Faith (Romans Pt.1)

This post is part of a series on faith in the New Testament.

Here is a look at the first three chapters in the book of Romans filtering through all the examples we see of the word faith. Romans is a meaty book in its theology and is one that causes confusion to a lot of people. It also has a lot of uses of the word faith (unlike this Gospel that we already looked at), so I will break it down into three posts.

Romans 1:5

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Here we see Paul attributing faith as a trigger for obedience to Christ. This doesn’t answer the question of faith but it does show us an interesting link between faith and obedience.

Romans 1:8

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Here faith is used as a distinguishing trait among a group of believers. This would imply there is a noteworthy faith worth striving for.

Romans 1:11-12

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

A person’s faith can be an encouragement to another believer. Two people with faith can encourage one another.

Romans 1:17

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Here’s a two-for-one. Whereas we saw faith linked with obedience in 1:5, here Paul connects faith with righteousness. Not only does obedience come by faith, but so does righteousness. Once a person experiences righteousness through their faith, they then choose to live by faith.

Romans 3:22a

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Like we already saw in 1:17, righteousness is linked to faith.

Romans 3:25-26

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Here Paul states that the sacrifice of Jesus must be received by faith. This shows that what happened on the cross is supernatural and beyond mere logic or reasoning alone. He adds to this thought that those who choose to accept this sacrifice through faith will be justified in God’s eyes.

Romans 3:27

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith.

Paul sets up a new law that is now at work and states that it requires faith. He continues it in the next verse…

Romans 3:28

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Bam! Here is a powerful statement. In this new law that Paul is discussing, justification comes not from your works but from your faith. Here we do see a major insight into the origin of faith. If we are justified by faith, it is because we have chosen it and God has responded by making us right in His eyes. If our faith came solely from God, it would be God justifying His own decision (which is what a Calvinist would argue). I would argue that this leans strongly toward faith being something we are primarily responsible for having.

Romans 3:29-30

Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.

Faith levels the playing field for all people. God will justify all of those on the sole criteria of their faith in Christ.

Romans 3:31

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

This faith that Paul’s been describing in the preceding verses is now the culmination of the essence of law. This may seem like faith 101, but this is what Paul will continue to build upon throughout the other chapters in this book.

Insights from the book of Romans

  • obedience comes from faith
  • a healthy faith is worth noting in people
  • faith can be a tool for encouragement
  • righteousness comes from faith
  • we are justified by our faith (this would imply God’s response to our action)
  • God will justify all of those on the sole criteria of their faith in Christ.
  • living by faith in Christ is the culmination of the law

Question: what is your reaction to the faith verses in the first few chapters of the book of Romans?

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan husband, father, executive pastor, and student of truth



about 2 years ago

Jeremy, Glad to see this engagement with faith language in the NT. I look forward to future posts in the series. I know that your intended audience here is the church not the academy, but I would offer an important caution that "faith," especially in Paul, cannot be studied in-depth apart from Greek. In fact, there are a number of texts that you've cited here that are very difficult to nuance properly in English and might be better translated differently. I would encourage you to consult multiple translations in the process of your study and if you happen to have any Greek language tools, this is an instance where they would be particularly relevant. As a couple of relevant examples, you might consider: Rom 1.17 "In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, 'and the righteous one will live from faith.'" The phrase "from faith to faith" is oddly translated by the NIV as "from faith first to last" which is just a bad idiomatic translation. Additionally, Paul cites Hab 2.4 here, which ought to factor into the discussion of what Paul means. Rom 3.22 "Righteousness of God [manifested] through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all those believing." There is a significant debate about how this text ought to be translated, but this is a very compelling option grammatically, and theologically relevant to your overall discussion on faith as a virtue or a gift - which is probably a false dichotomy anyway. Perhaps you are already using Greek and so this comment is superfluous. One of my preaching professors wisely commented once, "Greek study is like underwear, it should be present but it doesn't need to be seen in the sermon." I don't think Greek needs to be thrown around needlessly, but I do think that in order to really understand what Paul meant it has to be taken quite seriously. Otherwise this becomes a study of the NIV translators who, as staunch Calvinsts, would agree with Keller's reformed position that faith is a divine gift not a human virtue. I look forward to reading more.


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