Day 342 Romans 4-7

Day 342
Romans 4-7

The grand, melodious tune of the gospel, that sounds too good to be true, is that guilty sinners are justified through faith in Christ alone apart from works. The gift of God’s righteousness to sinners is an amazing offer of divine grace that is not enriched by human effort. The eloquence of the gospel sounds glorious, but does it have ageless veracity? If the Law and the prophets gave witness to the gospel, as Paul claimed (cf. 3:21) then his hearers likely asked him, “What about Abraham, our forefather?” If Abraham was justified by works, then the gospel lacks historical reliability. Paul turned to God’s Word and asked, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’” (4:3). Furthermore, even David sang a psalm about the blessing of being justified by the imputation of God’s righteousness (7-8).

Paul looked back to the story of Abraham to fortify the legitimacy of the gospel-promise (cf. Genesis 15). Abraham was the respected forefather of the Jews, but he was also a sinner like the rest. He lied to a Gentile king that his wife was his sister. He routinely rejected the promise of God about an heir. He took matters into his own hands and Ishmael was the result. As it happened, God invited Abraham outside on a starry, starry night and said to him, “Count them. As numerous as the stars, so will your descendants be.” Finally, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. He stopped working for God’s promise and became the recipient of a gift. According to Paul’s argument, Abraham’s dateline mattered, since he lived before Moses and before the giving of the Law. Abraham’s righteousness came through a vehicle outside of adherence to the Law and the rite of circumcision and that vehicle was faith (4:4-22). In the same way, Paul sang that righteousness “will be counted to us who believe in him who raised Jesus from the dead” (24).

Paul’s response to the breathtaking reality of justification by faith was to erupt into gospel rhapsody for all the blessings justification imparts: peace with God, hope, joy in suffering, and the outpouring of God’s love by the Holy Spirit, who is also given to every believer as a gift. The blessings of justification do not fade away because they are grounded in the blood of Christ and sealed by His reconciling work (5:1-11).

As it happened, Paul again looked back to the reign of terror and death that spread through humanity by the disobedience of the first man, Adam. Before Jesus appeared, the whole world was united to Adam in condemnation because of sin. When Jesus came and died on the cross, the free gift of justification offered to those who believe overturned the sentence of condemnation. Jesus reversed all the damage caused by Adam’s disobedience, so that while one man brought death, the Son of Man brought life. As Paul happily heralded, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more” (5:20).

The reign of grace announced by Paul raised an inevitable question he ascertained in advance, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1). Some who objected to the gospel did so because it seemed to offer permission to sin without consequence. Paul reacted in the strongest terms possible, “By no means!” v. 2a). While justification is a legal declaration ensuring every believers’ eternal salvation, it also imparts a relational union with Christ, so that to continue in sin would be a contradiction of their new position in Christ. Though the struggle with sin is not eliminated, every believer has been set free from sin’s power to offer their lives as instruments of worship to God (6:12-13). The Christian is no longer a slave to sin but a slave to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Invariably, another question arises from this emphasis on gospel-fluency: “What is the purpose of the Law?” The Law represented God’s basic and holy code of morality (7:7-12). The Law is good, Paul stressed, because it exposed sin. Even Paul said about himself that he would not have known sin and that he was a sinner apart the Law. However, the Law had one glaring weakness. It can expose sin, but it cannot take it away (13-20). It can make a sinner feel guilty, but it cannot justify the sinner. The purpose of the Law is to lead us to a dead end with no other place to go but directly into the way of hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Along with the Apostle, every Christian can sing, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (24-25a).

O God, thank You that through Your Son You have made a way for Your enemies to become Your friends. Thank you that Jesus came not only to set us free from sin’s penalty, but also set us free to live for You by the power of Your Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Abraham Justified by Faith – What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.…
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