The first thing that Paul has to say when he picks up his pen to write to believers in Rome is that he is a servant of Christ, called to be an apostle. He knows who he is and what he is to do – his identity and his charge. He is “under orders” to take God’s message to the Gentile world. What interest me this time through Romans is that in three subsequent verses he points out that believers are also called – called to obedience (5), called to belong (6), and called to be holy (7). It is clear that Paul sees the followers of Christ as seriously involved in carrying out God’s plan in this world.
The “obedience of faith” (subjective genitive) is the obedience that comes from faith. To genuinely believe in God is to obey him. Faith and obedience are inseparable. Faith discloses itself by conforming to the desires of the one you believe in. It is not an emotional feeling or an intellectual acceptance of something, but an active response to a person. To believe in Christ is to conform to his desires and expectations. Obedience is not a harsh word at all; it is the willing and active adjustment to what God has revealed as the best for us. The old hymn, Trust and Obey, has it right: “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.”
We are also “called to belong to Jesus Christ.” The truth is that believers are no longer free to do what they want to do for themselves. They now belong to another, to the One who died in their place and has now granted to them a place in God’s great kingdom. It is important for a person to belong, whether to a church, a local organization, or some important social movement. Scripture repeatedly says that the believer is “in Christ” (Paul alone uses the word, 84 times), that is, they sustain a close relationship with Christ. The need to belong is an extremely strong desire in the life of a person. It provides the longing to share with others the important issues in life. Once broken, the relationship is hard to repair. The hermit or recluse is an exception. So one of the crucial elements in life is to belong – to God and to others.
Then in v. 9 we find that believers are “called to be holy.” The reason for this is obvious: God is holy and when we join his family by faith we are to become like him. By separating ourselves from all in this world that is morally reprehensible we move in that direction. And remember, holiness is not some sort of static perfection, but a way of living in which the pernicious influence of sin is minimized and we are enabled to experience God’s continuing presence.