Romans

Romans 1:16-17

The Just Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Then Paul states something which seems simple to us today, but in context was very telling of his nature and his conviction to the gospel. When he states that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” he is speaking to people who were just starting to see the persecution against Christianity push outside of Judea. Paul himself, if you remember, was widly known by his birth name of Saul (Acts 8:1;9:1;13:9) before his conversion in AD 33 or 34 (Acts 9:3-22;22:4-19;26:9-15; 1 Corinthians 9:1;15:8; Galatians 1:13-24) and was feared by every Christian in Judea for his punishments against “the Way” as they called it (Acts 7:58;8:1,3;9:1;22:4). He even stood by and watched over the the coats of those who stoned Steven (the first martyr) to death (Acts 7:54-60). Persecution is something that Paul suffered many times, once even being beaten nearly to death – at least into a coma 2 Corinthians 11:23-28) before being martyred himself during Nero’s reign (AD 54-68). It is in that context that he says that he is not ashamed of the gospel – why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation upon everyone who believes. It was first presented to the Jews and now to the Greeks (or gentiles as a whole). Through the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed (lit. shown) to us “from faith to faith” which means simply in each individual person individually. One person cannot purchase faith for another person through special prayers, works, money, or any other method. Then we receive another command from Paul for those who are unaware, that the just (those who have been justified through God’s works alone) shall live by faith. This is a direct quote from Habakkuk 2:4 and all it means is that we should live our lives according to the faith that God has provided for us. I like how John MacArthur puts it in his study bible, “The expression emphasizes that true faith is not a single event, but a way of life – it endures. That endurance is called the perseverance of the saints (Colossians 1:22-23; Hebrews 3:12-14).”

Romans 1:18-32

Godís Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 211 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible manóand birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Now that Paul has shown us where righteousness comes from he takes a turn to show us the other side. Why it is, from God’s perspective as revealed to him through the Holy Spirit, that the ungodly pagans are the way they are. He defines their primary sins, idolatry and pridefulness, then shows the process by which they are condemned. They are unable to claim that there is no God because they have all of creation before them to declare that God not only exists but that His attributes are clearly seen in nature. God has revealed Himself to them for that purpose – so that none can be found without the knowledge of Gods existence and His sovreignty on this planet. They are left without an excuse for their actions. Knowing these things in their hearts, they suppress the truth and hold onto things that are perishable. They elevate things that God has created as the focus for their worship – money, wealth, power, nature, knowledge, people, etc. One of the worst things you can ever experience is when God says, “Ok, have it your way.” God saw that this is how the natural man chooses to life so he allowed them to do as they pleased. This is that free will that people always talk about. God allowed the people to do as they pleased and, as we see even today, sin begets more sin. The natural progression of the seed of sinfulness that’s passes from father to child grows and grows until their sins consume them. They have the law of God written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31-33-34) in the form of the conscience but they repeatedly deny and soften the conscience by convincing themselves that anything they feel like is natural and good. This continues onward as they begin to even accept the things that others do that are wholly sinful and approve of their actions by either word, action, or inaction where they refuse to say anything against their deeds. So, what is to be said for those who find themselves outside of the grace of God? …

Romans 2:1-16

Godís Righteous Judgment

1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Continuing from yesterday, no one is excusable before God. Everyone has God’s law written in their hearts (we call this the conscience – meaning “with knowledge”) and we have all of creation before us as a testament to God’s power, intelligence, creativity, and natures. The next condemnation that Paul brings is toward those who speak against others for what they do when they are guilty of those same sins. Like a man who openly condemns pornography or homosexual education, but sees no problem with sex scenes in movies. We, who have been saved by God, should first seek to do what is right before God. Not as a means of salvation (because our salvation has already been paid for and secured) but as a Christians (literally: “Little Christ”) and we reflect the image and nature of Christ to an unbelieving world. For the unbeliever who is impenitent (unrepentant), they are storing up wrath from God who is, as mentioned before, justified in His anger toward them. More than that, their complaint in the day of judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) that they didn’t know or that they never were given the chance to act in faith toward God through repentance is of no effect. God has given them their whole lives to investigate the facts and He has, especially in these times, provided people who preach the Gospel and His written word in the Bible for all to see, read, and hear. They will, therefore, be judged according to their own deeds. Remember, those in Christ Jesus have had their deeds (past, present, and future) paid for by Christ so they are not judged on their own deeds but by the deeds of Jesus. Those who are found to be in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15; 21:27; 22:19) – those who have repented of their sins and turned control of their lives over to Jesus – will be granted entrance into heaven where we will be able to live with and worship God forever. Those who did not believe on the words of God and who acted in rebellion to God’s commands will be turned over to tribulation and wrath in Hell for eternity, regardless of your religious affiliation. Jew, Gentile, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, “non-denom” Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, Baptist, Buddhist, Lutheran, Atheist, Agnostic, etc. If you profess to believe in any one of those religions but do not turn your life over to God for Him to own and control, then you are doomed to Hell as well. Even if you’ve never even heard about the law of God (the ten commandments) you are still under it. Just as those who have never heard of the law of gravity are still under it’s influence. All are guilty before God, but some will be saved by God by His grace and mercy.

Romans 2:17-29

The Jews Guilty as the Gentiles

17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, ìDo not commit adultery,î do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For ìthe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,î as it is written.

Circumcision of No Avail

25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

When God judges all people, no one will be spared. For those who are born “Jews”, they are born into the ethnic culture of Judaism, or into an Israeli family, but they are not spared anymore than someone who is born into a pagan family. While there are some benefits (which we’ll get into in the next chapter), there is no assurance of salvation because you were blessed enough to be born into a family of Jews. You will be judged, as all other men are judged, by your works before the Lord. Verses 21-23 cover the major tenets of the ten commandments, showing how people, even the Jewish religious leaders, are guilty before God. The Jews in the time that this letter was written, and, for the most part, even today, were placing their faith for justification before God in the fact that they were born into a Jewish family and the males would stand and be proud that they have been circumcised as a sign of Abraham’s promise. We’re going to go into detail on this when we get into Chapter 4. The problem with placing your faith in things you cannot control is that you didn’t have anything to do with it. I see this as I do paedobaptism: Of what benefit is it for the child who is born into a family and who is then baptized without their consent? Does this mean that someone is more blessed because they are born into a family where the Lord is preached rightly, and where God is elevated? Look at the young man who killed two staff at a Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada, CO, then went to a well known church in Colorado Springs and killed two more people. He was born to a “deeply religious” family who raised him according to their beliefs and values yet even he went on to fail to believe in what he was told and became another statistic in the long line of people who are false converts who end up making Christians as a whole look bad by their actions. I’d venture to say that in every church there are as many as 50% or more false converts depending on the content of what is taught. There are those who come for the “Jesus patch” so they can feel religious, there are those who come to feel more “spiritual” or who do it because they think that’s what a (mother/father/new parent/newlywed/etc…) does, or because they think that it’s what they did when they were young and it made them feel better so they do it now to gain a new “sense of purpose” or “security”. Ultimately, all of those who are just along for the ride will be banished to Hell, right along with those who openly blaspheme the name of God. That’s why Paul told the Corinthian believers that they should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, to see if they are qualified based on God’s standard (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paedobaptism, family or country of birth, etc, are all things that are done to us and not things that we can give up willingly to God. God does not look at the sacrifices of our flesh but at the sacrifice in our hearts – that we cut ourselves off from the things that we deeply desire but keep us from a deeper relationship with Him. God looks at the intentions of our heart as we turn to Him and pray that He would continue to shape our lives daily so that we may be conformed to His image, instead of the image of the world around us. It doesn’t matter which religion you are affiliated with if you turn your life over to Christ and spend your days focused on growing in holiness and seeking to serve God with all your heart, mind, and strength. It is in those people that God will place honor. It is to those whom God will say “well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Romans 3:1-8

God’s Judgment Defended

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.” (Psalm 51:4)

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”, as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

So, now that we’ve covered that no one, regardless of their birth or families, are more just before God – that leads to the inevitable question – “What advantage has the Jew?” They are raised in strict communities where they have much religious instruction and memorization throughout their lives, and many festivals and feasts, etc. If all that counts for nothing in the long run, what’s the point of it all? Actually, a lot. They have the “oracles of God” revealed to them in His written word, their history, their promises from God, etc. No other religious group can claim that kind of a relationship with God up until this point. God has been faithful to this ethnic group for all of written history. More than that, God’s faithfulness to them (to those who believe) is not subject to the actions of the people. God’s covenant with them is in place regardless of their actions toward God. More than that, when they act in rebellion toward God, it only glorifies God more like a the sun blazing against a perfectly black plane of space behind it. The darkness shows much deeper against the brightness of the sun and the sun is more glorified when shown againt the darkness. Should we then sin more against God so that He is glorified more? Certainly not! In that day, much as we have today with works righteousness based salvation methods (Mormonism, Islam, Catholicism, etc) based their opposition to Jesus’ teaching of salvation by grace of God alone by saying that it’s a license to sin. That, now that we’ve been saved by God, and that all our sins, past, present, and future are paid for, now we can sin all we want against God because our debt has been paid. What Paul is stating here is that it’s not a license to sin and that those who claim to be Christians and act in this way are going to bring condemnation to themselves. Their actions against God show their unbelief as a truly repentant sinner would be unable to sin against God as they’d know that each sin they commit against God from the moment of their salvation forward is another drop of wrath that Jesus took on our behalf. When we continue to sin, we’re making our punishment that Jesus took for us just THAT MUCH more unbearable. For those who act in that manner and who claim to be Christians, they are making the gospel of Jesus look bad and, honestly, the condemnation of others against Christians who act in that way is justified. No Christian should act in that manner, regardless of their intention. Do Christians sin? Yes, but we’re growing daily in holiness and we’re growing daily in our devotion to God and each time we sin against God, willfully or not, we should repent to God for our actions, and ask Him to forgive us. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-10)

Romans 3:9-20

All Have Sinned

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:

” There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3, Ecc. 7:20)
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;(Psalm 5:9)
“The poison of asps is under their lips”; (Psalm 140:3)
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” (Psalm 10:7)
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.” (Isaiah 59:7-8)
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”(Psalm 36:1)

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Who then is guilty? Everyone. Not just the Jews that have been previously mentioned, but also the “Greeks”. Remember that “Greeks” in this context stand in place for the term “Gentiles” and not just the people who are native to Greece. Gentiles means everyone who is not a Jew. Therefore, if both the Jews and Gentiles were condemned, that would be everyone. Paul then takes us on a walk through the old testament where God reveals the nature of the heart of mankind. No one is, on their own righteous before God – no one is capable of meeting God’s high standards. No one understands God, nor does anyone want to understand God because it is, in the estimation of the natural man (that being someone whom God has not saved) more profitable for him to focus on his own life, feelings, or will. No one will do what God considers “good” unless it’s for his own benefit. Be it for his pride, for his financial portfolio, to look good in front of others, to have his name declared as righteous and good before his friends or in newspapers, to earn favor from their gods, whatever the reason that unsaved people try to do “good”, it all counts for nothing before God. “Their throat is an open tomb” relates to their speech. The greek word for “throat” relates to the voicebox – the text is saying here that the natural man is only capable of speaking things that lead to death. The stench of man’s communication reeks of his own natural tendencies – sex, money, power, threatenings, etc. Listen to anyone boast of their past weekend, or of what matters most to them in their lives. “I beat this game faster than anyone I know…”, “I’m totally going to get laid this weekend…”, “I was so drunk that I don’t remember anything past Friday at 8pm…”. Ask anyone what they do for a living and you’ll hear the same pridefulness come through. People lie so often in this culture that for many it’s easier than telling the truth. When people aren’t lying about their conquests or their worthiness before others, they are deceitful to others when they want to get things they want. The key to this whole portion of scripture is listed in the last of Paul’s quotes – “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Had they a reverential fear of God they wouldn’t act in this way at all, but instead they believe that they are more influential than God in their lives and so their actions show it. What they don’t act on, they’ve thought of intently whenever they can. Lustful thoughts, daydreams of hurting those around them who have caused them pain, not fleeting thoughts, but those that are dwelled upon. Those are the actions of the mind that God will judge. The law of God, the ten commandments, exist so that all people will be brought to condemnation before God. The law is incapable of saving anyone because it exists to bring a knowledge of sin. Jesus, however, came to fulfill the law and that through Him, all might be saved.

Romans 3:21-31

God’s Righteousness Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Boasting Excluded

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

The law of God (the Ten Commandments) and all of the prophets of God pointed to this event in time. When Jesus would reveal Himself to all for their salvation as the final propitiation – the full and final payment – for all that would turn to Him in faith, believe on Him, and surrender their lives to His service. Throughout the old testament we see the promises of God – in Genesis to Eve (Genesis 3:15), and to Noah (Genesis 8:20-22; 9:1-17), and to Abraham (Genesis 15), and to Jacob (Genesis 28:12-15). Then we read about the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 20:1-17; 19:5-6; 31:12-17; 34:28) in which we get the Ten Commandments and the civil and ceremonial laws that will rule over the people for the next 1400 years, and the Israeli Covenant (Deuteronomy 29; 30:1-10 which is His covenant with the people of Israel (as stated before these are not merely the physical decendants of Abraham but those who will honor God by their faith in Him). As we continue through we see the promise to David (2 Samuel 7:1-17) and eventually through the prophet Jeremiah we learn about the new covenant of Jesus (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:4-13;12:18-24;13:20). This promise is that God Himself would send someone who would be our Savior – who would bring payment for our sins debt against God and the faith that brings salvation was, before Jesus came, simply that our trust was in God alone to save us. Now that we have Jesus here with us, our faith is in Him, that His words were true, that His sacrifice was sufficient, and that He is who He says He is. All of this work, from the promises in our past to the guarantee of the Holy Spirit we see today – all of this is based on the work of God alone. Nowhere do we see God asking us to come part way and that He’ll meet us, or that He’ll only do part of the work but that we need to do all the rest. Our salvation is secured on the work of God alone and no one can subvert or deny the work that God has already done for us on our behalf. Not us, nor a president, nor a religious leader, nor even the pope himself. All of the work was performed by Jesus on the cross to God’s eternal glory.

Why? So we can’t boast against God! If we boast against God, what we’re doing is we’re saying that God OWES us something. We’re His creation! We live on His planet, drink His water, and breathe His air. We eat His plants and His animals – sure, we may plant them and we may raise them, but where did they come from to begin with? This whole universe and everything contained therein is owned by the God who created it. God is the God of everyone and everything. So, if our faith is what determines our relationship to Him, is the law then made null and void? No! Yesterday, we learned that the law of God exists to stop the mouth of the proud – to show them that they are guilty before God and to silence their objections against it (Romans 3:19). It also exists to bring knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20), help those who are not saved to realize their true condition (Romans 7:7), and to be used as a schoolmaster to bring us to the cross of our Lord (Galatians 3:24). The law exists not only for those who are not yet Christians, but also for those who have been saved by God.

Romans 4:1-8

Abraham Justified by Faith

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

David Celebrates the Same Truth

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 ‘ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’

Let’s say that you’re in court for doing 100 mph over the speed limit through a school zone. They have you on video and have conclusive proof that you were the driver. The fine for this is $100,000 or you spend the next 10 years in jail. You have no money and you cannot get yourself out.

Someone, whom you don’t know walks in, speaks with the judge, and pays your fine. You’re free to go. That’s grace. You didn’t do anything to deserve it and all of the glory for your deliverance goes to the one who has paid your debt.

Now, if the man who came in to pay your debt was someone for whom you’ve worked for many years and he’s been building up a log of all the work you’ve done for him and been saving your payment for a time like this, then you would not be experiencing grace, but payment. He would be required to pay your fine and all the glory for your deliverance goes back to you for all the hard work you put in while working for that guy.

This is the difference explained here – we can’t do anything to gain favor from God. He alone receives the glory for delivering us from His wrath and our works cannot do anything to help to save us. More than that, as Isaiah says, our righteous works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) – the Hebrew says “used menstrual cloth” – when compared to the righteousness of God. Our works are worthless to bring salvation to ourselves because they are performed with sinful hands by a sinful mind. No one can justify himself before God – it is GOD who must condescend to our level to bring us up to Himself. There is no other way.

Romans 4:9-12

Abraham Justified Before Circumcision

9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

When and how did Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith, receive his justification (his sins were cleared forever) before God? Abraham was born “Abram” as a heathen in a heathen community in Ur (Genesis 11:27-32), God called him out of that community (Genesis 12:1, promised him what he would do with Abram (Genesis 12:2-3), and Abram BELIEVED God and walked in FAITH (Genesis 12:4). If you read the text, it says that God “spoke” to Abram – there wasn’t a burning bush, or a lightning bolt from Heaven, or a host of angels – God spoke to Abram – that was it. It was on those words that Abram believed. The Chaldeans (who lived in Ur, where Abram was raised) were a people who believed in a plurality of gods (idols). Abram’s father, Terah, was a well known idol maker and merchant. For Abram to abandon his faith in the gods of his people, those that he could see and touch, for a God whom no one can see or touch would have seemed preposterous to everyone around him. Still, he believed on God and what God had said and he walked faithfully. THAT is where he where he was justified. That is not by works, but by belief that leads to action. He trusted in this God whom he did not see and did what was instructed. This is not doing of “good works” to bring about your justification. God hadn’t even brought that up to him at that point. When the letter to the Roman believers was written, the Jews believed that they were justified before God because of their birth (in a lineage that leads back to Abraham), and their circumcision. God didn’t even institute this commandment until 24 years after Abram first acted on his trust in God (Genesis 17:10-11) when God is establishing His covenant with Abram (Genesis 17) – this is also where God changes Abram’s name to “Abraham” (Genesis 17:4-5). If you read the text of that covenant, you’ll see that the circumcision was not a lock ensuring that all who bear that mark are the chosen people of God but that it was a sign of the covenant which God has authored between Him and Abraham. Abraham was the physical father of many nations in his lineage, but his model of faith was where his spiritual lineage would be established. That is where Jesus says that we, as Christ followers, should walk in faith and not trust in our lineage to save us as God could raise up “children to Abraham from stones” (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8).

Romans 4:13-25

The Promise Granted Through Faith

13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believedóGod, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarahís womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Building on yesterday’s post, today continues stating that our salvation comes not by our heritage, nor by the law itself. The law (the moral law of God – the ten commandments) brings only condemnation. It’s like the stick that they use at amusement parks before you get on the roller coaster. I remember when I lived in Denver, that there was a wooden roller coaster called the Twister at Elitches Amusement Park. We’d go on special occasions or school trips and every year I’d run up to that line to see if I was tall enough to get on the ride. Year after year I’d be too short to ride until finally when I was 12 years old I was able to get on that ride. I got really sick and I’m pretty sure that my back is still in need of adjustment from the ride, but it was a thrill to finally be able to reach that goal of my youth. The ten commandements, however, is like that same stick the amusement park used, but it’s saying that you must be THIS righteous to get into Heaven. The problem is that no one is capable reaching that goal. Everyone lies. A recent statistic (that I can’t remember) states that 91% of American adults admit to lying on a daily basis. The other 9% obviously lied when they were asked. Everyone steals – even minor things like post-it notes and pens at work or downloading music – it’s still taking things that don’t belong to you for your own purposes. Everyone commits adultery – not outright (mostly) but when compared with Jesus’ explanation in Matthew 5:27-28, “whoever looks at a someone to lust for them has already committed adultery with them in their heart” – no one can escape that judgment. Do we need to take this further? Has God always been first in your life? Has He always been the subject of all your affection? Have you ever use His name in a low or derogatory manner? No one can stand up to that bar and say that they are capable of getting in on their own merits.

Since our righteousness isn’t enough to get us into Heaven, we need the righteousness of another who IS truly righteous to be applied to our lives so we can be justified by God. We are, as Abraham was, justified by our faith in God. Abraham’s faith was in God to do what He has said, our faith is in what God has already done. Through our faith in Jesus, who has already paid the price for our sins on the cross where He took all of the wrath which God was storing up for us upon Himself, our “righteous acts” are stripped from us and applied to Him and His righteousness is applied to us. That transaction is called propitiation.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

The Ultimate Statistic