Ask God to orient or reorient you to Himself. Confess any known sin. Thank Him for His forgiveness. Be still and reflect on Jesus and His sacrifice for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to God’s Word. Pray for others in your life that they, too, would know and love God today.
“‘What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?’ 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ 4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 ’Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.’”
Paul wrote in the previous chapter that we are “Justified by faith apart from the Law.” Now in chapter four, he defends his assertion. The first verse begins with a question “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?”
Paul used the life of Abraham to support his claims about being justified by faith. Abraham was one of Israel’s most renowned patriarchs. One reason Paul did this was to show that the gospel he preached was in continuity with the Old Testament. He wanted his readers to grasp that his gospel of justification by faith was no novelty. The truth was that justification by faith had been proclaimed beforehand in the Old Testament and he wanted both his Gentile and Jewish readers to appreciate the rich spiritual heritage they entered into by faith in Jesus.
Why Abraham? There is nothing particularly special about Abraham. When you read his story, you’ll find him doing things that leave you scratching your head. For example: Twice, he was afraid of some men he encountered. In his fear, he told his wife Sarah to lie to them and say that she was his sister! He didn’t do this just once; he did it twice. Honestly, that makes me shake my head; I can’t imagine doing something like that to Patty. Then there was the time God told Abraham he would be father of a great nation and he and Sarah decided to try to make it happen on their own by having Abraham sleep with her servant. Their efforts only led to a dysfunctional family with lots of strife. Read the account of Abraham’s life and you’ll see a guy who messed up…a lot. There were moments of true greatness and others of complete failure. So what makes Abraham so special? It’s not what Abraham did, but what God did in his life that makes him special.
God promised Abraham that he would become a great nation and an instrument of blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:2– 3). Abraham lacked the two major components for this to happen; things that were really out of Abraham’s control: land and descendants. Despite Abraham’s shortcomings, God called him to the land of Canaan and promised him a son through his barren wife, Sarah (Gen. 17:19). Despite the fact that neither promise seemed possible, Abraham believed God—he put his faith in God—and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Abraham believed God would do what He said He would.
Paul’s Jewish readers seemed to have missed this truth; they only looked to Abraham’s good works as the means to being justified and they seemed to gloss over his shortcomings.
It’s to these Jews that Paul is speaking. it’s like he’s saying, “Hey, I’m proud of Abraham too, but don’t miss the forest for the trees! It was Abraham’s faith that empowered him, not his good works. In other words, his faith flowed out of his good works.” Paul’s point to them was that Abraham’s good works, his obedience to the divine commandments, were the fruit of his unquestioning faith in God. Had he not first believed the promises of God, he would never have set out for the promised land or conducted his life in the light of what he knew of God’s will. No, when God gave Abraham a promise, he simply took God at his word and acted accordingly.
Just like Abraham, we’re all a mixed bag. When I think of my own faith, I’m humbled by the many ways I fall short of the gospel, the righteousness of God.
Just the other day, I was reading the devotional to Patty. After we were done, we prayed together and gave the day to the Lord. We asked Him to bless it and use us for His Glory. I can’t tell you how blessed I was…Patty and I having our quiet time together. My spirits were high as we got ready to start the day but, before we could even get out the door, she did something (I can’t even remember what it was…that ought to show you just how trivial it was!) and I snapped at her in anger. I hate how quickly my flesh can jump out of me. That’s not who I want to be. But because of my brokenness, because I’m marred by the fall, that’s a part of me. No matter how much I may try to live up to God’s righteousness, I will fall short in my own efforts to earn God’s favor. This is Paul’s point! You see in the gospel of Jesus that we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus!
The Good News is that because of my faith in Christ, the direction of my life has been set; it’s not dependent on my efforts at perfection. I’ve been freed in Christ. So when I mess up, I confess and I allow the Holy Spirit to conform me more and more to the likeness of Christ! Like Abraham, I’ve already been made right with God. This truth is liberating! Abraham experienced this same kind of faith; that’s why Paul refers to him as the father of all who believe.
*From what you have just read and considered: What is a personal implication/application for your life today?
(Personalize this prayer today; make it specific to the circumstances that face you.)
Ask God to lead you through His Spirit as you go through your day. Ask Him to bring to mind the truth of the gospel and its implications for what you will encounter today. Tell Him “Yes” to His will and ask Him for His power and protection to live this “yes.” Ask God to create and reveal opportunities to proclaim the good news today. KEEP PRAYING THROUGHOUT YOUR DAY.
Inspiration and insight for the devotionals came from the following books: Reading Romans with John Stott; The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (The Bible Speaks Today Series), Stott, John; Romans (The NIV Application Commentary Book 6) Moo, Douglas J.; Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies) Moo, Douglas J.; Believers Bible Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, Romans through Galatians; NIV Application Study Bible; The Bible Readers Companion.