Saturday, April 17, 2010

Romans 4

READ: Romans 4
Even in the pagan powerhouse of Rome, most of the earliest Christian converts were from Judaism. Indeed, Christianity was long considered a sect of Judaism, rather than a unique faith. Side stepping the implications of that here, let us instead understand that Paul's readers were very familiar with the Old Testament and also very familiar with arguments that Christianity was disjoint from the Old Testament and Jewish teachings.
To this end, Paul points to the father of Judaism, Christianity and later Islam: Abraham. Before Abraham received the covenant of the circumcision, his faith was credited to him as imputed righteousness. The salvation of faith existed before circumcision was even known of! His circumcision set him apart from the rest of the world and marked him as God-sealed, his profession of faith, but his salvation was done. Citing another major Old Testament figure, King David, Paul quotes Psalm 32, a psalm about life before and after salvation - not a salvation of works, but of calling on the Lord.
If we allow our works to save us, the faith is meaningless. Salvation is not part-faith, part-works; our efforts to make it that way reveal a hole in our faith which must be filled by like substance. By all biology, Sarai was too old to bear children. If we read the story in Genesis, we see Abraham first laughed in his heart (how could something like this be?), but when he overcame his skepticism it became salvation by imputed righteousness. How beautiful a picture of salvation Abraham truly is! At first, it seems impossible, but then we can unworthily take it up.
The natural consequence of grace is imputed righteousness and the natural consequence of the Law is wrath. Both are valid and the time will come when the wrath of the law shall be fulfilled, but faith will supersede the Law and those who are wrapped in grace will find Christ experienced the wrath meant for them. Those who lacked faith will acquire sight, but too late for redemption. It is by faith that we can now celebrate in Christ's salvation, the same justification Abraham and all of the saints of the Old Testament experienced.
In chapter 5, we get into the life of the saved. If that doesn't describe you, it can, by the simple prayer of faith.
(1) After being saved by grace, through faith, Abraham was circumcised. To seal himself for God. How is circumcision like baptism? How is it different?
(2) Do you try to help God save you by placing your faith in things you have done?
(3) Read v 4 again. Have you ever been guilty of kidding yourself into thinking that Heaven is a debt God has to pay you? Will you repent and return to the simple faith that you will be cared for?

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