Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Romans - Chapter 04 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. Well then, what can we say about our ancestor Abraham?
    2. If he became acceptable to God because of what he did, then he would have something to brag about. But he would never be able to brag about it to God.
    3. The Scriptures say, "God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him."
    4. Money paid to workers isn't a gift. It is something they earn by working.
    5. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him.
    6. In the Scriptures David talks about the blessings that come to people who are acceptable to God, even though they don't do anything to deserve these blessings. David says,
    7. "God blesses people whose sins are forgiven and whose evil deeds are forgotten.
    8. The Lord blesses people whose sins are erased from his book."
    9. Are these blessings meant for circumcised people or for those who are not circumcised? Well, the Scriptures say that God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him.
    10. But when did this happen? Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? Of course, it was before.
    11. Abraham let himself be circumcised to show that he had been accepted because of his faith even before he was circumcised. This makes Abraham the father of all who are acceptable to God because of their faith, even though they are not circumcised.
    12. This also makes Abraham the father of everyone who is circumcised and has faith in God, as Abraham did before he was circumcised.
    13. God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world. This promise wasn't made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable.
    14. If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.
    15. God becomes angry when his Law is broken. But where there isn't a law, it cannot be broken.
    16. Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God's promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise isn't only for Abraham's descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham's descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all.
    17. The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations. This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.
    18. God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations.
    19. Abraham's faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly a hundred years old. He knew that he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children.
    20. But Abraham never doubted or questioned God's promise. His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.
    21. Abraham was certain that God could do what he had promised.
    22. So God accepted him,
    23. just as we read in the Scriptures. But these words were not written only for Abraham.
    24. They were written for us, since we will also be accepted because of our faith in God, who raised our Lord Jesus to life.
    25. God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.

Romans - Chapter 04

Entered: August 29, 2005

Though Paul will have much more to say about the law and about justification by faith, in chapter 4 he has reached the high point of his argument. Using Abraham, the father of our faith, to make his point, Paul argues that Abraham was declared righteous even before there was a law or circumcision. It was his faith that was credited to him for righteousness. What was the purpose of the law? He says in verse 13 that, "In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to one's account when there is no law." This purpose is the opposite of what we normally think about the law. Normally we think of the law as a means of gaining salvation or God's favor. But this says it was given as a means of charging us with sin. Man's laws work in the same way. People can go around killing and stealing, etc., and society cannot do anything about it until that society establishes a law to make these acts a crime. When this is done, those who do those things are now committing a crime and can be punished. So where does Jesus fit into the picture? The only way to avoid being 'arrested' for breaking a law is to not break a law (or with man's laws to not get caught). However, this is impossible. We simply cannot avoid breaking a law, and this is where Jesus comes in. He keeps us from having to pay the penalty for breaking a law by paying that penalty for us.

Entered: September 26, 2011

Paul establishes in this chapter that we are made right with God by faith. To support his position, he refers to Abraham and to scripture. Many of Paul's readers were Jews who considered themselves to be right with God because they were descendants of Abraham. But on what basis did God consider Abraham to be righteous - that is, in right standing with Him? It was on the basis of Abraham's faith. If it was Abraham's faith that God accepted for his righteousness, it can be no different for his descendants or anyone else. 

If this were the case, then, how does circumcision fit into the picture? Many Jews rely on circumcision for salvation. What is its significance if salvation is based on faith? Paul's answer to this was that circumcision was instituted with Abraham as a sign of the "righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised." (4:11) Abraham was not circumcised at the time he was considered by God to be righteous. Therefore, it could not be an ingredient in his salvation. It played the same role as does baptism for the Christian, which is also a sign, or testimony, of what has already taken place. That is, one's acceptance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Though many rely on baptism for salvation, it, too, is only a sign of what has already taken place. 

A further question Paul addresses is the role of the law in righteousness, or salvation. Righteousness, Paul says, is an act of God's grace which He "credits" to a person based on their faith, and not on their works. It is not something that is earned, but is free. If it were by works it would not be a gift but would be something God owed a person. But God is not indebted to anyone. Instead, we are indebted to Him. Therefore, by God's crediting righteousness to a person based solely on their faith, Paul quotes David, the psalmist in saying, "How happy those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered!" (4:7)

Paul concludes by saying that what was written in scripture about Abraham's faith being credit for righteousness was not truly only for him but also for everyone. He says, "It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (4:24-25)