12 April 2016

Romans 4:20-25

“It will be reckoned to us who believe in him 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)

Psalm: Psalm 69:30-36


In this passage, Paul continues to reflect on the remarkable story of Abraham who believed in God's promise that he would be 'father of many nations' in and in spite of his old age (or, as Paul unsentimentally puts it, when his body was "as good as dead" (Romans 4:19)). Paul understands that Abraham was putting his faith in God who has power even over death and that is the import of the key verse (which he quotes from Genesis 15:6) "his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness" (v. 22).

Paul then begins to explore what this means for Christians. The Resurrection is, for Paul, the core component of Christian faith; according to Luke, Paul's interrogation before the Council in Jerusalem ended with him shouting "I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). The theology of Romans is entirely consistent with that position: that God is God who raised Jesus from the dead is a key theme of the epistle.

Another key theme is that those who share faith in God who raised Jesus are justified (or 'reckoned as righteousness'). These last verses of chapter 4 are the conclusion of a carefully constructed logical argument which began in chapter 1. Paul described how human sinfulness had destroyed humankind's relationship with God. But God took the initiative to rectify that which was wrong; those who believe, therefore, can be confident that God counts them as being 'put right' with God. What the writer of Genesis wrote about Abraham, Paul is able to conclude, also applies to the believing Christian.

To Ponder

  • The Letter to the Romans is a celebration of God's action in rectifying our relationship with God. How might you begin to explain that to someone who asks what your faith means to you?
  • Paul understands Abraham to have had hope when there seemed to be no reason to hope. Have you ever been surprised that your prayers were answered when you had given up asking? Again, what happened? Take the opportunity to give thanks for answered prayer.

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..