Read ROMANS 4:1–12
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.”
9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
New International Version (NIV)
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The motto of many is: “We get our salvation the old-fashioned way. We earn it!” Paul clearly and forcefully denies that belief. Even Abraham was not saved by works, but by faith alone!
The Gentiles in Rome and the “barbarians” in Spain are not part of some late plan of God to redeem the world after the failure of the Jews to embrace the Gospel. Nor is God’s program of looking for the response of faith a new idea. Paul now brings Abraham into the discussion as part of his argument that God has been reckoning undeserving and uncircumcised people as righteous ever since the time of the patriarchs. Abraham is the great ancestor of the Jews, but he was a pagan when God called him. God didn’t accept him because of his law-keeping. Only sin pays wages (Rom. 6:23)! Salvation is an unmerited gift.
Jews regarded their high status before God as a result of their fleshly descent from Abraham. Paul argues in verse 11 that Abraham is really the ancestor of everyone who believes, whether Jew or Gentile. Unbelieving Jews only have a fleshly connection to Abraham. Paul uses a quote from David (6–8) to reinforce the argument that God does forgive and receive undeserving sinners (Psa. 32:1,2). This goes against popular belief and against our desire to earn or to be responsible for our own salvation.
The Dalai Lama once said that we must work for our own salvation since no one had come to save us. In contrast, Abraham, David and Paul all proclaim the message that God receives sinful people who have no good works to plead. Here is a message for all people. The ground of acceptance is believing. The object of belief is Christ crucified. Like Abraham, we have no basis for boasting in our own merit. If we are proud that we are Christians we have missed the point of the Gospel! No Christians will proclaim “I did it my way” when they sum up their life.
Reread verses 7 and 8, which come from Psalm 31:1,2. What is your own sense of blessing as you read those words?