Jesus is declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him believers have received grace for obedience to the faith (Romans 1.4-5). Obedience in all forms should be an expression of the grace of God; however, obedience must also be an expression of an individual’s faith. God’s expression is grace; man’s expression is faith. The former initiates and the latter responds. Therefore, Romans presents the concept of faith as a relational term in its very first mention.
The first mention of faith in Romans teaches that Paul’s apostleship was grace-enabled for obedience to the faith among all nations. The Greek literally reads obedience of faith instead of obedience to the faith as in the New King James Version. There is no definite article preceding faith in the Greek text. Paul does not have in mind “the faith” as in the body of Christian doctrine.
The Scripture often ties obedience to faith. I think that the reason for this connection is found in the fact that faith submits to its object. Every person, redeemed or not, has faith in something or someone. But a Christian’s obedience is produced by his faith in Christ (genitive of apposition or definition similar to what we see in Romans 4.11 in the phrase “sign of circumcision”; Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to Romans, Volume 1, 66) .
The atheist lives a life of submission to the concept no God. The object of the atheist’s faith is the illusory concept that no God exists and no God will hold him accountable. This concept produces counterfeit life and a perceived freedom in him. So the atheist has abundant faith. He would have to have a great measure of faith to believe no God because he ignores all the evidence around him, but sees evidence that is actually not present. This is why God’s Word declares that anyone who declares, “No God!” is fool.
Faith in Jesus Christ gives up on the notions that there is another way or that there is no Way. Faith is the realization that God alone gives us (graces us with) righteous and godly lives.
Thus, faith’s first mention in Romans is submission to the righteousness of God available through His resurrected Son. Indeed, faith obeys and faith works (James 2.14-17). Faith is dead or alive based upon its object. Labeling faith as a work or a gift confuses the issue. Instead, faith is a response to the work of the Son and the reception of the gift extended by the Father. Therefore, contemplating faith as a gift or a a work confuses us. To do so is to ask the wrong questions. The right question is what does the Scripture say about faith’s definition (see Hebrews 11.1)?
This first instance of faith in Romans is among all nations. The Gospel includes Israel and every other nation on earth (Jew and Gentile; see Romans 1.16-17). Faith is available to anyone and everyone without exception. I believe that when we deny this, we obfuscate the clear meaning of Scripture. As aforementioned, everyone already exercises faith. I know of no Scripture that contradicts this fact. But some faith is indeed misplaced. This is certainly eternally lethal faith.
It is for Jesus’ name that we submit in faith as Christians. The name of Jesus defines His perfect character and work. The name of Jesus Christ is the object of the Christian’s faith. Our faith may be feeble, remain feeble, and flicker as if it may go out at times. It may have gone out from our perspective. But no matter the strength of one’s faith or the endurance of one’s faith, it is the object of one’s faith that matters. If we at a point-in-time believed in the Son of God, we are saved. If we continue to believe in the Son of God, we shall grow in the assurance that we are saved (see John 20.31 and 1 John 5.13). Indeed, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1). Faith follows objective, factual information from the Scriptures in spite of feelings to the contrary. My perseverance does not save me. Making such a claim is tantamount to works-salvation, and God will not share His glory with another. The promise and perseverance of God are anchored in the matchless name of Jesus Christ.
My heart goes out to many believers who needlessly lack assurance of their position before God as His dear children. I greatly fear for those who place their faith in any other name than the name of Jesus Christ. I fear for those who place their faith is their supposed ability to persevere. I fear because “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). It is all of grace, but do you really believe that?