Today: [Romans 4:] Abraham, Our Father in Faith: Paul declares in this chapter that all men, Jew or Gentile are following in the step of Abraham’s faith when they accept Jesus as their Savior. Abraham lived in right relationship to God not because he kept a law or a moral code. Abraham was justified by God on the basis of his faith to believe all that God had promised not only to him but to all nations including you and me who would be blessed by his confidence in God.
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[Rom 4:1-12 KJV] 1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 [Saying], Blessed [are] they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed [is] the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 [Cometh] this blessedness then upon the circumcision [only], or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which [he had] being [yet] uncircumcised.
In chapters 1 through 3 of Romans, Paul pronounces all of humanity either Jew or Gentile morally bankrupt and hopelessly condemned before God – outside of Christ. Man cannot be righteous by birth neither can a man be held blameless because of ignorance of the law or any failed attempt to keep the law. Man can only enter into a state of right standing with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole basis of approach to God that is not utterly condemned. The question that a first century Jew would ask is then answered in v. 1 of chapter 4. If a Jewish person is not justified by keeping the law then what is the advantage of being born as one of God’s chosen people? The advantage is that through Abraham justification by faith and not works was made manifest. Abraham was not a law keeper. Technically Abraham was not even a Jew because a Jew is one born of the tribe of Judah. By what means then was Abraham brought into a covenant relationship with God? Abraham was brought into friendship (covenant relationship) with God because he believed God. That is why in Genesis 15 when the smoking lamp and burning furnace of God’s presence in Gen. 15:17 passed between the pieces of the covenantal sacrifice that He did so ALONE and not in lockstep with Abraham. Traditionally when two persons cut covenant both parties would pass between the pieces to ratify the covenant. In Gen. 15, however, God caused Abraham to fall into a trance state and only witness the fact that God confirmed the covenant by passing through the pieces of the sacrifice alone, thus establishing that the only expectation upon Abraham was that he believed on what he saw taking place. Likewise, when Jesus went to the cross, he went alone. Peter claimed he would die with Jesus, but that didn’t happen. Jesus paid the price of sin alone as all humanity looked on. The only thing we can do to appropriate the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice is like Abraham to look on and choose to believe that Jesus death, burial, and resurrection has person implications for us.
In verse 5 then, Paul insists that salvation is not awarded to man because of good works. God is not acting in your life because you are a good Christian because from God’s perspective there is no such thing. If our good works could leverage God, then God is a debtor to man, and we know that is not the case. If God’s intervention or salvation in your life is provoked by what you do rightly then necessarily his judgment must be provoked by what you do wrong. This is why God took the whole matter out of our hands and wrought our salvation in Christ. Since salvation is in Christ through faith in Christ we cannot justify ourselves this is true but neither can the enemy accuse us because our justification is not about us it is about Jesus and what Jesus did for us on the cross 2000 years ago. Thus verse 6 tells us that David described and extolled the blessedness by which God imputes right standing with heaven by grace and not by works. Iniquities are forgiven because in Christ they are not the basis by which men are put in right relationship to God just as good works are never in consideration when God is acting in defense of your life. What you do or do not do does not reflect on your standing before God. God accepts you and moves in your life not because of who you are or what you have done but because of who Jesus is and what He did for you 2000 years ago.
[Romans 4:13-25 KJV]
13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the law [be] heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression. 16 Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
In verse 13 Paul emphasizes that the merits of Christ were not for the Jew only. The benefits of Christ and the promises of God came to Abraham because of his faith before any law was given by Moses afterward. Abraham was brought into covenant with God because he chose to believe. He believed God, and his belief resulted in God putting him into a right relationship with heaven. Thus since Abraham was justified by faith when no law was yet given, he is then not only the father of the Jew, he is the father of all of mankind when they choose to follow in the footsteps of his faith-based approach to God. In this way, Abraham is not just the father of the Jewish nation, but v. 17 tells us He is the father of MANY NATIONS including those nations you or I arise from!
In the example of Abraham, we are directed where to put our efforts – not in law keeping or religious performance because those things had no place in Abraham’s life. Abraham exercised himself hoping against hope by faith believing. By faith believing Abraham staggered not at the promise of God but was strong not in moral or religious striving but in faith believing that what God had promised him would come to pass. Are you like Abraham willing to receive a promise that will be so heavy upon you that your challenge is not to stagger? Believe God for BIG things, IMPOSSIBLE things!
God wants you to be fully persuaded, not fully religious. Abraham had no religion. What he did have was a faith-based approach to God and relationship with God. Because Abraham ascertained God and judged Him faithful, God’s response was to impute to him right standing not through any law or moral excellence but through faith alone. This is our portion. We are not justified by law because in truth we are incapable of being anything other than a lawbreaker. To consider yourself a good person you must judge yourself by a standard other than God’s word, a lower standard that gives you no advantage in the court of heaven. We are justified by faith. Abraham was justified by faith when he laid up before God in a trance as the smoking lamp and burning furnace of Gen. 15:17 passed through the pieces of the sacrifice. You are justified by faith when you choose to believe that what Jesus did on the cross was the complete price paid to put you in a right relationship with God and a recipient all that heaven affords!
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