The Role of Obedience in Salvation (Part 2)

The Example of the Christians in Rome

In Romans 6:17-18, the apostle Paul specifically addresses the recipients of his letter and reminds them of how they received the gift of salvation in Christ. He says to them, “…though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (NASB).

“Obedient from the Heart”

Notice that Paul says that they had been “freed from sin” when they were “obedient from the heart.” Obviously, obedience was a part of the process of freeing the Roman Christians from their sins. What exactly did they “obey” and what is this “form of teaching” mentioned by Paul? The preceding context has the answer. They had been baptized (Romans 6:3-7). Baptism in water is something we must obey because it is commanded (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 22:16).

Paul says that upon obeying God in baptism the “body of sin” had been “done away with” (Romans 6:6). Peter said essentially the same thing in Acts 2:38, only he uses different words. There he simply says that baptism is “for the forgiveness of your sins.”

A Command Versus a Promise

Paul is not talking about baptism with Holy Spirit, because the baptism in Romans 6 is something to which they “became obedient” (Romans 6:17, NASB). Again, by being baptized, the Christians in Rome obeyed a command. In contrast, Holy Spirit baptism is never commanded anywhere in the New Testament. It was a promise made only to the apostles (Acts 1:2-5,8).

The Example of Christians in Other Places

In his first letter, the apostle Peter does not address individuals in one specific geographical location, like Paul in his letter to the Romans, but rather writes to Christians who had been “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). Later in this chapter, the inspired writer says, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23, NASB).

“In Obedience to the Truth”

Notice that the apostle states that the recipients of his letter were “born again” when they humbly submitted “in obedience to the truth.” In order for this new birth to occur, the “seed” (Greek, SPERMA), which is the word of the Holy Spirit, must first be planted in our hearts. In the physical sense, the male puts his “seed” in the female to create new life. Approximately nine months later, a woman’s water breaks and a new life emerges. Likewise, only after one has received the implanted word of the Holy Spirit and has been “born of water” in baptism (John 3:5) can it be said that he is “born again” and walks in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

The recipients of Peter’s letter had “purified” their souls “in obedience to the truth” (1 Peter 1:22, NASB). The English Standard Version says that their souls had been purified “BY” their obedience. Purification of the soul occurs when one is obedient in baptism because it is “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). It is in this act of obedient faith that one receives the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12).

How about you? Have you purified your soul and been born again by obeying God’s command to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?

–Jerry Falk