Oh my goodness. I love Romans, but the richness…the depth…the detailed thoughts penned for us by Paul with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes it difficult to…no impossible to synopsize easily on a podcast like this. So can we agree that what I’ll do as we read through Romans is to just perhaps whet your appetite for deeper study in Romans? I mean, I hope that the LSFAB does that for every book that we read, but Romans is quite possibly the meatiest book in the entire Bible. To even begin a worthy study of Romans would take many, many hours, which this humble podcast is not about.
So with that said, let’s consider Abraham. He is referred to as “father” no less than seven times in one way or another in chapter 4. Yes, Paul is speaking to the Roman Jews at this point, who considered Abraham to be the father of the Jewish people, but in a very real way Abraham is our father, too.
In verse 11 of chapter 4, Paul says, “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…” So if you are a believer, Abraham is your father whether you are Jew or Gentile.
What is so important about Abraham? Many things, but in our context today we see that Abraham is in essence, the first person to be justified (which means “made righteous in the sight of God”) by faith.
You see, the Jews had the belief that justification came through obedience to the law. Paul here explains that Abraham exemplifies the exact opposite; justification comes through faith. And he uses scripture to make the point in quoting Genesis 15:6 which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Imagine it this way. When you use your credit card, the transaction is recorded by the credit card company as a debt. You owe them a payment as soon as the transaction takes place. You are in their debt. When you send the payment to them for that transaction, they then apply (or account) the payment and show the debt as paid. This is the language that we see in Genesis and it is the language that Paul used. Abraham’s faith was accounted to him for righteousness.
He didn’t earn righteousness. It was accounted to him because he believed God. Period.
And then Paul goes on to explain that this accounting took place before Abraham was circumcised. That’s an important point because the Jews were relying on their circumcision and trying to exclude Gentiles from receiving justification. Paul explains that the circumcision was merely a sign of the promise that he had received from God even before the circumcision had taken place.
And finally, Paul explains that the promise was not only for Abraham’s sake that faith brought justification, but for all who believe in God the Father, who raised Jesus from the death he suffered because of our failure to live up to the requirements of the law. If we believe, our faith is accounted to us for righteousness. Our debt is paid, not because we paid it; our debt is paid because Jesus paid it. Hallelujah!