Righteousness of Abraham (Romans 4)

Abraham in The Bible miniseries
Abraham in The Bible miniseries

Something I think most of us have trouble with is bridging a connection between the Old and New Testaments. We find it pretty easy, as Christians, to connect with Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the rest of the New Testament, but the Old just seems a little irrelevant. I, however, disagree with that thought. The Old Testament is what gives us the frame of reference for why Jesus is important.

I think that in this chapter, Paul does a very good job “bridging the gap”. In the previous chapters, he began to roll out his argument that all you have to do for salvation is have faith. This concept was obviously a little hard for the ancient Hebrews, and Gentiles, to understand. So Paul made a case for the main figure in the Jewish faith.

Paul spoke of Abraham, the father of the entire Israelite nation. Abraham was the man that God came to in Genesis 12, and made him a promise based on his faith and righteousness. Paul states, “Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” (4:9b-10 NLT).

The circumcision issue being raised here, I’m sure comes from some of the debate going on with the Roman church. Many times Paul has had to combat the issues of being bound by the Law while also accepting Christ. One of the points being made was that Gentile Christians had to become circumcised because that was part of the Law. But Paul disagrees. His statement is, once again, that faith is what is necessary for salvation, not Law. He speaks of Abraham because he is one of the highest people in the Jewish faith. He wasn’t circumcised, but God counted his faith to him as righteousness. Not because he was following the Law (which hadn’t been written yet) but because He believed in God and in His promises.

So where’s the connection? It is through our faith in Jesus. “So the promise [given to Abraham] is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” (4:16 NLT).

For us today, this means that we still get to be recipients of God’s promises because of our belief in Jesus Christ. His sacrifice opened the door to us Gentiles, and allowed us to have salvation as well. People still come up to us and say that we are doing the wrong thing, or we need to be doing something else. But honestly, so long as we have our faith in Jesus we get to be counted among Abraham’s children as the People of God!

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