Romans 4:7-11 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” 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. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, 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.
The whole of Paul’s letter to the Romans is a wonderful source of wisdom for us to understand the heart of the message of ‘The Gospel’ – the ‘Good News’ of God’s saving grace to a lost world. Throughout the history of the Church, astute theologians have gone to Romans to combat the many heresies that have arisen whenever the Scriptures have been [mis]interpreted according to human wisdom rather than what God has clearly revealed in his Word.
Such was the case in the 16th Century when the ‘Universal’ (ie ‘Catholic’) Church was teaching a doctrine of ‘Works Righteousness’ because it had missed the whole message of ‘Grace Alone’ that pervades Scripture. At this point, God used a ‘Catholic’ Priest, Martin Luther, in his study of Romans, to bring the Church back to the truth. Perhaps we need a similar Reformation to bring us back from the insidious errors of ‘Universalism’ and ‘Salvation by Works’ that are infecting even the ‘Protestant’ Church born at the Reformation six centuries ago.
Our culture’s commitment to ‘Multiculturalism’ morphs readily into ‘Universalism’ – the teaching that, ultimately, God saves everyone and that there is no hell. In Romans 4, Paul is using the example of Abraham to demonstrate two important truths: that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith alone; and that this Gospel of grace/faith is therefore designed to be available to everyone, and not just the blood-descendants of Abraham (the Jews).
These truths have significant implications for us today.
Firstly, we ‘Gentiles’ (I speak for myself, and probably most of the readers of this) can comfortably identify ourselves with the Covenant People of God, and claim all the rich Covenant promises of God in the OT as well as the NT, simply by trusting in Jesus as our Saviour, ie we can ‘call on the name of the LORD’ with full confidence, just as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and other OT saints did.
Secondly, if we ARE blood-descendants of Abraham, we need to know that the only way we can share in the promises of God, especially in the promise of eternal life, is not by our good works or our family pedigree, but by trusting in the finished work of Jesus as our Promised Messiah (hence the urgent need for the Church to be involved in Jewish evangelism).
– Bruce Christian