Romans 1 and 2 Paul concludes that God’s wrath is against all of sinful humanity. If both Jews and Gentiles are alike and under sin, then it is only logical that they are both alike through faith. So Paul, makes that connection in Chapter 3 and 4. Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat, whether they are coming to God or going away from God. In Chapter 4, Paul is going to give validity to the Church in Rome. A church made up of both Jews and Gentiles could easily struggle with disunity and pride. Paul was very clever. He repurposed a story from the Jewish scriptures, not only to validate the Gentile faith, but also the Jewish faith, and to encourage the church.
God decided to make a covenant with Abraham, bring him out of his hometown in Babylon and take him to a new home in Canaan. In this covenant, God promised Abraham possession of the land of Canaan and offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky. I am amazed by the ratification of this covenant. Abraham is tasked with preparing the area with various sacrificial animals, but soon after he is put to sleep. The ratification comes with a knocked out Abraham as God’s presence walks through the sacrifice, ratifying the covenant alone. God is aware that Abraham can’t keep up his end of the covenant in the same way that we can’t keep up our end of the relationship. God is actually evidencing and foreshadowing his faithfulness, while Abraham becomes the archetype for fallen humanity that is only made part of the promise by God’s grace. (Genesis 15)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15
Chapter 4 continues with the matter of boasting. Was Abraham justified by works or was he justified by faith? We find out that Abram’s righteousness is credited due to his faith, before he is circumcised or takes on the symbols of God’s promise. If it was credited before he was circumcised, then the Roman Gentiles can also come under this promise.
9 …We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! Romans 4
Abram was considered righteous, because of faith and before circumcision. This fact means a righteousness exists that is not based in mono-ethnicity, or in good deeds, but on faith. Do you see how this could be helpful for a church with both Gentile and Jewish followers of Jesus? They are both in the same boat. God’s people are those with a circumcised heart. (The basis for my understanding of a mixed church is because of the nature of Paul’s letter and Romans 2:17. Remember the Jewish diaspora was due to the various exiles and political turmoil in the country. There is no doubt that Jews would make it to the great city of Rome.)
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Romans 4
The promise of faith. I love that phrase. The promise of faith means there is hope for everyone. It eliminates christian snobbery. We are all offspring of the same father. Whether Jew or Gentile, the promise of faith is guaranteed because we are all children of Abraham.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Romans 4
God knew Abraham was going to fail. God knows he will have to keep up the covenant for both of us. But he walks with us casting aside our own failings. The fruition of the promise of Abraham was fatherhood. And so it is with our good Father, who loves us. We have a promise, through Jesus, that one day God will make things right. We enter into this wonderful promise through faith.
There are two groups divided by a line. God is on one side and we are on another. Boasting attempts to walk across the line. Humility is understanding the line can only be crossed by God. Who in your life is on your side of the line? Can you think of another picture to reflect our spiritual position?
Paul was trying to unite and ignite this church. Christian unity is clearly important in the ability of a Church to be effective. Is your church guilty of a divisive and boastful heart? What can you do to help?
How do you think of yourself spiritually? Spend this week aware of how you treat others. And then ask yourself the question again.
This has really changed my heart. I believe I struggled with the sin of a prideful heart. I know God, so hear what I have to say. But we are all on the same side of the line. There is no hierarchy or spiritual awesomeness, just broken fallen people. And you are one of them. My sons, difficult people, my wife, my co-workers are all on my side of the line. So how should we treat them? There is a sunday school song about Father Abraham. I thought it was such a messed up song, because my dad was back at home not 4000 years in history. But both dads passed on the ability to be messed up. But Abraham is the first to pass on a promise from God “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons, had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord.” The result of the promise of faith is praise. So let’s all praise the Lord!
*There are many scholars that disagree on the works of the law, as they are ether signifiers of ethnic Judaism, or whether they are just works. I have read both and they both have some good points. But they finish the same, they are both ways to come to God on our own terms and both lead to boasting and both are opposed to coming to God in faith.