THE LETTER OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS

OT Evidence that God Makes Us Right With Him Through Faith

(Rom. 4:1-12)

Part One
OT Evidence that God Makes Us Right With Him Through Faith

Todayís lesson falls in the overall outline of Romans in the following way:

Theme: The Faithfulness and Righteousness of God (1:16-17)

I. The Need for God's Righteousness (1:18-3:20)

    General Statement Explaining Why Man Needs Godís Righteous Activity (1:18a)
    The Gentile Need for Godís Righteous Activity (1:18-32)
    The Jewish Need for Godís Righteous Activity (2:1-3:20)
II. Godís Gracious Provision of Righteousness (3:21-8:39)
    The Method of God Making Us Right with Himself (3:21-31)
    Abraham: OT Proof that God Makes Us Right With Him By Faith (4:1-25)
    Results of Being Made Right with God (5:1-6:23)
        (1) A Proper Relationship of Peace with God (5:1-2)
        (2) A Proper Understanding of Suffering (5:3-5)
        (3) Assurance in Judgment (5:6-11)
        (4) A New Race of Mankind (5:12-21)
        A Rejection of Lawlessness (6:1-23)
    Experiencing Godís Righteousness Daily (7:1-8:39)
        (1) The Way Not to Experience Godís Righteousness (7:1-25)
        (2) The Way to Experience Godís Righteousness (8:1-39)


INTRODUCTION (4:1-8)

(1) What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about--but not before God! (3) For what does the Scripture say, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." (4) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, (6) just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. (8) Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."


In Romans 3:21-31, the heart of Paul's gospel, Paul makes 2 major references to the Law:

The relationship of the OT (Law) to Christianity (NT) has been debated for the past 2000 years. Most Christians take one of 2 extreme views: (1) the NT does away with the OT, the error of one of the first Christian heretics, Marcion, or (2) the OT supercedes the NT. In the first case some Christians claim that since the NT does not mention musical instruments in church, then we should not have them even though they are used in the OT. They claim: "That's OT, and we're no longer under the Law!" (It is interesting that the saints use harps to worship God in heaven according to Revelation.) In the second case some are trying to keep the OT law. They are enamored with the food laws of the OT and with the OT festivals. They are becoming Christian Jews. Both approaches are wrong. In this passage Paul is going to give us an example in order to help us understand the relationship between the OT and NT.

In Paul's treatment of the Law, he focuses on Abraham. Why focus on Abraham though? Abraham is pivotal for Paul's claim that a person is made right with God by faith and not by works of the Law, particularly the Jewish culture, because first he is an OT saint who has been made right with God (Gen. 15:6) and second because as the father of the people of God. The way he received God's righteousness is the way we receive God's righteousness. (Now Paul did not set up the terms of this debate. These terms were set by the Jews themselves. Whereas the Jews have rightly pointed to Abraham as the pivotal figure in this discussion, Paul is going to show that they have dealt with this issue wrongly when they claimed that we are made right with God by keeping the Law because as they claimed Abraham was justified by keeping the Law.


BASIS OF ABRAHAM'S JUSTIFICATION

According to Gen. 12:1-3 God made with Abraham and his seed, descendants, a covenant which would result in blessing. In order to receive that covenant of blessing, we must have Abraham as our spiritual father. Since spiritual children are like their spiritual parents (see John 8:39-44), we must be like Abraham. In other words, we must come into a right relationship with God the way Abraham did, or else we are not his children and we have not received the covenant of blessing, that is, salvation which God promised to him and his children (Gen. 12:1-3).

The theme of blessing is huge in the Bible. We know that Adam and Eve lived in a state of blessedness first because God blessed His creation after He finished creating it and second because whenever God punished them, He placed upon them the curse, which is the opposite of blessing. The rest of the Bible tells the story of God beginning to lift the curse in order to restore us to a state of blessedness. God starts lifting this curse when He makes the covenant of blessing with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). The blessing kicks into a much higher gear whenever Christ comes. It is by no means an accident that the first word of His Sermon on the Mount is "Blessed" (which he repeats 8x). Again the state of blessedness reaches a higher level when God gives us the Spirit after Christ rises from the dead; in fact Paul calls the Spirit "the blessing of Abraham" (Gal. 3:14). The curse is completely lifted and the blessing is fully realized only after Christ returns so that we may dwell eternally with the Father and the Son. John emphasizes this first by using the word "Blessed" 7x in Revelation (7 being a perfect # meaning we will then receive the perfect and fullest blessing) and second by saying "there shall no longer be any curse" on that day (Rev. 22:3).

The Jews are going to claim that Abraham was made right with God because he kept the law of circumcision, that is he was a true Jew. Gen. 17:9-10 was important for their claim: "God said further to Abraham, 'Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.'" On the basis of this passage the Jews claimed that by keeping the law of the circumcision (and thereby the future laws given by Moses), Abraham was made right with God.

As Catholics, we can feel very smug about the situation Paul is describing. We are in no danger at all of succumbing to the Jewish culture or the works of teh Law. We are not going to promote circumcision or demand that people keep the Jewish feast days. The words "Mazel tov" will never cross our lips. We simply aren't ever going to adopt Jewish Law, especially as cultural Jewish phenomenon.

The problem is that whereas Catholicism is a faith-based system, people can turn it into something similar to a culture, just like many Jews transformed their religion of faith into a culture, into a check list of things to do. We can make sure we celebrate all the feast days, attend mass weekly, and yet never experience a life of faith. When that happens, Catholicism is no longer The Faith; it is simply a culture. Faith animates Catholicism; without faith, Catholicism can become nothing more than a culture like the first-century Judaism Paul is attacking.

According to Paul, does Abraham have just cause to boast before God? Why not?


According to Paul what was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness?

What does the word "reckon" mean? In what setting would you normally use the word "reckon" or "credit"?


To understand this concept, think of what happens in the banking world. First, the bank will look at a car and assign a value to that car, let's say, $20,000. For all practical purposes, although the car is not the same as $20,000, the bank has reckoned it to be the same as $20,000. In the same way, faith and righteousness are not the same things; however, if God assigns the value of righteousness to faith, then faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Second, whenever the bank accountant appreciates or depreciates the car, he assigns a value to that item. That item may or may not really be worth that amount. It may be worth more; it may be worth less. The fact though is that whatever value he assigns to that item, that value sticks. Well, God is the ultimate accountant who assigns value to certain areas in our lives. If we believe in Christ (in the NT sense of faith necessarily producing works), He assigns the value of "righteousness" to our belief. Since He is God, that value He puts upon our faith sticks.

What OT verse is Paul quoting when he writes: "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"?

(Just a hint of something yet to come: the location of this verse is important for Paul's argument. In fact its location is as important as its contents.)

According to verse 4 if you work for something, your work is not reckoned as a favor (as a result of grace) but as __________ ________ ___________.

According to verse 5 though since Abraham did not work for something and yet was called righteous, what was reckoned to him, credited to him as righteousness?

Paul up to this point has been appealing to Abraham to prove his point that God's righteousness is credited to us on the basis of faith. The Jew might say though out of desperation that since Abraham lived before Moses gave the Law, his experience does not count. What is important is what happened to people after the Law was given. In other words they claim that people had to keep the Law, that is become a Jew, in order to be saved after it was given. Paul though quotes David as proof that righteousness comes on the basis of faith and not works. When did David live? Before or after the Law was given?

According to verse 7, a verse David wrote, did this man keep the Law?

Was this man forgiven, that is, in a right relationship with God? Why?

Notice once more that the word "Blessed" starts this quotation.

The point is that if even David, who lived close to the middle of the time of the Law (1400 BC - 33 AD), was not made right with God by works of the Law, then people were never made right by trying to keep the Law.


MEANING OF CIRCUMCISION (4:9-12)

(9) Is this blessing then upon the circumcised or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness." (10) How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised but while uncircumcised, (11) and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them (12) and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.


Both Paul and the Jews agreed that Abraham was made right with God, that is, he was righteous, and that his example set the tone for everybody else who was going to be right with God. The Jews claimed that he was made right with God because of his works, keeping the Law of circumcision. The point is that if circumcision is what made Abraham right with God, then performing circumcision and all other works of the Law are necessary for circumcision since circumcision was considered THE work of the Law. As important as the Sabbath laws were, they were superceded by the law of circumcision (see John 7). If circumcision was not what made Abraham right with God, then neither circumcision or any other Law makes a person right with God. Paul claims though that he was made right with God by faith.

Paul asks, "When was Abraham made right with God? Before or after Abraham was circumcised?" (4:10)

To prove this, find out when God said that Abraham was right with Him and then find out when Abraham started keeping the covenant of circumcision. Which came first and how many years lapsed between the 2 incidents?


According to verse 11 circumcision was given as what?

Think of a seal in the sense of a notary public. The notary public officially recognizes that the document is authentic; it does not make it authentic though. A document is authentic no matter what is on it. It is an outward sign though that the document is authentic. (In the NT the seal which shows we're authentic is the presence of the Holy Spirit.)

A seal, though, is also applied after a project, work, document has been completed. Although faith produces the works, the works seal the deal, so to speak. They are significant in making what we believe become real to us and make it real in our lives.

I have believed for the longest that Christ loves me and cares for me. In 2009, though, I had to make an important decision which could have destroyed my family financially for many years. Yet I knew what Christ wanted me to do. When I was really confronted with the issue, I stood alone in my office after someone had been almost threatening to me about my decision . . . As I began to doubt that Christ would take care of me, I sort of slapped myself in the face and told that Lord that since He hadn't let me down in 56 years whenever I did His will, He wasn't going to start now. I acted upon that faith and it made me more of a person of faith.

Fill in the blanks to understand why Abraham was told to submit to circumcision AFTER he had already been made right with God:
"that he might be the _____________ of all who believe _____________ ___________ ____________, that ________________ might be reckoned to them."

According to verse 12 are those who are circumcised automatically children of Abraham? What also must be true of a person if Abraham is going to be his spiritual father?


With this statement Paul has once more launched a MOAB right in the middle of the Jews. They felt like they were secure in their relationship with God because first they were physically descended from Abraham and second because they had been circumcised. Paul (like Jesus and John the Baptist) claims these 2 things alone were not sufficient. Faith is what makes a person a child of Abraham.

In the same way, as Catholics we need to be sure that we are living lives of faith. Partaking of the sacraments alone won't save us. Believing that the sacraments are from God won't save us. Rather the benefits bestowed by the sacraments are appropriated by faith, a faith which necessarily produces a life of good works.

This faith should be a daily experience: believing Christ so much that we follow Him daily. For example, after describing the great sacrifice which animates our sacraments (Heb. 8-10), the author of Hebrews then details for us the lives produced by faith: the men of faith built arks (Noah), offered righteous sacrifices (Abel), led God's people to salvation (Moses), etc. People who are not "wrestling with lions" are not appropriating the sacraments by faith. They have just merely joined the Catholic "culture." They have treated the Eucharist as magic which bestows positive benefits upon a person regardless what he does rather than as a sacrament which operates through faith. The sacraments, though, are mysteries, though, and not magic.