Introduction: The Importance of Philosophy | Part I: New Testament Passages

The ministry is the responsibility of all Christians. In my previous post, we looked at key New Testament passages which shed light on ministry. I would now like to take a slight detour into Romans and the phrase Paul used to express his missionary focus; i.e. his ministry.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul expresses his missionary focus stating: “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name” (Romans 1:5; for a brief look into Paul’s introduction see What is Cascading Faith?)

There are multiple views surrounding the meaning of eis hupakoen pisteos (lit. obedience of faith). All views appear to focus around the type of genitive (i.e. objective, subjective, adjectival, or appositional) attributed to faith; basically how does obedience and faith relate to one another. Among the various views, the concept of believing obedience (i.e. adjectival genitive) is too ambiguous to properly explain Paul’s missionary endeavors; and the idea of obedience to the authority of faith (i.e. objective genitive) would be too complex of a way to express this phrase. Anders Nygren holds to the notion of faith which is offered through obedience to Christ (i.e. subjective genitive), he stresses the importance that God requires obedience of man. It is important to note that while this observation does express an important truth, the basic premise is flawed; faith rests on an obedient life—loss of salvation is possible with this view. An additional view is that of obedience which consists of faith (i.e. genitive of apposition), C. E. B. Cranfield explains Paul is intent on hearers responding to the gospel with faith. The basic tenant of this view is the out-pouring of obedience produced by faith; a genuine response to Christ. However, as expressed above this phrase is the desired result of Paul’s apostolic ministry and therefore must carry more weight than just bringing Gentile nations into obedience. Furthermore, a believer cannot have faith without obedience; nor the latter without regard to the former. Therefore, Douglas Moo’s mutually interpretive view (i.e. an amalgamation of the subjunctive and appositional views) captures both the notion that to obey Christ believers must present themselves in faith, and in the same way, to have unwavering faith in Christ believers must obey. Agreeing with Douglas Moo, Daniel K. Davey notes “the words ‘obedient’ and ‘faith’ are integral to the gospel message as Paul defines it in his Romans letter and should be viewed as inseparable concepts linking what one knows with what one does.”

Therefore, it is best to interpret this phrase taking the mutually interpretive view coupled with a missionary standpoint: to bring about obedience which is necessitated by—but no less an inherent cascade of—faith, to all nations for His name. It is important to note that this verse never converges on Paul’s abilities, but remains always on Christ. Furthermore, Paul’s heart reflects that of Deuteronomy: “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established (Rom 1:11; cf. Deut 6:4-7). Notice Paul has no specific emphasis on local or world outreach, but on evangelism and edification in general. From inception, the New Testament church has always focused on reaching the lost; it is imperative that this attitude be reflected by those in the ministry. However, it must be strongly noted that bringing the lost to salvation is not Paul’s primary focus, but God’s glory: “…for His name.” His attitude towards ministry serves as a reminder that that gospel is more than an academic pursuit; Paul fully understood the weight of his charge and the content of the gospel. Davey asserts “when the gospel is valued today in the same way it was valued by Paul, then we may expect both to be marked by this gospel in Pauline fashion and, perhaps, to experience (in some measure) the Pauline effects of the gospel ministry.” In the end, the glorification of Christ—of God—should be the motivation for outreach, the soteriological emphasizes are always trumped by a doxological focus (for an excellent essay on missions and God’s glory read The Heart of Biblical Missions by Dr. Sam Horn).

It is important to understand that Paul’s heart should also be our heart. Notice verse 6, “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” Just as Paul has been called to set God’s glory as his first priority in life, so are we to place God first in ours. In Paul’s case it was to be God’s apostle to the gentiles; in ours: it is to be a teacher, a student, a parent, a child, a leader, a servant, or whatever else God has called you specifically to be. Romans 1:5 is not a brief excursus dealing with ministry, it embodies it.

-Next, a characteristic which separates Christians from the world-

[1] Nygren, Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1949), p. 55.

[2] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ICC (London: T & T Clark, 1975) 1:66-67.

[3] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p52.

[4] Davey, “The Intrinsic Nature Of The Gospel,” DBSJ 9 (2004), pp. 150-151.

[5] Ibid., p. 152.