This article from Desiring God by John Piper is: Command of God – The Obedience of Faith. My comments in blue.
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
In this message, I want to focus on one phrase and how it functions in this doxology, and then make it the occasion of reviewing something enormously important in the book of Romans. The phrase is the obedience of faith from the end of verse 26: “to bring about the obedience of faith.”
If the glory of the only wise God through Jesus Christ is the ultimate goal of all things in these verses (according to verse 27), then “the obedience of faith” is next to the ultimate goal of all things in these verses. And that’s because when faith in Jesus Christ produces obedience to Jesus Christ, those obedient lives make God look glorious. That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
It is important to note that it is Jesus Christ who saves, through His obedience of faith to God, throughout His earthly mission. Our faith or good works has no relevance on our salvation, because Jesus finished the work He was set to do.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous – Romans 5:19
Romans 5 clearly tells us that it through the obedience of one that many are made righteous.
Salvation is a gift of God, entirely not of human merit. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this clear.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast – Ephesians 2:8-9
It is important to note that our works cannot save, and we must not mix grace with works, because grace is then made of none effect. Salvation is entirely by Christ and His finished work. This is what we must believe through faith. This is saving faith, not works. We cannot add to Christ’s work with human works. The Gospel is good news of what God has done for us through Christ. The message is simple, and yet today’s message of the good news is often laden with works to ‘prove’ salvation. Who do we need to prove our works to? Man, who still remains a sinner even after being born again? The flesh nature does not disappear, or die, like some churches teach. Instead, we are born with a new nature that cannot sin. God knows who believes His way of salvation. Do not let any man put you into bondage to prove anything.
The Gospel Strengthens Our Faith
Look carefully with me how “the obedience of faith” (at the end of verse 26) fits in these verses. Paul begins his doxology by saying that one of the reasons glory belongs to God is that he is able to strengthen us. Verse 25: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you . . . be glory forevermore.” Between that opening declaration that God can strengthen your faith and the closing acclamation that God is glorious, Paul unpacks the gospel as the very thing that God uses to strengthen our faith.
Follow the phrases he uses to unpack the gospel and you will see how he begins by saying the gospel strengthens our faith and ends by saying the gospel produces the obedience that comes from faith.
Verse 25 says he strengthens us “according to my gospel.” So he simply strikes the note that this message is “good news.” That is what gospel means. We are made strong by good news. Then he calls the gospel the preaching of Jesus Christ. That means that the heart of the gospel is good news about who Jesus Christ is and what he did when he came and died and rose again. He doesn’t tell us what that is because that is what the first eight chapters were about.
The Gospel Has Roots in Eternity
Then (still in verse 25) he tells us that this faith-strengthening gospel is “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long [eternal] ages.” This reminds us that the gospel has roots in eternity. It is not something God came up with when creation went badly and sin entered the world (see 2 Timothy 1:9). That’s why Paul says in the middle of verse 26 that the gospel was by the “command of the eternal God.” The eternal (aiōviou) God commanding the revelation of the mystery corresponds to the mystery being hidden for eternal (aiōniois) ages. All of that to give us a greater sense of strength and firmness about this gospel: its roots go back into eternity in the mind of God.
The Gospel Has Roots in History
Next, Paul says in verse 26 that this mystery is disclosed and made known “through the prophetic writings.” In other words, the very writings of the Old Testament that were obscure about the coming of a global gospel are now used by Paul and the other apostles to reveal and explain the gospel. This reminds us that the good news is rooted not just in eternity, but in history. God had been working with his people Israel preparing them and us for the coming of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t just drop out of the sky with no preparation. Two thousand years of anticipation and prefiguration prepared the way.
The Gospel Is the Means to Faith — Faith Produces Obedience
And now, finally, in verse 26, we see what it was all designed to produce: the obedience of faith among all the nations. Notice both of those phrases: “has been made known to all the nations . . . to bring about the obedience of faith.” If there is any people group on planet earth where faith in Jesus Christ is not producing conformity to Jesus Christ God’s aim for the gospel is not complete.
Now notice how the first thing Paul says in verse 25 and the last thing he says in verse 26 relate. First, God makes us strong through the gospel — that is, strong in faith (see Romans 1:11–12). That is what the gospel does. Then, at the end of verse 26, the gospel is aiming at the obedience of faith. So the gospel strengthens us in faith so that we will live obedient lives. This is called “the obedience of faith.” The gospel is the means to obedience because it is the means to faith and obedience comes from faith.
Paul is speaking to the entire crowd in Romans 1:11-12, because ye, you and your are plural and refer to all in the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Versions of the bible like the English Standard Version, that Piper uses, does not clearly show this importance, but makes it seem that the word you is speaking to a single person.
The mystery refers to the salvation through Christ, attained for all who believe on Him through Christ’s obedience to God. Nobody can fulfil the laws of God, only Jesus’ faith saves the sinner.
28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent – John 6:28-29
37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day – John 6:37-40
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen – Romans 16:25-27
The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith – Galatians 3:24
The obedience of faith is not working or proving salvation, but believing on the faith of Christ. Had Satan known that Jesus would be resurrected after three days, would Christ has been crucified? There might be no secure salvation for sinners, which refers to us all as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, as it says in Romans 3:23. All of our righteousnesses (works) are as filthy rags, as Isaiah 64:4 states. Jesus Christ was spoken of in the Old Testament scriptures. He whom kept the law perfectly and worked the works of God, even unto death, to save sinners from the penalty of death.
So the gospel strengthens us in faith so that we will live obedient lives. This is called “the obedience of faith.” The gospel is the means to obedience because it is the means to faith and obedience comes from faith.
Christ obeyed the law perfectly to set us free from the law, when we trust in Him His righteousness is imputed onto our account.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed – John 8:36
1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works – Romans 4:1-6
Teachings like those of John Piper put a person into bondage, and a message like this cannot save because there is no saving faith in Christ and works of obedience. The gospel is good news. It is a gift of God that we accept through belief in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Paul warned us about those who take away from the simplicity that is in Christ
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ – 2 Corinthians 11:3
Note what the ESV scripture says, and it is clearly displaying a works salvation.
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ – 2 Corinthians 11:3
Piper makes the message sound humble, but he is adding works to the gift of salvation. He is getting a person to look at self in living an obedient life, instead of Jesus getting all the glory for His completed work. In truth, there is no trust in Christ when we are trying to live obedient lives to prove our salvation to sinful man.
And with this, Paul closes his letter with the very same aim that he began with in Romans 1:5: “We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” Notice three parallels between the beginning and the ending. (1) His aim is the obedience of faith. (2) This is for all the nations, not just Israel. (3) In Romans 1:5, this is all “for the sake of his [Jesus’s] name,” and in Romans 16:27, Paul breaks into the concluding doxology: “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ.” For the sake of Jesus’s name and for the glory of God through Jesus is the same thing. That is the ultimate goal of the gospel: the gospel awakens and strengthens faith that leads to conformity to Christ, which displays the glory of God.
God is pleased with those who believe on His son. We grow in grace when we read the Holy Bible and spend time with God, but we have free will to choose to serve God after salvation. Piper does not make a distinction between salvation and discipleship. He makes discipleship sound necessary for salvation, except it puts a person into bondage because his message sounds pious and holy. John Piper may believe that he is no sinner because he ‘obedience of faith’, but he is fooling himself. The flesh is still prevalent in all born again believers who trust on Christ’s finished work.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day – John 6:40
Gratitude and thanks for what Jesus has done for us, brings glory to God.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Search results for Glory of God in the scriptures.
So in the beginning and the ending of this letter Paul says that the gospel and his apostleship (and, by implication, our ministry and your life!) has this great aim: that Jesus Christ would be seen as glorious — magnificent — among all the peoples of the world by means of the obedience of Christians which flows from their faith in him.
And if you wonder what kind of obedience he has in mind, he left us in no doubt. Just recall some of Romans 12:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9–14, 21).
That is what the obedience of faith looks like. That is the beauty that the nations of the world need to see — for the sake of the name.
Man cannot fulfil the law completely, as it states in Romans 12. However, Jesus did. It is His faith that we trust in, and not our works. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, as it states in Romans 3:23. God demands perfection, and in our sinful nature, we just cannot attain perfection. Our nature is sinful, from birth to death. This is why Jesus Christ came into the world, to save sinners. Sadly the good news of Jesus Christ has today become corrupted into a works salvation by people like John Piper and his website Desiring God.
The Obedience of Faith and Justification
Now I said at the beginning that I want to focus on this one phrase and make it the occasion of reviewing something enormously important in the book of Romans. What I want to review is how the obedience of faith relates to justification. There are few things more important for your life than this. I just read this in Richard Gaffin’s new book, By Faith, Not by Sight: “Disaster will surely result from denying or obscuring faith as the alone instrument of justification, both present and future.” I think that is right. Please listen and strive to understand and build your life on this truth.
We are immediately justified and born into the family of God when we put our trust in Christ’s, death, burial and resurrection. He died to set us free from the wages of sin, not just ourselves but whosoever will believe. This means that he died for all, not just a few like Calvinists teach.
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life – John 3:15
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him – John 3:36
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins – Acts 10:43
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him – 1 John 5:1
Justified by Faith in Christ (Romans 5:1)
Let’s turn to Romans 5. Begin with verse 1: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Justified by faith” is one of the greatest realities that the book of Romans teaches. We all stand before God as in a court room, and he either justifies us or condemns us. If he justifies us, it means that he has found in our favor and declared us to be just. We are found not guilty. Which is a great surprise. The indictment against all of us is that we are unrighteous. “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). The indictment is true. The omniscient judge considers all factors and declares that we are not guilty as charged, but are in fact righteous, though everybody in the courtroom knows that in our behavior and our attitudes we are sinners.
How can this be? How can God justify the ungodly and be a just judge? One way to describe Paul’s answer is to put it in three steps.
First, we trust in Jesus alone as the ground and basis of our justification, not in anything we are or do or are helped to do by God. This is what Romans 5:1 means when it says, “We have been justified by faith.”
Second, through this faith in Jesus alone as the ground and basis of our justification, we are united to Christ so that we are in him. We have a union with him. That’s why Romans 8:1 corresponds to Romans 5:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The key phrase there is in Christ Jesus. In Christ there is no condemnation. That is, in Christ we are justified. Through faith we are united to Christ, and united to Christ we are justified.
In other words, when God declares that we are righteous, there is a real basis for it in the righteousness of Christ. It’s not a charade. It’s one thing to be forgiven when you are unrighteous. It is glorious and costly. It cost God the life of his Son. But it is another thing — an even more amazing thing — for God to say that the unrighteous are righteous. If forgiving the unrighteous is astonishing, calling the unrighteous righteous is outrageous — and glorious!
True, we trust in Jesus’ righteous and not our own. It is the faith of Jesus Christ that saves the sinner, when we trust in the finished work of Christ.
The Free Gift of Christ’s Righteousness
This is why Paul moves at the end of Romans 5 to show the basis for our being counted righteous. Look at verse 17, “If, because of one man’s trespass [Adam’s], death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” In other words, God’s grace reigns through the free gift of righteousness to secure for us eternal life.
Many Appointed Righteous in Christ
How shall we think about this “free gift of righteousness”? Consider verse 19: “For as by the one man’s disobedience [Adam’s] the many were made [or better: appointed] sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [Christ’s] the many will be made [appointed] righteous.” In other words, the “free gift of righteousness” (verse 17) that we receive by grace is “the one man’s obedience” by which we are counted righteous. This is the ground and basis for our justification: Christ and his obedience.
Grace Reigning Through Christ’s Righteousness
Now we are getting close to the way our own obedience — “the obedience of faith” — relates to justification. Look at verse 21 (the last verse of chapter five) and its connection to chapter six. Verse 21: “so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness [linking back to verse 17] leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now what does through righteousness mean? Is it Christ’s righteousness, Christ’s obedience, the gift of his righteousness (verse 17) imputed to us? Or is it our behavior — a righteousness that God’s grace is working in us, the obedience of faith?
The answer comes by asking: Which of these makes sense of the question raised in Romans 6:1 (the next verse)? Paul thinks that verse 21 might lead someone to ask this question: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” If the power of grace in verse 21 meant that God were working a new righteous behavior in us, and that is why it leads to eternal life, then nobody would ask this question. You don’t say, “Then shall we continue in sin?” if someone has just said, “Grace is powerfully delivering us from sin.”
No, you say, “Then shall we continue in sin?” when someone has just said, “Grace imputes the gift of Christ’s righteousness to us and thus secures for us eternal life.” That radical doctrine unleashes the thought: “Well then, let’s sin that grace may abound. If Christ is my righteousness, then it doesn’t matter what I do.”
So you see this questioner got something profoundly right and something profoundly wrong. He is right: grace reigns through righteousness means grace counts us righteous because of Christ’s righteousness. But that our obedience doesn’t matter he gets entirely wrong. That’s why Paul has to write chapters 6–8.
Forcing behavioural changes on a believer simply puts that believer back under the bondage of law. Salvation is entirely of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross. This is God’s gift to us through His grace. Yes, we should all grow in grace as believers, but it is not essential. Continued sinful behaviours result in God’s chastening, and even early death, but it does not result in a loss of salvation, as some pastors teach. The gifts of God are without repentance – 278. ametamelétos.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance – Romans 11:29
The Fruit of Justification
How then does our own obedience — “the obedience of faith” — relate to justification? The answer is: Our obedience is not the ground or the basis of our justification. Nor is it any part of the instrument or means by which we are united to Christ who alone is the ground and the basis of our justification. Faith alone unites us to Christ and Christ alone is the ground of our justification.
Our obedience is the fruit of that faith. The faith that justifies is the kind of faith that, by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13), changes us. If your faith in Christ leaves you unchanged, you don’t have saving faith. Obedience — not perfection, but a new direction of thought and affections and behavior — is the fruit that shows that the faith is alive. James put it this way, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone. It is always accompanied by “newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
There is no result for fruit of faith in the KJV. This is a man made doctrine attempting to get people to trust in their obedience to live the Christian life, instead of trusting on Christ’s finished work. Looking to self simply takes away the glory from Christ. This is the work that saves a soul, trusting on His righteousness and not our own. Remember, our righteousness’s are as filthy rags. They cannot save. Piper does not make a distinction between discipleship coming after salvation. The two are separate and discipleship or lack of it has nothing to do with eternal life through Christ.
The fruits that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7:16 is in relation to doctrine. Good fruits bring forth salvation to those who believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and a corrupt tree (false teachings) cannot save. Therefore, it is impossible to know who is saved by works because all religions of this world are relying on good works to save them. This is why belief in Jesus Christ differs from all organised religions of this world. He completed the work, and it is Christ crucified (His finished work) that we proclaim to others. Our works, our obedience has no relevance on salvation. We must trust God’s plan of salvation, or reject it.
Therefore, Piper is wrong to state that we do not have saving faith if faith in Christ leaves us unchanged. He has no understanding of Matthew 7:15-20. He is back loading works onto the finished work of Christ. Saving faith is putting our trust in Christ alone and His finished work. His work saves a soul from perishing in hell. If he has not trusted in Christ alone, He does not have the spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit) in him, therefore corrupt false teachings do not bring forth salvation in others.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. 11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life – 1 John 5:9-12
Either Piper believes on Christ alone, or he does not and continues his life to try to live the Christian life. Has He trusted Christ alone, or is he trusting his own works because he doesn’t see himself as a sinner. Even worse is when he teaches these errors to others that a righteous life is necessary upon faith in Christ. He does not separate salvation from discipleship.
The book of James was written to believers. It admonishes that a believer should have works to prove the faith, as it is effective to witness to others, and shows evidence of the light of Christ in him or her, but faith without works is just a dead faith. This has nothing to do with loss of salvation. Just read the Bible in its entirety and you will notice that many people committed the vilest sins, including murder, incest, adultery, suicide etc. However, they are righteous and saved because they believed on God.
Live in the Joy and Assurance of the Gospel
When Paul begins and ends his letter with the goal of “the obedience of faith,” he means for us to live in the joy and the assurance of the first five chapters of Romans, where he shows that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). And then out of that faith and peace and assurance and boldness, a new mind and a new man emerge and the fruit of obedience grows. And the reality of justifying faith is made manifest.
I pray that you will trust in Christ alone as the ground and basis of your justification before God, present and future, and that this faith prove its life and truth by producing a passion for obedience to God — the obedience of faith.
I would rather have my faith in the obedience to God through Christ’s finished work, than my own filthy rags that cannot save. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states that it is grace that saves.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them – Ephesians 2:8-10
Notice in Ephesians 2:10 that we should do good works, not to prove our salvation, but to serve Almighty God because of His love for us first.
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us – 1 John 3:23-24
In my experience, when I spend time in God’s word and prayer, the more sin I see in myself and I am thankful for a gracious saviour in Christ, because all of my works are filthy rags that cannot save.