Romans 4 (Series week 2)

The video for week 2 can be watched at the bottom of this page.

Here we are in week 2. Last week we established the context for Paul’s letter. The Roman church is divided over who is in charge – Jew or Gentile, Greek or non-Greek.  As we heard in chapter 4 – the circumcised or uncircumcised – this is another term introduced this week meaning the same thing. The circumcised are the Jews, the uncircumcised, the non-Jews.

The early part of this chapter is very important, and gets quoted a lot – ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’

This is an essential building block in our understanding of Paul’s explanation – one gets right with God, not by works (the things we do) but by faith (by believing in and trusting God).

And Abraham was the archetype of faith, and the bible goes back to him for this multiple times.  Again all hope of history and age, Abraham believes God and journeys to unknown lands with the promise that he would be the father of a nation.  And so he became.

As we know, Paul is intentionally talking to Jew and Gentile, Greek and non-Greek, so he asks a really interesting question – “When did Abraham believe?  When did God credit this to him as righteousness?”  And the answer is – before he was circumcised.

Why bring circumcision into it?  Because that was the language of the Jews, a way of referring to the beginning of the covenant between God and Abraham.  Before circumcision was before the covenant/agreement; after circumcision was after the covenant was established.

Abraham believed and God credited it to him as righteousness BEFORE there was any agreement with God.  There while Abraham is easily understood as the father of the Jews, so he can also be considered the father of faith to those outside the Jewish covenant.  Abraham showed how those outside the covenant can believe, and what followed was a covenant with God.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

So Paul once again brings together Jew and Gentile, Greek and non-Greek, and says “You are the same yet again.  Abraham is your father, faith is your response to God, and you are made right with God together.

Our launch point on to chapter 5 comes at the end – The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

God spoke to Abraham uniquely, and Abraham responded in faith to that unique call.  God now calls to us all through Jesus, and invites us to respond to Jesus in faith.

And just as in Paul’s explanation, so it is for us – this is offered to everyone equally.  Faith in Jesus = right with God.  Faith = trust, and who knows what will come later, but faith in Jesus is all it takes to begin the journey.

I want to stop just a moment to consider a particular word that Paul began using in chapter 2, which gives us some insight into his thinking.  He speaks of the “flesh” which is at war with God, dragging us away from God, tempting us to indulge ourselves with pleasure and self-interest.

The Greek word is Sarx (there won’t be an exam), and while it is used positively about physical being when joined with God, here in Romans it is used negatively.  That is, “(sarx) refers to making decisions (actions) according to self – i.e. done apart from faith (independent from God’s inworking). Thus what is “of the flesh (carnal)” is by definition displeasing to the Lord.

If we can talk about our sins causing separation from God, the general work of sin at work in our bodies is the force at work leading us to commit those sins.  This points to our brokenness, and that brokenness is all wrapped up in this “sarx”.  There is just something about our physical being that naturally rebels against God – our own sarx works against us.

It is like a disease, this brokenness.  And when we have a disease we know where to go – the doctor.  But this world can’t cure sarx.  Sarx can’t cure sarx.  It needs someone who doesn’t suffer from the disease to offer the cure.

As you know a cure has to be administered.  There is no point having the medicine if you don’t take the medicine.  The medicine is Jesus.  The administration of the cure is faith.  When we place our trust in Jesus, and turn our lives towards him, we are accepted into Gods family – or as I have it on the screen, the Kingdom of God.

In the old life, the rules are that sin and sarx led you away from God which eventually leads ultimately to death.

In the new life, the rules are that Jesus and faith lead to being right with God (always), which leads to ultimate life.

So this is chapter 4 – it all comes down to these few words – Faith in Jesus is the key.  Righteousness is the result (being right with God).  It is equally available to all.

Video of week 2 reading and message, runs 25:17.

We apologise for the audio quality. Our good quality recording failed.

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