Relevant Biblical Passages: Rom. 8:31-39; Eph. 6:10-17
Crucial Role of Human Obedience. One can scarcely avoid the significance of human obedience in the lives of those who follow Jesus,. Even those devoted followers of Paul who greatly emphasis that Jesus’ obedience stands in place of our obedience, still have to reckon with Paul’s defense of law and obedience. In Romans 8, for example, where Paul contrasts life in the spirit with life in the flesh, he states that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law — indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8, NRSV). The role and significance of obedience can be considered under the following headings:
1. Gratitude, Grace, and Atonement. Regardless of whether one sees Jesus primarily as Sacrifice, paying the price for our sins (Paul); or as Teacher, demonstrating what God is like (John), gratitude for God’s gift should be the primary motive for obedience. Scripture does not present obedience as a means of salvation, but as pure gift, the result of salvation.
2. Contrasting Biblical Illustrations: Peter and Judas. As Jesus was taken to trial, Peter denied his Lord — and then went out and wept bitterly. At the same event, Judas watched events unfold with horror, confessed his sin — the then went out and committed suicide. What made the difference in the lives of these two men?
3. Methods of Victory: Ephesians 6:10-17. At the personal level, Paul does not hesitate to describe the implications of the cosmic battle. He uses the metaphors of war, calling us to put on the whole armor of God: the belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. How do these help us be victorious?
4. Significance of Victory. Gratitude for God’s saving act and for our future hope dominate the writings of the New Testament. Job, the one biblical book which most clearly suggests the cosmic setting for a free-will theodicy, does not present a clear hope for the future. Job 19:25-27 is first of all a cry for vindication in the present. In the light of Jesus’ experience, Christians later adopted the passage as pointing toward the future resurrection hypoth. book of Job closes with his death (though the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT, adds the phrase at the end: “And he will live again with those whom the Lord raises up” [Job 42:17]). Where in the New Testament does one find such a stark picture of “disinterested benevolence” — unless it is from Jesus in the Garden and on the cross? Is this the greatest contribution to theodicy in the New Testament? God dying a lonely death on our behalf, a demonstration of what God is really like, the essence of self-sacrificing love?
5. Assurance of Salvation. Of all the New Testament writers, Paul is perhaps most passionate in assuring us of salvation in Christ Jesus: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1); and again, “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.” (Rom. 8:31-34). Are there any other biblical passages that can match that kind of assurance?