13 March 2012Romans 4:13-25
"Therefore his faith 'was reckoned to him as righteousness'. Now the words, 'it was reckoned to him', were not written for his sake alone." (vv. 22-24a)
In case we have not yet understood, Paul continues to argue the same point as he began in yesterday's reading. God's promise to Abraham (that he and Sarah would have a son who would become a great nation, in this way to "inherit the world" (v. 13)) was not made because of Abraham's life of obedience to the law, but because of his faith and trust in God. The law was of paramount importance to the Jews of Paul's day, but Paul places emphasis rather on grace (or promise). This is good news for the faithful reader; if the promise depends on faith, then it is guaranteed to all who share the faith of Abraham.
It is clear that there were no physical grounds for Abraham's faith and trust in God; as far as childbearing was concerned, he and Sarah were "as good as dead" (v. 19), but Abraham believed, against all the evidence, and this unshakeable faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness". Paul writes at length about the nature of this faith; Abraham did not doubt God's promise, but instead grew in his conviction that what God had promised, God would do. The final reality is God's faithfulness.
So far in this chapter we have had little mention of Jesus Christ; Paul has been eager to demonstrate that justifying faith was God's plan and purpose right from Abraham onwards, but in verses 22-25, he underlines the relevance to all Christians of the nature and reward of Abraham's faith as he defines exactly what "justifying faith" is; it is the belief in God who "raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification" (vv. 24-25).
How can you best live with grace as your motive, rather than trying to earn favour?
Have there been times when you have felt "as good as dead" (v. 19) in some respect? If so, how has God acted at these times in your life?
Paul seems to see a very close relationship between faith, trust and hope. How are these three responses to God evident in your life and in your relationship with God (ie your life as a disciple)?