the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
These verses resume Paul’s description of his apostleship begun in verse 1, and they complete his salutation to the believers in Rome. Using the editorial “we,” Paul says he received from Christ “grace and apostleship,” a way of combining two words to express one concept. Paul means that he received the grace (or special gift) of apostleship.
We also encounter yet another significant phrase that has been variously interpreted.“The obedience of faith”
Faith in Jesus Christ and submission to his Lordship are two of Paul’s main themes. Here he combines these concepts, but how to understand their relationship is the issue.
Does Paul refer to the obedience that results from faith (emphasizing postconversion commitment) or the obedience that consists in faith (submission to the gospel)? Either option finds support elsewhere in Paul’s writings, and in modern translations (NIV “the obedience that comes from faith”; NKJV “obedience to the faith”). A few translations go with a parallel construction: “believe and obey” (NLV, Good News). ESV’s and NASB’s “the obedience of faith” is preferable.
No matter which option is chosen, the obedience/faith relationship calls for fuller explanation. Paul’s formula requires that we affirm the meaning of each without negating the other. As for the first option, Paul cannot mean that obedience merely results from faith, because the conversion experience is itself an act of submission to Christ (see 10:3). The second option, by equating obedience with faith, “evaporates” obedience, as Douglas Moo puts it.
In Paul’s thought, faith and obedience are complementary, inseparable, even to a degree interchangeable. Moo says, “They should not be equated, compartmentalized, or made into separate stages of Christian experience.” “Equivalence” is how Charles Cranfield describes their relationship. He says, “Paul’s preaching is aimed at obtaining from his hearers true obedience to God, the essence of which is a responding to His message of good news with faith.”
In this context Paul is defining his mission as an apostle. That mission included initial evangelization followed by the foundation of churches populated by committed believers. Moo says, “Paul saw his task as calling men and women to submission to the lordship of Christ…, a submission that began with conversion but which was to continue in a deepening, lifelong commitment.”
Faith involves obedience; obedience both presumes and manifests faith. Each implies the other. “To make the decision of faith is an act of obedience toward God,” as Cranfield says, and “true faith by its very nature includes in itself the sincere desire and will to obey God in all things.”
Separating the concepts leads to error. Obedience divorced from faith in the gospel cannot bring a person into right standing with God. Paul vociferously attacks law-keeping as a means of righteousness. On the other hand, Paul would agree with James that faith without works is dead.
The complementarity of faith and obedience can be seen several times in this epistle (10:3 is one example; see also 15:18–20, 16:26). Also of relevance is Paul’s warning in 8:13 to people who think they are saved but who live according to the flesh.Apostle to the Gentiles
Paul serves “for the sake of his name.” The motivation for his ministry is neither to serve the church nor to fulfill a personal need, but rather to bring glory to Christ. Paul was on a quest to persecute the church when Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. Go to the Gentiles and carry my name to them was the Lord’s command (Acts 9:15, 22:21, 26:17; Romans 11:13).
The Greek word for “nations” (ethnē) can also be translated “peoples” or “Gentiles,” and in the context of Paul’s apostolate the latter word is likely correct. Verse 6 seems to indicate, therefore, that most of the Roman believers are Gentiles, so they fall within the scope of Paul’s ministry and therefore his authority as apostle.
They were “called” to Jesus Christ, a word that emphasizes the divine initiative in their salvation. The call of God is an effectual summons to believe (see 8:30). Paul was called to be an apostle. “Both he and they are called to acknowledge the same God and the same Lord, which unites both Paul and the Christians of Rome in their worship of God and Christ and as members of the people of the same God” (Joseph Fitzmyer).Saints loved by God
One of Paul’s favorite designations for Christians is “saints” (holy ones, consecrated ones, set apart for God). Moo counts in Paul’s writings at least 38 uses of the term. It designates primarily believers’ position as having been sanctified or made holy in Christ. Believers’ lifestyles should reflect their position (12:1, Ephesians 1:4, 5:3). Sharing the Greek root with saint is the word sanctification, the three meanings of which I describe in chapter 4 of my book.
The fact Paul applies to the believers in Rome two characteristics of OT Israel—loved by God and consecrated to him—implies, as Moo says, that they, like Israel, are God’s chosen people. But God’s love for the church does not diminish God’s continuing love for Israel any more than it diminishes God’s continuing love for his Son (Matthew 3:17). The church does not replace Israel, as we will see in chapter 11. The benefit for the church is to appreciate the depth of God’s love for her!Grace and peace
The source of grace and peace is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace was common in secular greetings, but here the focus is peace with God (see 5:1). Grace is a uniquely Christian concept with profound theological meaning described by Cranfield as “God’s undeserved love revealed in Christ and so may be said to sum up the whole gospel in a single word.”
In this epistle grace has other meanings as well, as Colin Kruse notes: “It can mean a gracious deed carried out by God (5:20–21), divine favor shown to people (11:5–6), God’s beneficence dispensed to people (12:3, 6), or a privileged status that people enjoy (5:2, 17)” (my links added to his citations). Here, he says, Paul invokes divine favor on the believers in Rome.
Paul sends another theological message in this greeting by again implying Jesus’ deity and equality with the Father. First, as Robert Utley observes, Paul links both members of the Trinity by preceding their names with a single preposition, a grammatical feature found in many of Paul’s epistles. Second, only God can bestow grace and peace. For more on Jesus’ deity, including the significance of the title Lord, see 9:5b.