We are studying a whole chapter this week which may seem or feel like a big chunk compared to our previous weeks. We had slowed down to consider the weight of sin and the evidence of our unrighteousness. Now we look at Paul’s scriptural evidence why it is and always has been a matter of faith that we are saved. God hasn’t changed the rules at all! In Christ, he is being completely consistent with all that he has said and promised in the Old Testament. Although it is a whole chapter, Paul’s message is simple: it has always been a matter of trust.
Before I continue I’d like to put a cheap plug in for the God’s Big Picture Plus course. If you have anyone in your growth group who is doing that course on a Sunday arvo, it would be great to ask them to share with the group how they have found it. I will run the course again, God willing, later this year or early next year. I highly recommend it. I’m confident that it is helpful to everyone who seeks to know God better and to understand righteousness given by faith in Christ.
The gospel is not a New Testament phenomenon but is the same message that God has always been committed to. Are you fully persuaded of God’s power to redeem you.
TOPICS COVERED IN THE TEXT
- The full story of scripture – how the whole bible fits together.
- What faith delivers vs what the law or works delivers.
- What faith is.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE TEXT
V1 Paul turns now to Abraham, the father of all the Jews, to testify that righteousness is given by faith. God called Abraham, one man out of all the human race, to make promises to. Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:3-8. These are the promises which began the Jewish race (sons of Judah) and the promises which precede the law received by Moses.
V2 Paul picks up the language of boasting again which he brought up in 3:27. It is also in line with Paul’s aim which is to elevate the gospel of faith over the law of works as he put it in Romans 1:16 ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God’. Abraham was not labelled as righteous because of his works but because of his faith in trusting God who promised he would be the father of many.
NB: to be justified by works is not to outweigh the bad with the good but it is to always do good. One wrong makes us guilty.
V3 – ‘what does scripture say?’ Paul’s theology of salvation is not brand new. It is not a new message from the spirit but an understood message from the Old Testament scriptures. Our faith must be the same – based on a correct and intelligent reading from the word of God. Reading the bible for all it’s worth and being trained to read it better is of eternal value – not only to yourself but for those who you disciple. To teach others based on our own shallow knowledge will lead us and others astray from the truth.
‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness’ – here is Paul’s bible text which he will use to teach his message – that faith stands apart from the law and this is the basis of salvation. NB: James uses the same text of scripture to talk about faith in James 2. Many would believe that James teaches that we must have faith and follow through with works. I strongly suggest that James is simply giving a strong definition of faith since having faith will affect the way we live and make decisions. Abraham’s faith meant that he would do whatever God asked of him – even if it meant the death of his one and only son. His actions didn’t make him righteous – his absolute trust in God made him righteous.
Vv6-8 – Paul now turns briefly to David and quotes psalm 32. How does psalm 32 make sense without Christ? Isn’t it because God has always demanded faith as the basis of forgiveness and righteousness? The difference that Jesus makes is that we now know how this gift of righteousness is made possible and that God remain just. Jesus said to Thomas: blessed are you because you have seen and believe. How much more for those who have not seen and yet believe’ in 20 paraphrase. This is true of us today who have not seen the risen Lord and even truer for the saints who believed prior to Jesus’ incarnation.
Vv9-12 – whether circumcised or not, righteousness is received on the basis of faith alone. Not faith plus works or religious ceremony but faith from first to last (rom 1:17).
V13 – faith brings righteousness
V15 – law brings wrath … And an awareness of sin.
V17 – notice the details of this verse : that we believe in the God who gives life to the dead. God made Abraham the father of many nations – this is his promise and gift – calling into being something that was not!
Vv18-21 – hope beyond hope. The parallel between what Abraham was asked to believe and what we Christians have been asked to believe is clear: Abraham was promised life coming out of a dead womb. We are promised life out of a dead heart.
V21 – here is the definition of faith: being fully persuaded that God has power to do what he has promised! This is where assurance of salvation becomes clear: do you believe and are you fully persuaded that God can credi you as righteous through Jesus Christ?
V24 – the gospel is not simply believing in Jesus. It is believing in the power of God to justify sinners – the same God who raised Jesus from the dead.
V25 – read this verse. Do you believe it? Every word of it? Do you believe he did that for you?! Now read Romans 10:9.