Posts Tagged 'Justification by faith'

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Theology of Romans: Justification, Part 1

Judges-gavel 

Justification, Romans 3—5


In the book of Job, perhaps the most ancient piece of literature in the world, we read a very interesting comment and question courtesy of a man with the curious name of Bildad:

“God is powerful and dreadful. He enforces peace in heaven.  Who is able to number his hosts of angels? And his light shines down on all the earth.  How can mere man stand before God and claim to be righteous? Who in all the earth can boast that he is clean?  God is so glorious that even the moon and stars are less than nothing as compared to him.  How much less is man, who is but a worm in his sight?”  (Job 25, TLB)

Like all of Job’s friends, Bildad’s theology was hit-and-miss, but he nails it here.  How indeed can any man stand before God call himself “righteous”?   This is a question asked by all serious people.  Other people ask other questions, like:

  • How can I stay healthy and live a long life?
  • How can I make people like me?
  • Where can I find happiness?

Those are all good questions, but the serious, thinking person who realizes there is One greater than himself, to whom he is accountable, wonders how in the world he may be considered “good” in that One’s eyes.

This question is tackled by Paul, the theologian, in his letter to the Romans.

1.  Do all people need to be justified?

In the estimation of the world, there are “good” people, there are “bad” people, and there are “so-so” people.  But in God’s estimation, everybody needs to be “justified” before Him.

Well, then, are we Jews better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all men alike are sinners, whether Jews or Gentiles.   As the Scriptures say,  No one is good—no one in all the world is innocent.”  (Romans 3:9, 10  TLB)

There were some Jews in Paul’s day that thought they had a great advantage over Gentiles.  God had entrusted them with the Law and blessed them over the centuries and they felt, therefore, they were special.  Paul makes it clear that the Jew, or the people who think they are somehow morally superior, have no advantage over anybody else.  Both stand equally before God.  All people everywhere have been affected by sin in one way or another.

Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal…  (Romans 8:23  TLB)

As proof that all people are sinful and fall short of God’s ideal, Paul cites 6 passages from Psalms and Isaiah that show how sinful all people are.

  • The very character of man (verses 10—12) condemns him.
  • The conduct of man (verses 13—17) proves how sinful we are.
  • The cause of our conduct is given:  we just don’t care what God thinks (verse 18).

Paul sums it up perfectly in verse 19:

…all the world stands hushed and guilty before Almighty God.

In other words, there is no defense we can put forward.  Neither Jew nor Gentile; teetotaler or recovering drunk; Roman Catholic or Protestant; nobody can justify themselves before God.  Not one of us can excuse our behavior in a way acceptable to God.  Old Bildad was right after all!  No matter how good you or others may think you are, you aren’t in God’s sight.

2.  What does “justified” mean?

That brings us to the need of every human being to be justified in God’s sight.  What does that mean?  We take as our jumping off point in discovering a working definition what Paul wrote in Romans 4—

King David spoke of this, describing the happiness of an undeserving sinner who is declared “not guilty” by God.  “Blessed and to be envied,” he said, “are those whose sins are forgiven and put out of sight.  Yes, what joy there is for anyone whose sins are no longer counted against him by the Lord.”  (Romans 4:6—8  TLB)

To be justified is to be forgiven.

These verses are what caused Martin Luther to refer to the Christian’s righteousness (or goodness) as an “alien righteousness.”  Here is how he put it:

Everything…is outside us and in Christ.  For God does not want to save us by our own but by an extraneous righteousness which does not originate in ourselves but comes to us from beyond ourselves, which does not arise on our earth but comes from heaven.  Therefore, we must come to know this righteousness which is utterly external and foreign to us.  That is why our own personal righteousness must be uprooted.

It takes Luther a long time and a lot of words to make the simple point that the goodness God demands of us is not in us.  What He demands of us He puts in us through the Holy Spirit the righteousness (or goodness) of His Son.  He fills us with HIS righteousness.

To be justified is to be saved from wrath.

And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God’s wrath to come.  (Romans 5:9  TLB)

Because we are all sinners, we all deserve to be punished.  But because we have been forgiven those sins, part of our justification, we are spared that punishment.  God has done so much for us in the work of Christ; we have the glorious expectation of an ultimate salvation.  That expectation gives us present peace with God.  Why would we fear the One who has declared us “not guilty?”  Yes, thanks to the far-reaching work on the Cross, we can expect to be delivered from the judgment all men must face.  This deliverance is positively guaranteed by the fact of justification—the declaration by God that we are “not guilty.”

To be justified is to be considered righteous.

…we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.  (Romans 4:9b  NKJV)

What a mind-boggling thought!  We who are not righteous are considered to be righteous by God simply by virtue of our relationship to Jesus Christ!  Abraham is given as an example.   The Jews loved to think their blessings came from circumcision, that is, their observance of the Laws.  But Abraham, the father of Judaism, lived long before the Law was given yet was the recipient of all those blessings.  Why?  Because he had faith, and that faith was credited to him as righteousness.  In other words, Abraham believed in advance and it was that belief in God’s future promises that made Abraham righteous in God’s eyes.

So, we may not be righteous in practice, but our faith in our ultimate redemption and restoration through the work of Christ makes us righteous in God’s eyes.  Or, to put it another way, God sees us as we will be in our final state, not as we are at this moment.  Of course God is not blind to our sin, that’s why we must walk in a constant state of humble forgiveness.

To be justified is to be at peace with God.

So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  (Romans 5:1  TLB)

J.B. Phillips in his translation of this verse gives us, perhaps, a better sense of what Paul was trying to say:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God…

We no longer live under the shadow condemnation.

So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1  TLB)

We should no longer fear the wrath (present or future) of God because of our change in position.  Once we were unforgiven and deserving of God’s wrath.  But He has moved us into a new position; one of freedom from condemnation.  Therefore, we can sleep knowing peace.  We can live without fear that God is “out to get us” because we deserve it.

To be justified means rejoicing in hope.

For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.  (Romans 5:2  TLB)

Through our faith in His Work, Christ brings us into the fullness of God’s grace—the place of divine favor.  We had no right to be in God’s presence before and we had no right to an ounce of His grace.   Just like the common peasant could not just walk into the King’s throne room, so we were unable to walk into God’s throne room.  We, like the peasant, need someone better than ourselves to introduce us to God.  The French have a word for this:  entrée.  It is Christ who brings us who are justified into the full grace of God.  And that gives us HOPE.  And never discount the importance of hope!

Hope deferred makes the heart sick…  (Proverbs 13:12a  TLB)

Life is miserable without hope.  People who have lost hope have lost the will to live and died.  Hope is vitally important, and through our relationship with Christ and our new position in Him, we can “joyfully look forward.”  In other words, we have HOPE.

To be justified is to know the love of God in full measure.

Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  (Romans 5:5  TLB)

Our hope is rooted in God’s love for us.  It is God’s love for us, not our love for God, that makes all the difference in the world.  How do we know God loves us? It’s because He has poured His Holy Spirit into us!

For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children.  (Romans 8:16  TLB)

Because we have been justified, we have received the Holy Spirit and that Spirit bears witness to our spirit that God loves us.

To be justified is to be reconciled to God.

And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings he must have for us now that we are his friends and he is living within us!  (Romans 5:10  TLB)

“Justification” is a judicial term; a legal term.  God, as the Judge of the Universe, has declared the believer “justified,” freed from the guilt of sin.

“Reconciliation,” however, is a relational term; it deals with a relationship.  When two people are reconciled, it means they are not longer at loggerheads; they are not longer at odds with each other.  The thing that was causing them to be hostile towards each other has been removed.

Both “justification” and “reconciliation” have been accomplished by the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  No longer is there any enmity between God and man.  No longer is man fearful of divine punishment.  There is complete assurance that our sin problem has been dealt with once and for all.  Of course, both justification and reconciliation are exclusive blessings of the redeemed; those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

SOME FRUIT OF JUSTIFICATION

Justification makes a believer happy!

Romans 5:1—11

Chapter 5 of Romans marks a turning point. Up till now, Paul has been a professor of New Testament doctrine, teaching his readers all about the doctrine we call Justification By Faith. The first four chapters of this letter are what Joe Friday would call “only the facts.” In chapters 5 to 8, Paul leaves the facts of justification to cover the fruits of justification. The kind of fruit varies from chapter to chapter, and in chapter 5 Paul discusses a number of fruit that justification brings, all of which result in hope in the life of every believer.

1. Peace, vs. 1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

The first fruit or benefit of having been justified by faith is “peace with God.” It seems as though this is one thing human beings have been looking for almost since the very beginning. For most people, a life of peace is a fleeting dream. Grasping peace is like trying to remember the details of a dream you just awoke from. The problem is that while people want peace, they want it on their terms, not God’s terms. And unfortunately, almost always your terms will be in conflict with other peoples’ terms. This is true of God. If you pursue peace on your terms, you will be in conflict with God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes between man and God and paves the way for peace between the two.

The Greek word for “peace” that Paul used is eirene, and it does not primarily suggest an attitude or a relationship between people but rather a “state” or a “time of peace” in between an everlasting state of war. Thanks to the work of Jesus Christ, man has been set free from the continuing state of war that exists between God and the human race and can now be at peace.

This peace is both objective and subjective. We have been given peace through Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to enjoy it; to claim it. In fact, this is how J.B. Phillips translates the second part of verse 1:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God.

The believer must never lose sight of the fact through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, we have an unshakable hope for the future. This hope is rooted and grounded in our relationship with Christ:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

Peace with God is available only to those who have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace with God is the foundation of all other peace in the world. This is why there will never be peace in the world or permanent peace in the human heart until all men everywhere submit to the rule of God.

Martin Luther once preached a sermon on Romans 5 and made some interesting observations, which are worth sharing:

  • The righteous man has peace with God but affliction with the world because he lives in the Spirit.
  • The unrighteous man has peace with the world but affliction and tribulation with god because he lives in the flesh.
  • But as the Spirit is eternal, so also will be the peace of the righteous man and tribulation of the unrighteous.
  • And as the flesh is temporal, so will be the tribulation of the righteous and peace of the unrighteous.

2. Access, vs. 2a

…through whom we have gained access by faith…

Here is the second benefit of justification: access to the presence and reality of God. This reminds us of something else Paul wrote:

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)

This was accomplished through Christ’s vicarious sacrifice. It was the shedding of His blood that brought reconciliation and it was the Holy Spirit that causes believers to appropriate and appreciate this great act of redemption.

The Greek ten prosagogen, translated “access,” means “our introduction.” The idea Paul is trying to get across is that of entrance into the presence of a monarch. It does not suggest that our access is accomplished on our own strength, but rather that we need an “introducer”–Jesus Christ. The French word entree is a good word for what Jesus has done for us. He brings the the justified believer into the full favor and grace of God the Father, and thus into His presence.

3. Grace, vs 2b

into this grace in which we now stand.

This statement sums up the privilege of all believers. We are currently able to enjoy every spiritual blessing in Christ. Grace is like a key we hold in our hands that will, one day, open wide the door that will permit us entrance in reality into the very presence of God Almighty. Right now we can enjoy God’s presence spiritually, but in the future, we will be literally and forever in the same “time” and “space” as He is!

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

4. Hope, vs 2c

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Closely related to faith is hope; these two great virtues have much in common. Our hope of eternal happiness with God the Father in Heaven is grounded in the glory of God. As we sit and reflect on God’s glory, our hearts are filled with hope. Thus, we can face the future with joy, confidence, and optimism. In fact, God’s plan is that we should reflect His glory. God is not gloomy or depressed. God is not downtrodden, sullen and melancholy. And neither should we be.

5. Suffering, vs. 3—5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Depending on our current circumstances, these verses can be a little hard to take. Another benefit of our justification is a new understanding of suffering. The believer’s joy or glory is not something we hope we may experience some time in the future, but it is a present reality today, even during times of distress. Suffering of all kinds will come and go, but the peace, access, grace, and hope never leave the justified believer.

In the Christian life, suffering is helpful; it has real value. It produces a number things:

  • Perseverance, or “steadfast endurance.” This gives us the ability to literally “bear up” in the face of any pressure or trial.

  • Character is something that perseverance leads to. The word translated “character” denotes the quality of being approved, what has been proved by trial. This was something Job understood well: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10)

  • Hope is produced by character. Interestingly, “hope” is the final step toward spiritual maturity. The other two steps lead to this one. It’s not that Paul is suggesting that our hope is in our character or that our character is the source of our hope. That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.

Paul stresses that the Christian hope does not put believers to shame. In other words, the Christian hope will never disappoint us. Our hope is not an illusion because it has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit. Get it? God gives us the hope we possess.

Our new understanding of suffering couldn’t be more different than the world’s. Christian suffering is a source of joy because it has a purpose: to build character.

6. Judgment, vs. 6—11

This wonderful benefit of justification relates to the final judgment.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

Christian hope is not to be confused with things like wishful thinking that says, “I hope God will kind to me on judgment day” or “If I get to go to heaven.” In fact, our hope is based on something concrete: the things God did for us in the death of His Son. God did all that He did for us out of love for us. God, were were just told, poured His love into our hearts, and now we are told why:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (vs. 8)

We were so full of sin, we were powerless to help ourselves and powerless to latch onto God’s love. God, out of love, took the initiative and poured His love into us! God’s love is so unique, Paul gave a simple illustration to help his readers understand:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (vs. 7)

God demonstrated His love for sinful man in a most unique and remarkable way: He did it while we were at our worst! God’s love for sinful man, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vs. 8)

Nothing we could have done would have moved God to send His Son to die for us. He did it “while were still sinners.” Moreover, we are told, Jesus died “at just the right time” or, as it can also be translated, “at the appointed time.” In other words, Jesus died at precisely the time set by God, not by us.

Of importance is the present tense of the word “demonstrates.” Even though Jesus died once for all; His death occurring at a point in history two thousand years ago, the fact is the death of the Son of God continues to impact and influence the present generations, so powerful it was.

Paul’s argument in the concluding verses of this section is a marvel of pure logic. If God did all these good things for us while we were at our absolute worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are on His side! When we look at the love He HAD for us, surely we can HAVE hope and confidence for the future.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

The fact that we have “been justified by his blood” indicates that man’s sin problem has been thoroughly dealt with. The consequence of our sin is inescapable: sure and certain judgment. However, praise God, the love of God made it possible for us to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that we “shall be saved from God’s wrath through him.” As wonderful as this is, Paul says there is “much more” to our salvation that simply being saved from what we have done.

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (vs. 10)

That last phrase is the game-changer: “We shall be saved through (or by) his life!” In other words, Christ got rid of our sinful yesterdays and He is the answer to what we are today. Christ not only died, but has also risen. He saved us by His death, but because He rose, ahead of us also lies salvation. Barth observes:

Christ’s risen life sets a seal upon our justification effected by His death, and because He lives, this peace, our reconciliation, and the pouring forth of the love of God in our hearts, mark a point in our journey beyond which there is no turning back, going on from which we have only one future, and in which we can only glory, as long as we remain in Christ.

Paul set forth the wrath of God in the first part of Romans (1:18—3:20) and the righteousness of God in this second section (3:21—5:11). Next, we will tackle how the wrath of God and the righteousness of are seen in Adam and Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

ABRAHAM: JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

Romans 4

Paul had just taught a doctrine known as “justification by faith.” To the first century Christians he was writing to, this must have sounded too good to be true, especially among the Jews, where works were so important. What if there were some readers of this letter who thought this “justification by faith” was a brand-new doctrine? Back in 1:7, Paul made the declaration that in the Gospel a righteousness from God was “revealed.” This might well suggest to some that this “justification” was a new thing, invented during this new Christian era, maybe even by Paul himself. So, now, Paul takes his readers back to the Old Testament to point out to them that this was no new doctrine at all. In fact, it is as old as Abraham! Justification by faith is just another part of the continuing plan of God for the redemption of mankind through His eternal purposes in the work of His Son.

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (4:3)

Abraham, a man held in the highest esteem by Israel, had a right standing before God. This was achieved, teaches Paul, not through Abraham’s good works, but through faith. Abraham’s sin was placed on Christ’s account, and Christ paid the full price. What was true for Abraham is true for believers today. If we view our life of sin as a kind of debt we owe God, then Jesus assumed our debt and our account has been completely settled by Him.

Paul’s choice of Abraham as an illustration of a person being justified by faith is a stroke of sheer brilliance. The Jews respected Abraham—he was the father of their nation, after all! But he was also a Gentile—a pagan Chaldean—who was credited with righteousness as a result of his faith. The truth about Abraham, though, is that he, like any believer, is received by God, not on his own merit, in his own name, but in the rights and in the Name of Jesus Christ. Abraham did nothing to earn his declaration of righteousness.

1. Contradiction?

Is that message at odds with the teaching of James 2:21—24?

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

There really is no contradiction between the teachings of Paul and those of James; they are in reality two sides of the same coin. Romans 4:2 declares simply:

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.

The justification that Paul is talking about is “justification by faith”; it is being justified before God, not before man. James, on the other hand, is talking about the evidence of Paul’s justification. The person who claims to have saving (justifying) faith in Christ is obliged to prove it to the people around him. How does he do this? Unlike God, man cannot see this “justification by faith.” But man can see how we live our lives! So the proof of our new position in Christ and before God must be manifested in our good works.

Paul, in writing about Abraham’s being justified by faith, quotes from Genesis 15. James, in writing about Abraham’s works took his illustration from Genesis 22. This incident in Abraham’s life is further explained by the writer to the Hebrews:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17—19)

What does teach us about justification by faith? Simply this: when we are justified by God, we are given a new position in Christ. It is up to us to live up that new position.

2. Wages and gifts

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. (verses 4, 5)

The the thing that distinguishes wages from gifts is work. Paul has established that justification by faith is a gift from God; it is undeserved and unearned by the one justified. This is the difference between wages and gifts: work. When a person works, he gets what he deserves—he exchanges his time and efforts for his employers money. In other words, the worker’s wages are an obligation to him from his employer. When a person does not work, there is no obligation for anybody to give that person anything. Anything that non-working person receives must be viewed as a gift; such is righteousness from God.

All of man’s work, his good work, is not good enough. No human being can live long enough to perform enough good deeds to tilt the scales anywhere near his favor, therefore, there is no obligation for that man to be paid a wage—he cannot be credited with the wage of righteousness. If a man is credited with righteousness, it is strictly because he has believed God; he has claimed God’s gift of salvation and God’s promises in faith.

3. David

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.” (verses 6—8)

Abraham, a pagan Gentile who lived long before the Law, was justified by God. Now, Paul gives his readers another example of one justified by faith, but this time he uses a man born under the Law: David.

Verse 5 teaches that it is God who justifies the ungodly. Immediately after that, Paul begins a short discussion about David, a man we would never consider to be “ungodly!” What is Paul trying to get across to his readers? The key is the quote, taken from Psalm 32, verses 1 and 2. This psalm is David’s great “penitential psalm.” It is the confession of his great sin with Bathsheba and his acceptance of its consequences. Paul’s point in quoting this psalm is to illustrate that David’s works were evil; they were the acts of an ungodly man. What he did to Uriah and the sin of adultery were absolute evil in the sight of God. And yet David, because he experienced God’s forgiveness and justification, was able to write:

Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them… (Psalm 32:2)

Though David didn’t use the words, he is essentially describing what Paul is teaching: justification by faith! God treated David better than he deserved to be treated! God credited righteousness to David because his sins were forgiven. We know that David did nothing to merit this forgiveness except to exercise faith: he agreed with God about what he had done and how he needed to be forgiven. We all know the story: Nathan the prophet confronted David with the awful truth of David’s sin and deceitfulness, and David owned up to what he had done:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. (2 Samuel 12:13)

From the mouth of two witnesses, three if you count Paul, then, comes the undeniable fact that under both the Old and New Covenants, man is justified before God by faith; there is no other way.

4. A sign and a seal

Some sharp-eyed readers of this letter during Paul’s day might have argued that since both Abraham and Paul were circumcised—that is, they acted in obedience to the Law—then obedience to the Law must be part of justification. In essence, works, in the form of obedience, precede justification. To this, Paul notes:

It was not after, but before! (verse 10b)

Paul exclaims that Abraham was justified by faith years before he was circumcised! What was the point of circumcision, then, as far as Abraham was concerned? It was merely a sign, an evidence that he had been justified by faith. One Bible scholar aptly observed:

We cannot doubt that circumcision was delayed in order to teach the believing Gentiles of future ages that they may claim Abraham as their father, and the righteousness of faith as their inheritance.

Another way to look at this is to conclude that Abraham was justified by faith as a human being, not as a Gentile or a Jew. Faith, not religion, is the standard for all human beings.

We now know from extra-Biblical writings that Paul’s message of justification by faith was understood by at least one member of the Roman church. Clement, the bishop of Rome from 90—100 AD wrote this:

It is through faith that Almighty God has justified all that have been from the beginning of time.

It wasn’t just to the Romans that Paul taught this landmark doctrine. In Galatians 3:7, he put it like this:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

Jew or Gentile; it’s immaterial to God who it is that comes to Him in simple faith. He freely justifies both.

5. Primacy of faith

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. (verses 13—15)

The Roman believers have just learned that faith came before circumcision. In these two verses, Paul goes even further by stating that faith also takes priority over the Law. If circumcision, which was instituted only 14 years after Abraham was declared righteous proved that circumcision had nothing to do with anything, then the Law, which was instituted 430 years after Abraham was declared righteous, proves that that it had even less to do with anything!

The promise given to Abraham did not depend on his or his descendants keeping any kind of Law, because Abraham had been justified by faith! What exactly is this “promise?” It, naturally, has to do with Abraham becoming the father of many nations, but it specifies something in particular:

...all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3)

God gave that promise, which also has a messianic implication, to Abraham long before either circumcision or the Law had been introduced. The great blessing of the promise came to Abraham from God on the basis of faith, not works.

6. What faith depends on

The remainder of this chapter speaks of the strength of Abraham’s faith. In the face of old age, Abraham’s faith in God remained young. How was this possible? Why did Abraham have such strong faith in God? The secret to strong, unwavering faith lies in verse 21:

being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Faith is as strong or as weak depending on how we perceive the Object of our faith. If God is the Object of our faith, it will be rock solid and immovable. But if our faith is in our talents or our resources or the circumstances of our lives, it will be weak. We, like Abraham, must be “persuaded” that God is able!

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

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