Romans 4:1-4

In Romans 4:1-4 Paul gives us a history lesson justification. He begins by talking about Abraham, who was declared righteous through faith. Paul asks whether the idea of justification through faith, apart from the works of the law, make what God did in the Old Testament irrelevant? “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?” Paul’s first example is Abraham who was he most esteemed man among the Jewish people of his day. Generally, the Jewish teachers of Paul’s day believed that Abraham was justified by his works, by keeping the law. But Paul makes it clear that isn’t so.

The rabbis argued that Abraham kept the law perfectly before it was given, keeping it by intuition or anticipation. Paul makes the point that if anyone could be justified by works, they would have something to boast about. Nevertheless such boasting is nothing before God. We cannot achieve justification on our own. We can’t do enough works to earn salvation. Not even Abraham was able to do that. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” This boasting is nothing before God because even if works could justify a man, he would in some way still fall short of the glory of God.

Paul does what we always should do when trying to understand truth – he takes the Jewish leaders to the source – God’s Word. The Old Testament does not say Abraham was declared righteous because of his works. Instead, Genesis 15:6 is quoted by Paul. “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Paul makes it clear: Abraham’s righteousness did not come from performing good works, but from belief in God. It was a righteousness obtained through faith. Paul does not say that Abraham was made righteous in all of his doings, but God accounted Abraham as righteous.

Our justification is not God making us perfectly righteous, but counting us as perfectly righteous. After we are counted righteous, then God begins making us truly righteous, culminating at our resurrection. But righteousness is given to us by God through our faith, not something we earn by being good. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” Abraham possessed righteousness in the same manner as a person would possess a sum of money placed in his account in a bank. The idea of a gift, which is called grace, stands opposite to the principle of works; grace has to do with receiving the freely given gift of God, works has to do with earning our merit before God. We can never earn salvation. It is a gift of God we receive through faith!

One response to this post.

  1. Reblogged this on Matthews' Blog.


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