nevertheless Paul here juxtaposes "the hearing of faith"

(Christianity) and "works of the law" (Judaism/Judaistic Christianity). But

in what sense can this be meaningful, given the common heritage of both?

The answer is bound up with an earlier observation, viz., that in Rom 2:13

Paul, in a very un-Jewish manner, pits "hearing" against "doing" for the

purpose of remonstrating with Israel that her particular hearing and doing are

unacceptable to God in final judgment. Similarly, in context, Gal 3:2 is

sufficiently clear that the hearing of faith is directed toward the gospel (=

"the faith," 3:25), as opposed to the "other gospel" (= "works of the law,"

1:6, 8) of the circumcision party. What one finds in this more or less seminal

form in Gal 3:2 is expounded at greater length in Rom 10:14-21.

The lead-in to 10:14-21 is 9:30-10:13: Israel has preferred to maintain

her own righteousness, i.e., a righteousness peculiar to herself (= national

righteousness) as defined by the Sinai covenant (th>n i]di<an [dikaiosu<nhn]

zhtou?ntej sth?sai, 10:3),77 instead of submitting to the righteousness of

God in Christ, who is the te<loj of the law. For this reason Israel is ashamed

to confess Christ as Lord (10:9-13). It is in particular Israel's failure to

confess Christ which gives rise to the assertions of 10:14-21 that Israel's

nonconfession is the result of her nonhearing of the gospel. To be sure, the

nation has heard in one sense: preachers have been sent (vv. 14-17), and the

word has gone forth to "the ends of the earth" (v. 18). In the most mean-

ingful sense, however, God continues to hold out his hands to "a disobedient

[= nonlistening] and contrary people" (v. 21).

 

 

75 F. W. Young, "Obedience," IDB 3.580; Käsemann, "Righteousness," 177.

76 Dunn, Romans 1.17.

77 Dunn, Romans 2.587-88; id., "Works," 530; Sanders, Law, 38; G. Howard, "Christ the

End of the Law: The Meaning of Romans 10.4," JBL 88 (1969) 336.



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            Israel then has heard--but she has not heard. Because she has not heard

with "the hearing of faith," i.e., faith directed toward the gospel, she is

incapable of "the obedience of faith," which grows out of the gospel. Be-

cause "faith comes from hearing" the word of God, i.e., the gospel (10:17),

Israel's "doing" is unacceptable because it is not e]k pi<stewj in the specific-

ally Christian sense. Since Israel's faith is not in Christ, it must be con-

demned as insufficient, because it is only in Christ that one becomes the

righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21); God's righteousness (Rom 10:3) is avail-

able exclusively in Christ. Because, in the final analysis, the doing in ques-

tion is the extension of Christ's doing, the starting point must be Christ.

Israel's "doing" is unacceptable because her "hearing" is defective; it is, as

a result, content with performance on the nationalistic level. Starting from

the eternity of the law,78 the Jewish position was that the Torah was suf-

ficient in and of itself to produce obedience. Yet the force of Paul's polemic

is that Israel has misjudged the intention of the law, i.e., she has not seen

it as a paidagwgo>j ei]j Xristo<n (Gal 3:24)79 and has consequently settled

for an obedience which fails to measure up to the demands of the gospel.

This brings us to consider both the primacy of the love command and

perseverance in Paul.

 

2. The Primacy of the Love Command 80

Galatians is the most intense of Paul's controversial letters, and because

of its decidedly polemical character, it pinpoints concisely the bone of

contention between the apostle and his opponents. In a sense, it is to be read

backwards as well as forwards, inasmuch as the practical consequences of

the Judaizers' position is brought to the fore in the paraenesis of chaps. 5

and 6.81

 

78 E.g., Sir 24:9, 33; Bar 4:1; Wis 18:4; T. Naph. 3:1-2. The same is at least implicit

throughout Jubilees with its doctrine of the preexistence of the law on heavenly tablets. See

Banks, Law, 50-64, 67-85; id., "The Eschatological Role of Law in Pre- and Post-Christian

Jewish Thought," in Reconciliation and Hope: New Testament Essays on Atonement and

Eschatology presented to L. L. Morris on His 60th Birthday (ed. R. Banks; Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1974) .175-77; W. D. Davies, Torah in the Messianic Age and/or the Age to

Come (Philadelphia: SBL, 1952) .84.

79 See the studies of D. J. Lull, "‘The Law was our Pedagogue’: A Study in Galatians 3.19-25,"

JBL 105 (1986) 481-98; T. D. Gordon, "A Note on paidagwgo<j in Galatians 3.24-25,"

NTS 35 (1989) 150-54.

80 The love theme in Paul has been treated many times, e.g., C. Spicq, Agapé dans le Nouveau

 Testament: Analyse des Textes (Ebib; 3 vols.; Paris: Gabalda, 1958-59) 1.208-314; 2.9-305; H.

N. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 293-301; V.

P. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968) 181-206; id., The Love

Command in the New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972) 91-131; W. Schrage, The Ethics

of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) 211-17; J. Piper, "Love Your Enemies":

Jesus' Love Command in the Synoptic Gospels and the Early Christian Paraenesis

(SNTSMS 38; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979) 102-19.

81 The approach of J. M. G. Barclay's recent volume, Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul's

Ethics in Galatians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988).



                          THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                    65

 

One of the conspicuous themes of this section of the epistle is Paul's

depiction of Christianity as a religion of love. According to Paul's portrait,

the false teachers in Galatia "bite and devour one another" (5:15); in spite

of their claims, they do not abide by "all things written in the book of the

law" because they have neglected the principal part—love. Over against

them, "the whole law" for the believer "is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall

love your neighbor as yourself’ (5:14). For the Judaizers circumcision was

the acid test of one's loyalty to the God of Israel. However, for the Christian

circumcision now counts for nothing: what matters in the new creation is

faith working through love (5:6; cf. 6:15) and serving one another through love

(5:13). For this reason love heads the list of the fruit of the Spirit (5:20). If

one walks by the Spirit (5:25), instead of being conceited and provoking

others (5:26), one will bear the brother's burden and so fulfill the law of

Christ (6:1-2). Even this sketch of the love motif in Galatians informs us

that the theology of the new creation was important to Paul because the

lovelessness of the Judaizers was the product of their exclusivistic theology.

The same perspective is evident in Romans, particularly in chaps. 12-15.

Having laid the salvation-historical basis for the mutual reception of Jew

and Gentile in chaps. 1-11, Paul comes in the final chapters to speak

directly of the social ramifications of believers in one church. Therefore the

practical directives of these chapters bring to the fore the very genius of the

Christian church as it consists of peoples of divergent backgrounds insep-

arably joined in the one body of Christ. In the words of H. Strohl:

 

They are the charter of the new humanity. They indicate the relations which love

has created among the different members of the body of Christ. Everywhere the

dominant idea is that the [individual] man forms part of a whole; he never lives

alone in the world, but is joined by the lines of a close solidarity to,others with

whom he shares in responsibilities and blessings.82

 

Paul speaks explicitly of love in 13:8-10. Instead of being overcome with

evil (i.e., the evil of seeking vengeance, 12:21), the Christian is to leave the

debt of love outstanding, thus fulfilling the law. (That such a reminder was

necessary for the Romans becomes evident in chaps. 14-15.)  V. 8a is written

directly in view of vv. 6-7. In other words, although there are debts which

are never to be left outstanding, there is one debt which is always to be left

outstanding—the debt of love: we are always to owe our brethren this debt

which can never be fully paid. But almost paradoxically, v. 8b explains that

the unpaid debt of love is the fulfillent of the law: what from one point of

view is an outstanding debt is, from another, a full payment to the law. Note

how 8b is answered by 10b: the two in combination give us the essence of

this phase of Paul's paraenesis. We are reminded again (from Gal 5:6,

14-15, 20, 22; 6:1-2) that love characterizes the community of the new

 

0 Quoted by A. Feuillet, "Le plan salvifique de Dieu d'après l'Épître aux Romains," RB

57 (1950) 508.



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creation83 and is the outgrowth of the obedience of faith, which alone

satisfies the demands of the law. Both interesting and significant is the fact

that the "works of the flesh" in Gal 5:19-21 are mainly attitudes and ac-

tivities which are disruptive of the life of love and fellowship. As such, they

find an important point of contact with Rom 2:8; 16:17: the e]riqei<a and

dixostasi<ai characteristic of those who "disobey the truth" represent a

return to chaos, a reversal of God's creation plan for his people.

It is in contrast to Paul's characterization of the new covenant as a

community of love that we are to understand one of the NT's most funda-

mental complaints against then contemporary Judaism. More adequately

to understand the issue at stake, it is necessary to take into account the

"theology of zeal" which originated in the Hasmonean period. In lieu of a

full discussion of the matter, we simply note that the Maccabean "zealots,"

the forerunners of the first-century group bearing the actual name, are

consistently marked out as defenders of the Jewish way of life as embodied

in the Torah. They were ready not only to die for the purity of the covenant

but to kill for it as well—and they did just that.84 Philo (Spec. Laws 2.253)

tells us the zhlwtai> no<mou were merciless to any who would subvert the

ancestral ways, and 1QS 9.22 characterizes the righteous man as one who

is "to bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute.”85 (Cf. Jose-

 

 

83 Note particularly Furnish's treatment of love and the new creation, Love Command, 91-95.

"Paul's preaching of love does not just stand alongside his emphasis on justification by faith

but is vitally related to it. To believe in Christ means to belong to him, and to belong to him

means to share in his death and in the power of his resurrection. Thereby one's whole life is

radically reoriented from sin to righteousness as he is freed from bondage to himself and placed

under the truly liberating dominion of God's grace" (p. 92).

84 See 1 Macc 2:23-28, along with 1 Macc 2:54; 4 Macc 18:12; Sir 45:23-24; 1QS 4.4; 9.23;

1QH 14.14; T Ash. 4.5. "Zeal for the law" recurs in vv. 27, 50, 58 of 1 Macc 2. Dunn rightly

characterizes the "zealots" of the ilk of Mattathias as "heroes of the faith who had been willing

to use the sword to defend and maintain Israel's distinctiveness as God's covenant people"

("’Righteousness from the Law’ and ‘Righteousness from Faith’: Paul's Interpretation of

Scripture in Romans 10:1-10," in Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament:

Essays in Honor of E. Earle Ellis for His 60th Birthday [eds. G. F. Hawthorne and

O. Betz; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987] 221). See further the discussions of W F.

Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956)

60f.; id., "Zealot," IDB 4.937; M. Hengel, The Zealots (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989) 146-228.

Commenting on the first-century scene, Hengel says that "In every case of serious threat to

Israel's sacred blessings, either from within Israel or from outside, the use of violence

became a sacred duty" (ibid., 225).

85 Regarding the Pharisees, E. Bickerman comments that "Early Pharisaism was a bellig-

erent movement that knew how to hate" (From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees:

Foundations of Post-Biblical Judaism [New York: Schocken, 1962] 103). Cf. J.

Neusner, From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism (Englewood Cliffs,

NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973) 51-52. Of many examples which could be cited from intertestamental

literature, hatred toward the Gentiles in particular surfaces in Jdt 16:17 and throughout the LXX's

additions to Esther. Along these lines, P. Benoit, "Qumran and the New Testament," in Paul and

the Dead Sea Scrolls (eds. J. Murphy-O'Connor and J. H. Charlesworth; New York:

Crossroad, 1990) 13, distinguishes Jesus and the Dead Sea community precisely in terms of the

former's love of sinners. In the



THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                                 67

 

phus, Ag. Ap. 2.37 §§271-72; 2.41 §292.) Paul himself was once such a

"zealot" (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6).86 To those "zealous for the law" Christi-

anity appeared to subvert loyalty to Judaism and was consequently rejected

by the mass of first-century Jews. "That it was misunderstood from the

Jewish side at that time as a new sect urging apostasy from the law and

assimilation is indirectly the last and most grievous legacy of those Jewish

renegades who, between 175 and 164 BC, attempted to do away with the law

and ‘make a covenant with the people round about’."87

It is in opposition to such zeal for the law, and its by-product of hatred

for anyone not belonging to Israel (or even specific groups within Israel),

that the NT sets forth love not only as the ideal of the new creation but the

actual fulfillment of the law. Hence if we ask what is the obedience of faith

that results in eschatological justification, the answer is love, which fulfills

the law. As Dunn aptly remarks (on Rom 9:32), "The obedience God looked

for was the obedience of faith, obedience from the heart (6:17), that is, from

a commitment and a lifestyle which penetrate far below matters of race and

ritual and which could be sustained and maintained independently of ei-

ther."88

 

3. Perseverance

 

Without entering into the rich complex of Paul's teaching on persever-

ance, we recall that the goal of glory, honor, peace, and eternal life is to be

attained kaq ] u[pomonh>n e@rgou a]gaqou? (2:7). The design of Adam's testing

was that he would persevere in obedience until he would enter an escha-

tological state commensurate with the assumption of what Paul calls else-

where the "spiritual body" (1 Cor 15:44). Adam failed the test and became

the,first apostate from the living God; but it is the creation program, com-

menced in the first man, which is still operative for all his descendants,

notwithstanding the disadvantages which Adam has passed on to his pos-

terity (Rom 5:12-18). Hence in Paul the renewal of the creation mandate

is embodied in the obedience of faith, i.e., the work of endurance consequent upon

entrance into Christ. Of particular note is Rom 5:1-5, and especially the

conjunction of justification and the u[pomonh< which produces dokimh< (v. 4).

In the words of James, "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he

 

same volume, cf. W. Grundmann, "The Teacher of Righteousness of Qumran and the Ques-

tion of Justification by Faith in the Theology of the Apostle Paul," 95.

86 See further Longenecker, Paul, 101-3; Grundmann, "Justification by Faith," 102-3; A. J.

Hultgren, "Paul's Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church: Their Purpose, Locale, and Na-

ture," JBL 95 (1976) 97-111; cf. S. G. F. Brandon, The Zealots (New York: Scribner's, 1967)

146-220. Of course, "zealot" is being used in a nontechnical (nonfactional) sense to denote the

Mattathias-type of attitude toward the violators of the law, an attitude which cut across party

boundaries.

87 M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism (2 vols.; London: SCM, 1974) 1.314. See Hengel's

important discussion of "Zeal as a Typical Element of Piety in Late Judaism," Zealots, 177-83.

88 Dunn, Romans 2.593.


 

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has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised

to those who love him" (1:12). Conspicuous here is the combination of per-

severance and love as the preconditions of eternal life. The bottom line then

is that the obedience of faith which finally justifies is perseverance, motivated

by love.89 Indeed, it is when Paul's doctrine of the obedience of faith is allowed to

speak for itself that any superficial tension between him and James dissi-

pates immediately.90

 

Cambier has assembled some illuminating parallels between Romans

and the other Paulines.91 Like Rom 2:7, Col 1:10-11 link u[pomonh< with

e@rgon a]gaqo<n, thus placing the terms in a distinctively Christian context.

We might say that the believer's "good work" (cf. 2 Thess 2:17; 2 Cor 9:8)

depends on his "perseverance"; this reproduces the creation pattern evident

in Romans 2. Cambier himself notes that u[pomonh< designates the Christian

life in a manner very characteristic of Paul. In 1 Thess 1:3 the term is joined

with the triad pi<stij-a]ga<ph-e]lpi<j in Paul's praise of his readers' "work of

faith, labor of love and endurance of hope" (cf. 2 Thess 1:4). Likewise 2

Thess 3:5 is Paul's prayer that God would direct their hearts into the love

of God and into the endurance of Christ: "The love of God in the hearts of

believers is concretely the u[pomonh<  of Christ which the believer lives in a

gentle and humble service for the benefit of his brethren."92 Paul can epit-

omize his own life and ministry as existence e]n u[pomonh< poll^?; his ac-

ceptance of obstacles and difficulties "with endurance" is his faith in

action.93 Hence the u[pomonh< e@rgou a]gaqou? of Rom 2:7 for Paul is nothing

but "the work of faith" (1 Thess 1:3) or "faith working through love" (Gal

5:6). "For every Christian the . . . endurance (u[pomonh<) of trials and of the

 

89 Stendahl states it so well: "The danger is not to get a little worse, and the hope is not to

get a little better (ethically, or in terms of faith). It is sharpened in the simplified black and

white of all eschatological situations: the dangers of apostasy" (quoted by Donfried, "Justifi-

cation," 102 n. 52). Mattern then justifiably underscores the primacy of faith as opposed to

unbelief in Romans 2 (Verständnis, 138).

90 Instead of an obstacle to be surmounted, James 2 is actually an invaluable aid in closing

the gap between Paul's apparently conflicting statements within Romans (2:13 as compared

with 3:28, etc.). J. B. Adamson's discussion of faith and perseverance in James has equal

applicability to Paul (James: The Man and His Message [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989]

266-345). See his discussion of James and Paul on justification (pp. 203-10). James' essential

point (2:21-26) is that Genesis 22 represents the fulfillment (complement) of Abraham's jus-

tifying faith in Gen 15:6. Consequently he has in view periodic vindications in testing sub-

sequent to initial justification by faith alone, as confirmed by "the perseverance of Job" (5:11).

See R. C. H. Lenski (a Lutheran!), The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and the

Epistle of James (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1946) 589, and D. J. Moo, The Letter of James:

Introduction and Commentary (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985) 109-10.

91 Cambier, "Jugement," 190-93.

92 Ibid., 191. This runs counter to Sanders' claim that it is "un-Pauline to require good

works" (Law, 129).

93 Cambier, "Jugement," 191.



                      THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                             69

 

limitations of our human condition is an expression of solid faith, of hope

and the love which has been given to him by the Holy Spirit."94

Of course, the idea of perseverance is hardly unique to Paul. Even a

passing acquaintance with pre-Christian Jewish literature is sufficient to

inform one that the issue before its authors was precisely loyalty to the

Mosaic standards in the face of widespread apostasy. It is against this back-

drop that Paul's argumentation in 2 Corinthians 3 is seen to be so radical.

The old covenant for him was predominantly one of "death" and "con-

demnation" (vv. 7, 9); it was only a killing letter (v. 6). The reason is that

the old was provisional, its glory was fading (vv. 7-11). The new covenant,

however, gives life because it is the era of the Spirit and of the Lord who

is the Spirit (vv. 6, 8, 16-18). This makes Paul's contrast of old and new

eschatological (as in Rom 2:29),95 as is his dichotomy of flesh/Spirit (e.g.,

Rom 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-26).96 Therefore the Jewish teachers in Corinth, as

Israel generally, insist on remaining on the wrong side of the eschatological

divide. They believe that they possess the "commandments of life" (Bar 3:9,

14), but in reality they are the implement of death. In and of themselves

the commandments are only a killing letter; only the Spirit (= the Lord who

is the Spirit) can make alive. Instead of obeying the Torah, Christians now

have become obedient to the form of teaching, i.e., the Pauline gospel

concerning God's Son, to which they have been committed (Rom 6:17 in

connection with 1:1-3a; 2:16). Thus perseverance for Paul is bound up with

one's inclusion in Christ (= new covenant/new creation); only in him is

there no condemnation (Rom 8:1). In the words of Heb 7:22, Christ is the

surety of a better covenant; it is he who insures the perseverance of his people.

From the entire foregoing discussion we may conclude that the passage

from present justification by faith alone to future justification by the obe-

dience of faith is both natural and to be expected, given the broader pur-

view—and especially the creation character—of Paul's theology of faith

and obedience. However, this conclusion' is of sufficient practical impor-

tance that something more must be said. As Sanders97 and Snodgrass98

acknowledge concerning the Jewish doctrine of judgment, this is not jus-

tification by works (in any meritorious sense) but an extension of  the righteous-

ness of God. Snodgrass in particular speaks of the apparent incongruity, for

modern readers, of joining judgment according to works with God's mercy.

 

 

94 Ibid., 191-92. Sanders criticizes Mattern (see above n. 89) for making the principal issue

in Romans 2 faith as opposed to unbelief. Yet he has missed the significance of "the obedience

of faith" as providing the conceptual framework for everything Paul writes in Romans. No

wonder then he thinks that 1:18-2:29 is beset with numerous internal inconsistencies and is

atypical of Paul (Law, 123, 132).

95 Snodgrass rightly identifies "glory," "honor," and "immortality" in 2:7 as "eschatological

gifts" ("Justification," 81).

96 See Barclay, Obeying the Truth, 178-215.

97 Sanders, Paul, 128.

98 Snodgrass, "Justification," 78.



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He notes that although there were abuses of both ideas in ancient Judaism,

neither the OT nor Jewish literature sensed any anomaly between the two.

Indeed, Ps 62:12, which is normally considered to be the source of Rom 2:6,

actually says: "To thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite

a man according to his work."

 

When both themes are kept together, there is no problem. When the two are

separated, an over-emphasis on either could and did lead to perversion. Over-

emphasis on judgment according to works could lead to casuistry and a strict

doctrine of weighing. Over-emphasis on God's mercy could lead to presumption

of his mercy and neglect of obedience.99

 

In light of the possible (and actual!) alarm of many Christians at such

ideas it is necessary to stress that although the obedience in question entails

specific and concrete acts of a lifestyle pleasing to God (e.g., Matt 25:31-

46), it is equally important that we are not to miss the wood for the trees.

That is to say, the future justification of God's people is not made to hinge

on, say, 51% (or more!) of law-keeping,100 because obedience itself is the product

of faith; and where true faith and love exist, there must be ultimate vindication.101

When cause and effect are thus kept in proper sequence, our initial anxiety

at the notion of justification by "doing" should be ameliorated if not quelled

altogether. If we may hear Snodgrass again:

 

It is not necessary to recoil from this idea in fear of some theory of "works

righteousness" or in fear of diminishing the role of Christ in the purposes of God.

Nor is there any idea of a ‘natural theology’ in the pejorative sense of the term.

The witness of all the Biblical traditions and much of Judaism is that none stands

before God in his or her own righteousness. There is no thought in Romans 2 of a

person being granted life because he or she was a moral human being, indepen-

dent of God. The whole context of 1:18f. assumes the necessity of recognizing God

as God and honouring him with one's life. The description of those who work the

good in 2:7, 14-15, and 29 shows that the obedience is a direct result of the

activity of God.102

 

 

99 Ibid.

100 In keeping with the Jewish model, perfection is not required for salvation (Snodgrass,

"Justification," 79; see n. 53 for refs.).

101 "The final criterion at the last judgment is, for Paul, not how many good works man has

performed—this is irrelevant since it is the Spirit which enables man to do those deeds of

love—but whether man has held fast and remained obedient to this new life in Christ. It is

the criterion of the obedience of faith . . . which will enable us to understand many of the

Pauline last judgment texts" (Donfried, "Justification," 102-13). We may add to this N. M.

Watson's observation that Paul's warnings of judgment are directed at those who are " ‘puffed

up’, guilty of presumption, living in a state of illusion" ("Justified by Faith, Judged by Works,"

216).

102 Snodgrass, "Justification," 80-81 (italics mine). "Judgment according to works is not the

contradiction of justification by faith, but its presupposition. The significance of faith and

participation in Christ for obedience are assumed for Paul" (ibid., 86).



THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH                            71

 

Though requiring a study in itself, it is precisely the Christian's union

with Christ and the gift of his Spirit which are the fountainhead of the

obedience of faith: it is in Christ that one becomes a doer of the law, not in

the sense of sinless perfection but in one's commitment to God's (new)

covenant, whose surety and mediator is Christ (Heb 7:22; 8:6).103 As in

Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15:22): it is because

of the obedience of Christ, the Last Adam, that the people of God have

become obedient in him, as once they were disobedient in the first Adam

(Rom 5:12-19).104 In the comprehensive sense, Christ is the source of eter-

nal salvation to all who obey him (Heb 5:9), as they are enabled to do so

by "the Spirit of Christ" (Rom 8:9), who is the a]rrabw<n of their inheritance

in him (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14).105 With these important Christological

qualifications, "doing the law" in Rom 2:13 is no different in kind than the

OT's classic statement of "covenantal nomism," Lev 18:5: one continues to

live within the covenant relationship by compliance with its terms, i.e.,

perseverance.

Otherwise put, in Christ we have become the righteousness of God (2 Cor

5:21). This succinct statement of the believer's mode of existence gains in

relevance when viewed in connection with the preceding declaration that

"if anyone is in Christ, behold, the new creation!" (v. 18). The very burden

of the above exposition has been that Paul depicts the obedience of faith

issuing in eschatological justification as a new creation: what man in Adam

has failed to obtain, i.e., glory, honor, and immortality, man in Christ has.

The whole of created reality has been subjected to Christ, and in Christ

man once more will be crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:5-9). This

leads us to agree with Käsemann that the righteousness of God is his sov-

ereign power effecting a new creation:106 "The faithful are the world as it

has been recalled to the sovereignty of God, the company of those who live

 

103 Sanders is wrong in relegating Rom 2:13 to a category distinct from Rom 14:10; 2 Cor

5:10, in that it refers to all humanity who are judged by one standard, the law (Law, 126). He

does not allow for the fact that when Paul pens the words of 2:13 he has in mind what he will

say from 3:21 onward, viz., that men are justified and become obedient in Christ. Man in Christ

becomes a doer of the law, i.e., one who perseveres in the covenant, and is enabled to achieve

what Israel and the nations could not.

104 "Christ is the new Adam, because as the bearer of human destiny, he brings in the world

of obedience" (Käsemann, "Righteousness," 180; cf. Snodgrass, "Justification," 81-82). Note

how Phil 2:8's assertion that Christ was "obedient unto death" is evocative of the Adam motif

(as it intersects with that of the Servant of Yahweh). The conjunction of v. 8 with vv. 12-13

demonstrates that for Paul Christian obedience is linked inextricably to Christ in his role as

Adam/Servant, the obedient one who is to be obeyed.

105 The "downpayment" of the Spirit in Eph 1:14 is paralleled by the "sealing" of the same

Spirit in the preceding verse. In turn the Spirit's sealing (with a view to the day of redemption)

in 4:30 becomes the basis of the unity of the body of Christ, a preventive against the chaos of

lovelessness (vv. 31-32).

106 Käsemann, "Righteousness," 180: "dikaiosu<nh qeou? is for Paul God's sovereignty over

the world revealing itself eschatologically in Jesus."



72                    WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

under the eschatological justice of God, in which company, according to II

Cor 5:21, God's righteousness becomes manifest on earth." 107

We close with a pastoral corollary. Because the judgment of God "ac-

cording to truth" envisages the obedience of faith, it is of primary impor-

tance that preaching minister to the upbuilding of faith: faith and its growth must

receive the primacy. As Christ preeminently was the man of faith, so believers

in him are of oi[ e]k pi<stewj (Gal 3:9); everything they do in service to God

proceeds e]k pi<stewj (Rom 14:23). Thus in warning the Corinthians against

possible falling-away, Paul exhorts them to examine themselves to see

whether they are holding to their faith (2 Cor 13:5). It is to this end that he

refuses to be lord of their faith but rather the helper of their joy, because

they stand by faith (2 Cor 1:24). It would be fair to depict the problem of the

Christian life as temptation to apostasy, particularly in the face of the

on-going flesh/Spirit conflict (Rom 7:14-25; 8:1-16; Gal 5:16-26).108 Yet

when ministers lose sight of the importance of faith and its nurture, preach-

ing inevitably bears the character of intimidation and threatening and

proves counter-productive, in the end, because perseverance, i.e., true in-

ward perseverance, is contingent on the things which make for faith and

joy. So appropriate is V. A. Shepherd's observation on Calvin's doctrine of

faith and sanctification:

Faith is the Christ-engendered means of Christ "forming himself" in man…

while Christ really is the believer's sanctification (that is, coram Deo the man of

faith is a new creature and is advancing in holiness) he must ever remain such.

... Faith, then, is not a channel by which Christ's holiness is transfused into

believers until a point of sufficiency is reached. Faith is, rather, that fellowship

with Christ in which the believer is given such an anticipation of the full renewal

of the day of the Lord that he is moved presently to aspire zealously after it.109

 

107 Ibid. 181 (italics his). We recall that Kertelge similarly defines the righteousness of God

as his redemptive power offsetting the sway of the old aeon ("Rechtfertigung," 104).

108 Barclay concludes that the flesh and Spirit antithesis takes us to the heart of Paul's ethics

in a particularly direct way: "It reveals the situation of believers transformed by the power of

the new age and enlisted in the service of the Lord and yet required to live out that service

in the midst of the lures and temptations of the old age by a constant renewal of their

obedience to the truth in faith" (Obeying the Truth, 215). Cf. the likewise excellent remarks of

Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (London: SPCK, 1975) 308-18; id., "Rom 7:14-25 in the Theology

of Paul," TZ 31 (1975) 272-73.

109 V. A. Shepherd, The Nature and Function of Faith in the Theology of John

 Calvin (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983) 38.

 

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