By the time you finish with Romans chapters two and three, you might wonder why God gave the law. It almost seems useless, but it is not, for it shows us the mercy of God. Those that choose not to figure out what the nature and character of God are, will never understand this statement.
What have we learned?
That His law is righteous.
If you only remembered one thing about the law, the idea that it is focused on love, starting with God and your relationship with Him would be crucial. Everything else lives in the concept of treating people right, based on love.
His law is written on the heart of every human being; it always has been.
We are told by scripture that there is no excuse, and there is nothing holding back God’s righteous judgment from coming upon the nations and the Jews.
Never let anyone tell you that God has cast away the Jews.
Paul, in a sense, responds to this very thing when he tells us that the promise was made to Abraham and his seed. That promise has never been rescinded; and, if you will study Romans chapter 11, you will see that we Gentiles have been grafted into the good stock.
No one is righteous.
That sounds rather hopeless, but it is not because Jesus poured out His own blood to redeem us and sanctify us by that blood.
Do you believe that? If you don’t, then it is something that you have not acquired to yourself through faith.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is to visualize that what happened with Adam in the garden was to modify his DNA to a damaged segment that gives us a propensity to sin, and that has been passed on to all humanity.
And finally, the righteousness of God only comes through faith.
As I pointed out above, the sanctification needed to make us righteous comes through faith alone. Jesus has done all that is necessary and will never go back on the cross for you. All you have to do is to accept that He gave you the opportunity for an eternal life with the Father, and all you have to do is believe and receive that life.
The authors segmented our Bibles into sections. This particular one opens with this line –
Abraham was justified by faith.
I am going to use the NASB, as it is my preferred translation (although it troubles me at times) for our introduction here.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
(Romans 4:1 NASB)
Allow me to approach this idea of Abraham being my forefather. It was because of the promises made to Abraham that the Jews cling to their heritage, religion, and culture. Paul points out that these are not the things that make you righteous, it is the faith that Abraham had that made him righteous. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is a tedious effort to straighten that out.
I then am only a Jew because of God’s adoption. How this adoption happened is central to the gospel that Paul preached.
In Ephesians 1:4,5, Paul tells us that we were predestined to be adopted as Sons through Jesus Christ.
To the church in Rome, chapter eight, verse fifteen, he writes that they have received a spirit of adoption.
And, he informs the church in Galatia, chapter four verse five, that the price Christ paid allows us to receive the adoption as sons.
In case you did not notice, this adoption is available, but it is not automatic. This is where faith and acceptance come into play.
To make this interesting try to imagine going to an adoption agency and choosing a purple-haired teen, who is playing a video game they won’t put down as you try to hold a conversation, that would not only establish their character, but you are trying to let them know what your character is, and what you can offer them.
In a sense, this is what God did with us, as He parks His vehicle in front of this global adoption agency. Having been given the tour, he has seen those living there and decides to adopt them all. He pays the fees – in this case the life of His own Son, and tells them all to jump into the bus. One young teen says, FINE!, I’ll go, but I won’t take out the trash. God just laughs knowing that in time, we all have to take out the trash.
The trash, in this case, is not only the junk we think we can’t survive without, such as emotional baggage or habits we have developed because we thought they would help us survive; however, it is also bits of garbage that others have dumped into our lives through faulty teaching. In a simplistic way I have just buried volumes of theology into a simple statement; and, in time, the Holy Spirit that lives within you will teach you these things.
Romans 4:2 NASB For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
If Abraham was justified by works, what were the works?
God hoped the man would follow His instructions.
God told Abram (he is not yet called Abraham), to leave this place and your relatives and go to a place I will show you. Rather open-ended, but, in time, Abram left.
Genesis 12:1 NASB Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house To the land which I will show you;
So many things happened along the way. There was the struggle with Lot’s herdsmen; Lot is taken captive in a battle and Abraham has to rescue him; and then, Lot moves to Sodom – a horrible choice.
Those instructions included circumcising yourself as a mark of this covenant he had with God. Circumcising yourself would have been monumental and painful, but then there was the request by God for Abraham to offer up his only son. This too would have been horrific and yet Abraham was within inches of killing his “only son” on the sacrificial altar. God stopped that process by “providing himself as the lamb.” Suddenly there appears a ram.
“Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.” (Genesis 22:8-9 NASB)
“He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.” (Genesis 22:12-13 NASB)
Ah, but Abraham was not justified by his works or actions, if I may. He was justified – made right by faith. We know this because we are told that Abraham believed God.
Romans 4:3 NASB For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Watch how Paul challenges the logic and religion, by pointing out that this righteousness is a gift and cannot be earned.
Romans 4:4 NLT When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.
The problem is that, in some way, all religion makes you try to earn some aspect of your righteousness.
Romans 4:5 TLV But to the one who does not work, but trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his trust is credited as righteousness—
This idea of gaining a righteous standing with God was understood by King David years before Paul came on the scene.
Romans 4:6-8 TLV just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: (7) Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man whose sin Adonai will never count against him.”
Remember earlier when I said that adoption is available to all, but it is NOT automatic. I had to restrain myself at that point because I wanted so badly to tell you your sin is forgiven and you did nothing to make that happen.
Look at what David says in verse 7. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered.”
The question then becomes, what are we to do with such freedom, and what does it imply?
Well, as the “Chrisitian” band, the Newsboys, said in their song “I Am Free”, you are NOW free, but to do what?
I am free to live for you
Some interpret this freedom as grace; however, many will tell you that this grace gives us the freedom to push the boundaries of sin, as though we are no longer subject to the law. How is that possible when the law is written upon our hearts?
Romans 4:9 NASB “Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.””
Although I doubt you are confused, allow me to define who the circumcised are – the Jews.
Who then are the uncircumcised? The Gentiles.
In light of the fact that “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness,” Paul, in his Jewishness, gets a little saucy as he says.
Romans 4:10 NASB “How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;”
What was credited?
Was he a Jew at the time?
The terminology, uncircumcised, would plainly tell you NO. So, Abraham was a gentile. The NLT translation states, “Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!”
And, he did this so that he might be the father of all, though they are uncircumcised. What’s the importance of this? Abraham, an allusion to Jesus Christ, the Father, is the father to everyone who believes in Jesus.
Romans 4:11 TLV
And he received the sign of circumcision
as a seal of the righteousness
of the trust he had
while he was uncircumcised,
so he might be the father of all
who are trusting while uncircumcised—
that righteousness might be credited to them as well.
But it is not just about the uncircumcised, as Abraham is the father of the circumcised who believe and walk in the steps of faith.
Romans 4:12 Moffatt NT “as well as a father of those circumcised persons who not only share circumcision but walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had as an uncircumcised man.”
No one is excluded, and under NO circumstance is God done with the Jews. He is, however, looking for the Jews to apply faith in Jesus as the Messiah.