Romans 4

My name is J. T., and I’m a lazy blogger.

There, confession is good for the soul. I’ll be posting a chapter 5 summary on Monday, just so that I can at least cover the bases on where we are in our Romans study.  I thought we would talk a bit about Romans 4 as a whole, instead of trying to write two separate posts about the chapter. (I know. Lazy blogger.)

Paul’s outline brings this section of discussion to a close with an illustration from history. The big idea is this: Abraham was justified before God through his faith in God’s promise. His trust in God allows him to see God at work in his life. That trust is essential to faith.

Paul also sought to clear the air about inherited righteousness earned by simply trying to follow the Law. His illustration points to Abraham’s trust in God’s promise came before he was circumcised. That physical symbol of the inheritance had been the focus of demonstrating the line of inheritance through history to the New Testament era. Paul’s point is simple: Abraham is the father of many nations, and God made the promise to Abraham through a specific nation to make justification available to all nations.

That distinction is important, because he’s been demonstrating how no Gentile is without sin (something First Century Jews, particularly Pharisees, would have accepted without question). He also demonstrated that descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stood before God with an inadequate righteousness (something that most First Century Jews of any stature would have struggled to accept, or would have completely rejected). Everyone was in need of righteousness to be justified, and no one would be able to earn it on their own. Humanity was in desperate need of a Savior.

Paul’s conclusion on the subject of Abraham points to faith in God before circumcision. As we discussed Wednesday night, I believe the birth of Abraham’s faith began when he left everything familiar at home, and pursued God’s calling to a distant land of promise. He was to be father of many nations, not a single nation. The promised Messiah would come through that particular people, but the promise would be made available to all nations.

The key would be faith, not genetics. The result would be a universally available forgiveness to answer a universally dire need. That need could only be achieved through God’s action, not human effort.

Entering the next chapter, the focus shifts from the need for salvation, to the magnitude of the gift of forgiveness through Christ. More on that Monday.

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