(Rom. 1:5) Does this passage support Lordship Theology?

CLAIM: Paul writes, “We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake” (Rom. 1:5). Commentator and NT scholar John Stott writes,

The Greek phrase is very compact. Neither noun (‘obedience’ and ‘faith’) has an article, which we should expect if a distinction was being drawn between them and one were to be conceived as a result of the other. Instead, ‘obedience and faith’ appears to be the one response desired by the evangelist, a personal abandonment of obedience-and-faith or, if you prefer, ‘obedient faith.’[1]

Under this view, Paul is saying that obedient faith is necessary for salvation. While we do desire believers to obey God, is Paul saying that this is a requirement for salvation?

RESPONSE: John Stott is a fine Christian commentator. So we hope that our treatment of this passage would only communicate disagreement—not disrespect.

That being said, surely Paul is calling on people to obey Christ, but how do we learn how to do this? In Romans 3:21-5:21, Paul doesn’t once mention obedience. This is the same section where Paul explains faith as the means to justification. Wouldn’t we expect Paul to mention this at least once? Instead, he intentionally states that faith and works as mutually exclusive (Rom. 4:1-4), and he notes that Jesus was the one who obeyed—not us (Rom. 5:19). Thus while the goal is obedience, this isn’t required to become a believer.

Obedience doesn’t come up until after we come to Christ and try to grow with him. After our justification is established (Rom. 5), obedience comes next (Rom. 6). It is in Romans 6 that we see Paul emphasizing obedience (see Rom. 6:16-17), after justification has already been established.

Faith and obedience must be separate concepts. Otherwise this would be redundant. Leon Morris writes, “While faith and obedience go together, they are not identical. Why use two words for one meaning? It seems rather that the gospel is seen as demanding the response of faith. Accordingly, the way to obey is to believe.”[2] Charles Bing writes, “The single response would be the obedience of the nations to the command to believe in the gospel.”[3]

Grant Osborne explains that this passage could be rendered four different ways:[4]

(1) “obedience to the faith” (objective genitive)

(2) “believing faith” (adjectival genitive)

(3) “the obedience that comes from faith” (genitive of source)

(4) “the obedience that is faith” (genitive of apposition).

Osborne argues that it cannot be the first option, because “faith” lacks the article in front of it. It seems to me that the second option is redundant. Osborne holds that it must be either option three or four.

The NET Bible says that this phrase could be “deliberately ambiguous” on Paul’s behalf. Noting that several different translations render it so differently, it’s probably best not to hang too much on the meaning of this verse. For more on this topic, see our earlier article “Lordship Theology.”

[1] John Stott, “Must Christ Be Lord To Be Savior—Yes.” Eternity 10 (September 1959) p.17.

[2] Leon Morris The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), p.50.

[3] Bing, Charles C. Lordship Salvation: a Biblical Evaluation and Response. Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1992. 22.

[4] Osborne is a Lordship theologian. On page 41, he writes, “One does not know Jesus as Savior until beginning the process of Lordship.” Osborne, Grant R. Romans. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2004. 33.