Romans 4:1-12

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 23, 2015 0 comments
by Katie Erickson

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
'Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.'
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!
And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.
And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
(Romans 4:1-12)

In the passage from Romans 3 that we looked at last week, Paul gives two results of being justified by faith and now the law:
1. We can’t boast in our own accomplishments. (3:27)
2. Jews and Gentiles have equal access to justification and salvation. (3:29-30)

Paul now develops both of these ideas more here in chapter 4 with reference to Abraham. He looks at the idea of boasting in our own accomplishments in 4:1-8, and everyone having equal access to justification in 4:9-17. So we’ll look at part of that this week, and the rest next week.

To start with, who is this Abraham guy and why is he important? Abraham was the original father of the people of Israel, and he was the first person whom God made the covenant with (a covenant like a promise, but stronger). This was a few thousand years before Jesus came to the earth in human form. Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. You can read about Abraham’s story starting in Genesis 12.

Paul uses this chapter of Romans to show the significance of Abraham’s faith, and therefore also our faith. Why did Paul choose Abraham as an example? He was revered by the Jews as a pillar of their nation, because of the covenant God made with him. Also because of that covenant, Abraham was a key figure in the Old Testament in God’s plan of salvation. But the Gentiles aren’t left out for this example, simply because they’re not biologically related to Abraham. The Gentiles can also claim him as their father, because he is seen as the father of the faith too, as Paul says in verse 12.

So, back to Paul’s conversation on faith. Why is faith significant?

Faith is very different from works. Our good works get us nothing, because we can’t live up to God’s standard of total perfection. We still have sin in our lives. It’s not like a balance where the good can outweigh the bad; no, rather even just one sin shatters perfection and separates us from a perfect relationship with God. We can only “earn” God’s righteousness by having faith and trusting in Him.

Faith doesn’t depend on a particular religious observance, such as circumcision. As I wrote about previously, our outward actions are not what’s essential for salvation. God made the covenant with Abraham not because he was circumcised and had done all the proper religious things, but because Abraham had faith in God. Yes, religious observances do aid us in keeping our faith at the forefront of our lives or setting us apart from the world in some way, but they aren’t what’s truly important.

Make sure to check back next week as we continue this discussion on Abraham, faith, and why it’s important.