Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Romans 4

    Romans 4 is where Paul begins to take the information he gave us in the previous three chapters and use it to tell us how we can get rid of this mind-boggling amount of sin. What does all this talk of my guilt before God lead to? Am I simply forever condemned because of my rebellion? If works are condemned, then how can I ever come to God?

    I would encourage you again to have your Bible open when you go through these posts in Romans. I will not be typing out every verse that I reference, but I'd still like you to see them so you can 1.) understand them better, 2.) catch me in any mistakes I may be making, and  3.) so I don't influence your view of Romans with some of my personal bias. I know I have certain preconceived ideas in my head, and I don't want those things to rub off on others any more than can be helped. The best way to read Scripture is to be unbiased as much as possible toward your own cultural/religious/idealogical/political ideals and opinions.

    This chapter is the chapter in which Paul begins describing the imputed righteousness of God, to me one of the (I can never choose!) most beautiful doctrines in the Bible. Paul spends the whole chapter discussing faith vs. works and what it means to live by faith.

    Paul references Abraham the whole chapter as an example of justification by faith and works, in v. 1 telling us that if Abraham was saved by works then he has something to boast about, "but not before God." Even Abraham's (the patriarch of all Israel) works aren't pleasing enough to God for God to tolerate Abraham working his way into heaven, even if he could!

    V. 3 is where one of the first references to imputed righteousness I know of is referenced. What is counted to Abraham as righteousness? His obedience? His works? His personal righteousness? No, simply his faith. The only thing reckoned to Abraham is righteousness based on faith, which we also know from Eph. 2:8-9 is the "gift of God."

    I want you to think about the implications of that. If my works count for nothing (v. 4), and faith apart from works is the basis for salvation, and even that is a gift of God, then I truly owe everything to Jesus Christ. If every bit of my salvation is dependent on Jesus Christ and him alone, outside myself, then He is the greatest gift I could ever have, and the One to whom I owe everything. His sacrifice brought me everything, while my works brought me nothing.

    One of the famous "Five Solas" of the Reformation is "Solus Christus", through Christ alone, and it is one of my absolute favorite phrases to describe salvation by faith. Salvation solely and only through faith given to me by God in the absolute and finished substitutionary work of Jesus Christ on the cross is my only hope for justification and righteousness.

    We'll see Paul continually coming back to combat the idea that Jews are somehow more worthy to be saved all the way through the book. Old habits die hard, and for two millenia the Jews had the only way to God. If you wanted to follow God, you had to be circumcised and keep the Law. You had to become a Jew. When Jesus' death and the Jews sovereignly appointed rejection of Him opened the door to the Gentiles, our universal complete depravity before God made us all equally guilty and equally in need of salvation, and we receive it equally. V. 9-12 tell the Jews that Abraham believed before circumcision, before the Jews even existed, and circumcision was simply a sign, not an action by which to gain favor with God. Even further, Abraham's being blessed of God was not because of circumcision (obviously since he wasn't circumcised yet), but because of his faith in God.

    V. 14 is one of the first mentions to Israel in the NT as the new Israel, speaking of the collective church of Gentiles and Jews together that form God's elect (Rom. 11 will speak of this in more detail). Abraham was blessed based on faith, and v. 13 tells us his descendents (which Gal. 3:29 tells us includes us as Gentiles) too are blessed solely on the basis of faith, and any reliance on the Law nullifies their faith.

    V. 15 continues, but it speaks of the Law, since it is an attempt to be justified through the flesh, as simply being a means of wrath, since any attempt to justify ourselves through the flesh will fall short and will heap on ourselves the wrath of God. But, if we accept that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, then there is no anger from God. It has been fulfilled for us by Christ, and the fulfillment applied to our account by our faith given to us by God!

    V. 16-21 speak of Abraham's incredible faith in the promise of God, even though it entailed him having a child at 100 years old. Even while we know he didn't have perfect faith all the time (Gen. 16), this faith was "reckoned to him as righteousness".

    V. 25 sums up what Paul has been saying in this passage. Jesus Christ was delivered up because of our sin and our failure, and and was resurrected for our sakes! What an amazing thought after looking at the absolute blackness of our hearts presented in the previous chapters! Christ truly did die to save the ungodly (Rom. 5:6). It was not somehow for us more deserving, or for those of us who had an extra measure of wisdom who would see our need for God, but for complete and utter rebels, every one of us. The death of Christ was to make sinners righteous, dead men alive, and rebels sons. What an amazing thought! 


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