“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” (Rom. 1:5)
I wonder how many times this Bible verse has been misunderstood and misused in a church context. Paul said that he had received grace and apostleship to bring all nations to the “obedience of the faith”. What do we do? We take this verse and stand on the church platform and announce: “It’s not enough that you believe in Jesus. God wants you to obey”. The implied message is: Not only must you obey God; you must also obey the pastor. Don’t dare to question “God’s anointed”. Don’t think for yourselves, just obey!
It is not uncommon that so called “spiritual leaders” use this, or similar verses, to manipulate their members in order to motivate them to go to church, pay their tithes, and spend a large portion of their spare time and energy on different church activities.
Don’t get me wrong. It is good to be part of a church fellowship, but if the pastor uses Scripture to manipulate the members to “obedience”, it would probably be better for all parties if they all took a long Sabbath rest from church.
The concept of “obedience to the faith” in Romans, is not a legalistic admonishment from Paul to precious believers to disconnect their own understanding or critical thinking, and to accept everything the leader with a capital L says. On the contrary.
Sometimes we understand a concept, or expression, better by knowing its opposite. Throughout the whole book of Romans, the opposite of faith is works of the law. You might probably have heard teaching about that the opposite of faith is fear. There is certainly a truth to that, but in the book or Romans, the opposite of faith is not fear, but works of the law; i.e. legalism.
(1 Jn. 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear, and thereby one can argue that it is love, and not faith, that is the opposite of fear. However, faith and love are obviously closely connected. When we understand God’s love for us, our faith works, because faith works through God’s love, Gal. 5:6.)
When Paul said that he had received grace and apostleship to bring all peoples to the obedience of the faith, he was not talking about a legalistic obedience, but simply obedience to the teaching of the Gospel – that it is only through faith in Jesus we can have fellowship with God, and not through our own performance.
Obedience to the faith is about renouncing all trust in ourselves and our own righteousness, and instead only trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
Paul says in Ephesians:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
Obedience to the faith is about us refusing to boast in ourselves, and instead only trusting in God’s amazing and unmerited grace.