During my seminary years, I had a friend named Mike who was a full-time firefighter and a fairly new Christian. Mike and I went to a weekly men’s prayer group on Friday mornings, and I remember one Friday morning Mike was lamenting how he would go on this two week canoe trip to Canada with a bunch of his friends. He loved to go, but he explained it had gotten harder in recent years.
You see, on the trip, he was around people who didn’t care about Christ and their language revealed it: they would swear and worse, take God’s name in vain. He wanted to know if he should challenge his lost friends to stop taking God’s name in vain.
On one level I thought it would be good, because the Bible says “God will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” So there’s a sense where you want to warn people.
But in the end I recommended he keep his mouth shut about the swearing and just tell his friends the gospel. Once they became Christians, the swearing, maybe not immediately, some Christians still struggle in this area, but eventually, the swearing would take of itself.
Or take the area of abortion. As a non-Christian high-schooler, I remember thinking that abortion was no big deal. I don’t remember arguing about it with anyone, but I might have. After all, it was a woman’s right; it’s her body, blah, blah, blah.
Then I came to Christ, and I just knew. I just knew. I don’t remember reading anything on the topic (other than the Bible), or hearing anyone speak on it, though this might have happened. But I think I just knew internally that abortion…was pure and simple murder. Evil.
Now Paul the Apostle understood the concept I’m illustrating with these two examples, and there is a phrase that expresses it in Romans that starts the letter and ends the letter.
I’m talking about the phrase, “obedience of faith.”
We see it in Romans 16:26…and Romans 1:5:
…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, Romans 1:5 (ESV)
The NIV is helpful to understand what Paul means here:
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. Romans 1:5 (NIV)
Something happens when people place their faith in Jesus as Savior – they start to obey. Oh, they’re not perfect – none of us ever will be this side of heaven – but when we believe in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit and everything changes.
Obedience comes from faith.
The Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel expressed it this way:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (ESV)
Here is one of the great keys, parents, to getting your kids to obey you: preach the gospel to them. Here is the key to helping your friends change: preach the gospel to them. Here is one of the great keys to overcoming sin in your own life: preach the gospel to yourself.
It is like Paul once wrote to Titus:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 (ESV)
Do you see it? Better than the pointing finger, better than the law, better than any other method you might use – try the “method” of the Apostle Paul – the grace of God, which trains us to say no to ungodliness.
For obedience comes from faith.
Monday, March 23rd: Romans 2