“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
Continued from My Roman Holiday: Romans 3.
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?” (Romans 4:1). The apostle Paul opens Romans 4 with this question about faith, and the answer Paul gave was that Abraham was justified by faith; that righteousness had been credited to him. What’s more, righteousness bas been credited to us as well. “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:23-24). Again, we see the apostle makes the point that God’s faithfulness does not rely on the faithfulness of humanity, nor is God’s grace a matter of works.
“What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5). The notion is so foreign to human custom and reason that grace probably seems to cut us at our core, but let God be true and every man be a liar (Romans 3:4). The one who is approved by God did not earn that approval; instead, they renounce any possibility of earning salvation. Like Abraham, the one who is saved is the one who is justified; the one to whom righteousness has been credited. The one to whom righteousness has been credited believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, and puts their faith and trust in God. The one who puts their faith and trust in God takes the Lord at His word. Abraham may not have not known how God would fulfill His promise, but that was incidental, because he had every confidence that God was fully capable of accomplishing what He promised. Furthermore, every bit as important, Abraham had every confidence that God intended to accomplish what He started. Even the very faith, which God credited to him as righteousness, Abraham could not boast in of himself, for that faith was of God as well. “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).
Romans 4 is full of any number of other revelations and wonderful truths worth exploring, but I have written what I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me to write.
Romans 4 speaks into our lives today; merit is ingrained in our culture, in our thinking, and it is easy to get caught up in the notion that God’s pardon has to somehow be earned, if even a little bit. The sad truth is that kind of thinking is an insidious idolatry. We struggle to give God the glory, entirely; we want to keep a little glory for ourselves. But despite having been guilty of murder and adultery, Paul looks to David to corroborate his point, with David clearly tasting the sweetness of God’s pardon. I rejoice in the words of David from Psalm 32, “David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them” (Romans 4:6-8). As I embark on my Roman holiday, I look forward to the journey ahead. It is human nature to seek some type of merit based absolution, lending itself to glorifying self. Oh how I thank God for His faithfulness, His patience, and Hs great love for us, as expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. Until next time, and Romans 5.
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