This is the fourth installment of what I hope to be a complete “translation” of Romans. Please note that this is not scripture; it is my understanding of scripture. Any with questions or concerns should check the original.
In Romans chapter 3, Paul introduced a solution to the problem of being right with God: faith. Now in chapter 4, he explains that Abraham – the father of all Jews – was saved by faith. And we can (and must) be saved by faith as well.
Fourth chapter of Romans
So what now can we say about Abraham, our ancestor? What did he learn about how to have a right relationship with God?
If Abraham achieved a right relationship with God by always doing what is right, and never missing the mark, then he would have something to boast about before men (although not before God).
But what does the Bible say? The Bible says that Abraham trusted God … and that because of his trust, God saw Abraham as perfect in His eyes.
Now, when a man has a job, and works, his wages are not given to him as a gift. Rather, his employer owes him the money. If however, he does not work, and is still paid, then the money is a gift.
In the same way, the man who is not perfect but instead trusts God to make him perfect, his trust is accepted by God: God sees him as perfect. And this is an unearned gift.
King David says the same thing when he talks about the happiness of the man that God counts as perfect – as a free gift:
Blessed are those whose mistakes are forgiven – whose evil is forgiven, whose law-breaking is removed from memory.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never hold against him.
The question is: is this happiness only for Jews, or also for all the other people of the world? We have seen that because of Abraham’s faith, God saw him as perfect. When did God do this? When Abraham became the first Jew (by being circumcised) or before?
It was before, not after!
Then he received the marker of circumcision – a visible sign of the innocence that he had already been given by faith in God while he was still uncircumcised.
So Abraham is not only the father of Jews – those who are circumcized – but also the father of all of them that believe. He’s the father of Jews who are not only Jews but also Christians, and he’s the father of those who believe but do not undergo circumcision in the mistaken belief that it will set them up better before God.
It wasn’t because of perfect obedience to God’s law or because he was so good that Abraham was given the promise that his descendants would inherit the world, but it was because of faith. If it had been by perfect obedience, then his faith would have been unnecessary, and the promise useless.
Why? Because with the law – which we can never keep – comes judgement. Or, on the other hand, if there was no law, there can be no law-breaking.
So instead, the promise is made real through faith, so that it might be given to all of us – all of Abraham’s children – by the grace of God. Abraham is the father of all of us: both Jews and Gentiles.
Indeed, as it was written long ago: “I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5). In the sight of God he is our father. And he believed on God – the God who gives life to the dead and creates anything He wants to out of nothing.
Against all hope, Abraham believed in hope – and so became the father of many nations: exactly the promise that had been given to him. As God said: “Count the stars, if you can. That is how many descendants you will have.” (Genesis 15:5)
Abraham needed a strong faith, because he was as good as dead when God gave him that promise: already about 100 years old! And his wife Sarah – who was old as well – had never been able to have children. But his mind didn’t boggle at God’s promises – he was strengthened in his faith and praised God, being 100% sure that God was able to to do whatever He promised.
And because of that, God viewed his faith as righteousness. And not him alone! God will also view our faith in Jesus Christ – who was raised from the dead – as righteousness.
Jesus was delivered to die for our rebellion against God, and He was raised again to live, so that we might be clean and pure and innocent before God.